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Jeremy Carl’s “The Death of Enviroliberalism”

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Just got around to reading Jeremy Carl’s guest posts over at Gristmill. Carl’s got a impressive resume’, and doesn’t hide the fact that he’s pretty conservative. I’ve got no problem with that — to paraphrase Carl, some of my best friends are conservatives (really!).

It’s hard, however, to put too much stock in Carl’s criticism of “enviroliberalism,” as he labels it, when it’s pretty clear that he hasn’t examined contemporary environmentalism beyond the typical stereotypes offered by the right-wing media: we environmental types are a bunch of pie-in-the-sky dreamers who’ve never met a government program we didn’t like and are inflexibly hostile to the free market. We only think in terms of ideals, and put the needs of the natural world over those of human society. I’m immediately struck by the irony of this situation, as Carl is guest blogging for a publication that repeatedly demonstrates the variety and complexity that is “environmentalism.”

For instance, Carl describes the Apollo Alliance as “the same tired collection of Democratic Party fronts — civil rights groups, unions, and other liberal organizations,” and claims such an alliance can’t possibly succeed in a era of Republican dominance. He describes business and Republican backing for Apollo as “thin.” If one sees business as synonomous for multinational corporations, I suppose he’s right. If one doesn’t count Republicans for Environmental Protection as a Republican group, he scores again. But we’re the ones who can’t get out of our old frames of reference… right?

You know what: I’m tired of the right’s ignorance of how vibrant and complex environmental thinking and activism has become. The big government, socialism-inspired model of environmental protection is old hat — one only need read The Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism or Cradle to Cradle to see that the most intriguing ideas on environmental sustainability from the past 15 years or so all focus on harnessing private intiative and capital in tandem with government protection of the commons. To accuse environmentalism of beating the drum of socialism demonstrates only an unwillingness to take a close look at the subject before delving into criticism. We’re the ones demonstrating that a socially-conscious capitalism can be profitable by doing the right thing: Ray Anderson’s maxim of “Doing Well by Doing Good” comes to mind. There’s plenty of new ideas, innovations and imagination over here — hell, some of our folks are even getting rich while makng concrete contributions to environmental sustainability and restoration. What new ideas have Carl and his forward thinking friends at places like Cato and the American Enterprise Institute brought to the table??

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About Jeff McIntire-Strasburg