...busting up my brains for the words

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Jonah Goldberg at CFACT

Catching a little heads up in Power Line this morning, I learned that Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review magazine would be speaking on the University of Minnesota campus this evening regarding oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He was speaking as guest to CFACT, a University chapter of conservative environmentalists.

I hadn't planned anything but a routine workout at the gym. Why not exercise my brain instead and learn a few things about the conservative view of environmentalism?
A few other bloggers had the same idea. Martin Andrade, Swan blog and James Lileks were there, as were some recognizable College Republicans. Surprisingly, the room was quite intimate and turned out to be perfectly suited for this occasion, attracting something like 80 people.
Banterings live-blogged the discussion.

Ecology and the Natural Environment have long been thought to be firmly in the hands of the Democrat Party and the left. Hugh Hewitt, in his book
If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat writes;

...there is one indisputable fact about the environment; as a political issue, it works for the Democrats. Because Democrats have been rather shameless in their exploitation of the fears of the average modern American, the Democratic Party has successfully painted the GOP as anti-environment.

Mr. Goldberg began by explaining that he's often introduced as a humorist and hinted that he may not be all that comfortable with that characterization, as he's not all that funny. But he clearly had this little crowd enthralled with his whacky sense of humor. We were treated to a good hearty chuck of interesting ideas as well as plenty of laughs. And I think Jonah had a good time, too.

Goldberg is of the opinion that when Frydrich Nietche proclaimed that "God is dead", he didn't kill Man's need for religion. God was replaced as a religion by various deities. To many people, Nature has replaced God and environmental activism has become a religion. I know a lot of people who attend that church. I think everybody knows at least a few who do.

These folks have an image of ANWR being a modern "Shangri-La". The notion of drilling for oil in this mythical land of "pristine beauty" is as banal as the idea of strip-mining the Garden of Eden for taconite. It's just not allowed on the table for these tree-huggers. What Goldberg advocates is that we "make arguments" with these enviro-religious nuts. That conservatives require encouragement to argue is an interesting notion, if you think about it. Charles Krauthammer never had to implore conservatives to argue the case with liberals as to why Iraq needed to be disarmed. Conservatives are wimps when it comes to the environment because they just don't get a fire in their belly over the issue and they've perhaps been somewhat intimidated by the opposition.

Goldberg pointed out that the area in ANWR that is proposed for oil drilling is a relatively small area compared to the region and it is also not quite so beautiful. And the way to think about our society's energy needs is through a "cost/benefit analysis". That is to say, analyze the cost of impacting a small region such as the coastal oil reserves, calculate how much oil would be recovered and how this boon would alleviate the U.S.'s dependence upon foreign sources.
Jonah points out that conservatives must confront environmental radicals with "inconvenient facts" in much the same way the left has used such facts in attacking fundamental Creationists.

Of course, Goldberg has his detractors.

One particularly funny exchange during the Question & Answer period occurred when a woman asked, "What do you say if they just don't care about money or the facts because they are so set on saving Nature?"

"Ridicule them. Mock them," shot back Jonah, "Such arguments actually do have an effect."

Finally, Goldberg described some extremists who, when asked what is the ideal state of the earth, stated that such a perfect world would be without any people. People are seen as the problem. Get rid of all the people and the Blue Marble will be an ideal and beautiful place.
He closed brilliantly by pointing out that, "I'm a believer in people. I like the human race."

That's an excellent point. The conservative point of view concerning the environment remembers that humanity is good and is worth saving. That is not always so with the hard left environmentalists.


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