When people think of environmentalism, they often think of trees, birds, and flowers in the middle of a forest or a sea turtle swimming freely in a crystal clear ocean in the Pacific… and that is okay and valid! At the end of the day, we are doing our best not only for our species but also for other life forms on Earth that sustain the ecosystem we live in.
However, it is important to recognize that environmentalism is not just about protecting the natural world, but also about preserving the human world that is intricately connected to it. This is where humanism comes into play.
Humanism is a philosophical approach that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over the acceptance of dogma or superstition. In the context of environmentalism, humanism is concerned with the impact of environmental issues on human well-being and social justice.
In many places in the world, people are at the frontline of experiencing the devastating impacts of environmental degradation and climate change. May it be a community inhaling the dangerous furans and emissions of a coal company, an indigenous group defending their ancestral lands from illegal and legal logging, or a fisherfolk community bearing the brunt of plastic pollution in the ocean. These abuses of human rights and blatant injustices have been well-documented all over the world.
At the heart of humanism is the belief that all human beings are inherently equal and deserving of respect and dignity. This means that all human beings deserve to live on a planet where we all have access to an environment that allows us to live a dignified life. This means that environmentalism should not only focus on the natural environment but also on the quality of life of people living in that environment.
One should also realize that you can’t have humanism without environmentalism but you can have environmentalism without humanism.
Furthermore, humanism recognizes the interconnectedness of all things, including humans and the environment. Humanism sees the protection of the environment as an essential component of protecting human well-being and social justice. This means that environmentalism should not be seen as a separate issue from other social justice issues such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination.