Environmentalists vs. Conservationists

NKQualtieri

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en·vi·ron·men·tal·ist
1.a person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.
synonyms: conservationist, preservationist, ecologist, nature lover

con·ser·va·tion·ist
1. a person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife.

Decided to open up this can of worms b/c I'm a lover of linguistics.

Do conservationists and environmentalists share the same core values? And are environmentalists actually anti-hunting? Or are only anti-hunters anti-hunting?

If we all do share the same values, how do we have a conversation that focuses around education & collaboration to gain more ground in protecting the wildlife and places we're all so passionate about?

IE: How do we take someone who is neutral on hunting but environmentally-conscious (re: me, a few years ago #citylife) and turn them into advocates, whether they become hunters or not?

To me, it's really a fun exercise in thinking about how we use language. As well as considering what might be different if we altered our perspectives around certain labels.

Note: When typing conservation repeatedly, spelling conversation becomes a hurdle of great magnitude.
 

WestT

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This should be a fun one! Thanks for posting. My personal thoughts based on what I have observed would be the following:

Environmentalists - talk about saving the environment.
Conservationist - act on improving plants and wildlife, which in turn improves the environment.

However, I would believe in general that both parties could and should be working together. There are always outliers on both sides but they both have similar goals. Ignorance likely fuels the differences.
 

MinnesotaHunter

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I think it is interesting that the definition of an enviornmentalist includes the terminology "is concerned with or advocates"; which could be construed as doesn't actually do anything about it. While on the contrary both verbs used to describe a conservationalist imply action.

I tend to think that people are defined by their actions, call yourself whatever you want. I read an unrelated book not long ago that had a great line; "you cannot out-message your actions". Which in that context meant that you can say whatever you want about your self, but if your actions don't align, your words are pointless.
 

Cornell2012

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en·vi·ron·men·tal·ist
1.a person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.
synonyms: conservationist, preservationist, ecologist, nature lover

con·ser·va·tion·ist
1. a person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife.

Decided to open up this can of worms b/c I'm a lover of linguistics.

Do conservationists and environmentalists share the same core values? And are environmentalists actually anti-hunting? Or are only anti-hunters anti-hunting?

If we all do share the same values, how do we have a conversation that focuses around education & collaboration to gain more ground in protecting the wildlife and places we're all so passionate about?

IE: How do we take someone who is neutral on hunting but environmentally-conscious (re: me, a few years ago #citylife) and turn them into advocates, whether they become hunters or not?

I got into a similar debate with my girlfriend who is working on her PhD in environmental science. It turns out there is a lot of discussion about conservation vs. preservation, and more or less it boils down to this: conservationists want to find ways for humans and the environment/wildlife to coexist. Preservationists (the super-extreme environmentalists) want to find a way to minimize human impact as much as possible. I'm going to oversimplify here, but I view it as the difference between creating a national park or instead restricting all human activity from the same area.

In general, I'd say environmentalism and hunting are not mutually exclusive. I think it just so happens that a lot of people who are passionate about environmentalism are more inclined to be against the idea of killing something than the general population is.

I think one of the best things we could do to get more people into hunting (or not even hunters, but joining with the hunting group) is to try and move away from the stereotype of hunters as undereducated, uncaring hillbillies. (Looking at a certain pig dude and a rocker past his prime here...) Similarly, hunters should not be synonymous with the NRA.
 
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Big Fin

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To me, it almost goes back to the Muir-Roosevelt discussions over 100 years ago. Muir was very much a hands-off advocate. A mindset that has morphed today into a perspective of humans as not being part of the natural world or having little, if any place, on the landscape. I think this is often expressed in the comments and sentiments of many who identify with "environmentalist."

Roosevelt was an advocate of management influenced by man, either by his actions or inactions. He viewed humans as an important part of the landscape and their impact to the habitat and wildlife being an undeniable fact. Most in the hunting world follow this mindset and associate that with the term "conservationist."

I find it funny when I go to scoping meetings and such, how the groups who call themselves environmentalists in their fund raising efforts, or in their inner circles, are adamant that they be called "conservationists" when speaking in any open forum in the west. They seem to run from the term "environmentalist" when it is not chic to be one, but when it is helpful to their cause of fundraising and they feel in a safe place for discussions, they self-identify as being "environmentalist." So far, I've never seen a hunter flip-flop to the modern identity of "environmentalist" as and identity of convenience.

I break it out even further. You will see a lot of this in upcoming episodes, plus interviews I have done for a PBS series (I hope gets aired) and another documentary. To classify the two mindsets on how man fits into the natural world, I use the terms "spectator" and "participant," not "environmentalist" and "conservationist"

I equate the environmentalist mindset as viewing the natural world as a place where man should be a spectator. I equate the hunter-conservationist mindset as viewing the natural world as a place where man is one of the many participants on the landscape.

