environmental Protection

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Environmental protection: Postage stamp of the Deutsche Bundespost from 1981 from the series For environmental protection
Waste separation (Berlin 2012)
Pressed cans for aluminum recycling ( Norway 2006)

Environmental protection (colloquially also ecology) refers to the entirety of all measures to protect the environment in order to maintain human health. Environmental protection has several functions and includes different principles. It prevents damage to the environment (prevention), pushes it back (repression) and restores natural resources as far as possible (reparation). Those who cause them should take responsibility for dealing with the environment ( polluter pays principle ) and not use it to one-sided advantage (principle of cooperation ). Environmental protection also includes ethical and aesthetic demands. The focus of environmental protection is on individual sub-areas of the environment (such as soil , water , air , climate ) as well as on the interactions between them.

In view of a growing world population and the striving for the highest possible standard of living in connection with increasing global networking as well as technical and scientific progress , global economic output is constantly increasing . This has led to an increasing anthropogenic impact on the entire biosphere , which makes environmental protection ever more important. For example, the renowned Scientific Advisory Council of the German Federal Government “Global Environmental Changes” in its 1999 report gives the protection of the environment “the highest priority for reasons of survival strategy” and urges “to recognize the limitations of action”.

Environmental protection is anchored in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (GG) Article 20a as a national goal. The Swiss Federal Constitution calls for "the protection of man and his natural environment" in Article 74th

Goals and Philosophies

Exhaust plume of a high-speed ferry
Exhaust gas cleaning as a contribution to environmental protection in shipping (example of technical environmental protection )

The starting point of environmental protection is the preservation of people's living environment and their health. This includes the protection of the nature surrounding people to a certain extent. To do this, one often uses technical means. The problems to be solved are partly global, partly regional or local, with environmental protection looking for general or large-scale technical solutions. Even if the objects of protection and goals are in principle the same, differences between nature conservation and environmental protection are sometimes discernible.

  • One example is the topic of “renewable raw materials” : conservationists want to protect trees so that they can grow as old as possible, produce dead wood and become a valuable habitat for numerous species. Environmentalists also see the tree as a renewable raw material and advocate the use of wood as an energy source, provided that this use is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  • Conflicts between nature conservationists and environmentalists are common in the construction of wind turbines and small hydropower plants . Conservationists tend to argue against interventions in nature, while environmentalists tend to see the advantage of saving carbon dioxide emissions through green electricity power plants.
  • The common goal of avoiding damage to the biosphere of more local conservationists and the globally formulated goals of environmentalists can lead to different priorities.

Despite these different perspectives, environmental protection and nature conservation are normally not mutually exclusive. There is a high degree of agreement when analyzing environmental damage caused by environmental pollution , such as the ecological effects of air traffic . The development of solutions in differently oriented environmental and nature conservation associations for sustainable consumption or energy saving can then have different priorities.

Environmental protection in public opinion

An international survey in 12 nations (China, Great Britain, Ireland, Iran, Korea, Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia, Spain and the Czech Republic) in 2009 found that people attached different levels of importance to environmental protection. Environmental protection was relatively unimportant in Ireland, Iran and South Korea. A close connection with animal welfare was seen in Iran, South Korea, Norway, Sweden and the Czech Republic .

In a representative population survey by the German Federal Environment Agency in 2012, more than a third of Germans spontaneously named environmental and climate protection as one of the most important problems of our time. In a comparable survey by the Federal Environment Agency in 2018, environmental and climate protection was a very important problem for 64 percent of those surveyed. Only 14 percent of those questioned stated that the federal government was doing “enough” or “rather enough” for environmental and climate protection.

Tasks and sub-areas

The most important fields of action in environmental protection include climate , forest and water protection . The problems of global warming and air pollution are currently discussed.

Climate protection

The aim of climate protection is to counteract anthropogenic influences that can lead to global warming and to mitigate their consequences . The main approaches to climate protection are currently the reduction of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases and the preservation and support of the functions of the oceans and forests in this context: As carbon sinks, these absorb the most significant greenhouse gas in terms of quantity, carbon dioxide . Climate protection is therefore closely linked to the two sub-areas of forest protection and water protection.

Climate changes can occur regionally, e.g. B. through extensive deforestation and sealing of the landscape through roads and buildings. In this respect, climate protection is the task of individual countries and regions.

