Despite all efforts inviting people to protect nature, the earth is still facing perilous environmental menaces such as climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and the list is still long and ominous. In fact, the earth is intensely affected at the level of its basic and organic being on the grounds that Pollution, in its broader sense, and of which more is coming in the next posts, has been endorsed as a worldwide tradition. This ‘discourtesy’ towards Nature seems to stem from several economic and political impetuses. However, many have started to realize the dangers that Industries are causing, and that the economic expansion at the expense of Nature will lead to dire consequences. Consequently, as a response to the offshoots of man’s greed, Environmentalism (as a mindset) has emerged.
Environmentalism first came into view in religious texts before the economic and civilizational boom the humanity had been witnessing since the 19th century onwards. Many religious texts do contain several passages dedicated to Nature. Nature in this vein, generally encapsulates wilderness, mineral resources and the natural environment. In fact, many do interpret religious texts and understand it the way they want, as they project their own experiences and beliefs on it. Therefore whether a religious text sides the protection of Nature or not, resides not in the text but in its understanding. For example, the historian Lynn White suggests that the Biblical and Christian beliefs have led to indifference towards Nature. He argues that these beliefs aim at elevating human beings above Nature. Some authorities, indeed, have used religion to legitimize the superiority of humans over all other beings. Thus placing humans at the top of the hierarchy, and granting themselves the title of earth’s stewards.
The reason behind such perspective might be to pave the way to the exploitation of wilderness, as it understands Nature as a mere source supplying natural and raw materials for human redemption and progress, neither more nor less. This anthropocentric approach, where nature is savagely exploited for the welfare of human beings, is one of the main tenets that has paved the way for Industrialization. The Industrial revolution, in turn, marked a turning point in the ecological history, as the ability to exploit the environment vastly increased. Back to Lynn White, who according to him, this anti-ecological behavior originates from religion; the latter is the outlet with which human beings granted themselves the right to subdue nature. Hence, Christianity, for instance, has often been viewed as the source of negative attitudes towards the environment, despite the fact that many christians, in the name of their religion, do embrace the well-being of earth and its creatures. They avow that the Bible contains many verses inviting humans to take care of nature like the story of Noah who saved all creatures from the flood. Besides, a large number of Christians, if not the majority, have embraced Environmentalist ethos, which are seen as the very antidote to the damage caused by Industrialization. Environmentalism has become one of the biggest social movements worldwide, as it is being handed down from one generation to the next, and as its influence is being delivered by mainstream media -Environmental cartoons, TV series, films, songs- and by worldwide organisations like GreenPeace and Earthwatch. Environmentalists, thus, argue that the notion of stewardship in religious texts is not about subduing nature as much as it is about taking good care of it.
The two different interpretations to Christianity have resulted into two different understandings of Nature. During the 1970s, the "Green Decade" that marks the peak of Environmental concern and activism, Arne Naes, a Norwegian philosopher, has developed what came to be known as the notion of Deep Ecology. Basically, Deep Ecology asserts Environmental Egalitarianism ; all living creatures are equal. It repudiates anthropocentrism, and elevates Nature to a more equal footing with humans,thus rejecting all sorts of exploitation of natural resources. It opposes Traditional Environmentalism, which is also labelled as Shallow Ecology, and which tackles environmental issues from a human centered perspective. Traditional Environmentalism, in fact, aims at taking advantage of Nature for the sake of the well-being of humans. Each one of these Eco-philosophical notions supports one tradition of Environmentalism. Indeed, Deep Ecology sides Preservationism, which, as a tradition, seeks to keep nature in its original state. The tradition of Conservationism, however, is being endorsed by the notion of Shallow Ecology. Conservationism seeks to keep Nature safe from any damage or destruction, but exploits it in a well-regulated manner. It seeks to bring natural resources under reasonable long-term governmental management. In Aldo Worster’s words, an American historian, Conservationism is a "pragmatic utilitarian wing" of Environmentalism.Both Conservationism and Preservationism are two main elements in the history of the Environmental movement. Conservationism advocates public conservation policies like professional forestry, soil and water conservation, or flood control and watershed development. These policies are seen by Preservationists as a sort of progressive slow death of wilderness since the exploitation will bring natural resources to an end at length. In contrast to Conservationists, Preservationists do not consider the natural world as a factor of production but rather as a "blessing" to be esteemed and venerated because of its quality and not because of its benefits. Preservationists were at the origin of creating wildlife sanctuaries, protecting species threatened by extinction, and protecting scenic rivers and vast areas of wilderness.