How you see, say the activity of football, will be influenced by whether you are a spectator or a participant. How you see war will be influenced by whether you are a participant or home watching it on your TV. How you see parenting and raising children will be influenced by whether are a parent or not a parent. How you view (insert activity here) will be influenced by whether you participate in said activity or you merely spectate.

The same applies to how we view the natural world. Put on the glasses of a spectator and you will have a completely different perspective than if you wear the glasses of a participant. I will argue to the ends of time, that a participant has a greater depth, understanding, and connection to any activity and the place that activity occurs, than does a spectator.

We don't interview Americans at home watching war on TV to get a full understanding of what war entails. Rather, we interview the combatants, the people living on the landscape and most affected. Why? Because them being participants, either voluntary or involuntary, make them more attuned to what war represents.

If we want perspectives of the natural world, how it works, how each piece is interconnected in a manner than can impact every other piece, how man can positively or negatively impact the natural world, we should be seeking insight of participants. Spectators can provide input to what they personally value, based on their spectating, but their ability to understand in a deeper manner is lacking, due to the fact they are not participants. Doesn't make the values of one more "correct" than the values of the other, but does influence the level of understanding each has.

As Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "Only he who has partaken thereof can understand the keen delight of hunting the lonely lands." In other words, if you haven't been to those lonely lands, slept with the grizzlies, chased your meal, etc. you probably have not participated in an experience that can convey what he called the "keen delight."

Quite frankly, I fail to understand how one could get the experience of being a participant in the natural world by being a spectator. There is a reason that hunters were the ones who invented the idea of conservation 100+ years ago. It is not by accident that hunters were the ones who made conservation a national priority in this country, giving us our collective conservation ethic. It is due to the fact that we are not just spectators to the natural world, rather we are participants with a unique understanding that can only be derived from participating in the natural world.
 

jryoung

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I like to hug trees and shoot and eat animals. I’m and environ-servationist.

I think the stereotypical “bunny huggers/liberals” and “bubbas/rednecks” of both crowds tend act with emotion too quickly at the other side or anyone in-between. This is terribly unfortunate as they miss an opportunity to explore their shared values but instead let their differences divide them. I got way too distracted on Facebook today as a someone on a California hunting page brought up our lead ban implementation. One thing that is apparent, especially in California is that there are way too many that don’t even know who to be pissed at.

We’re unique here, there are a lot of people who are happy to defend the environment, but as mentioned above many of those are too close minded to see the benefits of the hunting conservationists. They have no idea with respect to the work that has gone in to save the wetlands of the delta. They think bighorn sheep transplants come from magic helicopters, and tule elk the ones on a Jägermeister bottle. That said, the most vocal on the other side think anyone who might want to this strategically about a clear cut or promote the gating of redundant roads is a raging liberal from Berkeley. We certainly have our polar opposites.

The one glimmer of hope I see is the food movement here in California. Many on the far right like to rage on diatribes about “those liberals”, but that isn’t working when it comes to decisions through DFW or the Commission. But, it’s “those liberals” who are picking up a shotgun or rifle for the first time and are now seeking to be a participant in nature as opposed to being a spectator. They are reading books like the Omnivores Dilemma, The Mindful Carnivore and Call of the Mild. They’re following guys like Steven Rinella and Hank Shaw and seeking to share in the bounty that the forests, fields and bodies of water can provide. But most importantly they are going to learn about what conservationists do, how the Fish and Wildlife Commission makes decisions and the negative impacts that anti-hunters have in the Commission. If those on the right would wake up and see they have a new ally that will carry great weight in more liberal circles we just might be able to make some changes here in California.

With the dinner that I am hosting with Hank Shaw next week I was greatly hoping that a non-hunter follower of him would try and attend. I had a few kick the tires, but the expensive tariff ultimately kept them away. I know for a fact the quickest way to change someone perspective on hunting is through their stomach.
 

dcopas78

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Aldo Leopold wrote that "Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land". I would say that most modern environmentalists would believe that this would be impossible because any of mankind interference with the natural environment makes it unnatural and polluted. It's kind of hard for a hunter/conservationist to identify with that line of thinking. I deal with the EPA almost daily and I can find very little common ground between myself (conservation viewpoint) and some of the representatives from the EPA I deal with, although we ultimately want the same clean air, water, land and ecology.
 

