Young Conservative Minds – Environmental Gloom, Doom, or Hope?

By Brent Fewell

Kids say (and think) the darndest things. This weekend, my youngest dauCPAC2013ghter, Macy, and I had a great discussion on civics. Turns out she and her classmates are doing the perennial assignment of writing POTUS about a topic of concern and enlisting his help.  So, of course, I did the fatherly thing and followed up – what’s your concern, Macy?  Her response, littering!  Pfew . . . this was an easy one – dad could handle this – and was feeling a modicum of relief she didn’t say climate change.  She went on to explain that littering just wasn’t right, because some people ruin it for everyone else by making the environment ugly.  

I was proud of her for recognizing that the selfish and unthoughtful actions of a few could affect everyone.   When she finished making her case, I nodded in agreement and in passing mentioned that while President Obama, the First Lady, Malia and Sasha, were probably equally concerned about littering, it wasn’t POTUS’ job to stop litter-bugs.  Rather it was more a local thing and that communities such as ours – and that included her and me – have a responsibility to police our own environment to ensure that it stays clean and litter free.  POTUS had more important things to do, like ensuring our national security, helping to revitalize the economy . . . and big environmental matters, including climate change.   We talked briefly about the role of government, and the difference between the federal, state and local responsibilities.  She seemed intent on following my line of reasoning until I got to my stump speech on the constitution and enumerated powers.  That’s when dad knew he had exceeded his parental discretion and veered too far to the right, well-afield of her concern – littering.

Yet this exchange made me pause for a moment to think about the biggest concerns and fears of Generation Y.  For me, when I was her age, my biggest fear was the end of the world and Jimmy Carter being the Antichrist (okay – probably not a fear to many – but damn, Jimmy was a REALLY scary figure to me at the ripe old age of 10).  While I’m relieved to know that my girls aren’t gripped by the same nightmares of Jimmy Carter, or climate change for that matter, I’m glad to know that they care and are thinking about environmental matters and how they as Christians and good stewards of the earth should respond.

And so goes the discussion and concerns of many Generation Y’ers around the country, including young conservatives at last week’s CPAC convention here in DC as reflected in the video here taken by Mike Stark, a self-described “extreme political activist”, over at Daily Kos.  Mike was apparently interested in what young conservatives think about climate change.  To be honest, as a SoCon who is concerned about environmental matters, I was a bit anxious to view the clip.  Mike, let me give you a tip – this is the CPAC faithful – these are the Trekkies of the conservative movement and no one – not even you – should expect climate change to be among the top of their worries.  While clearly not a scientifically robust sample size or broad representation of young conservative minds, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that few, if any, were outright climate deniers.  Yes, some healthy skeptics regarding whether the science was truly settled (it’s not often you encounter a Mohawk-wearing conservative at CPAC), some wise-asses (who simply want less snow for Minnesota or thought this was a get-rich scheme for Al Gore), some who see climate change as an exploitive political scheme by liberals and yet others, including the last young man in the clip, who seems genuinely concerned about climate change.  I was indeed encouraged by the vignettes.  As I’ve posted previously herehere and here, the growing concern among conservatives on topics like climate change (absent the apocalyptic scare-mongering rhetoric) and other environmental matters, interwoven with a healthy skepticism, yet willingness to challenge the status quo and stale political orthodoxies, is itself encouraging and a healthy development.