We cannot tax our way to a green tomorrow

Increasing attention has been paid to environment-related issues over recent years with politics, the media and public opinion being particularly sensitive to a topic that is of great importance for all citizens. Nonetheless, it is vital that we do not ideologise the environmental battle.

It is essential to outline and promote a conservative, Christian, and right-wing vision of this struggle, namely a radical alternative to the message conveyed by Greta Thunberg and the international climate movement known as “Fridays For Future”.

Indeed, in a time when there is overwhelming pressure to embrace and accept only one form of global environmentalism, it is crucial to highlight that the compelling need to protect and preserve nature is shared by all human beings even those who have a different strategy. There are other, important, profound, as well as heterogeneous visions in favour of the environment.

From a conservative perspective, it is vital to place man at the centre of an environmentalism that does not regard humanity as a prospective menace to the environment, but rather as a resource to safeguard it. Based on this assumption, the Catholic tradition, that considers man as born of God and, consequently, at the centre of Creation with the duty to preserve and respect nature could take a leading role.

Furthermore, this would be a fundamentally bottom-up approach to environmentalism where communities, rather than national or, even worse, supranational entities, are called upon to act. In other words, an environmentalism that, as opposed to the globalist one, enhances local identities and empowers difference.

It is important not to be deceived whenever new ‘ethical’ taxes are levied since, even though their imposition is often justified as a necessity for protecting the environment, this taxation adversely affects citizens (particularly the worst off). The introduction of taxes might also contribute to limiting individual freedoms by favouring an increasingly stringent and, thus, disturbing social control. Against this background, it must be stated that imposing new taxes cannot and must never be the lynchpin for solving problems resulting from pollution.

First and foremost, cultural and educational initiatives launched by schools and endorsed by professors are fundamental to teaching younger generations about virtuous behaviours and good habits. Schools and families, rather than public squares and streets, are the only entities that should be responsible for educating the young. Nevertheless, educational institutions should encourage debate on environmental issues without resorting to any kind of ideological influence towards one position or another.

As stated above, conservative environmentalism, in contrast to progressive environmentalism, considers man as an integral part of Creation rather than an enemy of nature, suggesting a vision of the world where man and nature can harmoniously coexist.

It is unquestionable that a type of society exclusively based on economic criteria, the logic of profit and unfettered development should be rejected, since conservative thought stresses that economics, far from being the prerequisite for our choices, is just one of the many facets of human life. However, whenever economic considerations can be reconciled with community and environmental interests, it would be a mistake to deny sustainable growth.

Nowadays, the failure of sustainable development is a direct consequence of a model based only on global rather than national or local solutions. The adoption of a globalist model has led nations not to take into account environmental problems, with many local communities understanding preservation as a problem with little relation to their basic needs.

Thus, to achieve more tangible results, sustainable development needs to occur in the interest of communities. In fact, the strategy based on global agreements, that do not hold consider the peculiarities and individual identities of different people, has thus far been a failure.

If the principle of a growth that sets aside environmental needs, as well as the health and safety of citizens and workers, needs to be rejected, it is not advisable to stand against economic prosperity or hope for an economic slowdown due to their potential negative consequences and adverse social effects.

It is necessary to find an appropriate balance between all the extreme positions mentioned above, one that considers the social needs of individuals, especially of the disadvantaged. The challenge for the future is being grounded in the present but without forgetting the teachings of the past.

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