Which part of ‘conserve’ don’t conservatives get?

Let’s hear it for Connie Hedegaard. Connie who? She’s the Danish minister for climate and energy and, crucially, will host the UN-sponsored global climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

Connie Hedegaard

That puts her in the hottest of hot seats in the next couple of months. Hedegaard is not, by all accounts, your average liberal leftie green. “I never understood why environment should be a left-wing issue”, she says in today’s International Herald Tribune. “In my view, there is nothing as core to conservative beliefs – that what you inherit you should pass on to the next generation”.

Hedegaard reckons environmentalism is profoundly misunderstood, perhaps because it’s misrepresented about being about cuddly polar bears on picturesque icebergs. “Environment…is about where we get our energy from, about security, about growing economies. I’m a conservative, I worry about that”. Good on you, Connie.

She is described as a no-nonsense arm twister-cum therapist. She’s off to New York next week for a UN climate summit meeting chaired by Ban Ki-moon, at which our own Brian Cowen will be in attendance. I picked up this little nugget on Monday night last, during John Gormley’s address to the gala dinner of the International Conference of National Trusts in Dublin Castle.

Apparently, when Ban Ki-moon was last in Dublin, he “absolutely insisted” Brian Cowen come to New York on September 22nd, Gormley said. What we don’t know yet is will Cowen throw the weight of his office behind Ireland in Copenhagen in December. Maybe, if Connie Hedegaard gets him in a headlock next week, she can squeeze a firm commitment from a leader who, to say the very least, gives the impression of being entirely unaware of the wider world beyond the byzantine halls of NAMA.

Long a political conservative, Hedegaard models her greenness along the lines of Theodore Roosevelt, the (Republican) US president who, when not out shooting game in Africa or moose in his back yard, was a powerful campaigner for environmentalism and conservation decades before these terms were even in common usage.

Roosevelt wrote in 1907 : “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others”. One can only imagine what he would be saying now, after another 100 years of the most relentless exploitation and degradation of our natural resources in human history.

Hedegaard unashamedly plans to strong-arm world leaders in December. It is, she explains, about “putting pressure on all governments to make the political price of being an obstacle so high that no one will pay it”. You’ve really godda like this woman.

Any green protesters planning to disrupt the Copenhagen conference will be shocked by what the IHT calls “Denmark’s sober brand of environmentalism”. New fines have been introduced to keep a lid on activists during meetings – breaking a police cordon or wearing a mask could cost individuals around €1,200.

A lot of people of my acquaintance will be disgusted, even outraged. I’m not so sure. There’s a serious job to be done in December; having the event hijacked by anarcho-environmentalists will do nothing but turn off the public, undermine the credibility of the whole movement and reduce the likelihood of a deal being struck that’s going to really solve the problems we face.

Right wing types (including much of the media) revel in every opportunity to portray environmentalists as loonie lefties, anarchists and general riff raff. It makes the job of discounting the underlying message infinitely easier, as well as tragically alienating the general public from environmentalism.

Many powerful forces are working hard to ensure Copenhagen fails. Genuine environmentalists shouldn’t make it easier for them.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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2 Responses to Which part of ‘conserve’ don’t conservatives get?

  1. Ian says:

    ” having the event hijacked by anarcho-environmentalists will do nothing but turn off the public, undermine the credibility of the whole movement and reduce the likelihood of a deal being struck that’s going to really solve the problems we face.”

    So you think that the presence of radicals will cause the chances of Copenhagen delivering to go into negative percentages? Let’s be honest, the majority of the world’s powerful politicians will ignore the demands of science, the global south and of my generation, in favour of the demands of politics, business and comfortable baby boomers.

  2. John Gibbons says:

    Understand your frustration Ian, but having tramped the muddy fields over the summer, what’s clear to me is that as long as environmentalism is seen as a fringe/loony fringe pasttime, and as long as it’s dominated by folks like the Rossport protesters, we’re not going to see any engagement with those politicians, business types and comfortable baby boomers. When people cover their faces in mud and pick scraps with the Gardai, all it achieves, in my view, is to allow the middle/political classes to shrug their shoulders and walk away.

    Environmentalism 2.0 involves Powerpoint presentations, skilled communicators who don’t frighten the horses, political lobbying and engagement from the inside as well as the outside. Like it or not, that’s how the world works; if we want to change it (and we have no choice here) then we’ve got to at least understand the club rules, THEN work to reform them. JG

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