(By John Andrews, Centennial Institute Fellow)
As Westerners who love liberty, limited government, and the land, it’s high time we stop letting the bicoastal progressives claim heartland conservatives and the GOP want to despoil the environment. What lot of bovine scatology.
Conservatives don’t care about the earth? Please. No one cares more about conserving America’s natural and spiritual heritage than we do.
The Luddite left has forgotten American history, if they ever knew any.
It was Republican President Teddy Roosevelt who established our National Parks and National Forests by setting aside 150 million acres to be conserved and used in a sustainable manner.
It was Republican President Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency, to conserve clean air, water, and land. I was there and I remember. I worked on that initiative. (TR was a little ahead of my time, however.)
It was Republican President Ronald Reagan who committed the country to the Montreal Protocol, which is credited with conserving – in fact, saving – the Earth’s ozone layer, and which is still regarded as the most successful environmental treaty ever established.
And it was Republican President George H.W. Bush’s Acid Rain trading program that achieved goals of substantial acid rain reductions by eliciting compliance from industry without endless lawsuits.
In sum: For a century and more, it has been conservatives who led the most significant conservation efforts in the western United States.
Yet extreme political interests and their media echo chamber relentlessly push the bogus narrative that conservatives don’t value a healthy, balanced, wisely stewarded environment.
Indeed, they want to persuade everyone from schoolkids to supermarket shoppers to moviegoers that we’re out to trash the planet. That’s malicious moonshine.
Conservatives can reclaim leadership on this issue that is so critical to the West by identifying actual environmental challenges facing our country and advocating for the most efficient solutions to address them.
And it seems to me that you and I as Western conservatives are best positioned to pioneer such an approach, just because these environmental problems and proposed solutions have such a vital impact on our daily lives.
The ethic of serving as responsible stewards of our land, mindful of generations long past and generations yet unborn, is at the very core of our region’s heritage.
What’s to be done? Organize, strategize, mobilize, and engage. Get off the defensive and get back in the game to win. Not because it’s politically smart – though it is – but because it’s the right thing to do for this land we love.
Who’s leading the charge? One new group that impresses me is called The Western Way. It’s an alliance of prominent figures on the center-right, dedicated to innovative, conservative environmental policies for the 21st century.
They’ve proposed a common-sense framework for analysis, advocacy, and action, the Western Way Code, that cuts through the inflamed political rhetoric obstructing real solutions. The Code is refreshingly honest and straightforward: four simple steps
- Own the Problem. On this as on any other issue, conservatives start by facing facts. The world is not flat and environmental problems are not imaginary. So are these problems overblown by some on the left? Yes, notoriously so. But do some on the right look foolish when they ignore climate issues? Yes, unfortunately so. The Western Way avoids both extremes by taking the dangers – and the opportunities – of a warming planet head on.
- Reject Unreal Solutions. There is no reason to waste time on radical proposals. In the western United States, 47% of everything is public land, and the major economic drivers depend on successful environmental policy. Drastic mandates and bans that hurt the economy or chase speculative problems are non-starters.
- Drive Real Solutions. Time-tested conservative principles form the foundation to drive sound, long-term solutions to environmental and conservation challenges. Practical solutions that support the economy and improve the environment are available. Those are the Western Way priorities.
- Frame a New, True Narrative. Providing honest and courageous leadership on environmental and climate issues will recapture conservatives’ proper role in this grander debate. The fact is that conservatives have always been and will always be responsible stewards of our land, water and air. Western conservatives can spearhead this movement – and we must. It’s time.
Whereas if we tense up, retreat behind polarized arguments, and let others define the debate, we’re left without a seat at the table. Classic self-sabotage. Enough of that!
The dramatically changed political landscape of 2017 offers a perfect opportunity for Republicans and the center-right to start being environmentally proactive again and advance constructive, conservative solutions.
I’m excited about the potential of The Western Way as a new force urging conservatives to “get in the arena” (as Teddy Roosevelt put it) and help build this 21st century for the benefit of all Americans.
I’m in. Are you? Please take a few minutes to check out TheWesternWay.org today, and join us. So much depends on you and me. We’ve got a country to save.
John Andrews, for decades an influential voice in the Colorado political debate, is now one of his state's Christian conservative elder statesmen. He has led five think tanks, most recently the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and was the originator of the Western Conservative Summit, Backbone Radio, and the Head On TV debates. Andrews was previously President of the Colorado Senate, chairman of the State Policy Network, and director of TCI Cable News. He was a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon; an education appointee under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; founder of the Independence Institute and co-founder of State Policy Network; and Republican nominee for Governor of Colorado in 1990.