Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Think locally, act locally: Time for the Right to hijack environmentalism

BOSTON, U.S.A.—About a month ago, Britain's The Daily Telegraph published an op-ed column entitled "You don't have to be Red to be Green." It was written by two (British) Conservatives, Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell, who kicked off their piece by asking, "Why should environmentalism be left to the Left? Aren't conservatives, as the etymology suggests, obvious conservationists?"
This is what I have long always thought and argued. I am not only interested in conserving the tried-and-true ways of education, law and order, and societal norms, but the environment as well. I'm a conservative, thus I am a conservationist as well. I don't like rapid change, either socially or environmentally. The environment is the sort of thing I like to leave up to nature.
It's really odd because the Left is normally quite misanthropic: the whole death culture reigns among liberals—abortion being their banner cause—and mankind is blamed for every conceivable ill afflicting the planet. Yet at the same time, they advocate a cleaner environment for people. Well, what better way to achieve population control than to let third-world people starve or bake to death via global warming? Why advocate anything that will enhance people's lives and help them to live longer? Just let the city-dwellers drop dead from carcinogenic pollutants.
Then you have those on the Right to whom the environment is a mere commodity, to be subjugated along with animals, women and homosexuals, and something that should never be a barrier to their comfortable, live-for-today lifestyle. Plastic packaging? More of it, we the people demand our food fresh! Global warming? Hell with that, don't dare tell me I can't have an SUV with which to scare sissy Nissan drivers! Trees? Who needs 'em when you can have paper? Recycling? Something only tu-tu wearing, tree-hugging fairies do! Just throw it all away. Haven't you heard, there's a big hole into which it all disappears! Why worry? Oh, and did you know that the Earth is flat? You probably thought it was round, you goddarned sissy!
For too long, we've had the hippy-dippy, grubby, grungy socialists on one side demanding, as Hannan and Carswell write, "slower growth, higher taxes, more regulation, less freedom and a loss of national sovereignty." In other words, members of the Great Unwashed who, laughably or sadly, expect to be taken seriously. But then we've also had the Right-wing, "this is God's Land, goddamnit" types who would point a gun at you if you simply asked them if they recycle or whether or not they take showers as opposed to baths, while screaming at you to stop impinging on their freedom.
But aren't those on the Right more concerned about people than those on the Left? Doesn't the Right want healthy, strong American children? The problem is, if you live simply for today and don't worry about the impact on the Earth come tomorrow, you're leaving future American generations to deal with an even larger mess. I continually get frustrated at my fellow conservatives who just shrug when you ask them about the environment.
The problem is, as Hannan and Carswell write, "much contemporary environmentalism, in short, is intrinsically anti-localist: it prefers state regulation to voluntary action, and international treaties to local initiatives. Perhaps understandably, some on the Right have come to suspect the Green agenda is a front for a Red one. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, this was the attitude taken by conservatives throughout the English-speaking world. In consequence, the mainstream Right left the entire filed to a mob of elflocked anti-globalisation demonstrators. Few bothered to suggest free-market or localist solutions to environmental problems."
The free market may be responsible for its own waste but it's only because people don't hold businesses' feet to the fire. Plastic carrier bags could disappear for good tomorrow if people only held local protests in their communities and if that sentiment carried across from community to community on a nationwide basis, as it inexorably would.
Hannan and Carswell provide good examples of free market environmentalism: "When rich people buy swathes of rainforest, they make sure that no-one degrades their property. When, by contrast, Sting made over a chunk of the Amazon to its indigenous population, local chiefs promptly set about reducing their tribes to near-slavery, and started logging and mining on an unprecedented scale. Why? Because, as in the old USSR, the land was owned communally, not privately. Now look a little closer to home. The EU's Common Fisheries Policy is run on the socialist principle of equal access to a common resource and, sure enough, it has led to ecological calamity. Iceland, on the other hand, has worked out an ingenious quota system that effectively privatised fish stocks, giving each skipper a stake. Its waters are teeming."
Those on the Right need to put an end to this attitude that all environmental initiatives must automatically be socialist in character. A cleaner environment makes for a healthier, happier population and is in character with the tendency to conserve the status quo.
"'Think global, act local,' say the Greenies," write Hannan and Carswell. "Left-wingers are good at the first bit, coming up with all manner of symbolic targets that require big, supranational technocracies. But the second bit is generally best performed by those who believe in devolving power to local communities and individual citizens."
Exactly so. It is time to wrestle the environmental agenda away from the Left if we truly want to be free. I beseech my fellow conservatives to take environmental issues seriously and appeal to the groundswell of support for them. Let's not continue to let the Left hijack this support for themselves. We will lose out if we do. If we have so much faith in the free market, then let's start proving it by demonstrating how local services and incentives can transform a nation's environmental policy—and, ultimately, that of the world's.


kristen said...

