Despite my political
differences with my son — independent vs. Democrat, Romney vs. “You
voted for Obama, AGAIN?!?!”, he and I do connect on some key issues.
We are both social libertarians and were both influenced by the
environmentalism of Henry David Thoreau (which is not the same as
the “make me a millionaire while I lecture you about global warming”
environmentalism of Albert Gore Jr.).
Our family always lived
a simple, low-impact life, in which we dried our clothes on a line
outside or in the basement, kept the heat low. We recycled with the
Boy Scouts and a nearby private-sector recycling business. Now I
drag my paper/plastic/glass bins to the curb each week for town
pickup; when I visit my family, I’m told these items go into bins in
the garage for delivery to a private company.
When they were here
last summer, I had to ask them not to hand-crush their cans, which I
needed uncrushed for the return machines at the store. Nevada
doesn’t have a bottle bill.
I think Chip and I got
environment points for our adjoining yards, which are simply mowed
meadow, surrounded by wild bushes and aging trees, that critters
love. Rabbits munch the clover, skunks and wild turkeys dig and peck
for bugs, birds eat the berries and seeds, squirrels collect walnuts
and smash their hard shells on the picnic table. After their visit
here, my family stopped mowing their front yard; they’ve planted
squash on one side and let the other side go wild like ours. The
backyard is already vegetable garden and bird feeders, with wild
space for the quail family. Only the children’s and dog’s fenced
play yard is kept mowed.
I love the way they are
raising my grandchildren. Their world doesn’t revolve around
television and computers. The garage is filled with bikes,
skateboards, skis, kayaks. My grandson runs; my granddaughter
dances. The entire family hikes and camps in the nearby Sierra
Nevada, absorbing John Muir’s appreciation of nature.
From Wikipedia: “In
1871, after Muir had lived in Yosemite for three years, Emerson,
with a number of academic friends from Boston, arrived in Yosemite
during a tour of the Western United States. The two men met, and
according to Tallmadge, ‘Emerson was delighted to find at the end of
his career the prophet-naturalist he had called for so long ago ...
And for Muir, Emerson’s visit came like a laying on of hands.”
I know that feeling:
Shortly after moving to Massachusetts, we took our first pilgrimage
to Walden Pond. Emerson, Thoreau, the early Transcendentalists: This
was home. So, for Lance, was the Happy Valley when he attended UMass
Amherst; he rafted on the Connecticut River, went rock climbing with
his state senator, John Olver. This personal sport became one reason
he now lives in the West, where he went to climb Cathedral Peak in
Unfortunately, while in
the Happy Valley, he also picked up liberal ideas that seemed to
displace the antigovernment part of Thoreau’s “Walden.” So here we
are, canceling out each other’s votes for president, though I have
hope that this will change if Rand Paul runs in 2016.
Here is why this family
history is important in the larger scheme made up of many voters
who, in the end, won’t cancel each other out; they’ll elect the next
president, who must be a big improvement over the present one. The
environment is one issue on which the Republican Party gets a bad
rap; this unfair image helps turn off voters who should at least be
independent instead of Democrat.
If you watched Ken
Burns’ series on the National Parks, you know that Republican
president Theodore Roosevelt created five national parks (doubling
the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act
and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national
monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird
sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million
acres’ worth of national forests.
When Ronald Reagan died
while I was visiting Nevada, it was a chance for me to inform my
family that it was Reagan who worked as California governor with
Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt (also a Republican) to jointly regulate
Tahoe Basin land use and conserve Tahoe’s natural resources.
And speaking of John
Muir, it was Reagan who led a horse pack trip into the Sierra
backcountry to announce opposition to a proposed trans-Sierra
highway that would have split the John Muir Trail. He also managed
political compromises that established Redwood National Park.
Republicans Roosevelt and Reagan were great environmentalists, and
it’s time Republicans make this knowledge part of their campaigns.
My son argues that
careless, wasteful consumption and environmental sustainability are
incompatible. I argue that running up trillions in national debt is
equally careless, and much of the government spending is wasteful.
Democrats use “the
environment” as a wedge issue for power: to establish control over
the productive economy and our personal lives. Republican candidates
need to address my family’s conviction that a healthy ecology is
necessary to maintain individual freedom. This is what a real
“conservative” stands for: conserving the environment, and the
economy, for future generations.