Does Environmental Activism Achieve Anything?

Environmental activism is on the rise around the world.  Climate change skeptics might say that it’s a good thing that they are, because sea levels certainly aren’t, but interestingly, Antarctic ice cover is.

Very few types of protest are as polarizing as those related to the environment. Part of the reason for this is that most environmental activists been stereotyped as militant sorts who simply want to cause trouble.

The Challengegreen for Activists

This stereotype is the first problem that activists face. Whether it is people driving down the road or walking along the street, environmental activism often provokes feelings of ‘here we go again’ from those that encounter it.

This tells us that people aren’t listening to environmental messages and the manifesto of activism groups. How can their message possibly get across when people pay no attention to it?

The plight of environmental activists is similar to employees taking strike action; people are more concerned with the disruption to their lives than what is being said, and carry on regardless.

On this level, environmental activism appears not to work.

Lobbying Governments

There are a large number of climate change conspiracy theories that are argued over by governments, scientists, environmental groups, and businesses.

The main trend actually seems to be each group throwing accusations that one of the others has fabricated findings or results to suit their opinion, or has presented results in such a way as to reinforce their beliefs.

For anyone who follows the global political landscape, this will be of little surprise, but what happens when environmental lobbyists target governments?

It is beyond doubt that governments do respond to green pressure groups, but all too often the response is that they are sticking by the data they have that fits their manifesto and policies.

One issue with lobbying individual governments is that environmental issues are very much a global matter. Even if Barack Obama or David Cameron listen, if no one else at the United Nations faces any pressure, two countries, however influential they might be, aren’t going to refill the ozone hole.

At the national government level, it is difficult to say for sure whether environmental activism has any impact.

Challenging Businesses Directly

green buildingWhile there are businesses such as Vector Foiltec that win awards for innovation and are famed within the scientific and environmental community for the work they do, others court controversy through their actions, whether it be drilling for fossil fuels or sourcing materials from businesses linked to deforestation.

However, in many cases environmental groups, with Greenpeace proving particularly active, have directly pressured or appealed to businesses to stop their practices.

As a result, many global brands have cut ties with certain organizations and changed their own policies.

Notably, these positive results were generally achieved by presenting compelling evidence and research rather than kicking doors down and participating in attention-grabbing protests.

Environmental activism is definitely working when businesses are approached directly.

Does it Work and Do People Know Enough?

The biggest problem with the environment is the same as it always was, and probably always will be; until there is consensus on the way to move forward, people will continue to disagree and any real progress will be hampered as a result. Also, the average person probably doesn’t know enough about, or have any real reason to emotionally invest in, environmental matters, irrespective of their personal impact on climate change.

Consequently, it is hard to accept that environmental activism works on a large scale, but there is no question that specific actions targeted at selected businesses and organizations has the power to raise awareness and take small steps towards the goals of the green lobby.

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License: Royalty Free or iStock


License: Royalty Free or iStock source:

Robert is a freelance journalist who works with a variety of publications on matters concerning science and the environment.

Robert is regularly invited on scientific expeditions where research is being carried out, which allows him to spend time with many notable climate change scientists.