Joe Laliberte: Republicans, conservation must work

Recently I changed my party identification in the state of New Hampshire from Republican to independent.

I could have done this for several reasons. It could be the war in Iraq, an expensive health care system, irresponsible spending, a broken immigration system or a party taken over by the religious right. But my breaking point finally came regarding one issue: the environment.

Conservation means the responsible use of our natural resources. It is not just for the crunchy environmentalists anymore. It is for those of us who are concerned not only about the use of these natural resources, but genuinely enjoy the outdoors and believe it is a moral responsibility to allow our children to experience the same environment that we have.

Also, conservative does sound an awful lot like conservation.

Would you ever believe one of the most ardent conservationists was a Republican?

Since the beginning of his presidency in 1901, Teddy Roosevelt preserved more than 230,000,000 acres for national protection. He established the National Forest Service, five national parks and 150 national forests, according to the National Park Service. On their drive into D.C. along the Whitehurst Freeway from the ritzy neighborhoods of Chevy Chase, Md., and Fairfax, Va., do you think that any Republicans today notice Theodore Roosevelt Island? It is that beautiful park that is quietly nestled along the Potomac and holds the name of our first “conservationist president.”

The debate surrounding climate change should be over. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that human activity has contributed to climate change. This report was reviewed by 2,500 scientific experts and had 800 contributing authors from more than 250 countries. The only gray area that remains is when climate change will have a lasting impact on the way we live.

What is the Republican idea? Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst in energy at The Heritage Foundation, said Congress should not pass recent legislation that aims to curb carbon dioxide gases because, “These and most other measures in the works focus on interfering with markets and forcing certain energy choices on a reluctant public – hardly a pro-consumer approach. What is missing is any truly pro-consumer and pro-energy policy. Instead, most of Congress’ proposed energy measures would do more harm than good.”

First, it has been a long-standing assertion that curbing carbon dioxide gasses will hinder growth in the U.S. economy. Not so, said Newt Gingrich, co-author of the new book “A Contract with the Earth,” and arguably one of the most influential conservatives in the country. He rejects the idea that free enterprise and environmentalism are opposing forces. He notes in the preface, “There should be no exclusivity when it comes to the environment; everyone is welcome at the table, and everyone is needed.”

A good gauge of this “green into gold” idea is how American car companies are rushing to catch up to Toyota and others in the hybrid vehicle market. Gauging the market, many of the major corporations around the world are developing green initiatives and products.

Also, to call the public reluctant to invite different energy choices is blatantly wrong. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 70 percent of Americans feel that the federal government should be doing more to deal with global warming. While the public still remains divided on how to deal with the problem, a strong contingent believes something should be done.

With all this data and evidence, wouldn’t you think that all the major Republican candidates running for president would support initiatives that aim to curb global warming? Of course not.

According to The New York Times, Rudy Giuliani is “affiliated with law firm that lobbies for coal-fired power plants, heavy emitters of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, a gas associated with global warming.”

As governor of Massachusets, Mitt Romney backed out of a Northeast greenhouse gas initiative, which aims to gradually curb the production of greenhouse gasses in the region.

The only major Republican candidate who has come out heavily in favor of environmental protection is John McCain. In his more recent act, he co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. This would cut carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2000 to 2050.

Until it becomes a consensus in the Republican party that conservation and environmental protection go hand in hand with conservative values, I’ll tell them to take a hike.

The writer is a junior majoring in political communication.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.