Last Saturday, roughly 150 people marched through downtown Marquette in an effort to raise awareness about climate change. Living in the Upper Peninsula, it’s hard not to love our great outdoors. Northern Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, from the alluring Porcupine Mountains to powerful Lake Superior. As a student here, it’s impossible to resist developing a connection to nature, which makes it especially frustrating as a Republican to watch my party continuously turn a blind eye to environmental issues.
If the Republican Party wants to remain competitive in coming years, it’s essential they adopt an environmental mindset. In 2011, Pew Research conducted a study examining GOP attitudes towards climate change and alternative energy. The results showed that millennial Republicans are much more progressive when it comes to climate-related issues than previous generations. The majority of millennial Republicans expressed belief that climate change is affecting the United States and that government is doing too little to protect the environment. Additionally, the vast majority of all respondents supported the expanded use of alternative energy.
Research also indicates that upcoming generations are going to be more liberal on climate change than millennials, even among Conservatives. In fact, in a poll of young Conservatives by the Young Conservatives for Energy Reform, respondents trusted the Democratic Party more than their own to address climate change and support clean energy solutions. As new Republicans begin to take root in the world, it’s essential that the party adapts to represent its constituents.
Even if adopting an environmentally-conscious platform is unpopular among older Conservatives, it doesn’t matter. What we stand for shouldn’t be based on what’s popular, but what’s right. Allowing our destructive and indifferent tendencies to erode the beauty of our world, and many unique ecosystems with it, is unacceptable. Uncontrolled pollution paired with an aggressive culture of consumption will leave us with a planet resembling that in “WALL-E.” It’d be shameful to leave our grandchildren a planet in demise because we’re too cowardly to face the problems we’ve created.
With this in mind, what is preventing the Republican Party from going green? Republicans are known for being business friendly and strong on the economy, and environmental protection would seemingly contrast this.
This idea isn’t ill-founded;
often, economic policy proposed by the left ends up harming
business while doing very little to strengthen environmental protection. One prominent example is the anti-fracking campaign that began in 2011. Over the past several years, many prominent Democrats such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have pushed for bans on hydraulic fracking. This is in spite of fracking helping enormously to keep oil prices low, and studies showing that many perpetuated ideas about fracking are myths or at worst
However, just because the other party isn’t doing environmental protection right doesn’t mean that we ought to stand against environmental protection altogether. In reality, the right has an opportunity to promote both pro-business and pro-environment policy simultaneously. With the development of social media and the instantaneous sharing of information, many people now vote with their dollar. Since public opinion favors environmentally-conscious business practices, going green, while costing more initially, has actually become profitable. Many large companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Nike, have already committed to using 100 percent green energy. If Republicans want to protect the environment, all they need to do is promote free market solutions and incentives, while intervening when the market fails, primarily with pollution. With demand for green practices growing among consumers, innovation and technology is already moving companies in the right direction without government compulsion.
To reinvent one of Reagan’s most famous quotes, our environment is no more than a generation away from being damaged and altered beyond repair. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for our children to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like to live in the United States where the forests were green, the sky was blue and the water ran clear.