It is rather hard to do anything in the world today without encountering some form of eco-friendly, sustainable, “let’s all be green,” “recycle this” rhetoric that ten years ago may have been swept to the side as tree-hugger nonsense. At Boston College, the dining halls post elaborate signs telling students how to recycle, what trash receptacles to use and when we should use them, and why reusable bottles of water are better than buying new ones.
However, the movement towards being green should not be ignored. BC offers the students here an opportunity to study ecology in various ways, including minoring in environmental studies or majoring in environmental geosciences. These offerings have presumably been implemented to orient students to a world that is increasingly looking to solve environmental problems, market eco-friendly goods, and produce green products.
In my humble opinion, none of this is bad at all. In fact, the green movement, if organized properly, could be the next big venue by which conservatism can take root in the United States. Conservatives can take advantage of the recent drive to forge a green America in two ways: (1) through the free market and (2) through decentralized initiatives and an emphasis on localities.
First, I see great possibilities pragmatically for a new market in green technology, a market which could in the long run have a positive impact on many failing areas of the economy. My own hometown of Cleveland has recently suggested turning the acres of unused industrial fields into state-of-the-art power facilities to make the city one of the first entirely sustainable ones in the world. The prospect, given the right tax incentives, could draw big name pioneers in green technology into the city opening job opportunities, increasing the city’s overall revenue, and resuscitating the dying parts of the town. Next to a Browns Super Bowl win, that sounds like a good prospect to me.
Secondly, conservatives have, since Reagan, begun to lose the hallmark aspect of conservative philosophy that developed in the 20th century: the emphasis on all things local. As is apparent in my previous paragraph, I am not necessarily opposed to a free market, especially when it can help actualize the common good in new, creative ways. However, true conservatism distances itself from all kinds of overpowering centralization, whether it is the Obama-run Washington or the international business conglomerate.
Much to be preferred is local run businesses: the “mom & pop stores,” the farmer’s market, neighbor helping neighbor, and so on. I would trust ten random families living within a mile of my own house to help provide for my needs more than I would ten random members of the US Senate. That being said, the drive towards all things green is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Many restaurants, such as Chipotle, advertise themselves as purchasing their poultry and meat from local farms rather than agricultural factories. The micro-brewery in my hometown deals with nearby farms to purchase the grain needed to brew beer while giving back in return the waste products of the brewing process to be used as fertilizer, thus creating a “zero-waste” production process for all parties involved.
Such are some of the highlights of how conservatives can fruitfully tap into the green movement. It goes without saying that green initiatives can just as easily be misused by the leveling process of big, centralized government which I expressed disdain for earlier. Some negative manifestations of the movement are: initiatives to force green technology upon small businesses, giving people handouts to purchase green products, or the turning of the green movement into yet another ideology by which the “informed and educated” majority judges those deemed “not green enough.” Like any political process, the green movement ought to be guided with prudence with each step taken. Conservatives ought to use sustainability to their advantage while the time is ripe.