Conservatives and the Environment

Do conservatives have something positive to say about the environment and climate change, or are they only to be so much sand in the gears?

Let’s face it, the framing of this issue is almost entirely on the other side (and to be clear, often with real justification). These issues came up at the  annual  gathering (Synod) of the Christian Reformed Church as it took up a report on “Creation Stewardship.”  The heart of the document was its focus on climate change and how the church should respond.  This has also been the subject of discussion on multiple boards, including CRC-Voices, where Dan Hendrickson wrote

One clear way to reduce damage to the environment:  Support a slow, gradual decline in population.

Given the reluctance of conservatives, nonetheless on this issue, I think the “conservative” voice may be of use in two ways:

First, reduction of population takes place with reduction of family size. It’s not simply birth control, or worse, forced abortions or other one-child policies. One of the observed facts is that family size decreases with development and education. Clean water and attention to women’s rights can make a world of difference. This matches with some conservatives who want to emphasize free market principles in development. so promotion of economic growth may actually be a means to this end, and here the conservatives can bring a lot of interesting tools to the table (at least at the micro-economic level — their sometime love with the uber-wealthy… eh).

Second, the best conservatives have suggested that the focus on small tasks really won’t cut it, nor will the large scale utopian ones either. Instead, they suggest that if we want to help the poor there are more direct paths in front of us. And cheaper, too, for that matter. This is the path most often associated with Bjorn Lomborg. This ameliorative path has some drawbacks (it can, after all end up with a majoring in minors, porcelain v Styrofoam), but it does point us to what can be done now.

I think that there is plenty in the CRC tool chest that can help with both of these efforts. The mistake is to think that Climate Change comes with a set of policy proposals; it clearly does not. Rather it comes with the dual approach of discipline as to how we handle our environmental responsibilities, and prudent and practical help to those in need.

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