The environment has long been the undisputed territory of the political Left, which casts international capitalism, consumerism, and the overexploitation of natural resources as the principle threats to the planet and sees top-down interventions as the most effective solution.
In How to Think Seriously about the Planet, Roger Scruton rejects this view and offers a fresh approach to tackling the most important political problem of our time. He contends that the environmental movement is philosophically confused and has unrealistic agendas. Its sights are directed at large-scale events and the confrontation between international politics and multinational business. But Scruton argues that no large-scale environmental project, however well intentioned, will succeed if it is not rooted in small-scale practical reasoning. Seeing things on a large scale promotes top-down solutions, managed by unaccountable bureaucracies that fail to assess local conditions and are rife with unintended consequences. Scruton calls for the greater efficacy of local initiatives over global schemes, civil association over political activism, and small-scale institutions of friendship over regulatory hypervigilance, suggesting that conservatism is far better suited to solving environmental problems than either liberalism or socialism.
Rather than entrusting the environment to unwieldy NGOs and international committees, we must assume personal responsibility and foster local control. People must be empowered to take charge of their environment, to care for it as they would a home, and to involve themselves through the kind of local associations that have been the traditional goal of conservative politics. Our common future is by no means assured, but as Roger Scruton clearly demonstrates in this important book, there is a path that can ensure the future safety of our planet and our species.
Roger Scruton is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has taught at the Universities of Cambridge, London, Oxford, Princeton, and Boston and has been a freelance writer and commentator for the past 15 years. His many books include Beauty: A Very Short Introduction, Death-Devoted Heart, and The Uses of Pessimism.
©2012 Roger Scruton (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Beautifully written and ambitious in its scope…. An immensely readable book and a valuable contribution to the debate over environmental politics." (Independent, London)
"A dazzling book." (Sunday Times, London)
Reducing greenhouse gases, eliminating non-biodegradable packaging, grassroots movements and investing in clean, renewable energy are ideas not usually associated with the Conservative point of view. Yet the author convincingly argues that the conservative values of respect for tradition and local regulation are uniquely suited for achieving these goals.
Conservative politicians are often painted as anti-conservation, but this is really not the case. Opposition to unwieldy legislation with unintended consequences is often mistaken as opposition to the environment itself. For example, the author brings up the familiar request of removing national or international regulation of industries. But the motive is not that these industries should not be regulated. Rather, when the government usurps authority to protect a resource from the local community(i.e. those with the greatest interest in protecting it) the environment often suffers. He argues for locally brokered and enforced regulation where the costs of polluting are returned to the polluters instead of diffused through a bureaucracy.
The book delves deeply into philosophy. He discusses Kant's Categorical Imperative, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau's Social Contract theory and a dozen other thinkers past and present. He expects the reader to have a basic grasp of epistemology, logic and ethics. you don't need a degree in Philosophy, but he does not spoon feed these concepts.
I found the book informative and insightful. Simon Prebble's narration is spot on, as usual. The author offers much common ground to those on the left and he is eager to engage rather than ridicule.
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