Letters To A Young Conservative: Chapters 22-25

November 14, 2012 | Marian

After discussing President Lincoln as well as the Self-Esteem movement, this week’s letter combats the claim that ‘Conservatives don’t care about the environment.’

The author begins unabashedly:

The [environmental] movement seems to have been taken over by Enviro-Nuts: Vegetarians, organic farmers, fruit-juice-drinkers, garbage sorters, tree huggers, and earth-worshippers. These people do not have a reputation for being rational. (167)

Hey now, I mused. An awful lot of people who might feel insulted before finishing the first page. This seemed unusually antagonistic, compared to previous letters.

Many of us eat organic foods, but often for health reasons (thus, saving money on medicine) and also because we love purchasing from local farmers and markets (a rather conservative mindset, I daresay, since that supports small businesses directly.)  I also drink juice (but mostly because I’m not into salads), and yes, we sort our garbage and recycle (it’s a neighborhood rule.)

Sure, I secondarily factor in the potential improvement to sky and soil, and I’m glad to help our ecosystem.  But, these are all quite rational decisions, thanks.

Furthermore, it seemed unfair to lump Vegetarians in with Tree-Huggers/Earth-Worshippers, since one is a diet selection while the others are religious/ideological choices.

However, the author explains further (and I begrudgingly read on):

They [the ‘nuts’] routinely exaggerate the threat that economic growth, technology, and human beings themselves pose to the planet. (168)

Now here, we could agree. Theories of global warming and resource depletion are still controversial, and even among those who believe they are occurring, certainly no one agrees on a solution.

Clearly, there are some instances of genuinely unnecessary waste and destruction that harm our planet, but rushing to extremes like government-mandated family planning, or the closure of all businesses with a smokestack are probably overkill, yes.

Continuing, the author asserts that:

Indeed, growth, affluence, and technology are the best hopes for saving the planet… (169)

Rich people –not poor people– join the Sierra Club. Only when countries become rich do they start worrying about pollution and have the resources to tackle the problem… Affluence is a nation’s best contraceptive… when countries become wealthier, their birth rates drop… (169)

Technology – not the natural lifestyle – is the best way to preserve the environment. (170)

These were interesting thoughts. Clearly, strong economies do have more resources to improve their processes. But, wouldn’t efficient resource management also potentially speed up the creation/growth of a strong economy?

And even if affluence is a great contraceptive, personally I’d rather not have government trying to manage or incentivize my family size in any regard – medically, politically, or economically.

Definitely, technology can be helpful in maximizing our resources, but the simultaneous dismissal of all ‘natural lifestyle’ options still felt unjust.

See, I’m not an extremist; I drive an SUV, use quite a few appliances, buy plastic products, and even wear boots made from genuine leather (sorry, Bovine Friend.). But, I also avoid chemical cleaning supplies, economize my water, and grocery shop with reusable bags (Why not?!).

For the author, it’s a strictly mathematical equation. For example, organic farming provides jobs to low-class and food to upper-middle class, yes – but it’s inefficient, he explains.

High-yield farming is vastly more efficient. Pesticides and bioengineering help farmers produce the most crops out of the least amount of land. (170)

But, what about sustainability? One might argue that land is more productive when not treated with chemicals, and that people are healthier when they ingest fewer toxins. And according to some studies, food is more nutritious when grown naturally and when land is rested routinely.

Thus, it’s at least arguable that artificially-increased quantities can decrease quality. Yet, the author doesn’t even address these possibilities.

This was my least favorite letter so far. It felt so polarizing, so condescending to anyone who didn’t agree with the author. Rather than a statement of position, it felt like an eye-roll towards those crazy people who vainly buy cloth diapers for their children, and bike to their jobs.

And this is unfortunate, because many conservatives do passionately care about environmental issues, and do want to find the best, most balanced solutions.

However, if this author’s disparaging tone is all they hear about our position, liberals might never realize that.

Next week, we’ll discuss Anti-Globalists and Immigration!

* * *

Note: We won’t be discussing Chapters 23-25 here, as they address topics that NeW does not cover.

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