Forest protection

Deforestation in the Amazon

The forest protection covers all measures to protect forests and stands of trees from damage of any kind. Both are forestry as the non-material claims (such as recreation , climate impact or landscaping ) considered the forest as protected. From a forestry point of view, the protection of the forest against harmful animals, fungi and plants ( forest pests ) or environmental influences is in the foreground. In addition, the forest protection is a decisive factor against excessive deforestation , the rate of deforested annually primary forest to reduce planes (jungle). Forest areas should be preserved as habitat for many animal and plant species, for climatic reasons, but also in connection with water protection. In some regions, forests are also designated as water protection areas or nature reserves .

Water protection

As water protection is defined as the totality of efforts, the waters ( surface water and groundwater to protect against adverse effects). The water protection is used on the one hand the pollution of the water as a resource for drinking or process water as a part of the object of environmental protection, on the other hand the protection of aquatic (d. E. Dependent on the water) ecosystems as part object of conservation. A very far-reaching measure for the protection of water bodies is the designation of water protection areas.

Protection of human health

Car-free options

To protect human health , the human habitat is also considered. Here, noise protection and air pollution control play a role, and more recently protection against nuisance caused by odors. In many parts of the world, water protection is vital for people in order to have enough clean drinking water available. For agriculture and food security , depending on the local conditions, soil protection can be of great importance.

environmental issues

Environmental problems are man-made, negative changes in the environment. They adversely affect the current or future existence or well-being of people. Human actions inevitably affect the environment. In addition to the desired improvements, they often have undesirable, disadvantageous consequences.

Problem types

Environmental problems can be classified according to various criteria, e.g. B.

  • affected environmental areas (environmental media soil, water, air; ecosystems)
  • spatial
    • local (air pollution in metropolitan areas)
    • cross-border (pollution of cross-border rivers)
    • international (wars)
    • global (pollution of the atmosphere, ozone hole)


The modern western environmental movements were founded during the Industrial Revolution. But before that, different cultures thought about protecting their environment. Since the 1960s, the idea of ​​environmental protection has been increasingly promoted, but still under the terms "environmental hygiene" and "protection of the environment". The compound environmental protection, on the other hand, was probably created at the end of 1969 as a loan to English. environmental protection . Employees of the then Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher are said to have adopted the term from the USA. In 1970 the term found its way into the parliamentary debate and the press.

The Freiburg theses , the party program of the FDP of October 27, 1971, then already contained a political position dedicated to environmental protection: "Environmental protection has priority over profit and personal benefit." In addition, the Freiburg theses formulated the goal of protecting the right to a "humane environment" to be anchored in Article 2 of the Basic Law . This was the first programmatic stance on environmental protection in one of the major West German parties.



With the formation of contiguous settlements, problems of waste and sewage arose . The problem of sewage disposal was already dealt with in ancient times. Drainage canals can be found as early as 3000 BC. In the Euphrates valley . In the Roman Empire mostly open channels were used, due to the high construction costs, sewer pipes were rare.

middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages , knowledge about proper sewage disposal was largely lost. This contributed to devastating plague and cholera epidemics . On the other hand, there is the famous land estate ordinance of Charlemagne “ Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii ”, which already contained state ordinances on forest protection in the sense of clearing bans. There were also so-called ban forests , which were primarily intended to preserve the game population for hunting by the nobility. Few smaller forestry projects are known from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period that focused on protecting the environment - albeit in connection with useful interests: for example, the Nuremberg Reichswald , which was created in the 12th century by artificial sowing of conifers on deforested and degraded former deciduous forest areas emerged.

In addition, the vulnerability of tropical ecosystems caused by agricultural and forestry interventions was recorded between the 16th and 17th centuries. For the first time, there were planned efforts to protect the environment.

Origin of the environmental protection movement

In Europe, widespread environmental pollution began with the Industrial Revolution . Large factories and the burning of ever increasing amounts of coal and other fossil fuels led to increased air pollution. The garbage from the factories and the garbage from the cities made the mountains of garbage grow. The environmental protection movement developed as a reaction to industrialization , urbanization, and air and water pollution .

An orderly sewage disposal system had to be set up in the rapidly growing cities. In 1739 Vienna was the first city in Europe to be fully canalized for the first time. It was not until 1842 that the construction of the sewer system began in London . The first sewage treatment plant on the European mainland was commissioned in Frankfurt am Main in 1882 .

