BY ANDREW M.
I am an independent-minded, libertarian-leaning conservative who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of my political opinions are conservative due to personally seeing the insanity of my progressive classmates and seeing throwaway newspapers glorifying depravity of every sort, but long before I had any interest in politics or knew who the President of the United States was, I was fascinated by nature. Whether it was trying to find tadpoles in ponds and streams in the hills of the East Bay, watching grey whales migrate up-and-down the coast from Point Reyes, or listening to a chorus of birds amongst the branches and shrubs growing in the oak woodlands and redwood groves, I always found inspiration in nature. I loved looking at paintings or photographs of wildlife both extant and extinct, and I tried to read as much as I could about the natural world.
Consequently, the conservation of natural resources and threatened species is one area that is very important to me, and it is an issue that has put me at odds with many voices from the Right, who I feel lose an important part of what means to be conservative. Human beings are important like other species, so it is natural for humanity to want to live and thrive economically and socially, but I think the needs of other species should also be considered when developing infrastructure and economies.
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Humans, being omnivores, naturally eat some animal protein, but do millions of square miles of benthic environments on the ocean floor need to be demolished by ocean trawlers to catch more fish? Do mangrove swamps need to be cut down to make way for ponds raising shrimp? Coastal and benthic environments often act as nurseries for marine life, many which are important food sources for humans and other species high on the food chain. Is it really wise to be so reckless with the future of our food supply just to catch more fish in the present?
Conservatives complain about the decline in morality, but what about the decline in amphibians because of the chytrid fungus strains that have led to the decline of hundreds of frog and salamander species, from the many colorful stubfoot toads of the genus Atelopus in the Andes and Central America to fire salamanders in Europe to yellow-legged frogs in the alpine lakes of California? Why should they not be concerned about the decline of vultures in Africa and India? Amphibians and vultures alike provide valuable ecologic services that benefit humans and other animals. If their populations decline or disappear, the health of humans in those areas could also be at risk.
Human beings the world over try to make a little money to feed their families, and corporations and businesses attempt to make profits, but is it worth killing elephants for ivory, slaughtering rhinos for their horns, hunting pangolins for their scales, and killing the critically endangered totoaba fish and vaquita porpoise in the Gulf of California in the pursuit of making that lucrative paycheck? I would say people who profit from some activities may benefit economically, but they are making the world a poorer and darker place in the process.
Conservatives are rightly concerned about many progressive economic policies, but in their quest for economic gain and to oppose anything liberals propose, I feel they miss something that is more important for humanity’s continued existence than the bottom line. Without microbes, without plants, without fungi, and without wild animals, humanity is nothing. Not only do Earth’s many species provide the ecological services to keep humans healthy; they also are necessary for our spirituality. I think the decline in morality in the modern world is partially connected to the way humanity has treated other species and ecosystems and how we are immersed in devices with tiny screens rather than the Earth and universe around us. Spending time in nature and conserving its many species can only bring benefits to our connection to each other and our Creator.
Finally, with or without human interference, life on Earth is a beautiful thing, so other species should be conserved for their own sake. I hope that sensible conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and progressives alike can find some common ground in protecting the natural world, because nature is one of the few things that should unite everyone. Regardless of one’s political orientation, I suggest that everyone take a trip to a park or a beach or a wilderness and enjoy nature for what it is.
I am a geological scientist with strong interests in paleontology, wildlife, and history.