Every once in awhile, you come across someone who has summarized a point exceedingly well. I had that experience recently in reading an interview of George Weigel by Kathryn Jean Lopez regarding Weigel’s forthcoming collection of essays, Practicing Catholic.
While conservatives are often said to be “against” the environment, this has often struck me as claim that is bizarre on its face. No one chooses to poison his own living space. To the contrary, our environmental disputes tend to be about the trade-offs between our desire to use the environment to further human flourishing and the need to protect it from unwise uses. To be sure, one can be wrong about the harm that some course of conduct will cause and human beings will always be tempted to cut corners in a way that they should not, but environmental issues have always struck me as pragmatic and practical questions that are ill served by moral posturing and claims to be “for” or “against” the “environment” or some anthropomorphized geographical feature. It is a question that ought to acknowledge that advanced industrial societies – those who can develop and implement environmental protections – tend to be the cleanest.
This is not an area that is served by a desire to go back to the good old – and allegedly – pristine days. It is not clear to me that the cause of environmental integrity will ever be served by an extreme version of the Precautionary Principle which exaggerates risks and minimizes benefit. Don’t believe me? Think about nuclear power, fossil fuels and the risk of climate change.
LOPEZ: What do you have against Earth Day?
WEIGEL: I’m generally against pantheism, and what the first “Earth Day” set in motion was the transformation of the environmental movement from a conservation movement (which any reasonable person could and should support) to what is now an increasingly irrational cult, impervious to either the reality of trade-offs in public policy or (if I may quote President Obama and Al Gore) “the science.”