There are two basic errors that entrap discussants on issues related to environmental stewardship. The first error is that of the uncritical activist, who is always ready to embrace whatever faddish innovation or practice the green intelligentsia casts as the latest solution. The problem with this approach is that in it often results in negative unintended consequences. Call this the error of the “early adopter.”

On the other extreme is that of the reactive critic, who is only too willing to cast scorn upon anything new in the realm of environmental concern (in part due to the over-exuberance of the early adopters). Comfortable in civilized affluence, the conservative anti-conservationist distrusts any claim of stewardship or responsibility that might upset complacency. Call this the error of the “never adopter.”

A characteristic common to both of these extremes is a sort of knee-jerk reaction, either for or against, that is basically un-reflective. Rational argumentation comes in later, if it comes at all, after a side or position has already been chosen. A sounder approach, I believe, is a more thoughtful and reflective environmentalism, a middle way between two extremes, if you will.

This is an approach that appreciates the possibilities for new technologies and innovations, for alternative sources of energy, without prejudice towards any particular project or every prospect in general. It’s an approach to questions of particular policies that values data over nostalgia, effect over sentiment, consequence over intent, even technique over piety. So let’s not uncritically embrace or unthinkingly deride new developments and concerns in the realm of environmental stewardship.


  • Conley

    I am curious about your opening contrast between two extremes. How many reactive critics do you think there are compared to the uncritical activists? I have encountered many, many uncritical activists but almost no reactive critics, although they may be out there. I don’t see this as an even balance so that discussions are distorted but maybe I’m missing something.

  • http://blog.acton.org/ Jordan

    Thanks for your question, Conley. I would categorize a great deal of the conservative movement that views “the environment” as a liberal issue to largely consist of reactive critics.

  • http://careofcreation.org Ed

    …and I would have said that most of the material on this blog has been of the ‘reactive critic’ variety. If you can really steer this site toward ‘thoughtful and reflective environmentalism’ you will be doing your readers – and all of us – a great service!