In some circles, the term "environmentalist" conjures up the image of angry dogmatic wingnuts who pull crazy stunts like chaining themselves to trees and want to shut down all development for the preservation of a baby blast-ended skrewt. And for the past 30 years, environmentalism has been dismissed is anti-conservative. But is it so.
Dreher begins this chapter by telling the story of his father and his father's hunting buddies -- these men saw themselves as "conservationists" who were interested in conserving wild lands, care for wild things, and harbored a deep respect for all living things ("What!" Screeches the PETA protestor "how does hunting a weak defenseless animal teach respect for living things?" -- Too long to explain to them -- and that's not my point. However trust me on this -- there's an outdoorsman's code of ethics -- don't kill more than you need to eat; dont let the animal suffer needlessly; show respect for the wild -- perhaps in a different post we can get into it)
Dreher shows that, properly understood, conservation is an inherently conservative things. It was Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency. We can thank Teddy Roosevelt for the national park system. Herbert Hoover, for all his economic ineptitude, was a great conservationist. At the heart of traditional conservatism lies a desire to conserve.
What makes things different, though, is how we go about conserving. Dreher introduces us to Republicans for Environmental Protection and their goal of market based answers to environmental issues. If you consider yourself a liberal and you think Republicans don't care about the environment, you need to check out this website. If you're a conservative who thinks that all environmentalists are whack-jobs, you need to check out this website. They advocate for environmental responsibility that goes hand in hand with free market economics -- Dreher writes “…there is no more powerful force for social change than the consumer dollar, and from a conservative point of view, it is far better to rely on market forces to shepherd society toward beneficial ends than to depend upon government.” (176)
Environmentalism has recently come on to the evangelical radar -- but it's been percolating for quite some time -- The Utne Reader did an article back in 2001 on the Evangelical Environmental Movement (a $2.95 cost to read the article online).
On the free reading side, John Creasy has done a nice series that he calls "Eco-theology" that follows these issues -- a quick index:
* Part 1: Introduction Where he beleives that christians don't talk about this much -- this is where he's a little off -- Look at Wendell Berry or the aforementioned Utne Reader article for evidenc.
* Post 2: Responsibility A theological framework for Christian responsibility
* Post 3: an Aside A quick story about Pat Robertson's interest in environmentalism
* Post 4: Scripture -- John's use of Psalm 104 as a foundation -- though I think we can also go to Genesis 1 and the mandate to build a God-honoring culture. We were given dominion not for our own selfish ends but for the purpose of worship and honoring God in all creation (that he declared good) -- and we'll be held accountable as stewards. Genesis 1 alone should make every evangelical more attentive to environmental issues.
* Post 5: Orthopraxis -- practical things we can do in our lives
A fine picture of some Crunchy Con approach to environmentalism is Michael Kruses' posts on the environment -- read through to see his advocacy of wind power and energy efficient homes. But then immediately after those posts is a critical review of Al Gore's an Inconvenient Truth. Another example of how conservatives bust stereotypes. Mike has some really thought provoking stuff at the conclusion of his series on Theology and Economics -- worth a look-see.
And, let it be known that I've occasionally expressed my concern for things environmental in this space before -- because I beleive that we are responsible as stewards:
Responsible Stewardship with Lightbulbs
Earth Day or Stewardship day -- you pick
Environmental Stewardship -- up close and personal
Everything in the Earth is the Lords -- and we are but caretakers.
Soli Deo Gloria
Index of interesting Links:
Crunchy Con resources
* Republicans for Environmental Protection
* Weston A Price foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and healing.
* Slow Food Movement
* Atheists, Agnostics, and Conservatives by Amy Welborn – a good view of the difference between faithbased crunchy cons and uberlibertarian agnostic cons
* Joe Carter's Evangelical Outpost on materialism and Jesus Junk
* Russell Kirk Center
* Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Con blog
* The Immaculate Direction a blog that is very crunchy connish
* Cerulean Sanctum’s series relating the book to 21st century Christian life. Very thoughtful and thought provoking.
* Jonah Goldberg from National Review -- a withering attack (while admitting there's lots of good in the book)
* Kevin Holtsberry from RedState online
* Maxwell Goss of Right Reason gives one of the more balanced critiques I've read.
* The Wall Street Journal's review
* Michael Dougherty giving a reasoned and balanced critique.