This question is based on a stereotype, and like many stereotypes it’s not entirely true, but exists for a reason. I would even extend this question to Republicans and Christians. Why? Because having interacted with conservatives, Republicans, and Christians my entire life, I’ve noticed a prevailing attitude of contempt toward environmentalism and any attempt to take care of the planet, and I wasn’t sure why it existed until doing a little reading about identity politics and the power of political association. I grew up in a church that discouraged any kind of environmental activism. I’ve even had conservative friends refuse to recycle because they were worried it would make them look liberal. Where did this attitude come from and how do we get people on board with caring about the planet?
It’s not surprising to me at all that the Republican party holds environmentalism in contempt when they receive so much funding from big oil companies and other major corporations that have no regard for the planet. It also makes sense to me that a person who has erroneously associated their values (conservatives) with a specific party (Republicans) will tend to agree with that party unquestioningly. But when did the Republican party stop caring about the planet? In the past, Republicans championed environmentalism. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed many of its foundational laws, for instance. This article goes into detail about the shift in the Republican party from caring about the planet to hating the green movement. Battles between Democrats and Republicans in the 60s and 70s helped start the division we see today, and by the time Reagan was in office, deregulation was a major selling point to the right. The shift from caring about the environment to disregarding it altogether is a long and complicated one, but its impact is long lasting. The loyal Republicans I know today are less likely to care about the Earth yet most of them can’t give me an explanation as to why. Hence the danger of identity politics.
How is it that conservatives would not care as much about the environment when oftentimes they are the ones who live in more rural areas; enjoying nature, hunting, and other outdoor activities (all stereotypes). Again, Identity politics plays a major role. Since conservatives are more likely to vote for Republicans, they’re more likely to associate themselves with Republican policies. And those policies include scoffing at the green movement and downplaying the negative impact we have on the planet. I’ve also noticed an inability to be able to think long term. Of course, the deregulation of a business might help make a few more dollars now, but what does that mean for the forest that’s going to be cut down for that business or for the oil pipeline being drilled through the state park? This combination of right-wing identity and the inability to think long term has created a perfect storm of environmental negligence.
Now is it true that conservatives and Christians hate the environment? Of course not. In fact, I was able to find some agencies that are very passionate about protecting the environment including the Evangelical Environmental Network and Citizens for Public Justice. These organizations are ministries dedicated to educating people about caring for God’s creation. It thrills me to know such organizations exist when I’m surrounded by Christians who couldn’t care less. This attitude has never made sense to me. If God created all of this for us, why wouldn’t we want to take care of it? Unfortunately, anti-environmentalism still runs strong in the church. In fact, some churches even preach against the green movement like it’s an extension of Satanic activity. Take the Cornwall Alliance, for instance, which passionately preaches against environmentalism and encourages Christians to resist the “Green Dragon.” They even go so far as to include scientists (climate skeptics) on their board. This level of anti-intellectualism is horrifying to me. I hope more Christians align themselves with the organizations dedicated to caring for God’s creation and not for the ones spouting that kind of garbage.
Now a lot of the criticism I’ve heard of green energy is not from scorn for the planet, but concern for how Democrats want to tackle the problem. I don’t blame anyone for questioning how the Democrats do things. I, myself, am NOT a Democrat for a number of reasons, but I’m often associated with the DNC because of my strong dislike of the Republican party. I’ve found the DNC to be largely inept when it comes to progressive values and taking care of the planet, but they’re at least doing something. Are Democrats just trying to get votes out of people by positioning themselves with environmentalism? Maybe, but so what? I’m going to vote for the person who cares about the planet and hope they do the right thing. What are some criticisms of the Green New Deal? Based on what I’ve read, the biggest fear is that the Green New Deal will regulate business and hurt the economy. Now, I find it very ironic that the same people who preach that “the love of money is the root of all evil” are also opposed to environmental protections because it’s “bad for the economy.” That being said, the Green New Deal is also very ambitious and incredibly expensive. I understand the skepticism of solar and wind energy. We have a long way to go when it comes to making green energy viable in the modern world, but we can’t develop it and end our reliance on oil without trying. And that’s going to take time, effort, and money. Personally, I’d like to see incremental steps toward a greener planet, but if we’re as close to catastrophe as climatologists say, then that might not be an option. Now as I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’m not an expert in any of this. I’m a civilian who’s concerned about my country and the planet in general. Also, most of the articles I find online are biased and lean in one direction or another. Thank goodness for the professionals who have actually done their research. We should listen to them and trust them.
How do we turn the tide and get Republicans, conservatives, and Christians on board with environmentalism? I don’t have an answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts. Until the Republican Party stops accepting funding from major oil companies, I don’t have a lot of faith in them to care about the planet unless they found some way to make the green movement line their pockets. As far as conservatives go, it’s unfortunate that so many of them have become associated with the Republican party, but I do believe a lot of them really do care about the environment and just don’t trust Democratic policies to address climate change, and I don’t blame them. But if that’s the case then we’re going to have to start having conversations about what is the best way to take care of the planet. And as far as Christians go, it’s still astounds me that they would have such little regard for the planet God gave them. Hopefully, as the church continues to evolve, this attitude will change and a topic as common sense as caring for our planet won’t be so polarized or partisan.