Green Conservatism


Roger Scruton makes the case:

Environmental issues seem to lend themselves to statist solutions. The problems seem so large, so diffuse, so without local definition that the only way to solve them must be by some gesture of control from above in which enlightened intellectuals direct the benighted profiteers. That is a cherished motive on the Left: the hope that progressives will be able to take hold of the state and use it to dictate to the rest of humanity, supposedly for the benefit of everyone.

I wrote a pamphlet for Thatcher back in 1985 called "Greening The Tories" that made a similar argument. Here's another recent piece of mine on green conservatism. Of course, to some extent, the environment involves a public good that only the state can regulate. That's the point taken here and here. It's foolish to deny this. What traditional conservatives can uniquely bring, however, is a way of improving environmental policy to embrace more market-friendly structures, and a better appreciation of how the private sector is most likely to come up with new energy sources. There's a fruitful right-left synthesis here if we can all grow up and find it.

I also believe that conservatism's aversion to radical change, its instinctive love of country, and its appreciation of the contingency of place and time and our attachment to both has a distinctly green aspect to it. By conservatism, of course, i don't mean the fundamentalist nuttery in the current GOP. I mean the kind of pragmatic, small-government prudence outlined in my book. We will save the planet if we love it; and we tend to love it more when we know it best. So environmentalism is strongest, it seems to me, when it works with this grain of human nature, makes us want to preserve what we have made our own, rather than an abstract notion of the "environment" as such. Harnessing our affection for home, for things as they are, for beauty as we find it: this can help bolster the arguments for conservation and global stewardship. And it is a conservative sensibility.