Conservatives and EnvironmentalistsrnAllies, Not Enemiesrnby John C. Vinson, Jr.rnConservatives and environmentalists generally have asrnmuch in common as the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalistsrnlike to point to the career of conservative JamesrnWatt and the comment of Ronald Reagan that once you’vernseen one redwood you’ve seen them all. Most conservatives, onrnthe other hand, view environmentalists as sentimental antimodernistsrnwho want to take us back to living in teepees.rnDespite the apparent polarity, there are good reasons for conservativesrnto be concerned about the environment—reasonsrnthat go beyond GOP election strategies. Through the ages, arnprominent strand of conservative thought has been love ofrnthe land and attachment to the soil. In Europe and the UnitedrnStates, the small farmer and the landed country gentleman arernarchtypical conservative figures who sense the changeless cyclesrnof the seasons and regard man as the partner, not the master, ofrnnature. From my own observation, it is the desire for thesernsame intangibles that prompts the average environmentalist towardrnthe wilderness, away from the arrogant sophistries andrnpassing sensations of modern urban living.rnAnother common interest of both groups is an abidingrnconcern for future generations. If most environmentalists werernonly interested in their own enjoyment of the wilderness, theyrncould relax and forget political action. Not even 100 JamesrnWatts could destroy all the wilderness in one lifetime. Thusrnwhen they take action, it is likely to be for the sake of lifetimesrnto come.rnYet, as a devil’s advocate might inquire, why should anyonerncare for the unborn? Here the modern environmentalist wouldrndo well to heed the conservative’s affirmation that individualsrn]ohn C. Vinson, jr., is president of the American ImmigrationrnControl Foundation in Monterey, Virginia.rncan never achieve their full humanity as islands in time. Suchrnfulfillment comes only when they join past and future by seeingrnthemselves as temporary actors in the ongoing drama of generations.rnAs Edmund Burke observed, “People will not look forward tornposterity, who do not look backward to their ancestors.” Werncommune with our ancestors through tradition, the living wisdomrnof experience; through ethnic and national heritage, thernwisdom of the group; and through religion, which orients allrngenerations toward purposes of eternity. The affectionaternmemory of past generations will inspire those now living to lovernand guard their descendants. Environmentalists are right torncare for the future, and traditional conservatism gives this sentimentrna firm rationale.rnThe key nexus in the progress of the generations is the family.rnUnfortunately, some environmentalists have made commonrnpolitical cause with radical feminists, gay activists, andrnother groups which have, at the very least, a bias against thernfamily. Whether anyone likes it or not, there is no convincingrnalternative to the family unit as an institution for forming therncharacter of the young by weaning them away from their chaoticrnand destructive impulses. If the connection between environmentalrnprotection and personal character is not evident,rnfailure to grasp the significance of character has led some environmentalistsrnto think that passing more laws is sufficient tornprotect nature. Laws may well be needed, but these environmentalistsrnare mistaken if they conceive the state to be God-likernand its laws self-enforcing. Much closer to the mark is ThomasrnJefferson’s insight that laws are rarely more effective than thernpersonal discipline and law-abiding habits of leaders and thernmass of citizenry.rnEnvironmentalists, of all people, should be aware of thisrnJUNE 1996/29rnrnrn