Environmental protection in the 20th century

The historic Blue Marble , a photo from 1972 that helped bring environmental protection to the wider public

The early nature conservation and environmental movement in Central Europe, the tourism that began in the 19th century, transfigured nature.

In Germany, the movements were as youth movement , social-democratic nature lovers , hikers , walking clubs or the right-wing Völkische movement . The nature was between 1933 and 1945 ideology with a racial landscape - and home -term and the -and-soil blood ideology linked.

The modern awareness of environmental protection developed in western countries in the 1960s when it was discovered that industrial activities can have a very negative impact on the environment. Obvious grievances such as the fish deaths in the Rhine, the acidification of the seas , spectacular chemical disasters such as in Seveso or Bhopal , as well as the forest death propagated at the time, contributed significantly to this change in values .

Monday demonstration in Berlin in
1989 for environmental protection - against garbage imports

In 1971 the well-known environmental protection organization Greenpeace was founded by peace activists in Vancouver , Canada . The organization emerged from the Don't Make a Wave Committee , which was founded by American and Canadian nuclear opponents and pacifists . The aim of this committee was to prevent a series of atomic bomb tests . Many independent groups later adopted the name Greenpeace. It was not until October 14, 1979 that they were all combined into a single organization, Greenpeace International .

The Blue Marble photo was taken in 1972 by the crew of Apollo 17 . It was the first clear picture to show the sunlit side of the earth. For the environmental protection movement of the 1970s, the picture was an important symbol for the fragility and vulnerability of the earth and its isolation in space.

In addition, the idea of ​​environmental protection also expanded to include agriculture. For example, organic farming tries to minimize harmful effects on the environment by not using synthetic pesticides. The alternative methods of pest control applied there, such as the use of beneficial insects or thermal processes (for example: steaming (soil disinfection) for soil disinfection ) should exclude negative effects on the environment and health. In Germany today, more people work in the environmental sector than in the auto industry.

Environmental protection since the 2000s

In the 21st century, environmental protection is based on the commitment and knowledge of previous decades. In the 2010s, attention focused on issues related to climate change . The institutionalization of environmental protection and the changes in the area of public opinion and social networks have led to very different views on the area of ​​climate and environmental protection. However, it is common sense that efforts to protect the environment must be stepped up globally.

For some years now, international shipping has increasingly come into focus in environmental protection. As of 2018, shipping caused around 400,000 premature deaths and around 14 million asthma illnesses in children worldwide. This applies in particular to the use of environmentally friendly fuels instead of heavy fuel oil with a high content of sulfur or the installation of air filters, the shortening of long transport routes and the reduction of driving speed ( slow steaming ) to reduce CO 2 emissions and other emissions. An important international topic is the steadily increasing container traffic on the maritime Silk Road, which comes from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal . The container ships are currently taking the detour via the Strait of Gibraltar to the northern ports to be unloaded there. Unloading ships onto trains in Mediterranean ports such as Trieste , Genoa or Venice would be more environmentally friendly and sustainable . The emissions (CO 2 , NO x , SO 2 etc.) from Port Said to Warsaw, for example, are 145 kg / TEU via the sea and rail route via Rotterdam and 84 kg / TEU via a northern Adriatic port .

Environmental authorities

Environmental authorities are the authorities responsible for environmental protection.


Logo of the Federal Environment Ministry in Germany (2014)

In Germany, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) are primarily responsible for environmental protection. Further authorities are active in the field of environmental protection at the state and district level. The Federal Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency publish, among other things, annual environmental status reports .


Logo of the Federal Ministry in Austria (2020)

In Austria, the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (from 2020: BMK) and the Federal Environment Agency are responsible for environmental protection.


In Switzerland, responsibility lies with the Federal Office for the Environment . This is Switzerland's environmental department and belongs to the Federal Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC).

Legal bases

Environmental law refers to the totality of legal norms that aim to protect the natural environment and maintain the functionality of ecosystems . There is no uniform environmental protection law in Germany or Austria. The situation is different in Switzerland, which passed its own environmental protection law in 1983. The EU environmental legislation has a major influence on the legislation of each Member State. In the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union , the EU guarantees its citizens:

"A high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development." (Article 37)

Environmental law in Germany

Since October 27, 1994, German constitutional law in Article 20a of the Basic Law obliges Germany to protect the natural foundations of life; on July 26, 2002, animal welfare was added ("Protection of the natural foundations of life and animals"):

"The state also takes responsibility for future generations and protects the natural foundations of life and animals within the framework of the constitutional order through the legislature and in accordance with the law and justice through the executive and the judiciary."