VAspeedgoat

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Unfortunately in any group the most radical elements eventually take over said group or start up a new more radical one. Another unfortunate reality is now in this country we always deal in absolutes and labels. Such as we are all hunters so we all are far right republicans who are only worried about gun rights. That may define some on this forum but not the majority as I read it. Life is not about absolutes. There is alot more gray area that you try to navigate than absolutes. Until we can all agree to disagree on differences of opinion, we will never reach a consensus for things we agree on. This due to those radical elements taking over and dividing the moderates into absolute groups with clearly defined differences. Because of this I doubt hunters, conservationist, and environmentalist will ever really work together. The radical elements in those groups will never leave well enough alone. In the words of Rodney King, "can't we all just get along."

This same sort of debates rage amongst hunters as well. For the benefit of us all we have to have compromises on issues like wilderness vs access, crossbows, primitive seasons, long range shooting, landowner tags, trophy regulations, and the list goes on and on. As Benjamin Franklin said "we need to hang together or we will all hang seperately." I beleive this to be true for sportsmen. We see it on this forum from time to time. It saddens me because we are going to bicker about whose idea is perfect, and get our rights ( hunting, gun, fishing, public land, etc ) taken away little by little.

Sorry got a little off topic, thats just where my thoughts took me.
 

VAspeedgoat

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The PBS documentary about the national parks has some good stuff about Muir, Roosevelt, and also Gifford Pinchot. He was kinda the conservationist to Muir's environmentalist, to Roosevelts sportsman in my opinion.
 

hank4elk

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Muir, Roosevelt, and also Gifford Pinchot. He was kinda the conservationist to Muir's environmentalist, to Roosevelts sportsman in my opinion.

Original conservationists for sure.
Muir just got more outspoken after the hydro-mining,and running sheep in the Sierras for years himself.
That's what prompted TR to start the Reserve system and the original Park Rangers who were woodsmen,lawmen,jack of all trades. Muir was not the exclusionist the "Club" has become.
Great post OP!
 
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1_pointer

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My response would be a mix of what Big Fin and Cornell posted. In this case, I'd say it's a good thing the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
 

Nameless Range

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Technically they are synonyms, so what we are talking about is how they are interpreted colloquially.

When I hear the word environmentalist, I largely think of an individual focused on a specific cause, be it Global Warming, Black Footed Ferret, Deforestation, etc. I just threw some banana peels on top of a bunch of chicken chit in my compost pile, I have reduced and will reuse waste, so I feel a little like an environmentalist. Environmentalist has become a somewhat dirty word, but largerly through the same avenues as has "pseudosportsman". People trying to sully others lazily by using a symbol(a word) without the substance(the argument).

To me, a Conservationist is a broader term, and one I take less seriously. I hear people wax poetic about Conservation all the time or claim to be conservationists, when all they have done is purchase RMEF license plates. Maybe that's enough.Who am I to say.

Being the two are synonyms they surely are not mutually exclusive and like the word "preservationist", they occur on a continuum. Am I a preservationist because I value wilderness, and appreciate areas where man doesn't interfere (except for keeping man out)? Then again I also, enjoy four-wheeling and cutting firewood, so maybe I'm an anti-environmentalist-conservapreservationist.

Really interesting comments above and I agree with Fin that those who participate typically have a greater insight than those who do not, though I think there are exceptions. I work with "participants" in the form of firefighters. To them all things in the woods can be solved with fire. Ask a logger about management in the woods and their answer will be a corollary to firefighters and their occupation. Ask a Wilderness advocate and the conclusion follows. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't count out the observers, because sometimes observing can give someone a better perspective than participating. Kind of like trying to give yourself relationship advice when you are in love.

Ultimately, I think the words environmentalist and conservationist are not that useful or meaningful, much like liberal, progressive,conservative, etc. Some labels are good, but when they occur on such a varied continuum, and have been hijacked by people with agendas, replacing the symbol with the substance will be more accurate and useful when describing the values of an individual or groups of individuals.
 
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bobbydean

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Excellent discussion.

I have always considered environmentalist to be more extreme and a conservationist to be more concerned with all of the interacting species.

An environmentalist will close the forest to save a dying species, a one toed toad,

A conservationist lets nature takes its course. If a species cannot compete, it will be eliminated.

Just my take.
 

NKQualtieri

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Oh man. I want to respond to everything. This was a lot of fun to read, and very informative, and really optimistic in a lot of ways. Thanks to everyone for responding thoughtfully, it's a nice break from the monotony of internet vitriol I seem to encounter on a daily basis.

Ok. Here we go:

I equate the environmentalist mindset as viewing the natural world as a place where man should be a spectator. I equate the hunter-conservationist mindset as viewing the natural world as a place where man is one of the many participants on the landscape.