I get extremely bugged by the leftists who take it too far. Those who block oil drilling to save a few animals (it's actually been proven that caribou flourish in these areas, and technology has vastly improved in the last 25 years); and those who prevent deforestation (um, forest fires have actually been worse because of this). Some of these freaks do more harm than good.

And then there's those who blame the SUVs. Sorry, but trucks get poorer gas mileage; and what about those with lavish lifestyles (i.e. ginormous mansions, private jets, flying all over the world, guilty of major consumerism)?

I'm all about being a steward over the earth, but I also believe this earth is for us to use (but not necessarily abuse). I try to be conscious of what I do and how I can avoid being wasteful. I reuse plastic shopping bags by using them for garbage liners. I have my heating and cooling on timers so as to not waste energy. I don't buy things I don't need. I don't waste paper. Yes I drive an SUV, but I love it, and no tree hugger is going to stop me. I try and plan errands on my way home from work; it's not like I'm running all over the place in it.

I think most conservatives care, but don't want to live in such a way that they feel is so constricting. We are here to live on and enjoy our planet.

Sure there's more we can do, but I think environmentalism has gone to some extremes.

(and now that I've written an essay, I'll shut-up).

East of Eden said...

One thing I think is funny is that Al Gore is all about the "international solution" as your wrote, which of course is no more than a thinly disguised attempt at world socalizim and Robinhooding. Al Gore also has a carbon footprint of more than 400 average Americans--ironic, yet again. Where as George has one of the greenest houses in the country and is all about going green--the Crawford Ranch collects rainwater, recycles, uses those silly CFLs and so on. In fact, W replaced all the appliances in the White House with high energy star rated appliances.

I totally agree with you--government regulation is not the answer, incentive is.

Temple Stark said...

The idea that one side or the other should wrest the issue away from the other is asinine and shows where the paradigm remains; someone has to "win" and money comes first. However, when someone in the mid-1990s (and earlier) shows that money can be made while following macro and micro environmentalism he's still mercilessly mocked - almost exclusively by conservatives.

Perish the fucking idea that anyone work together - what would the world come to? Oh yes, what we've got now, where decades of American politics gets nothing done because companies - left out of the equation in the original piece by the way (why?) - don't want to. Their lack of desire FUELS the need for governmental intervention and action, and suddenly conservatives have a convenient excuse to each other for not working toward a better environment.

That's pathetic. It's so easy to find compromise but because someone might win while the country and the planet loses its rarely attempted. Your third and fourth paragraphs bely any true seriousness for progress and compromise.

Let me add the tired necessity that no one, no party has come out of this country's lack of effort with a rosy glow - but when environment causes have been championed one side has traditionally been the mockee and the other has been the mocker, as your piece alludes to strongly.

Generally there is an anti-intellectual / anti-science bias in the political tradition of conservatism, which is an undeniable Politics 101 basic. Kristen seems to prove this point, sadly though is overall correct about deforestation. Once the Mannings of the world get past the desire to win and into the desire to do, progress will be made.

PS None of this is meant to minimize the care for the planet Manning exhibits in this piece.

Nightdragon said...

TS, thanks for visiting my site, though can I just say that I deliberately have my paragraphs set up they way they are because I'm happy with the look; it's my blog after all. If I had paragraph breaks, the columns would run too long.

Secondly, TS, are you saying that you have no agenda yourself? You write; you frequent Blogcritics; you always have something to say -- therefore, do you not have opinions? And, if you have opinions (which, being a person, you surely must), do you not feel that you're right. You seem to accuse me of striking a "my way or the highway" stance when all I did was suggest that we take the socialism out of enviromentalism, to be green without being Red. From this you gather that I'm not interested in working with people who aren't of the Right. Not true. As long as they're not overtly hostile to my beliefs, I'll respect theirs and will work with them. The environment means a lot to me -- which, unlike a lot of other liberal trolls on BC that I've had to deal with, you actually seem to recognize; thanks for that -- and I don't think it should boil down to a political agenda. I simply think conservatives need to get more involved and get over this fear of being called "tree-huggers." After all, look at France's Nicolas Sarkozy -- a right-wing kind of guy but concerned about climate change.

I'll work with your kind, TS, if you're willing to work with mine and cease with the superior, "I know better than you troglodytes" attitude, the knee-jerk emotion and the ad hominems. Are you and your left-wing comrades capable of that?

Also, keep in mind, this is not BC. This is my personal space. Be respectful of me and my friends or be deleted. I'll not stand for name-calling here, in case you ever feel so inclined to engage in it.