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Opinion | Conservatives Can Be Climate Leaders, Too

My first couple of months at GW have been extremely challenging… yet rewarding. As a conservative and first year college student, you could say I was asking for it; moving into the infamous Thurston Hall, choosing a notoriously liberal community as my home for the next four years, and taking a class involving the environment to fill GPAC credits. After contemplating my experiences at the university though, I've realized that the challenging academic and social atmosphere of the George Washington University has done nothing to discourage my views, but has rather done everything to strengthen them.

New student orientation programming, while encouraging and thought-provoking, had me feeling concerned that my conservative-minded thoughts had no place here. In addition, it seemed that all my new friends, who I have already enjoyed countless fun memories with, would swiftly drop me if they found out that I do not in fact believe that Donald Trump is the worst thing to happen to our country since global warming.

My course on literature and the environment began with reading an article from the Atlantic, entitled “The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It’s Gone."

The url contains the phrase “/amazon-fires-are-political/” and the article itself contained, amidst many thought provoking statistics, an arguably deserved criticism of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

Our class discussion followed the same left-wing narrative that has been so artfully crafted by mainstream media: a lack of care for our planet is misguided and serious, the left holds the moral compass of society and therefore should determine what must be done to stop the evils of humanity, and heartless conservatives deny climate change.

Following this class, I began to consider my own viewpoints as well as those of my peers.

The very city we all live in was once untouched by man, and likely many other highly developed regions of our great country were home to abundantly more plant and animal life. However, if a powerful country had attempted to prevent the development of the American economy by its exploitation of its own natural resources the way the world feels it should prevent Brazil from developing its economy with its own natural resources, Americans would likely not be living the comfortable lives they do, and frankly might not be Americans at all.

Perhaps Americans could collaborate on ways to effect meaningful progress with regard to climate change at home, before insisting that other developing countries hop on the bandwagon.

Moreover, I do think that we can (and should) be conservatives that are concerned about the negative impacts humanity has had on the planet. In fact, the Republican party has traditionally supported conservation efforts in the United States. What’s more, President George W. Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative to reduce power plant emissions constitutes real-time evidence that conservatives do believe that our environment is worth fighting for.

Ultimately, most Republicans agree that environmental issues deserve attention that balances the need for action with a healthy economy. Some practical solutions (in comparison to unfeasible socialist "Green New Deal" suggestions that could eliminate practical sources of power and countless jobs) could include market-based incentives that encourage the development of new technologies that meet environmental standards, while creating jobs and simultaneously benefiting the economy.

Looking inward, I have come to appreciate the hardships of a new culture, fresh friendships, and unfamiliar values that I have encountered in my short time thus far at the George Washington University. The differing opinions I have met have already encouraged my considering topics that I might not have otherwise thought about. I look forward to the rest of my first year at GW—grateful for the challenges that will encourage new growth and strength in my own values and opinions, and I encourage that same growth in my peers. As Ronald Reagan put it, “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

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