Sustainability is Conservative

So now that we’ve got some conservatives coming by (and I’ll be getting to the links you posted, Nick), I want to try to steer the conversation more in the direction of our main topic. While I tend towards political and social liberalism, I like the ideas underlying the sustainability movement for their focus on engaging the private sector. As Paul Hawken, Amory and L. Hunter Lovins, Ray Anderson and others have shown, businesses can commit themselves to sustaining our resources for future generations and still remain profitable — in fact, the above authors have shown time and time again that shifting to a more sustainable direction generally increases profitability. But, whenever I bring this idea up with more conservative friends and colleagues, they tend to dismiss these ideas as “liberal dreaming,” or some such. They often argue that human beings are selfish by nature, and any attempt to do business in more sustainable ways is destined for failure.

I’m interested — why the reticence? It seems to me that sustainability creates a space where traditional liberals and conservatives can come together to meet goals of both. Yet, from my perspective, it’s the conservatives that won’t come to the table. I thought you guys liked making money, and saw it as a major means of curing social ills. If “natural capitalism” is creating a productive union between for-profit business and environmental sustainbility and restoration, isn’t that good for all?


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