Conservative environmentalism or environmentally conscious conservatism

A few months ago I commented on an article by Tony Clement in which he asked this question of Conservatives: Can we craft “an environmental policy that is consistent with Canadian values?

Some things a young friend on the other side of the world posted on her blog resonated with me and brought me back to Mr Clement’s point. (By the way, go visit “The Wanderlust Keeper’s” blog: she goes to some lovely places and takes incredible pictures and adds many useful thoughts, too.) My friend captures some 13043466_590629024447434_5425300554038948162_nstunning images, but also always asks that we respect and care for the natural environment and not do any damage to it. Then, just the other day, she posted this image and asked how we could allow this to happen? I weighed in with some before and after pictures from the Canadian oil sands and noted that big companies can be made to clean up after their work … but they may not always want to, and they may not do it unless there is some mix of public and political/regulatory pressure. I also made the point that the giant cement plant in the picture actually provides Naomi-Klein-credit-Kourosh-Keshirirelatively well paid work for many, many local people. Some people, mostly the limousine liberals, want to shut down heavy industry like the oil sands and the cement plants because most of them cannot imagine what it is like to have to mcquaig_newphotodo hard, often dirty, physical labour to feed one’s family. These silk stocking socialists are, for the most part, blissfully unconcerned about the potential impact of what they advocate … it is the headlines that matter, not the consequences. They worry about their own book downloadsales and political projects, not about the livelihoods of Canadians working in the prairie oil sand mines or, for that matter, of Filipinos working in cement plants way across the world. Conservatives, on the other hand, need to be responsible and to create policies that support job creation and a clean, healthy environment for us all. We need to start by recognizing that some industries ~ mining being one ~ are, inherently dirty and destructive and while we want our natural resources to be extracted and sold around the world we also want the environmental damage to be minimized during extraction and remediated after the mine of plant closes. That is not too much to ask demand of all companies working in Canada and of Canadian companies working overseas.

Right now climate change is the flavour of the month and activists like Naomi Klein and Linda McQuaig (both pictured above) are beating that drum. Many conservatives are skeptical about the whole climate change issue and and many Conservatives are worried that Canada cannot do much, given, for example, our tiny share of the global output of harmful “greenhouse gases,” except at a horrendous cost to the Canadian economy.

But climate change is not the only environmental issue.

Clean air, clean water, food that is not contaminated by harmful substances … all those 437e57d49888906d7a31305453c9477d6850274issues that gained prominence just after the Viet Nam war are still with us. We still pollute our air and water far too much; we still despoil our own natural environment and Canadian companies do the same in other countries. Conservatives should share the outrage of many, many Canadians at all these actions, and others.

A Conservative environmental policy should be:

  • Practical ~ something that we can promise to do for the “common good” and for the “greater good” and something that we will want to do for those same reasons;
  • upper-canada-villageAchievable ~ which means that we’re not going to promise to send Canada back to the 18th century, nor will we get caught in endless international (Canada-US) or interprovincial squabbles; and
  • Sensible ~ it should make sense to Canadians. Not “pie-in-the-sky” dreams about a non-carbon economy in the next decade, but, rather, cleaner air and cleaner water and less destruction/more remediation of the natural world: at home and where Canadian companies work overseas, too.

We need to remember that much of the environmentalist vote, that which can be readily swayed by good, sound, green platform proposals, and that which is not, already, inclined to vote Conservative, is found here …

  … rather than, say here …

… the people in rural and small town Canada are environmentally conscious but they are also closer to the businesses that work in their areas: mines, tourism, and so on, and they understand the balance that needs to be struck between exploiting and conserving the natural environment.

We need to shift a few of the 100± urban seats that we have, too often, ignored, from NDP orange and Liberal red to good, solid Conservative blue, and a more visible green policy, one that makes sense to business, industry and young, environmentally conscious urban dwellers, might be part of the answer.

The environment should not be a left <> right issue, it should be part of all parties’ campaign platforms. The difference ought to be between Liberal pie-in-the-sky and flavour of the month projects and good, solid Conservative projects that will make an actual difference in terms of cleaner air and water and wildlife habitat without breaking the bank.

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