The Right must embrace environmentalism

    In a recent conversation, I was told that the environment and conservation ideology is intimately attached to left-wing politics. That is, environmentalism is inherently an issue that must be solved through big governments and redistribution of the wealth. While admittedly in recent years, most Republicans have had woeful environmental records, the idea that environmental issues are something the right wing shouldn’t handle is unfortunate and ill-conceived.

    This idea, which has become relatively common, is a problem for both sides. The Republicans have all but abandoned the issue to their opponents in government. And because the Left has seized it, a great deal of the conservative population disregards environmental issues as “tree-hugging” extremism.

    This worries me, particularly given my divided interest between the two sides. Since my arrival at UCSD and my subsequent decision to join the ecology, behavior and evolutionary biology major, it has been a constant struggle to juxtapose my environmental tendencies with my conservative politics.

    For example, the Kyoto Treaty was a horrific piece of writing with fine print that was economically irresponsible. However, considering the desperate nature of many ecological systems, maybe timely action is better than perfect action. The prevention of natural fires in forests truly was disastrous when the abundance of kindle super-heated flames which killed even incredibly resistant Sequoias. However, is it any better to give the logging companies so much freedom?

    It is no news that at the present, environment and conservation policy lie well in the hands of the Democratic Party and the left wing. Unfortunately, most current Republicans have not done much to further the cause of bipartisan success. In fact, more than 55 percent of the Republican constituency believes Republican politicians are unable to deal with the environment at all. This lack of motivation on behalf of conservative politicians gives logic to the statement that environmental problems may only be solved by the left wing.

    However, despite the fact that Republicans are currently failing the environment in many aspects, conservative politics are not incapable of dealing with good conservation politics. Furthermore, it is more important now to convince Republicans that the environment must be at the forefront of their attention. In fact, in the end, it may have to be conservative capitalists that save the environment.

    The reason for this lies in the current political trends of our country, coupled with the relative incompetence of the government to intercede on behalf of the environment.

    First of all, the country is currently swinging to the right of center. Regardless of the split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans, far more people in the U.S. consider themselves conservatives than liberals, according to an Oct.-Nov. 2003 Gallup poll. Therefore, environmentalists who wish to make significant policy changes must deal with the public opinion. Resisting the public rather than educating them will brand environmentalists as tree-huggers, anarchists and communists.

    Secondly, the reason that capitalism will kill the environment is the very reason why it must be capitalism that saves the environment. Capitalism, unrestricted, is no better than socialism unchallenged. Its incredibly potent expansionary capabilities make the environment a sitting target for development, pollution and other byproducts of a consumer world. Many analysts and theoreticians expect that capitalism will eventually devour itself once the world is conquered. It must be an act of self-preservation by capitalists to protect the environment. And many times, self-preservation is the fastest path to results.

    The major mechanism behind the halting of bad environmental policy is restriction on unchecked pollution of all kinds, including greenhouse gases, habitat destruction and a myriad of other woes. There must be restrictions.

    Major corporations, which are responsible for most of the concerns, need to realize that saving the environment does not have to entail redistribution of their profits. They should impose restrictions based on solid fiscal ideas such as: your company will destroy itself if it destroys the environment around it.

    For example, fishermen are causing the extinction of cod in the North Sea. The European Union has imposed 50-percent cuts in cod fishing, but the trawls take in fish anyway. There’s very little policing of this policy. To the fishermen, these laws are just public opinion trends, imposed because the public has seen too many dead fish videos, and not out of concern for the environment. However, what the fishermen must understand is that their jobs and livelihoods will perish along with the fish populations. With this reasoning, the fisherman may have an incentive to impose restrictions.

    The third reason environmentalism should be bipartisan is that the federal government can be a terribly slow mechanism for saving the environment. Standing in the line at the U.S. post office and realizing that the same bureaucracy is in charge of our environment gives me little hope for our descendants.

    That is not to say that there should be no government restrictions. Many of the largest nature reserves are there because of government restriction. But it has become very harmful to the environment to allow environmentalism to be swallowed solely by the left wing.

    In everything, compromise is best. If the Left and Right can work together in a series of restrictions and corporately self-imposed standards, the chance of conservation is much higher.

    Unfortunately, due to extremist environmentalist zeal and conservative incompetence, this has not been the case. However, if Republicans can overcome their stigma of environmental carelessness, at the very least, they might bring more access to dialogue by offering their hard-line constituents a palatable view of an extremely important facet in the world.

    While there are some organizations like Republicans for Environmental Protections that continually lobby politicians to change their ways, there are too few of us environmental conservatives, willing to brave the disdain of both left-wing environmentalists and angry capitalists. Hopefully that will change, for everyone’s sake.

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