A libertarian joins The Nature Conservancy

Lynn Scarlett
Lynn Scarlett

Can conservatives be brought back into the conservation movement? That’s the question facing Lynn Scarlett, the new director of public policy at The Nature Conservancy, who joined the environmental NGO after working as president of the Reason Foundation and in the interior department of the Bush II administration.

As I wrote today at the Guardian Sustainable Business, Scarlett is taking on a big and important job:

Fortunately, she’s not alone. Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, leads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University, which aims to “unleash the power of free enterprise to deliver the fuels of the future”. A group called the Conservation Leadership Council, which is led by Gale Norton and Ed Schafer, who were interior and agriculture secretaries during the George W Bush administration, is “encouraging conservative voices to join the conversation about the environment”.

Furthermore, prominent business leaders, including John Faraci, the CEO of International Paper, and Jim Connaughton, a vice-president at Constellation Energy and a former White House official, also belong to the council.

“There are solutions to environmental problems that are consistent with conservative principles,” Scarlett told me last week at The Nature Conservancy headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The business-friendly NGO works across party lines and has branches in all 50 states (and in 35 countries).

The story goes on to say that no major environmental law has been enacted by Congress without bipartisan support. But, for reasons that have mostly but not entirely to do with the climate-change debate, Republicans and conservatives have broken away from the environmental movement since the 2008 presidential election.

Bringing Republicans and conservatives back into a climate movement will be tough. Some in the Tea Party wing are anti-science; they simply reject the notion that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the earth. Many climate-change solutions are big and complicated, and similar in that sense to Obamacare, which has united Republicans like no other issue. And the big business lobbies that could help bring back conservatives are dominated by fossil fuel interests.

Still, there’s something fundamentally conservative about the idea that people and companies should clean up after themselves and be responsible for the messes they make–even if the mess, in this case, is CO2, the colorless and odorless gas that drives climate change.

You can read the rest of my story here.


  1. ed maibach says

    Our (i.e., Americans) deep attachment to our native wilderness was revealed rather plainly during the recent government shutdown — in the form of Congressional angst about the fact that they were shutting down our national parks. Ms. Scarlett seems an excellent choice to help TNC tap into this attachment among Americans on the left and the right. I see a good moon on the rise.

    • Sandy Moran says

      Ed — hope you’re right about the good moon risin’! I proudly confess to being ‘deeply attached to our native wilderness’. I’m blessed with the ability to visit multiple National Parks annually (it’s an addiction). Sadly as we do so we see more foreign visitors embracing the beauty of America than our own citizens. Take a walk down middle of Moab, UT on a summer evening…more German & French being spoken than English! I believe recent push to re-open National Parks (not just monuments) was not to ensure US citizens pounding at the gates got through… rather the impact to our economy from the global tourism was the driver here. I applaud the wonder of our parks… we need to be sure MORE Americans are exposed to and have access (affordability) to these treasures. God Bless America- Land that I Love!

  2. Ed Reid says

    “Some in the Tea Party wing are anti-science; they simply reject the notion that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the earth.”

    “Romm’s Law” has been invoked: He who uses the terms “denier”, “anti-science”, “climate zombies” or their variants first loses the argument. (Google Godwin’s Law for context.)

    “…CO2, the colorless and odorless gas that drives climate change.”

    The global climate has changed, both cooling and warming, prior to anthropogenic CO2 becoming an issue. The climate proxy records show that temperature increases lead CO2 increases. Only in the current instance is CO2 alleged to be the driver of climate change. That allegation is currently being called into question by the near 17 year hiatus in warming (RSS, HadCRUT), in the face of increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

    “Many climate-change solutions are big and complicated,…”

    The McKibben / Hansen “solution” to climate change, of which you appear to be an advocate, would be an approximately $30 trillion “solution” for the US and an approximately $150 trillion “solution” globally; and, would require the implementation of technology not currently commercially demonstrated. I certainly agree that would qualify as “big and complicated”.

    I seriously doubt there will be significant conservative interest in the establishment of the global vegan commune which is the “vision” of the UN. I certainly hope there will not be any conservative interest. I cannot imagine there would be much libertarian interest either.

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