Thursday, February 26, 2015

Conservatives Have (Green) Hearts

If there is one movement where there is little agreement or overlap with conservatives and libertarians, look no further than the Green Movement, or environmentalism, green energy, conservation etc.

Yet a group of conservatives dedicated to protecting the environment does exist. Like US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, they call themselves "Crunchy Cons". They recycle, they avoid using carbon, they dedicate their personal efforts to alternative forms of energy. They love Uncle Sam, and Mother Nature. The believe in George Washington, but loved watching Captain Planet as kids.

 They hug trees, but they won't shame you for burning a few in your fireplace on a winter evening.

What makes them tolerable, if not entirely respected, among fellow conservatives is that they do not try to force their views on others through government fiat.

When it comes to the environmentalist movement, though, the pressure from green activists to expand government in order to pursue a non-carbon agenda is more disturbing.

However, if limited government proponents  respond to all environmental activists as krypto-marxists dedicated to shackling everyone in bark and forcing them to live like caveman free from technology, they should not be surprised if the Republican message boils down to "Chill out!" or "Shut up, Eco Freak!" doesn't get a lot of reception.

In the midst of environmentalist groups, there are those who are driven by power, who seek to demonize their opponents a la Saul Alinksy. And there are those with genuine concern about the potential ill-effects of fracking, oil-drilling, and the inevitable scarcity of fossil fuels.

In 2014, I had a very engaging and respectful conversation with one Hermosa Beach, California resident. He was vocally opposed to Measure O, the city initiative which would permit E and B Natural Resources to set up an underground drill for oil exploration below the ocean floor of the coast of the easy-going, very wealthy beach city. He explained his clear concerns about oil spills, and the negative impacts of gas and underground infiltration.

"The 1988 oil spill of the Exxon Valdez still has not be cleaned up," he told me.

I then asked: "Would you support the drilling if the safeguards against a spill were safe and adequate?"

Absolutely, he answered.


I realized then that there are people in environmental causes who really care about their communities. They are not self-centered partisans looking for a cause to promote. They just want to live in a safe city, and they do not want to see the well-being of the coastline or the environment harmed in the pure pursuit of profit (even if at the expense of everything else). I imagine that homeowners in the region also fear that oil drilling would hurt property values and diminish their costly investment. Arguments for oil drilling should not rest on "nothing will happen", but demonstrate the crisis prevention and intervention in the case of spills have improved dramatically. Compare the global response to the 2010 BP spill, for example, and just a few weeks ago (mid February, 2015), an explosion at ExxonMobil did not poison the air, although the uncertainty of the event alarmed Torrance residents.

Later this week, I was talking to a coworker about California's statewide plastic bag ban, and how dedicated and attentive voters gathered enough signatures to force a popular initiative to overturn or affirm the ban. For my coworker, he did not like that plastic bags take years to biodegrade. The impact on landfills, and the waste in the oceans and along beaches bothered him, too. While I recognize that plastic bags create waste, clog up sewers, and litter the flora and fauna of our shores, the fault is not with the bags themselves, but with the individuals who litter. Furthermore, the ban turns out to be a tax worked out by lobbyist efforts from corporations and labor unions, both of which operate with large budgets and overwhelming influence in Sacramento, at the expense of small businesses and individual consumers who will then have to pay extra for brown bags.

After this extended dialogue on the issue, he agreed that the ban was an extreme measure, and if someone could invent a biodegradable plastic bag, it would resolve many of his concerns. In a way, I was able to convince him that a ban was not the best way to deal with litter along the beaches and in the oceans. If conservatives are willing to listen to the "green side" then explain their own views, they have a better change of making their case and changing people's minds.

Perhaps some conservatives, limited government advocates in general, and Republicans in particular need to meet with Sierra Club members, hear their concerns, understand their points of view, hear the issues which weigh on their green hearts, then respond with warm facts.  There is nothing with going to a meeting and listening to one side share their concerns on the issues. I attended a Town Hall in 2013, and simply asked concerned Democrats about the evidence which prompted them to believe that climate change was a serious threat requiring global, government intervention. Some of them conceded to me that they knew very little about the issue.

At least I was listening, and they were willing to let me share my research on the issue.

Conservatives have green hearts, too, if we consider it long enough, and no one should be surprised. No one wants to live in a community where the Commons is desecrated or polluted. Everyone likes clean water and clean air, but conservatives advance the well-researched argument that energy exploration and carbon investment do not necessarily conflict with beautiful coastlines and well-protected flora and fauna.

Conservatives Have Green Hearts, too.


Conservatives have a green heart, and conservationists, environmentalists, and Sierra Club/South Bay 350 enthusiasts should know about it.

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