Monday, July 30, 2007

Scruton On Conservative Environmentalism

Ignore the fairly standard "Left bashing" and philosopher Roger Scruton's A Righter Shade of Green is a fairly compelling read, offering a "Conservative" solution to environmental concerns. Apparently, it all comes down to the concept of a "trust":

It is here that I think we Anglophone conservatives can show our relevance. The common law of England developed, through the branch known as equity, a concept that has no real equivalent in Napoleonic or Roman legal systems: the concept of the trust. Trusteeship is a form of property in which the legal owner has only duties, and all rights are transferred to, and “held in trust for,” the beneficiary. Through the device of the trust, English and American law has been able to protect the interests of absent generations by compelling the current owners of property to set their own interests aside. The trustees of a bequest must respect the wishes of the testator and in so doing—by holding their own desires and present emergencies in abeyance— will serve the interests of future generations. This form of ownership, and the moral idea contained in it, ought to be regarded as defining the conservative approach. We don’t solve environmental problems by abandoning our attachment to private property or free enterprise, but we can make sure that these notions are shaped by the spirit of trusteeship.

[...]

What then is the conservative solution, if there is one? A revival of trusteeship is the only hope for the future, and this attitude is natural to human beings. They enter the world through no choice of their own, to be greeted, as a rule, by the love of parents and the security of home. The trustee is the one who recognizes that his home, and all that it means, are inherited things, things to be safeguarded and passed on. This attitude exercises itself at the local level in the voluntary associations and small institutions of civil society. It is the core component in that associational genius that Tocqueville discerned in the American people. It is the legacy of a political order that regards people, not rulers, as the source of authority and the fount of responsible decision-making.

All well and good. There are, however, a couple of interlinked problems with this line of reasoning. On the one hand, if Scruton is suggesting (but I think he is not) that the concept of trusteeship become central to environmental Law, then there is no sense in which his solution is not Statist. Indeed, several examples he gives of successful Environmental initiatives could only be described as State solutions--the English Town and Country Planning Act of 1946, for example. Who enforces that act?

On the other hand, if he is suggesting (as I think he is) that environmental initiatives be created entirely through the acts of voluntary associations then, well, I'm not sure he understands what these kinds of organizations typically do. Rate payers groups, Industry associations, exist at least partly to lobby the state for this or that favorable outcome. Lobby, that is, for State solutions favorable to their interests.

So there is nothing distinctively Conservative about these ideas.

h/t to the EcoLibertarian.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Take an example from hunters. Hunting groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Ruffed Grouse Society, NAWTF, Pheasants Forever, Sharptails Forever, etc. have habitat preservation as their number one priority. Without natural specific habitat preservation, there will not be wildlife, period. Hunters, fishers, trappers, are bell-weather environmentalists in the true sense. They have their fingers on the pulse of the environment in which they pursue their sport/livelihood. Water quality, land development, farming, industry, logging, and so forth can all have negative impacts on these habitat areas, and hunters & fishers are quick to protect these habitats. However, these passtimes are not seen as 'politically correct' and entrance into them is discouraged through various means. The more people we have outdoors the better, and more vocal voices can be added to the mix to preserve the natural habitat. What does a mountain biker care for wetland preservation? When does a jogger think twice about the effects of a hydro dam on a salmon river? Do eco-trekkers even know what sharptailed grouse habitat even looks like? These people have a vested interest in having these habitats preserved forever, for their enjoyment and for others.

Anonymous said...

Where are your comments on having your asshole reamed out over at Steve's site to something approaching the Grand Canyon's size?

gawd it must hurt being so totally reamed & fisked, at the same time.

Best not play with the adults . . .

Anonymous said...

SOMEBODY has to take 'ownership' of the land, that's a given. The socialist view that everybody owns the land just leads to neglect and disaster - the tragedy of the commons at play. If nobody "owns" it, nobody respects it. The trick is in identifying which group really has the best interest at heart for any particular parcel of land, and any habitats/micro-environments adjoining it or affected by it.

bigcitylib said...

Anon 2:56,

I have no problems with Ducks Unlimited's conservation efforts. My point is merely that a fair bit of what they do is lobby government.

(And actually, eco-trekkers often have an excellent idea of what is in the local ecosystem.)

Anon, 3:04 wrote:

"Best not play with the adults . . ."

Adults and Seniors (Tim Ball). I notice that you are able to maintain a semblance of rationality when you post to Steves site.

Anonymous said...

My only point about eco-trekkers was that they are perhaps in the 'jack of all trades' category, where they may experience a wide variety of different habitats away from where they live, but not be as in touch as a local person in their home environment. They may indeed be, however. I don't know any eco-trekkers.

Holly Stick said...

"...If nobody "owns" it, nobody respects it. The trick is in identifying which group really has the best interest at heart for any particular parcel of land, and any habitats/micro-environments adjoining it or affected by it."

The problem with making a religion of property rights is that unless the property owners live on the land, they may not give a shit about conserving it, preferring to gut it for short-term profit.

It's a question of who controls the land, and if they are willing to work for the public good or for private greed.

Anonymous said...

= holly stick said: =
="The problem with making a religion of property rights is that unless the property owners live on the land, they may not give a shit about conserving it, preferring to gut it for short-term profit."=

It's best to make a religion of property rights.

Owners of land don't "gut it". Having purchased it, it's too valuable to waste.

= holly stick further says: =
="It's a question of who controls the land, and if they are willing to work for the public good or for private greed."=

Private ownership is for the public good.

Ti-Guy said...

*yawn*....Little anonymii regurgitating Atlas Shrugged (probably the only book they've ever read).

Heard it all before. "Ownership" and the public good it is to protect doesn't mean "private ownership."

Anonymous said...

Hentai-guy, your comments are always so well considered and insightful.

Ti-Guy said...

Suck my cock, jerk.

Anonymous said...

= ti guy said:=
" . nothing much . "

Even bigger yawn here.

Ti-Guy said...

Yes, yawn loudly. Open that mouth...

...wider...wider...

bigcitylib said...

Emily sent me this message to my hotmail account:

I wanted to comment but couldn't gather my thoughts quickly enough. Private ownership is disastrous for wetland environments here in Eastern Ontario. To protest the Ontario government's environmental protection policies, local farmers have clear cut their wetlands rather than respect the wildlife in them according to present law.

Any talk of conservatives as protectors of the environment should include at least a reference to Conservative leader John Tory's 'private ownership' candidate, Randy Hillier. He has been leader of the Landowners' atrocious activities in Lanark County and the rest of Eastern Ontario. To place any trust in these 'boys' to do the right thing with regards to the environment is sheer idiocy.