March 5, 2015

Conservation is Conservative

Political Polarization of the Environment: Who’s to blame?

Yale professor Paul Sabin wrote a thought provoking column last week in the Boston Globe about the decline of Republican environmentalism. While there is plenty of ‘blame’ to go around, he points out that environmental groups need to shoulder their share, too.

“Environmentalists exacerbated the Republican shift away from environmental issues by allying forcefully with the Democratic Party. Environmental groups gave Bush little credit for his accomplishments. When they denounced Bush for his failings, and allowed Democrats to claim the environmental mantle exclusively for themselves, environmentalists helped to drive both parties to the extremes. The Democrats veered toward warning of environmental apocalypse, while Republicans went to the other pole, denying the threat of environmental problems.”

To read the entire column, click The Boston Globe.

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  1. About three years ago, there was an article in High Country News where the D.C. lobbyist for the Sierra Club was lamenting the lack of bipartisanship on environmental issues. HCN was kind enough to publish my response letter where I suggested that the lobbyist look no further than her own organization for the reasons. The Sierra Club; as just one environmental group; took a disastrous shift leftward in the 1990s under the leadership of former executive director Carl Pope. The Club, and some other environmental groups, aligned themselves with the left leaning, so-called, “social justice” movement. They forgot that we all have to breath the same air and drink the same water, regardless of political affiliation.

    I support a couple of those causes; womens’ reproductive rights for one (which is much more conservative than one might think). But I never dragged an environmental group into those personal causes. I dropped the Sierra Club in 2003 after 30 years of membership. But I didn’t leave the Sierra Club; it had left me years before.

    From reading more recent Sierra Club pronouncements, including the Club’s position on fracking, they still don’t get it.

  2. So wait – the author is saying that Republicans decided to become anti-environmental just because some environmental groups aligned themselves with Democrats, with those who spoke out on other issues of fairness and equality? Sounds a bit spiteful (and stupid) to me. These days Republicans have carried that extremism to whole new levels. Corporations, who have chafed under environmental regulations because it might cost them a few dollars extra to be responsible, can only smile.

    I think that a big part of what happened is that corporations got savvy and learned that the base could be manipulated easily by flag waving and demonizing. Paint environmentalists as just a bunch of tie-dyed hippies (which to me were mostly just faddists exploiting the talking points at the time, the 60s), as anti-business, anti-common man and you’ll have a vast voter base in your pocket. We saw it with the tobacco companies. They flat out said that “doubt is our product”. In other words, dishonesty. Paint those who were against tobacco as ill-informed, as against the common man being able to freely enjoy his (their) vice and you’ll get the uneducated and disgruntled to follow like lambs.

    Anyway, I hope the GOP will change their position on the environment. I’ve never been a Democrat as I am not thrilled with some of their stands either.

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