Recasting Environmentalism

There hasn't been much blogging lately, which I regret - real life events, including but not limited to finals, have started to take precedence.

There is one issue that's been floating in my head, lately. Mainly, I think, my mind has been percolating everything I've been reading since the election about the identity crisis facing Republicans.

What are Republicans, any more? There are some issues that are strong Republican issues - pro-life, fiscal responsibility, personal freedom - and I'm sure they'll remain so. But more than anything, it seems like Republicans have blindly cast themselves into the position of the fat-cat, anti-change party.

I want to be clear. While I don't prescribe to conservatism, especially regarding issues like gay marriage and health care, I think it's clear (and certainly the blogosphere has said it enough) that Republicans aren't really all that conservative anymore; they're really just holding onto the issues they know will work. (Could the same be said for democrats? Well, maybe - but to be fair, the B-man seems to be taking some bold steps with regards to foreign policy and energy policy.)

But this is an environmental blog, right?

Well, that's why I bring up the issue - because I want to ask why there's such a connection between liberalism and environmentalism. Because the more I think about it, the less I'm sure.

I understand why environmental issues are often an easier pitch to liberal, progressive audiences - it seems to stand to reason that progressives will be more willing to embrace the changes that a greater environmental agenda calls for.

But why? Aren't I just trapping myself into the same conservative = anti-change trap again?

Because when I try to just look at conservative principles - outlined above - then it becomes very unclear to me why conservatives seem to be so against protecting the environment.

On the surface, there's the "don't mess with my business" idea, but that's depressingly short term. We have proved, by now, that tragedy of the commons issues do exist - that is to say, there really are situations where everyone pursuing their own personal gain without regard to the big picture end up destroying common resources and making everyone worse off. It really happens!

And if we look to the long term, then it seems very strange that conservatives don't support sustainable farming practices, environmental management, and renewable energy. All of these things put more economic responsibility - and freedom - on the individual and the local community, rather than the state or large corporations. Shouldn't that be desireable to a conservative?

To focus in on an example that I like, shouldn't conservatives support solar panels and wind turbines on the roofs of government buildings? There's a high initial cost, but they start to pay for themselves in less time than our recent wars will last - at which point they start reducing government expenses, meaning lower taxes (without higher deficits!). It's not just good economic sense - it's conservative economics. Or it should be, anyway.

But then again, environmentalists are dirty hippies, therefore environmentalism is for Democrats.

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