Friday, April 24, 2009

Green Conservatives Right? Not Left

Sustainability is primary an economic principle, not as some would suggest an environmental principle. The reduction of waste, the increase in efficiency, maximizing resources, and self-reliance are economic activities – just ask any small business owner. I dare wade as deep as saying that adopting a so-called “green philosophy” is not only good business practice, it a conservative principle. Sustainable practices just makes good sense. Green is not the flag of an environmental revolution, it’s simply pragmatism. My grandmother used to say “waste not want not”. She would not have called that a green philosophy, she would have called that common sense.

Environmental alarmist and sensationalists are just that. What disturbs me the greatest is that most of the alarmists during the 1970s where professors or scientists at distinguished universities. I am sure that they believed in their findings or assumptions, but were grossly misguided by other motives. There were many projections at the time that today looks rather foolish. Perhaps their alarms where early warnings and did change some of our behaviors for the better. My concern is that the “crying wolf” that took place during that time period affects how the public perceives environmental information being disseminated today. We need factual information not hype about climate change. It is the responsibility of our scholars and scientists to ensure that their motive is to profit society, not to profit their image or pocketbook. The world will not believe our scientists if their motives are not transparent.

A farmer doesn’t need science to support the fact that if he contaminates the water source from which he uses to water his cattle or to grow his crops, his primary business engine is in jeopardy. He maintains the integrity of his water supply not as an environmental steward, but as a pragmatist. His vision is not to save the world, it is to protect his greatest asset – his enterprise (he and his family, the farm, the crops, the animals). He engages at a scale that makes sense to him, but meanwhile benefits the greater society, economically and yes, environmentally. If you begin to amass the activities of many, the scale incrementally increases until you reached a global scale.

Education and awareness are critical to knowing how to sustain an enterprise. No pragmatist would knowingly deplete or destroy the basis of their enterprise if their vision is to sustain it. If their goal is to exploit an enterprise with the intent to maximize short-term profits, then they will probably succeed, but typically at the expense of others. When the goal of the enterprise is to profit and sustain, activities will not only generate profits for the enterprise stakeholder, but for others as well. Profits, are of course not just monetary in nature, but other intangibles as well.

If we educate or incentive the combination of profit and sustainability as the goal (versus just profit), then the benefits are magnified and exploitation, as well as waste, inefficiencies, etc. are reduced. Deriving profit without understanding or caring about the consequences is selfish and greedy. We have seen some of that in the last few months. Fortunately, most business people do care and understand that making their enterprise profitable and a sustaining is the best practice. Their values extend beyond themselves and society profits.

A green philosophy or sustainability is an economic principle that works at every scale, from the individual to global. I believe that sustainability and the principles of conservatism are aligned.