Conservative and Green Values Must Form a Green Conservatism | Sebastian R.B Cousins

Following Amin Haque’s article (which can be read here), we continue our discussion on green environmentalism. 


The planet is in crisis. In geopolitics as expected but also, critically, Earth itself: the Paris Agreement targets are being missed by industrialised nations; the ice caps are melting; and the heat in the summer and cold in the winter is becoming more extreme. So bad in fact, children, from London to the peak district town of Buxton, in over 160 counties have been striking off school. In retaliation, as part of this culture war we have seen emerge into the public space, rightist activists like Turning Point UK among others, have been deriding these climate activists, from pointing out hypocrisy of litter on the pavement post-protest, to doubting the science to making fun of an autistic 16 year old from Sweden. This is a crisis.

The thing is, if I change ‘Paris’ to ‘Kyoto’ and leave out the part about Greta Thunberg, this piece could have been published 11 years ago. The same issues that affect us now with the problem of man-made climate change and the problem of climate change deniers have not been solved – but they have got worse. While the UK is one ‘better’ polluters in the West, we have not done nearly enough,  nor have our partners in the international community,  like the USA. Movements like Extinction Rebellion are right when they say the government is doing too little, too late. Children are right when they say their parents, or the adults in general, seem not to care about the future the former will inherit. Joe Chamberlain would say they toil not, neither do they spin.

But where does conservatism come into it? The title promises ‘green conservatism’, and so here it is: Burke, the father of modern conservatism, was the one who wrote that the social contract was a contract between the living, the dead and the unborn. On the environment, countless generations have been careless, squandering the green, pleasant land and its resources, all in the name of short-term profit. By being thoughtless and radical, humanity has been handing down an increasingly degraded state of affairs, and not only is it the affairs of ecosystems and wildlife that is directly affected by our actions. The tragedy of Syria was in part triggered not just by the Arab Spring, but also by food shortages caused by droughts. Russia’s actions in the last few years are at a time when their oil resources are starting to run dry. And conflict over issues from fish to oil will only increase. If conservatives honestly believe in trying to maintain stability and peace in society, then the long term inactivity and even outright denial is essentially like a turkey voting for instituting Christmas to be held every day.

So, we, the people who call ourselves one-nation or progressive conservatives, need to adopt a green view of the world. As around 71% of climate change is caused by the 100 biggest businesses in the world, we need to advocate for a local community-based economy, something that will restore communities and reconcile in time the rich and poor as well as help the environment. We need to preserve historical monuments and sites as well as the countryside in the face of the fracking drills. We need to move to, and quickly, a fully renewable society and lead by example on this, lessening our dependence on other states for our energy and reduce the chance of conflict respectfully in the long term. These green aims are conservative aims, or at least more conservative than neoliberal exploitation and perpetual war.

Even if you find ‘green conservatism’ (which is better articulated by the conservative Roger Scruton) unappetising, then hopefully saving the environment, from whatever intellectual platform you adopt, is. Because, as Extinction Rebellion say, we are so very nearly out of time.

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