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Davis, California

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The nature of conservatives

Above the desk in my room is a very large picture,“Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, painted by Albert Bierstadt in1868.Bierstadt is perhaps my favorite artist,known for his treatment of the mountainous landscapes of the American West.Sunlight streaming through the clouds often takes center stage in his paintings,which always seemed to me a credible depiction of God coming down to earth.The beauty of Bierstadts nature can almost put me in a trance.

“Wait a minute,Rob,you might interrupt.Shouldn’t you have a painting of oil wells surrounded by dead Iraqi children over your desk,or maybe a rich man tap dancing on the backs of the poor with an IRS refund in one hand and a bag of money in the other? It can’t be anything natural.We all know conservatives hate nature.

We do have that reputation.Most liberals think that conservatives only care about nature when it makes them money,or that as Gods children they believe nature is here for the use of man,and to hell with conservation.There are segments of the ideology that hold these beliefs.But that stereotype is far from the truth.

With the arrival of spring,and the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis in a couple ofweeks,the environment returns to the public consciousness.Once again people debate the proper relationship between humans and nature.Once again it strikes me howlonely it can be in the middle.

College students do not need to be told of the excesses of the right when it comes to the environment,though most conservatives are actually at least distant admirers of nature.But most environmentalists seem to have a curious aversion for everything human,which underlies everything they do.

They hate to see population growth or the spread of civilization into nature.In any conflict over resources they desperately defend the wild,the original state of things.Anything manmade,they try to make more natural in design,appearance and sustainability.Even animals that areassociated with humans,such as cows,pigs and rats,can become villains to environmentalists,as they destroy native species and habitats with the seeming mundanity of their human masters.

The immutable goal of environmentalists is restriction restriction of energy use,restriction of reproduction,restriction of resources,restriction of travel,restriction of consumption.Any way to limit mankind is sought and celebrated.To me,a lover of nature is defined by his or her respect and affinity for all things natural.An environmentalist shares that love,but adds an almost pathological disgust for humanity.

I am absolutely a lover of nature,and innumerable conservatives are too.This means that we seek out wildlife preserves,plant trees,take in cats and dogs and do our best to share the planet with the countless other species in it.But we do not have an obsession with undermining civilization,wistfully looking back10,000years to a world unsullied by intelligent man.

Oddly enough,for all their love of nature,environmentalists fail to see its power.Nature was here for a very long time before us,and it will be for a very long time after.Nature kills far more of its own than we do,in the short term as predators and prey,in the long term as species adapt and evolve,to compete and succeed or to compete and die.

Creatures of large size and great beauty,like bears,wolves and caribou,are vulnerable to extinction,and should be aided and protected.Butthevast majority of the wild is the myriad other species that are less photographic,and less threatened.Ultimately,to Mother Nature,we are nothing.

It is possible to love nature without despising humans.It is possible to advocate moderationin the conflictbetween man and nature,while periodically gazing at the painting above your desk to take in the gorgeous lakes and forests that we are all so blessed to enjoy.

 

Disturb ROB OLSON from his trance at rwolson@ucdavis.edu.

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