Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

just a bunch of ‘treehugger’ idealism…right?

Most people who I meet give me a somewhat puzzled look when I tell them I am in the conservation field.   They must start thinking of me as some sort of Steve Irwin or an eccentric bushwhacking sportsman.  But really I am pretty much like them.  My interests just happen to be in the outdoors and conservation.

But it also reminds me that there are many age-old myths about environmentalism and natural resources conservation.  In this post I hope to perhaps open people’s mind a little more and restate some of the cliché environmental phrases of the past few decades.

  • Treehugging. Many environmentalists often here people calling them treehuggers.  Okay, yes many of us hug trees, but to insult a profession using this derogatory term is disrespectful and arrogant.  It is similar to calling a counselor a “shrink” or referring to social work as “wishy-washy fluff.”  People should consider the meanings behind the names they call people.
  • Save the Whales. This overused term is not truly one of the main goals among conservationists.  In fact, because the native range of most whales are the entire oceans on earth, conserving whales is often difficult…if not impossible…given the variation in environmental regulations worldwide.  Conservation starts at home.  Not in the middle of the ocean where most people have never been to or seen before.  If we start in our own backyards and neighborhoods and then move outward, we will save the whales…and perhaps their habitat, too.
  • Hippes! Just because I love to walk in the woods, doesn’t mean I don’t bathe or interact with mainstream society.  Environmentalists are not usually hippies, and they often engage themselves in mainstream cultures because that is where many of the planet’s environmental problems originate.
  • Cute fuzzy pandas. Many environmental groups  emphasize the need to save the remaining Panda Bears (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).  They are using this animal as a flagship species. This means an animal (or plant) that is especially cute or pretty and that will encourage people to donate or become supportive of conservation efforts.  This does not mean that we are just whining over the loss of pandas.  In order to save cute fuzzy animals, we need to protect their habitat, which includes all of the plants, animals, air quality, and etc. necessary to ensure survival of endangered species.  In addition, many of these flagship species are important to the cultures of indigenous people and tribes, making these environmental issues also a political issue.

I am not going to list any more.  I am not out to preach to people.  I just wanted to emphasis that these messages serve a larger purpose that crosses into the political and social enterprises of life on Earth.


Downtown Milwaukee, just a few steps away, appears elusive from this location near the Milwaukee River.


3 responses to “just a bunch of ‘treehugger’ idealism…right?

  1. Dad November 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I share your sentiments. I am not a tree-hugging, panda saving, tree hugger out to save the whales–but I do enjoy a long and pleasant walk in the woods or a kayak on the river, and the peace of mind that goes with the sounds of nature.

  2. Pingback: human ecology: in memory of Bjorn Norgaard. | Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

  3. Mira May 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    These pieces really set a standard in the inrtdusy.

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