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Free to Choose, And Conserve

June 12, 2012 by Four Percent

Michael J. Ybarra, The Wall Street Journal To many in the industrialized world, nature is something like a movie: an entertainment that they occasionally view. More people probably see national parks in a Ken Burns documentary than in person. And those who actually drive into, say, Yosemite most likely have as much authentic interaction with nature as a visitor to Disneyland does with a real mouse. Hotels, restaurants and handicapped-accessible access trails define most park visits. Roger Scruton, the British philosopher and conservative intellectual, worries about this lack of true engagement. An avid fox hunter, he notes that stewardship — a familiar idea to the farmer or woodsman — is also "second nature" to the sportsman. "Hunting, shooting and fishing create an interest in other species and a desire to conserve their habitats that is matched by virtually no other relation between man and animal." He could just as well have added rock climbing or kayaking to his examples, but the point is well taken: People love and respect that which they know intimately. Mr. Scruton wishes to explore the motives that make people cherish nature, as opposed to disregarding it or worshiping it from a distance. Foremost among these motives, he believes, is oikophilia, the love for home. This idea is central to Mr. Scruton's attempt to wrest environmentalism from liberals and radicals. "Conservatism and environmentalism," he writes, "are natural bedfellows." Read More