The material well-being of a democratic society depends on its ability to rationally manage a nearly limitless variety of often competing risks.
– Dan Kahan, 2006
Environmental rationality of course. But ever wonder how it is that some members of society, even experts, can hold such polar opposite views on the dangers of climate change, guns, nuclear energy, terrorism, or legalization of drugs? Perhaps I’m naive, but I find it baffling that seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people on the political left and right can observe the same facts and reach such vastly different conclusions about the risks to individuals and society writ large. I posted previously my thoughts and concerns about society’s increasing obsession with conspiracy theories and environmental hysteria. And I link to a very entertaining Penn & Teller Bullshit clip on the rise of environmental hysteria – well worth the viewing – that sort of reinforces my point.
So how does society rationally function in an increasingly irrational environment filled with seemingly irrational actors? And how does government reconcile and ably govern within the penumbra of such contrasting cultural visions for society. This is the question of the century and one that must be addressed in the midst of some very challenging social, economic, and environmental issues facing our times. This is a tall challenge – but not nearly as tough as understanding why so many find Pee-wee Herman entertaining. Continue reading →
Can one be a social conservative or member of the GOP and be an environmentalist? Although I’ve long argued what I believe to be the fundamental distinction between being an environmentalist and a conservationist – and perhaps that’s arguing the number of angelic beings dancing on the head of a pin – the obvious answer to the above question is a resounding yes. To me, it’s a rather silly question, but it’s one with legs. As with other social and cultural issues, the GOP’s environmental positioning has long been on the losing side of public sentiment, rhetoric and imagery. Continue reading →
A new, potentially promising plan to mitigate climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon deep within the oceans, known as Iron or Ocean Fertilization, has prompted quite a controversy. The idea behind this geoengineering feat is to enrich nutrient-poor ocean waters with iron, thereby promoting the growth of algae, which doubles as a source of carbon sequestration and food for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton, in turn, is an essential food item for krill a small shrimp-like creature that constitutes a major part of the diet of many ocean fish, penguins, and whales, among other ocean critters. The algae that isn’t consumed dies and sinks to the ocean floor, sequestering carbon for the next million years or so, or so the theory goes. Ocean fertilizing has the same positive effect as natural deep ocean upwellings where waters become highly productive with life, supporting some of the best fisheries on earth. The only difference is the source of the nutrients. For upwellings, nutrients come from the ocean floor; whereas, for fertilizing, it comes from the surface. Continue reading →
Sir David Attenborough has certainly stirred the pot with his recent name calling. Are humans but a mere “plague on the Earth” only to be controlled through authoritarian rule and human population control? He’s been resoundingly criticized by some conservatives, such as Wesley J. Smith, who calls Attenborough’s views anti-human radicalism and emblematic of the deep misanthropy movement often associated with modern environmentalism. According to Smith, “deep misanthropy has helped renew the Malthusian drive to radically depopulate the planet of people as a remedy for environmental ills and human deprivation.” Smith goes on to conclude that the ongoing convergence of radical Malthusianism with a “renewed advocacy for wealth distribution” is very dangerous withgenocidal overtones. Continue reading →
I’ve just finished a new book that is a must read for the political right (and for those on the political left who may be interested in what conservatives think about environmental issues). Roger Scruton’s “How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism” is a page turner on why conservatives need not shy away from advocating environmental protections; rather they should embrace the topic and advocate for approaches that not only advance environmental stewardship but conservatism. In a recent book review by Peter Blair over at The Witherspoon Institute, Blair critiques:
Conservatism aims to preserve and maintain renewal of [homeostatic] systems, especially the “civil associations” that Scruton calls society’s “little platoons,” in the words of Edmund Burke. The little platoons—families, local clubs and institutions, churches and schools—keep us accountable to ourselves and our environment, teaching us how to “interact as free beings, each taking responsibility for his actions.” Daily life in these civil associations assimilates and connects us to a settled home, a place and a people we identify as peculiarly “ours.” Continue reading →
My friend, Larry Schwieger of National Wildlife Federation, tweeted out his new year’s wish, “for a 2013 that ushers in a deeper understanding of how important it is for all to come together to solve the climate crisis. We owe it to our children and all those who may follow after us.” It’s a noble wish, and a conservative wish I might add, but one that has about as much chance of happening as hell freezing over. I have no doubt that Larry genuinely believes that climate change is the most serious threat facing the planet – but Larry’s problem, from my perspective, is that far too many don’t believe what he believes. It’s not because the object of his wish isn’t important and worthy of discussion or action. No, it’s because the issue of climate change has become so politicized that there is a paucity of credible, authoritative voices on the matter. Continue reading →
Are conservatives better able to handle environmental problems? A re-post of a June 2012 lecture by Roger Scruton of AEI, and author of “How to Think Seriously About the Planet,” and great commentary by Steven Hayward, who argue that conservatives are in fact better equipped to handle pressing environmental issues due to their commitment to sovereignty and personal responsibility.