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Preservationist is generally understood to mean historic preservationist: one who advocates to preserve architecturally or historically significant buildings, structures, objects, or sites from demolition or degradation. Historic preservation usually refers to the preservation of the built environment, not to the preservation of, for instance, primeval forests or wilderness.[1]

Preservationist is, however, sometimes used descriptively in other contexts, notably with regards to language and the environment.

Other uses of the term[edit]

Persons who work to preserve ancient or endangered languages are called language preservationists. [2]

  • Clarification: Ethnologue, a reference work published by SIL International, has cataloged the world’s known living languages, and it estimates that 417 languages are on the verge of extinction.[3]

Preservationist is also sometimes used in the natural environmentalist field, but while the natural environment conservationist movements preserve ecosystems and the natural environment, this movement is widely known as conservation or environmentalism.

  • Clarification: A key difference between the Preservationist and Conservationist environmentalist schools is this: Preservationists view the environment as having intrinsic value that should be preserved by making as little change to it as possible. Conservationists view the environment as having instrumental value that can be of help to people,[4] and generally accept Gifford Pinchot's notion of sustainable yield: that man can harvest some forest or animal products from a natural environment on a regular basis without compromising the long-health of the ecosystem.[5]

Preservationism has been defined by Richard Heinberg in his book Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World as distinguishing survivalist groups who wish merely to survive a collapse of civilization from preservationist communities who wish to preserve as much of human culture as is possible in the event of collapse.

  • Clarification: The idea of preservationist communities is part of a broader strategy in which individuals achieve independence from the centralized power grid, forming sustainable communities that could provide mutual support in the event of critical depletion of non-renewable resources.[6]

Notable historic preservationists[edit]

Some of the notable historic preservationists who are or have been advocates for the protection of the built environment include:

Notable conservationists[edit]

Notable environmentalists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions, Handbook Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine (1997).
  2. ^ "Language Preservation: UNESCO-CI". Archived from the original on 2006-07-06. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  3. ^ "Ethnologue: Languages of the World". Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  4. ^ Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.
  5. ^ W.N. Sparhawk, "The History of Forestry in America" in Trees: Yearbook of Agriculture,1949. Washington,D.C.
  6. ^ Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (ISBN 9780865715103) (2004; British edition 2005)