Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Evangelical environmentalism?

This will resonate. The stewardship argument is a strong one and militates against the moral core of the classical liberal attitude about nature as something to be overcome and transformed.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that lots of evangelicals will be joining the Green Party.

While evangelicals are open to being good stewards of God’s creation, they believe people should only worship God, not creation," [University of Akron political scientist John C.]Green said.

It strikes me as very important that this attitude be addressed by those who wish to bring sound science and economics to bear on environmental issues. The alternative is potentially a larger constituency for heavy-handed environmental regulation of the sort supported by the left wing of the environmental movement.

Update: Powerline provides indispensible political and intellectual context for the WaPo article and corrects a slander of James Watt repeated by Bill Moyers and the article.

Discussions - 8 Comments

The institutions that are overcoming and transforming the environment today are businesses and their conservative (and neo-con) executives and defenders. Many evangelicals felt empowered by helping to put Bush II in power. Any of them that embrace the concept of being "good stewards" of the planet (that they see as a gift from God) might be disheartened to take an honest look (i.e. not one drummed up by S. Hayward or the businesses-as-humans proponents) at Bush’s environmental policies and his laissez faire attitude toward regulation of business practices that adversely affect the environment that we all share, rich or poor.

It’s so silly how conservatives love to paint environmentalists as all pagan tree-huggers who "worship" nature. That would be like me thinking that all conservative Christians only listen to Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson for their interpretation of current events. (I don’t)

Prof. Knippenberg:

Thanks for the link to the article. I am one of those Protestant evangelicals (and a Republican too) who care deeply about environmental issues. But as you suggest is important, I also try to keep economics in mind.

I am a Bush supporter, but I certainly wish he would be more environmentally conscience. Perhaps as we Christians become more vocal on these issues, he will take notice and adjust his policies accordingly.

This will not resonate, in my judgment. It appears that the environmental movement, despite some head fakes, is going to lurch further to the left (see Felicity Barringer’s piece on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times). If so, then most evangelicals will be alienated from the movement. The other exception to this is the greens who have signed up with some national security conservatvies to push for energy self-sufficiency, each for their own reasons. This bears some watching.

JR--I do grow frustrated hearing people say they wish W. was more environmentally sensitive. Could you please name an example? 2004 recorded the lowest level or air pollution EVER in the U.S., since we started monitoring it seriously in the 1950s. Forestland continues to increase (by 10 million acres in the last decade). Environmental chemical levels are down (see the annual CDC report about this). Global warming, you say? I have yet to find one environmentalist who convincingly argues that our climate policy--not rhetoric, but policy--would have been any different than Bush’s had Gore become president in 2001. Kyoto was always a non-starter, as Clinton knew, and even John Kerry acknowledged during the campaign last fall. By the way, greenhouse gas emissions FELL the first two years of the Bush administration, after rising every year under Clinton. Why didn’t he get credit for that? Simple: it was the recession that did it, which is further proof that the economic cost of Kyoto was mugh higher than Americans would ever have stood for.

correction: conscious

An example of environmental policy from the right(and rural left) is the ethanol subsidy which even does some harm to the environment(efficiency wise), the only way it might help the environment is that it helps drive up our fuel costs, which in turn might curb consumption.

This article reminds me of the commercial attacking SUV’s by asking what would Jesus drive?

The only reasonable way to reduce polution is through technology, i.e transforming nature or at least transforming how we transform nature, appart from this environmental policy doesn’t simply retard economic growth but does so by restricting freedom. It is also sometimes the case that environmental policy opens more avenues for rent seeking, which might encourage/generate and institutionalize the wrong types of technological change. Newer isn’t always better especially if it is more expensive and less effective. For example a Ban on DDT may be construed to make economic sense for the United States, but in fact lead to more deaths from malaria in Africa, because they can’t afford the substitute in sufficient quantities.

I am in heated agreement with every syllable of what John Lewis writes here. How’d you get so smart about this?

I called the attention of NLT readers to this article and this movement so that sensible conservatives will address themselves to these folks and save them from favoring the kind of heavy-handed regulation often promoted by the Green Left.

Steve Hayward needs to look at environmental improvements much the same way that conservatives look at the current economy: Clinton made it. The decrease in emissions and pollutants can be traced back to early policy implementation of the Clinton administration. In the same way, I heard arguements that the economy was in a decline at the end of Clinton’s second term, and thus not the "fault" of Bush’s policy or lack thereof.

Next, the Clean Air Act is being replaced with the "Clear Skies" Act. Here is an example Hayward looks for:

Bush has reintroduced his "Clear Skies" Act, a hopeful replacement for the properly functioning Clean Air Act. This proposal will allow polluters (power plants, etc.) to wait indefinately to upgrade their pollution controls when they upgrade their output.

This sounds to me like a step backward from where we need to go. It may allow for cheaper energy and the such, but the long-term effects outweigh the amount this could save a corporation.

If levels in 2004 are the lowest since the 50s, you should look at the timeline it takes to get to that point. And forest lands are on the increase? It seems to me that Clinton was in office making Environment a priority 10 years before Bush. Bush is advocating increased logging and deforestation in the Northwest! We have been making serious progress environementally since the first Earth Day in the 70s. Bush is proposing deregulating the control of released chemicals from oil drilling. Looks like chemical levels will be on the rise. And as for global warming...I know its hard to imagine warming trends when January temps in your backyard are in the 50-60s, but global warming has more to do with global climate than just the temperature. Minnesota is experiencing one of the lowest snowfall winters on record...and the temps have varied day to day from the 50s to temperatures well below zero.

Then, to close, here is a troublesome quote:

"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption." -President Bush, Sept. 23, 2002, Trenton, New Jersey, speech

Shouldn’t conservation of energy be the cornerstone of an administration that is so "blameless" in its environmental record. Please, Steve, be realistic.

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