In my previous post, I explained that I was born a Republican. If you know me at all, you know that I am also a strong advocate for the environment. I like clean air, clean water, biodiversity, sustainability, alternative energy sources, simple life styles, and wild places. Is “environmentalist Republican” an oxymoron? By no means! Sustainability, economic or environmental, should be considered a conservative value. Greed and consumption are not inherent to—nor limited to—conservatism.
The group Republicans for Environmental Protection is a minority group within the Republican Party. To some, it is part of the “moderate wing” of the Republican party, but I think the views expressed by REP are squarely in line with conservative philosophies.
Let’s take this for a starting point: George W. Bush’s environmental policies have been, for the most part, a disaster (see Bush’s sorry environmental record on the REP site). Air and water quality in this nation are much better than they were in 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. They are better not just because we are wealthy and can afford the “luxury” of clean air and water, but primarily because of legislation, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The Bush administration has worked hard, however, to roll back the clock on these important pieces of legislation. Having lived for most of the past six years in Eastern Europe, where the communists had no regard for the environment, has strengthened my conviction that clean air and water are worth protecting. I am convinced that President Bush, and Vice President Cheney, don’t share this conviction. The same could be said for the protection of wild lands and wildlife.
This is out of line with conservative principles. Teddy Roosevelt, for example, was one of the great champions of setting aside land for preservation. Here are some quotes from some great conservatives on the environment:
“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean, pollution-free environment.” — Barry Goldwater
“Nothing is more conservative than conservation.” — Russell Kirk
“Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution” — Ronald Reagan
“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Some might object that Ronald Reagan is not normally thought of as an environmentalist, and in some ways I can’t argue. But the principles expressed in these quotes, such as viewing pollution as a trespass on other’s property rights, are clearly both conservative and environmentalist.
Before I get too far, I need to mention that John McCain is on the honorary board of Republicans for Environmental Protection, as was his fellow Arizonan Barry Goldwater. John McCain would be the greenest Republican president in a long time.
Here are samples of statements and policies promoted by Republicans for Environmental Protection:
- America’s system of national forests, founded and expanded by Republican presidents, is a priceless heritage that must be conserved for the benefit of today’s Americans and future generations.
- Maintain forests in healthy condition in perpetuity.
- End large-scale commercial commodity timber sales and all harvest quotas.
- Designate protected reserves, including all roadless areas 1,000 acres in size or larger, all old-growth stands, essential habitat corridors, Eastern forests recovering old-growth characteristics, and areas that provide outstanding recreation opportunities.
- Designate as wilderness all protected reserves meeting National Wilderness Preservation System standards.
- Establish policies giving rural, small-scale, independently-owned, community-oriented wood products enterprises preference for forest restoration project contracts.
- The world’s oceans, and the resources they contain, have been called the last frontier on earth. Indeed, the surface of Mars is probably better understood today than are ocean depths only a few miles away. Yet the biological riches of the oceans are currently being exploited at a rate that has already depleted them of many fish stocks, with many other marine organisms in imminent danger of exhaustion. Emphasis must also be given to the critical role the oceans play in regulating global climate, oxygen supplies, and temperatures. The oceans may be the world’s single most vital natural resource complex.
- Establish a moratorium on all depleted marine species (or regions of extraction), to the extent consistant with legal and treaty obligations, until such time as stocks are sufficiently re-established.
- Institute a worldwide ban on dynamite, cyanide, long-line, and other destructive methods of fishing.
- Bring nutrient discharges under the regulatory provisions of the Clean Water Act, to help control coastal algal blooms.
- Wetlands are one of America’s most valuable assets. They are among our most productive and economically important ecosystems, yet we have been converting them to other uses at an alarming rate. Numerous scientific bodies have recommended that protecting those that remain should be a high national priority.
- Wetland protection and rehabilitation should be accorded a high priority in all federal, state, and local planning documents and policy statements. The loss of wetlands to agriculture and urban sprawl should stop.
