Environmentalism vs. Conservationism

A rather odd little detour for a pastry blog, don’t you think? Yet I think it’s a helpful distinction to remember these days, when overheated rhetoric about agricultural practices and land use are driving everybody ’round the bend. Personally, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone, anywhere in the world these days who isn’t concerned about the environment to one degree or another. Be it in cities or small towns, everybody wants a cleaner, healthier world. Yet there are clear differences in the way various groups define “healthy” as it refers to our planet, differences that I think can be reduced to two broad camps: conservationists and environmentalists. Conservationists see the world as a resource, one to be managed and protected so that future generations will be able to reap its benefits. Hence the word “conserve”…to keep something back for later. Conservationists (of which Teddy Roosevelt is the archetypal example, I believe he even coined the term) seek to put the earth to responsible use. Environmentalists likewise seek to protect and care for the earth, yet they hold decidedly different views about people and their relationship to the planet. Environmentalists tend to see humans as an imposition on nature, thus their goal is to keep areas of the planet in (or return them to) what they see as a pristine or “unspoiled” state.

Myself, I don’t hang with these latter folks, since that line of reasoning too often leads to a weird sort of pseudo-pagan nihilism that I’m simply not down with. It can be downright anti-human, and as a human I have a problem with that. But then that’s me.

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