Stephen Eades – What does it mean to be an environmental campaigner? – Oct 14

Marinet members might easily call themselves environmental campaigners, as do the members of many other environmental organisations. But what does this mean?

Being concerned about the health of the environment and the natural world? Certainly.

Having an appreciation of ecological science and its principles? Yes, that too.

Believing the human world must live within the physical and biological limits of the planet? Definitely.

However there is one essential ingredient which, if missing, disqualifies members from calling themselves environmental campaigners.

That ingredient is campaigning.

When the appreciation, concern and desire to live within the limits of the natural world is not supported by campaigning action — real action, political action – then no one can say they are an environmental campaigner.

I’ll put it bluntly. It is simply not possible to realise the urgent need for protection of the planet if you are not prepared to campaign for it.

Many environmental organisations are now charities. Under UK law this means their freedom to act politically is severely curtailed. If they do, and if they mount serious campaigns holding those in political office to account, then the organisation is in severe danger of losing its charitable status.

If it loses its charitable status, then it loses all the substantial financial benefits it gains from this status. And if it loses this finance, then those employed within the organisation lose their jobs and their careers, their family world and their mortgage are threatened.

Thus political action and real campaigning for protection of the environment has, in all too many environmental organisations, begun to fall by the wayside.

Wherever one looks, action which challenges the prevailing notions of what is right and wrong has quietly slipped off the agenda.

Instead we have reports, seminars, money raising projects, submissions to consultations, conferences — almost anything, other than action.

Without real action, there is no real change. Just a neutered version of the real thing.

So to answer my question what does being an environmental campaigner mean, it means saying NO to the chains that tie you down, and saying YES to campaigns for fundamental change. If you are taking this kind of action then you are on the right track. If you are not, then you aren’t.


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