I hadn't really heard this idea until I either read of watched something from Steve Rinella on being a participant vs being a spectator. He went on to specifically talking about people who hike or backpack as being spectators rather than participants, which didn't necessarily sit right with me. I feel like hunting isn't the only way to be a participant in the landscape, although it is one that is most definitely primal, athletic, and profoundly intimate. I'd say that someone who is backpacking through high mountain country is more of a participant than someone who is tree-stand hunting over a food plot.

That being said, without spending a lot of time in the high country, I doubt I ever would have had any interest in taking up hunting. In political terms you might call me a flip-flopper, because I consistently change my views according to my life experience. Talk to me after my first hunt, and I might not feel the same way about the dichotomy between the spectator and participant. To be fair, I've always hated being left out.

Really interesting comments above and I agree with Fin that those who participate typically have a greater insight than those who do not, though I think there are exceptions. I work with "participants" in the form of firefighters. To them all things in the woods can be solved with fire. Ask a logger about management in the woods and their answer will be a corollary to firefighters and their occupation. Ask a Wilderness advocate and the conclusion follows. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't count out the observers, because sometimes observing can give someone a better perspective than participating. Kind of like trying to give yourself relationship advice when you are in love.

Ultimately, I think the words environmentalist and conservationist are not that useful or meaningful, much like liberal, progressive,conservative, etc. Some labels are good, but when they occur on such a varied continuum, and have been hijacked by people with agendas, replacing the symbol with the substance will be more accurate and useful when describing the values of an individual or groups of individuals.

I think if we go back to sports as an analogy, we see that there are a lot of expert spectators that fill in some much-needed roles in between the spectators and participants. Typically, we call them coaches, referees, and journalists. A lot of these men and women might not have played the sport that they're intimately involved in, but they're experts just the same. In hunting, we might call them rangers, game wardens, mentors, wildlife biologists, or perhaps the non-hunter who is educated enough to continue conversations into their own community that provide a different lens on what the hunting community really and truly is.

Labels. They're so necessary to language, but can be so incredibly divisive when that label carries so many different interpretations. A chair is a chair, but an environmentalists and conservationists mean such different things to each of us. At the core of both labels exists a group of human beings trying to do what they think is right.

The one glimmer of hope I see is the food movement here in California. Many on the far right like to rage on diatribes about “those liberals”, but that isn’t working when it comes to decisions through DFW or the Commission. But, it’s “those liberals” who are picking up a shotgun or rifle for the first time and are now seeking to be a participant in nature as opposed to being a spectator. They are reading books like the Omnivores Dilemma, The Mindful Carnivore and Call of the Mild. They’re following guys like Steven Rinella and Hank Shaw and seeking to share in the bounty that the forests, fields and bodies of water can provide. But most importantly they are going to learn about what conservationists do, how the Fish and Wildlife Commission makes decisions and the negative impacts that anti-hunters have in the Commission. If those on the right would wake up and see they have a new ally that will carry great weight in more liberal circles we just might be able to make some changes here in California.

I am one of "those liberals", which is a nerve-wracking thing to say. I shot a gun for the first time a few weeks ago. I have friends that will be mortified when they find out I already have one gun and I'm on my way to a second. And then hopefully, I'll be able to have a conversation with them and maybe invite them to a dinner that I truly procured myself. We shall see.

I love what JR says here, because it gets down to the heart of the issue, which is making hunting palatable to those who simply don't know any better. I'll simply let all of those sleeping allusions lie.
 

jryoung

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I am one of "those liberals", which is a nerve-wracking thing to say. I shot a gun for the first time a few weeks ago. I have friends that will be mortified when they find out I already have one gun and I'm on my way to a second. And then hopefully, I'll be able to have a conversation with them and maybe invite them to a dinner that I truly procured myself. We shall see.

I love what JR says here, because it gets down to the heart of the issue, which is making hunting palatable to those who simply don't know any better. I'll simply let all of those sleeping allusions lie.

Trust me on this one, I have served many multi-course meals of wild game to folks that are non hunters, not fans of guns, and some borderline anti-hunting due to misunderstanding. Food changes everything. In all the meals I've hosted, I've never been asked about anything I bought. But, everyone gets very inquisitive about the what, where, why and how of the wild game or foraged food on their plate. When they see I've gone hunting or post some sort of social media update they want to know if I am doing a dinner again soon.
 

O C Hunter

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Conservation is defined as the wise use of natural resources. Preservation is sometimes a part of conservation. Hunters need to be strong environmentalists if we're going to have anything to hunt in a world of 7 billion people.
 

tjones

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How about eco-terrorist? Been called one and I don't even know what it is.
 

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