About Our Top Environmentalists and Sustainability Crusaders
Since the widespread use of fossil fuels like coal and oil in the 1800s, the Earth has warmed by around 1 degree Celsius, resulting in global warming that has altered the world’s climatic trends and biodiversity. The environment has been significantly harmed, and all these human activities have led to the depletion of our natural resources and hugely impacted flora and fauna of the country. Such environmental issues and concerns require people and individuals who come together and protect the planet.
This is the century’s most pressing environmental issue, prompting the emergence of environmental activism, which refers to the partnership of different groups of individuals and organisations to solve environmental problems. The origins of modern environmental advocacy can be traced back to founding the first environmental groups in Europe and North America in the nineteenth century. Animal protection, forestry, national parks and wilderness preservation, and urban sanitation were among the topics discussed. Environmental activism turned its attention to local environmental issues in the mid-twentieth century.
Nine Top Environmentalists, you need to know about
Environmental policies were developed by national governments in the twentieth century, aided by the advocacy of many concerned people worldwide. Below we introduce nine top environmentalists who have contributed significantly towards creating awareness and protecting the planet.
- Sunita Narain has been speaking out about the status of India’s climate since the early 1980s. Narain, who is now the director-general of the Centre for Science and Environment and the editor of the fortnightly magazine Down to Earth, was one of India’s most influential top environmentalists. The Indian government honoured her with the Padma Shri award in 2005. She was also awarded the World Water Award for her work on rainwater harvesting and its policy effect in creating community-based water management paradigms. She also chaired the Tiger Task Force, which the prime minister established to develop a conservation action plan for the country following the loss of tigers in Sariska. She called for ways to create a coexistence agenda with local communities so that conservation gains could be shared and the future could be protected.
2. Chandi Prasad Bhatt, a Uttarakhand native, founded the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS) in Gopeshwar in 1964, which later became the mother organisation of the Chipko movement, of which he was a founder. This was founded to organise fellow villagers in Gopeshwar for jobs in forest-based industries, such as making wooden instruments from ash trees and gathering and marketing herbs for ayurvedic medicine, as well as to fight vice and exploitation. Bhatt was one of the young people who joined the Sarvodaya movement and the Gandhian campaigns of Bhoodan and Gramdan after being inspired by Gandhian leader Jayprakash Narayan’s voice.
3. Sunderlal Bahuguna is an Indian eco-activist and Gandhian peace activist who was a key figure in the 1970s Chipko movement. Chipko translates to “embrace” or “tree huggers,” and this massive movement has been decentralised, with many participants, most of whom are village women, working to protect the forest. These activities not only delayed deforestation but also brought it to the attention of the public. His activism prompted then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to enact legislation protecting some Himalayan forest areas from destruction. Sunderlal Bahuguna was a leading figure in the anti-Tehri dam movement. He has also advocated for women’s and poor people’s rights. The Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, was given to the Chipko Movement in 1987.
4. Anadish Pal, a Bengali by birth, began prototyping in electronics after dropping out of college in 1982. He started his career as a self-taught electronics designer, working for Maruti, Udyog, Honda, the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped in Dehradun, and Duracell on freelance projects. Pal has a total of ten patents in the United States. His most crucial patent for an electromagnetically powered, fuel-efficient internal combustion engine was issued in 2009. He received two more patents in 2009 and a significant patent in 2007 for a 3D computer mouse, a high torque electric motor, and a gravity modulation patent in 2013. Pal has also spoken out in support of tree preservation in Delhi as an environmentalist. He has received threats from an anti-tree lobby in this regard.
5. Medha Patkar is an Indian social activist and one of the top environmentalists and advocates for the underprivileged. She has fought for the rights of tribals, Dalits, fishermen, labourers, and women in India who have been victims of oppression. During her advocacy, she has established many national policies to combat land acquisition, unorganised public sector jobs, and other oppressed groups in society. Patkar’s activism took place mainly in the 1960s and 1970s when the Indian government encouraged dam construction to modernise.
Medha Patkar launched the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat after the plan to construct the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River was approved. Patkar founded the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in 1996, a coalition of radical social organisations opposed to globalisation policies. She was a member of the World Commission on Dams, the world’s first independent advisory body on dam-related water, electricity, and alternatives. She has taken part in and sponsored numerous mass movements across India under the banner of NAPM against non-sustainability, displacement, and inequality in the name of progress. Her work is an antidote to casteism, communalism, and other forms of prejudice.
6. Julia hill- Julia “Butterfly” Hill devoted her life to environmental issues after almost dying in a car crash in 1996. Hill spent two years living in the branches of an ancient redwood tree in northern California, which she called Luna, to prevent it from being cut down. After negotiating a deal with the Pacific Lumber Company, she was able to get rid of the 200-foot-tall tree. Luna, as well as all other trees within a 200-foot buffer zone, will be protected. In return, Hill’s supporters donated $50,000 to the Pacific Lumber Company, which then donated it to Humboldt State University for sustainable forestry research. Hill is also active in the top environmentalists and social issues, and her tree-sit became an international cause célèbre.
7. Gifford Pinchot (1865–1946) was the son of a timber baron who later came to regret his damage to America’s forests and is one of the nine top environmentalists. Pinchot studied forestry at Yale University at his request, and President Grover Cleveland later assigned him to establish a strategy for managing America’s western forests. When Theodore Roosevelt asked him to lead the United States Forest Service, he accepted, but his tenure was not without controversy. Pinchot publicly fought John Muir for the loss of wilderness areas such as Hetch Hetchy in California and being chastised by timber companies for closing land off to their exploitation.
8. Chico Mendes (1944–1988) is best known for his attempts to protect the Brazilian rainforests from deforestation and ranching. Mendes was born into a rubber harvesters family who supplemented their income by collecting nuts and other rainforest items sustainably. Concerned about the Amazon’s destruction, he helped to mobilise international support for its preservation. His behaviour, on the other hand, enraged strong ranching and timber interests.
9. Rajendra Singh, also known as “India’s Waterman,” is an Indian water conservationist and environmentalist from Rajasthan’s Alwar district. In 2001, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership for his groundbreaking work in community-based water harvesting and management. He is the founder of the ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh’ (TBS), an established NGO in 1975. The NGO, headquartered in the village of Kishori-Bhikampura in Thanagazi tehsil near Sariska Tiger Reserve, has been instrumental in combating the sluggish bureaucracy and mining lobby. It has also aided villagers in taking control of water supply in semi-arid areas by using Johad, rainwater storage reservoirs, dams, and other tried-and-true as well as ground-breaking techniques.
While we are busy depleting our natural resources and doing such new activities harmful to the environment, some individuals contribute immensely to the mother earth and give back to it. What we can do as individuals is to learn from the top environmentalist and, if not become such crusaders, but we can at least act as responsible citizens and take efforts on our part to contribute to society.