Once I took part in a panel discussion on climate change at an Oxford literary festival. I began by explaining to the audience how very much I loved nature – probably at least as much as they did; how I liked nothing better than wild swimming in the River Wye, or striding across Scottish glens, with their patchwork-quilt browns, greens and purples, or riding across the matchlessly beautiful English countryside…
But really, I might just as well not have bothered, for the audience had already made up their minds. Because I’m a conservative, it naturally followed that I must be selfish, greedy, wedded to my unsustainable lifestyle, a denier of science, and hell-bent on economic growth at the expense of our planet’s future.
This caricature is a big problem for conservatives. Some of them get so desperate to prove their critics wrong that you see them embracing all manner of half-baked eco-nonsense, as we saw in Britain not so long ago when David Cameron campaigned under the slogan “Vote Blue, Go Green”. But it really isn’t necessary. The clue’s in the name: Conservatives are – and always have been – the world’s best conservationists.
Partly, it’s a function of our rural roots. Not all conservatives hunt, shoot, fish, or farm, of course, but the principles are in our DNA: a deep sympathy with and understanding of nature, but untainted by metropolitan sentimentality. If you’re rearing livestock, it’s clearly in your interests to breed healthy, contented animals; if you’re running a shooting estate or maintaining a fishing river, again it matters that your quarry and its environment are sustainably managed. You love and respect your animals but you’re not squeamish about killing them for sport, population management or food.
Read the rest in the Conservative.