Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Conservative Way to Conserve; Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously about the Planet

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Conservative Way to Conserve; Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously about the Planet

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW NEATHER

by Roger Scruton (Atlantic, [pounds sterling]22) DOES one have to be red to be green? Roger Scruton, one of Britain's leading Right-wing philosophers, disagrees passionately, here advancing the case for a conservative environmentalism. He argues that an intrinsically conservative "oikophilia" -- love of home -- should be at the root of environmentalism, and that it, rather than the state or nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), offers the only durable green solutions. He's wrong, although for revealing reasons.

On one hand, Scruton endorses central themes of British Conservatism: faith in markets, a belief that it is the state which does most distorting harm and a loathing of the Left. For Scruton, almost the entire Left -- and most environmentalists except the National Trust -- are united by their supposed "oikophobia", a hatred of home and the established order.

Yet he is simultaneously disturbed by capitalism's destructive character. Despite lip service to tackling climate change, Scruton's real concern here is the threat to the English countryside, which he sentimentalises at length (he is opaque about what the environmentalism or oikophilia of city dwellers should look like).

This contradiction is being played out in shire Tories' battle against the Government's proposed changes to the planning system. Yet ironically, it is state regulation in the form of planning and green-belt laws that protects Scruton's beloved countryside. The threat comes from giant supermarkets, housebuilders and road builders. Scruton implicitly argues that these are not the "real" free market -- but that's a stance no more sensible than the Trotskyist plea that the Soviet bloc wasn't "real" communism.

Scruton believes that local civic action -- he inevitably invokes Edmund Burke's "little platoons" -- can combat the destruction. …

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