Front Porch Blog

Appalachian Viewpoint: The Conservative Conservationist

<<< Friends, we're thrilled to share this exclusive piece from Jim Dipeso of ConservAmerica (formerly “Republicans for Environmental Protection”) on the conservative case for stewardship. Former White House advisor Van Jones offers the progressive viewpoint in the upcoming issue of The Appalachian Voice newspaper. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jim and ConservAmerica to the Front Porch! We look forward to your contributions anytime. – jw>>>

by Jim Dipeso, ConservAmerica

What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live… And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live—our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it. – President Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan spoke those eloquent words in 1984. Reagan was a man of the land. On trips to his beloved Rancho del Cielo, he spent much time outdoors enjoying the hills and horizons.

For Reagan, stewardship of the land was as central to the conservative ethic he championed as was individual liberty and limited government.

The land is central to Appalachia’s culture. The mountains hold generations of family tales and community lore, of births, weddings, and passages, of stories told at church socials, of secret fishing spots grandfathers shared with grandsons. Ridges, woods, hollows, and streams keep alive those memories that are the warp and woof of mountain culture.

Blowing up mountaintops and burying streams under rubble does immense harm to Appalachia’s land, water, and wildlife, as scientists have documented in abundant detail. Mountaintop removal mining and stream obliteration does more, however. It disfigures the land that has shaped Appalachian life for generations. It brings noise, stress, anxiety, and disruption to families and communities.

Opposing mountaintop removal mining and dumping of waste into streams does not mean opposing coal mining. Nor does taking such a position make a conservative less conservative. As Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) has said, “Coal is an essential part of our energy future, but it is not necessary to destroy our mountaintops in order to have enough coal to meet our needs.”

Senator Alexander is correct. Now and for years to come, coal will have an important place in America’s energy portfolio. Our task is to find better ways to produce and use coal, to lighten its burdens on our land, water, and air. Finding those better ways will be hard but America excels at doing hard things.

The land gives us riches and it embodies our heritage. Being better stewards of the land is the gift we give our children, as Ronald Reagan reminded us.





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