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[Feature] [20 Must-know GEI] 19. Who can become an environmentalist?

by Eco Generation | 28-10-2016 09:22 Comments 0 recommendations 0

20 Must Know Series-Title 

19. Who can become an environmentalist?

20 Must Know Series-Image 19-1 

     When have the risks of useful chemicals been revealed? Since when has Freon gas, which destroys the ozone layer, been regulated? There is an inextricable link between these incidents and environmental movements they were first revealed by someone, expanded to environmental movements, and then reflected in governmental policies.


1. Environmentalists in the world.

• Global widespread environmental movements, Rachel Carson

      Rachel Carson, a teacher and author of a few books on the ocean, got a letter saying that birds had been killed in large numbers due to DDT. As she had been having doubts about DDT, an insecticide widely used at that time, she started to investigate it in earnest from that moment. In 1962, after a four-year study and investigation, she published Silent Spring. The book starts with a description of a bright spring day without birds chirping. It vividly describes nature and towns that are destroyed due to accumulated insecticide in the food chain, which provoked interest in environmental problems from many people.

       The origins of the environmental movement can be found in the late 19th century, when American environmentalist John Muir insisted on the designation of national parks for the preservation of nature. After the 1960s, however, industrialization proceeded a lot faster and various pollutants accelerated environmental pollution and degradation. Silent Spring has significance, as it has caused people not only to learn how to protect nature but also realize the risks of overuse of modern conveniences, including chemicals. Afterwards, the book has become a monumental writing of the global environmental movement and has contributed to the establishment of governmental polices for environmental protection.

• Recognition of ozone layers, global warming and global environmental problems, F. Sherwood Rowland and James Hansen

        In 1974, Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland and his colleagues revealed that Freon gas (chlorofluorocarbon) played a huge role in destroying ozone in the stratosphere. Later, in 1988, the use of Freon gas was banned worldwide under the Montreal Protocol. As such, the role of scientists, perceiving environmental risks, can be found in climate change issues.

       In the 1850s, Irish Physicist John Tyndall revealed the ‘blanket effect’ that gases, including carbon dioxide, warmed the Earth, and this fact has spread worldwide. Later, Dr. James Hansen, who studied Venus in NASA's space lab, found out that greenhouse gases made not only Venus but also Earth hot. He also revealed that carbon dioxide generated by human activities had increased the temperature of the Earth as much as 0.4 degrees over the last 100 years. Since 1981 when he made that announcement, he has continuously raised awareness of the risks of climate change and urged developing countermeasures around the world.

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• From air pollution victim to environmentalist, ‘Black Dandelion’ Kilae Park.

      The environmental movement in Korea started in the 1980s in opposition to air pollution. Great intellectuals from Yeol Choi, Hong-seob Cho and Kil-seung Yang in the early stage to Sang-cheol Park and Byung-ok Ahn worked actively for Onsan disease and phenol leakage into the Nakdong River as well as the pro-democracy movement. Later on, professional organizations were established for solving environmental problems and the environmental movement has become part of the civil movement. Meanwhile, not only professionals but also ordinary people contributed a lot with tenacious efforts.

     In the late 1980s, a victim of pneumoconiosis in Sangbong-dong, Kilae Park, took part in the movement as well. She moved to Seoul alone without any plans to avoid poverty when she was 16, went through many difficulties working as a maid, factory worker, and hair dresser, and finally was able to have her own house in Sangbong-dong, Jungrang-gu, Seoul. However, she ended up having pneumoconiosis due to coal dust from briquette plants near her house. At that time there were 17 plants in Seoul, and the Sangbong-dong region had several briquette plants together, with coal dust floating in the air like a coal-mining town. In 1988, she went to a human rights lawyer, Young-rae Cho, to file a compensation claim against the briquette plants. With help from various environmentalists, including the Association for Physicians for Humanism, and her lawyer Cho, she was able to achieve the first victory of the environmental movement in court. Later, Kilae Park insisted on relocation of the plants and physical check-ups for the local residents by organizing the Air Pollution Control Committee, which allowed more patients to be revealed. Until 2000 when she died of pneumoconiosis, she kept working as an environmentalist rather than as a victim of air pollution with a persistence like dandelions.


2. We can be environmentalists as well by considering the environment and taking action.

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      From Rachel Carson to Kilae Park, what are the common characteristics of these figures in the history of the environmental movement? It is that they tried actively to solve immediate problems instead of neglecting them. There are students who started environmental movements by aggressively responding to reality like those environmentalists. In 1989, Danny Seo and his 7 friends organized an environmental organization for adolescents called ‘Earth 2000’ with just US$23 on his 12th birthday. In 2007, Jonathan Lee started a cartoon for environmental protection called ‘Go, Green Man,’ when he was only 10 years old, after watching a documentary about a destroyed Amazon rainforest.

     Do you think only those who are famous can be environmentalists? Every movement for environmental protection and the results around the world have been achieved through actions and behaviors by many unknown people. Do not neglect the problems in front of you. Look at the problems with curiosity, try to come up with countermeasures, and practice what you can do right now. By doing so, you will become a real environmentalist who saves the Earth, the environment and your neighbors.



[Learn More!]

Silent Spring (Rachel Carson, 2011)    
This book is a modern classic which those who care about the environment should read. It can be called a literary work that contains reflections on modern civilization full of human pride in a beautiful writing style and detailed descriptions.

Le Monde Environment Atlas (Le Monde Diplomatique, 2011)
This book shows roughly 100 maps, images and charts about environmental destruction in every corner of the globe, and introduces countermeasures and alternatives.



script by : Prof. Yoon, Sun-jin's Environment & Energy Lab
                Seoul National University

Illustration by : Kim, Jeong-kyeom





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