- Floodplains should be left undeveloped wherever possible. Any type of “flood-control” project that protects less than the full natural floodplain leaves adjacent areas vulnerable to significant future flood damages. Local jurisdictions should utilize tools such as zoning to prevent encroachment into floodplains.
- If loss of wetlands is unavoidable and mitigation is the only recourse, mitigation should always occur at greater than a one-to-one ratio. (The exact ratio should depend on the type of wetland and specific on-site factors.) This is because experience has shown that not all wetlands restoration projects will be fully successful.
- There have been significant improvements in our nation’s waters since passage of the Federal Clean Water Act in 1972. In general, industrial and municipal wastewater dischargers are no longer the major polluters they once were. The Federal Clean Water Act, EPA regulations, and state laws and regulations have contributed greatly to improvements in water quality. However, individual facilities may still be causing violations of water quality standards and strong actions must be taken by EPA and state water quality regulatory agencies to enforce compliance. To do otherwise would represent a step backward in time and jeopardize gains made over the last 30 years. Additional regulatory activities also need to focus on stormwater and nonpoint source runoff issues, which now account for about 80 percent of the nation’s impaired lakes and streams.
- Republicans stand for limited government, value personal freedom when accompanied by self-discipline, and support imposition of government regulation only where demonstrated needs exist. The reason our country has needed environmental regulations is that some sectors of our society and some individuals have failed to maintain self-discipline. Instead, they felt they had inherent rights to use public resources for their own benefit, but assumed no responsibility to ensure such use did not adversely impact either other industries or the health and welfare of the general public. This attitude placed short-term profits ahead of civic and personal responsibility, and led to substantial water pollution problems across the nation.
- Energy is the pre-eminent strategic issue facing America today. The choices that our nation makes in the production and use of energy create deep and lasting influences on our economy, our position in the world, and on the natural capital that underpins modern civilization. Making the right energy choices has become crucial. As a result of a convergence of extraordinary geopolitical and environmental circumstances, we are at a moment of both great danger and great opportunity. The conservative ethic of prudence requires us to acknowledge the challenge, and our obligation to be good stewards must impel us to act.
- Oil is embedded in modern human society. Oil has a dark side, however. The U.S. sits atop only 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Yet we consume 25 percent of current global production, about 21 million barrels daily. Much of the world’s production, along with the largest remaining conventional oil reserves, is located in world regions racked by poor governance, chronic instability, and violence.
- The most important step that Congress and the administration must take to reduce oil dependence and lower greenhouse gas emissions is to put a price on those emissions, by establishing a market-friendly “cap-and-trade” system. A carbon tax, the leading alternative to cap-and-trade, would not be as effective in sending a market price signal, and therefore, should not be adopted.
- Reducing oil dependence and stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations will require scaling up numerous advanced energy technologies. A strong research and development program is necessary for moving promising technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace.
- Energy efficiency is consistent with conservative values of frugality and stewardship. As the cheapest, cleanest, and most secure energy resource available, efficiency has a strong track record. It’s time to build on that record of success, through measures to increase efficiency in buildings, industry, and transportation.
- Natural gas is a relatively clean fuel for power generation and transportation. Gas can serve as a bridge to a cleaner, more diverse, less carbon-intensive energy economy. Steps should be taken to ensure the most efficient use of this fuel and minimize the impacts of gas production in the Intermountain West.
[I’m open to alternatives to the cap-and-trade proposal; it seems like a bureaucratic nightmare. REP also supports building additional nuclear power plants, as does John McCain. I’d rather find other alternatives. Nuclear fission can be safe, but it also has serious risks. Uranium is a non-renewable, limited natural resource.]
REP has policy papers on other topics as well: takings (i.e. compensation for landowners when regulations affect them), federal public lands, National Wildlife Refuges, Market-based environmental policies, and mercury.
This is already a long post; I could say much more. Take a look at the Republicans for Environmental Protection web site.
Grace and Peace