At Public Discourse, Peter Blair reviews Roger Scruton’s intriguing case for a conservative environmentalism:
In the conservative vision, threats to one’s home, environmental or otherwise, are met by public spiritedness, by volunteering efforts united by what Scruton calls “oikophilia,” love of home. Politics then becomes modest, about compromise and enforcing the conditions that allow homeostatic systems to function properly. It also becomes localized, because it is only attachment to local civil associations that can solicit people’s loyalty and inspire them to accept the sacrifices that the common good requires. “Such associations,” he writes, “form the stuff of civil society, and conservatives emphasize them precisely because they are the guarantee that society will renew itself without being led and controlled by the state.”
The liberal vision supports a “salvationist” politics that shuts down risk-taking enterprises and seeks to insure people against the costs of risk-taking by collecting all power into a protective, centralized authority. While conservatives look to local or, at most, national institutions supported byoikophilia to counter threats and stabilize leadership, liberals rely on international regulation and borderless nongovernmental institutions (NGOs). They support organizations and movements structured around causes and campaigns, rather than civil associations that arise spontaneously out of a shared life. . . .
Scruton also defends environmental conservatism with arguments less often heard from American conservatives. Central to his case, for example, is his view that a local, voluntary, patriotic culture can motivate environmental care. Under local stewardship, people don’t defend the environment because they are on a global campaign to save the world. They defend it because they have thick ties to their home, and they want to keep their home safe and beautiful.