It is a " state objective determination ", a general obligation of the legislature and the administration. However, concrete legislative or administrative action is legally enforceable in individual cases.

German environmental law is spread across numerous laws. For many years, environmental scientists and environmental lawyers have been calling for environmental law to be codified in an environmental code (UGB) and for the individual regulations to be better coordinated. The big black-red coalition (2005–2009, Cabinet Merkel I ) and the then Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel tried it; the project failed in February 2009 due to resistance from the Bavarian CSU .

Environmental law in Austria

In Austria there is still no uniform environmental law. The legal bases are spread across numerous codes of law.

Environmental law in Switzerland

The basis of Swiss environmental protection legislation is Article 74 of the Federal Constitution . Paragraph 1 of this article reads: "The federal government shall issue regulations on the protection of people and their natural environment from harmful or nuisance effects."

Based on this, the Federal Act of October 7, 1983 on Environmental Protection , the Environmental Protection Act (USG) was enacted. The USG names as its goal "to sustainably preserve the natural foundations of life, in particular the biological diversity and fertility of the soil". Water protection is regulated in a separate law for water law in Switzerland : Federal Act on the Protection of Waters of January 24, 1991 (Water Protection Act, GSchG). The Energy Act (EnG), which regulates the energy industry on a national level, contains in its version that came into force at the beginning of 2018, the "Energy Strategy 2050", which promotes renewable and domestic energy sources.

International and supranational environmental protection

In the area of ​​environmental protection, the influence of the national state is decreasing. The increasing degree of international communication networks and global economic interdependence creates collective responsibility for the environment. The states are forced to jointly look for solutions to problems. The environment knows no human-drawn boundaries. As a result, transnational environmental policy is increasingly moving into the foreign policy field of vision, at least for those states which, as a result of the total amount of global environmental pollution, also have higher environmental pollution. International forums and organizations are a response to this process.

The first international environmental conference was held in Stockholm in 1972 ( United Nations Conference on the Human Environment ). One of the most important supranational actors is the UN (UNEP) - a large number of multilateral environmental agreements are concluded under its umbrella . The list of international environmental agreements provides an overview of the large number of environmental agreements that have now existed , whereby the overlaps with international nature conservation become clear.

Global limits

In 2009, an international research group headed by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Center examined and defined critical limit values ​​for the most important environmentally relevant parameters of planet earth, the planetary boundaries, in a highly regarded study in Nature . The aim of this definition is to vividly simplify the highly complex interrelationships of the ecosphere in this way in order to make risks visible quickly and clearly using a few key parameters. According to this study, mankind must manage to stay below 100% for all parameters in the long term in order not to endanger the environment - and thus our livelihoods - in an unpredictable manner.

Values ​​that are currently over 100%

  • Loss of biological diversity => 1000%
  • Sulfur emissions = 346%
  • Carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere = 111%

Values ​​that are close to 100%

  • Thinning of the ozone layer = 98%
  • Ocean acidification = 95%

Values ​​well below 100%

  • Loss of phosphorus in the seas = 82%
  • Land areas influenced by settlement and agriculture = 78%
  • Fresh water resources = 65%

This study follows the tradition of numerous “environmental models and scenarios” that have been made since the middle of the 20th century.


Many emerging and developing countries often lack the resources necessary for effective environmental protection measures. Global regulations are often not accepted by these countries. They argue that the industrialized nations are largely responsible for global environmental damage. In the case of local problems, such as the use of accumulative pesticides, there is often a lack of affordable alternatives. For example, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) is still used extensively in these countries to control insects, despite proven environmental hazards.

