Nachhaltigkeit (sustainability) itself is not the same as Umweltschutz (environmental protection), as Umweltschutz is a vital aspect of sustainability but more diverse. Sustainable development is a development that meets today’s generations needs without endangering the potential of future generations (UN World Commission for Environment and Development, 1987). It often comes down to a compromise between living sustainably but also environmentally friendly. Hybrid cars might be more sustainable regarding fossil resources but that does not make them environmentally friendly.
Umweltschutz is thus the sum of all protective measures to maintain the living resources for all living organisms, focusing on individual areas (soil, air, climate) as well as their reciprocal interaction. Naturschutz is the maintenance and recovery of nature and landscapes. In English, the former might be translated as ‘environmental protection’, while the latter is closer to ‘nature protection’, a word that is rarely used in English. Umwelt then also includes buildings and any other human-made artifacts or structures. Naturschutz and Klimaschutz (climate protection) are thus two sides of the same coin and must be tackled in unison. Klimaschutz is also a vital part of Umweltschutz, as all measures are also Umweltschutzmassnahmen (environmental protection measures).
Naturschutz and Umweltschutz are often in conflict as the topics often overlap, for instance, in waste management, species protection, the protection of air and climate or the protection of landscapes. Whereas the protection of nature would require the non-assembly of wind power plants, Umweltschützer (environmentalists) would argue that it ensures a more sustainable lifestyle. Importantly, Umweltschutz has the protection of human health as a main focal point, but also forest protection, where there might be much overlap with Naturschutz.i In order to push through large measures of environmental protection, both have to combine through collaborative efforts.
Even on institutional levels, Germans distinguish between Naturschutz (legal rules and measures for the protection of species and wild landscapes) and Umweltschutz (laws and guidelines regarding the living space of citizens).”ii
The early 1970s form the foundation of the German environmental movement with the European Naturschutzjahr (nature protection year) and saw the foundation of many so-called Umweltministerien (singular:. Umweltministerium) in different states like Bavaria. To this day, institutions tend to be called Umwelt ministries or such, while public organisations like the NABU (Naturschutzbund) reflect on the term Natur more often.
Umwelt (f) (environment), die Natur (f) (nature), die Mitwelt (f) (common world), die Nachhaltigkeit (f) (sustainability)
Umweltbildung (environmental education), Umweltbewusstsein (n) (environmental consciousness), Umwelterziehung (f) (environmental pedagogy)
i Study Smarter. „Umweltschutz“. < https://www.studysmarter.de/schule/biologie/oekologie/umweltschutz/> Accessed on August 2, 2023.
ii Bundesamt für Umwelt. „Umwelt und Natur“. Homepage: https://www.energie-umwelt.ch/definitionen/1512-umwelt-und-natur-definition Accessed on July 15, 2023. p. 1.