Opinion Columns & Blogs

Everybody’s an environmental conservative

Although sometimes I feverishly enjoy discussing politics, I usually don’t write about it. And in a way that will become clear, I’m not going to write about politics in this column today, either. My blog, which I haven’t paid enough attention to lately, is usually about great outdoor adventures. Stories of hunting, hiking; those, dare I say, conservative things.

I can sense the alarms sounding already.

“Patrick wrote in The Olympian that all hikers are conservatives,” I can just hear, echoing from the footwear department at Alpine Experience. Here’s where I must differentiate politics from philosophy: That little “s” at the end of the word “conservative” makes a huge difference.

Without it, we can recognize what so many people from all ideologies have in common. With it, defenses are put up and lines are drawn.

To continue the example, I believe that an overwhelming majority of earnest, ethical hikers would consider themselves conservative. No “s.” That word, in its more literal sense meaning preserving that which is cherished, would make one believe that the average hiker cares about conserving the outdoor environment in which they recreate. I bet most do.

Being conservative in this respect also insinuates an appreciation of simplicity, of natural beauty, of clean air and of health. I bet most do.

We lose people when the “s” is added at the end. And by “we” I mean anyone of a similar philosophy, regardless of what oval you pencil in. After all, the philosophy of being conservative is much more important than the politics of it.

Here’s where the lines become blurry.

Are you against chemicals in your food? Then you’re conservative. Against big companies that pollute the air? You’re conservative. Against the reduction of wild places? Conservative. Drive a hybrid? Conservative. Don’t need to live lavishly with expensive toys? Conservative.

And it goes on. Politically, you could be as far left as you want, but that doesn’t prevent you from being conservative.

When I tell you I’m a hunter, if you don’t already know me, a picture will be created in your mind’s eye. This notion will most likely include perceptions like: I am wearing plaid; I’m Republican; I’m a redneck, and I own a gun.

Although you may be correct with many of your perceptions, I’m also conservative, like you. Like you, I appreciate natural, chemical-free food. I also appreciate clean air and the freedom to enjoy the wilderness.

I, too, tire of the influence of big corporations in our everyday lives. And I also embrace the desire for a more simplistic life filled with less stress and less stuff.

Being conservative philosophically also means that as a nation, a state, a city, and even as a species, the reins of advancement need to be tugged on from time to time. Even if only a little. The status quo need not always be demonized.

Virtually everything alive, every organism, every plant, every cell that exists has a power within it that makes it want to improve, advance, evolve. One might say it’s the natural order of things. The danger occurs when we view all evolution as good, and as timely.

Who would argue that some things were better off the way they once were? My mother’s chest freezer was handed down from my grandmother, and it was still running up until a couple of years ago. Admittedly it was an energy hog, but there’s no question its environmental footprint was tiny in comparison with today’s version. It was made to last for 75 years, by American workers, in an American-owned factory, only a couple of hundred miles away.

Instead, today we burn oil to ship materials to China (arguably the planet’s biggest polluter), to burn more oil to ship parts somewhere else across the world for assembly, to burn more oil to ship them back to this country, where high unemployment has been plaguing our economy for more than half a decade, and where the 6-year-old petroleum-made freezer is junked by the side of the street in an empty lot outside of my housing development.

Is this really better? A conservative doesn’t think so, either.

So you see, we’re of a kindred spirit, oh sandaled trekker of mountains. We share a profound appreciation, oh lover of trees. We’re very like-minded, oh backyard chicken-raising consumer of non-GMO food.

Hmmm. As it turns out, Olympia just may be the conservative capitol of the world. Who would have thought?

Patrick Thier is a managing broker at Virgil Adams Real Estate and a member of The Olympian’s 2014 Board of Contributors. Readers can write to him at pthier127@gmail.com.