"Environmentalist" is the term used to describe people who have a special appreciation for the natural world, who see nature not merely as a means of gratifying human wants but as a valuable end in itself. So defined, there are millions of environmentalists in countries around the world.
For the vast majority, appreciation of the natural world needs to be integrated with such other values as respect for the unique role of human beings on the planet, respect for science and appreciation of the benefits of technology and economic growth. These people are "progressive" in the sense that they believe in human progress and in the achievement of environmental goals as one of the measures of progress.
A small minority of environmentalists, however, do not believe in human progress, asserting that there is nothing to progress to. Often idealizing the life of the American Indian or life in medieval communities, they believe that the best of all possible worlds lies not in the future, but in the past. These people are "reactionaries" in the truest sense of the word. They oppose science, technology, industrialization and economic growth. At times they imply that humans are an unfortunate accident of evolution and have no natural place on our planet.
If the sway of the environmental debate were determined by a head count, the reactionary environmentalists would be unimportant and could be safely dismissed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Because they are very vocal, prolific and energetically committed to their cause, the reactionaries have achieved an influence far disproportionate to their numbers. They control some of the largest and best-funded environmental organizations. And they have many apologists among the leadership of mainstream environmental groups.