Well-known environmental activists

See also

Portal: Environment and nature protection  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of environmental and nature protection


  • The Ecological Crisis as Part of the Multi-Dimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy by Takis Fotopoulos, in: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. Vol. 3, no. 3, 2007 [1]
  • Hans-Joachim Koch, Susan Krohn: Environment in bad shape? Environmental protection after the federal reform . Natur und Recht 28 (11), pp. 673-680 (2006), ISSN  0172-1631
  • Takis Fotopoulos: The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy. Athens 2005. English online edition: [2]
  • Torsten Mertz: Crash course in ecology . Dumont-Verlag, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8321-7638-1 .
  • Bruno Kürbiß: Responsible Care. Occupational safety and environmental protection in chemical plants , Europe-Lehrmittel, Haan-Gruiten 2008, ISBN 978-3-8085-7165-1 .
  • Bernhard Verbeek: The anthropology of environmental destruction , 1998, ISBN 978-3-89678-099-7 .
  • Dietrich Murswiek: Environmental protection as a state purpose - the ecological basis of legitimacy of the state. Economica, Bonn 1995, ISBN 3-87081-253-2 .


Web links

Commons : Environmental protection  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Environmental protection  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations



Individual evidence

  1. ^ W. Nobel: Terms from ecology and environmental protection: A small compendium (= economy and environment. Volume 31). Nürtingen 2011, p. 143.
  2. H. Hulpke, HA Koch, R. Nießner (Ed.): Rompp-Lexikon Umwelt. 2nd Edition. Stuttgart / New York 2000, p. 840.
  3. Ivana Weber: The nature of nature conservation: how concepts of nature and gender codes determine what is worth protecting. Oekom, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-86581-082-3 , pp. 189 and 196-199.
  4. Meng, Jenia: Origins of attitudes towards animals 2009. Ultravisum, Brisbane, ISBN 978-0-9808425-1-7 , p. 349.
  5. Federal Environment Agency (Germany) : Environmental awareness in Germany 2012.
  6. Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) together with the Federal Environment Agency: Environmental awareness in Germany 2018 - results of a representative population survey. (PDF) Retrieved June 3, 2019 .
  7. a b Annikki Liimatainen: Studies on the technical language of ecology and environmental protection in German and Finnish: designation variants under a historical, lexicographical, morphological and linguistic-pragmatic aspect . Peter Lang, 2008, p. 61–62 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  8. Geo (magazine) 04/2008, p. 115
  9. Post: The Early Origins of Sustainability. ( Memento from December 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) In: forstwirtschaft-in-deutschland.de. November 2015, accessed April 28, 2020.
  10. Wolfgang Reinhard: The submission of the world: a global history of European expansion 1415-2015 . 1st edition. Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-68718-1 , pp. 603 .
  11. ^ Federal Environment Agency (Germany) : Environmental awareness in Germany. December 5, 2018, accessed July 28, 2019.
  12. Karen Hamann, Anna Baumann, Daniel Löschinger: Psychology in environmental protection: Handbook for promoting sustainable action. Society for ecological communication. Oekom, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-86581-799-0 , p. ??.
  13. Mikhail Sofiev et al .: Cleaner fuels for ships provide public health benefits with climate tradeoffs . In: Nature Communications . tape 9 , 2018, doi : 10.1038 / s41467-017-02774-9 .
  14. Cf. Frank Hütten: Schifffahrt: EU countries also want to know the freight volume when measuring CO2 . In: DVZ from October 25, 2019.
  15. See also Alexandra Endres: Shipping is just as bad for the climate as coal . In: The time of December 9, 2019.
  16. ^ Harry de Wilt "Is One Belt, One Road a China crisis for North Sea main ports?" in World Cargo News of December 17, 2019.
  17. Dirk Asendorpf: Clear ship! . In: Die Zeit from October 16, 2014.
  18. Cf. Giacomo Borruso: Il porto di Trieste: Scenari economici e prospettive . 9/2015, p. 26.
  19. html version of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union , Article 37: Environmental protection , available via EUR-Lex (the EU's legal information system )
  20. Article 20a of the Basic Law, Laws on the Internet , accessed on April 7, 2013.
  21. Article 20a of the Basic Law, nature protection + animal protection on landesrecht-bw.de :
  22. Johan Rockström et al. a .: A safe operating space for humanity. In: Nature . Volume 461, 2009, pp. 472-475 (English; doi: 10.1038 / 461472a ).
  23. archive.org: Article “Researchers define boundaries for the earth that humanity should not cross”, KlimAktiv.de, September 24, 2009 , accessed on March 15, 2020.
  24. ^ Stockholm Resilience Center: Planetary boundaries research. ( Memento from January 11, 2016) January 11, 2016, accessed July 28, 2019.
  25. see e.g. B. the documentary Home
  26. GoodPlanet.org ( memento of June 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Founder and President Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND