Tennesseans of all stripes catching on to need for conservation

By BOB AUGUST, REP coordinator in Tennessee

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: published in the The Tennessean on January 22, 2007.


Many important issues graced the table of our newly elected, Democratic-controlled Congress, which embarked on an ambitious round of legislation in its first 100 hours.

Included are a graduated minimum-wage increase, federally funded stem-cell research — and, of course, Iraq. Partisan passions run hot on many of these initiatives, including some that addressed environmental concerns.

Until recently, environmental concerns were perceived as crosses to be borne by Subaru-driving, Wild Oats-shopping, latte-drinking lefties. No longer. Traditionally conservative big businesses are flaunting their “green” side with increasing frequency and are investing significant sums of money in progressive renewable-energy initiatives.

Even Wal-Mart, the media’s favorite whipping boy, is on a campaign to sell more compact fluorescent bulbs to consumers (these “white lights” use about one-fifth the electricity and last about 10 times longer than conventional lightbulbs).

It’s no wonder that people rarely associate our national park system and wildlife refuges with Republican President Teddy Roosevelt — or the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and Environmental Protection Agency, with Richard Nixon — or the Clean Air Act amendment with George H.W. Bush. In recent years, many in the GOP have done a bang-up job of making “conservatism” and “conservation” mutually exclusive.

And while Sen. John McCain, the presumed GOP front-runner for the White House, is one of the most environmentally friendly Republican presidential candidates in recent memory, we cannot rely on the government — regardless of who is elected and from which party — to be our environmental baby sitters.

Conservation is a matter of common sense — and we’ve got momentum. Hybrid automobile production is on the rise and SUV sales are in decline. But, as Tennesseans we must not drop the ball. We’re a people who relish the outdoors. It’s small wonder that the Volunteer State, along with North Carolina, is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the country.

The minimum wage will be adjusted, the stem-cell debate will be worked out, and the Iraq war will end one day. But with roughly six times as many of us on Earth as there were just a century ago, the quest to preserve the world’s natural resources goes on forever.

Conservation is conservative. Conservation is liberal. Conservation is a way of life.

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