Conservatism And The Climate


A reader writes:

In a recent post, you get to the true insanity of the whole debate over "Climategate": so-called "conservatives" clinging desperately to every bit of contradictory evidence (hence their celebratory glee over the East Anglia emails) while denigrating as left-wing propaganda whatever evidence supports it.

I know I don't need to remind you of this, but for a long time it has struck me how un-conservative this position is.

I certainly have my share of skepticism as to the absolute validity of the science involved, and the release of these emails certainly supports the value of such skepticism. But the real conservative response to the debate is to actually try to conserve the conditions that the Earth has existed within rather than blindly engagingblinkered by a consumerist culture that is incapable of considering its long-term effectsin a vast, and potentially, irreversible experiment with our atmosphere; one of the very conditions of our continuing existence on this, our only home. 

Perhaps what we need to do is stop calling this attitude conservative and start pointing out how radical it actually is.

I agree. I have never understood why it is conservative to take an attitude toward the natural world of how best to exploit and use it entirely for short term benefit. (My first ever publication was a paper for Thatcher called "Greening The Tories"). The conservative, it seems to me, will not be averse to using the planet to improve our lot, and will not be hostile to the forces of capitalism and self-interest that have generated such amazing wealth and abundance in the last three hundred years.

But a conservative will surely also want to be sure that he conserves this inheritance, for its own sake and also for his future use. He will want to husband the natural world, not rape it and throw it away. He will see the abandonment of all values to that of immediate gratification as a form of insanity, if not evil.

And he will want to ensure that his children will enjoy the world as he has.

These are deeply conservative instincts, humble in the face of nature, conscious of the need to preserve for the future, aware of the limits of exploitation. These conservatives aren't utopian tree-huggers. They do not worship Gaia or see no give and take with the natural world. They believe in the harvest but also in the need for fallow years and for care and husbandry of animals and plants and environments. And they love their home for its specificity and its beauty, and do not want to see its stability and future gambled away on the casino of greed.

And yet nothing is more alien to what now passes for American conservatism than this respect and care for nature. Which is why it isn't really conservative in any meaningful sense at all.

The longer I live, the more it disgusts me.