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Conservatives should capture the Green movement

Extinction rebellion in London. Credit: Brais G. Rouco / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

January 3, 2020 - 11:20am

Walking through Victoria Station, and seeing giant television screens portraying apocalyptic scenes of Australia on fire, it did strike me that this is exactly how I imagined the future when I was younger.

It is a future filled with overwhelming anxiety and alarm, so much so that, according to a YouGov poll large numbers of young people don’t want to have children because of climate change.

I’m sceptical that global warming is the real reason here; rather it’s probably more a general feeling of pessimism, which does reduce fertility. (I imagine the sort of people who don’t have kids for the sake of the planet are probably the sort of people whose children would be best able to fix the problem, but never mind.)

It’s urgent we take action on this issue, but as a conservative it’s often painful watching environmental campaigners; I want them to win as much support as possible, but I can see them doing literally everything possible to alienate me, completely needlessly sometimes. (Emma Thompson flying 5,000 miles to a climate protest could not be more perfectly scripted).

This has long been a problem with advancing any sort of environmental agenda, that it’s framed in such a way as to repulse a large number of voters. Some “Green” groups obviously have an anti-capitalist agenda aside from the planet, Extinction Rebellion being the latest manifestation, but more widely there is a problem in the way the issue is presented to centre-Right voters, because little attention is paid to their psychology. There is an interesting paper on it here (HT/ @sunny_hundal0.

Of course lots of centre-Right politicians across Europe are active on this issue, and there are groups like the Conservative Environment Network, but especially in the US the issue has been caught up in the culture wars — which, overall, are slightly less important than the planet.

Yet there is a long conservative environmentalist tradition that goes back to people like Lady Eve Balfour, and since owning the libs is somewhat less important to me than not living in Bladerunner 2049, maybe we should just accept that sometimes annoying, preachy actors are right.

It’s perfectly possible for Conservative and green politics to align; indeed they are more obviously in alignment, since we believe large, dramatic change tends to be for the worse, and conservatism is by nature more rural.

In Austria the conservatives and Greens have indeed just formed a coalition, and while it seems unlikely this will be replicated across Europe — Green parties tend to be progressive graduate-identity movements — at the very least it will make the idea of mixing blue and green seem less strange than it currently is.

Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable


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