Granola isn’t just for liberals anymore

Today is Earth Day 2003. Various environmental organizations will commemorate this day with reflections on more than three decades of environmental advocacy. Current and future threats to the environment will also be discussed. Unfortunately, this commemoration and dialogue will largely be the domain of “lefties” or “liberals”; many conservative Americans tend to view the environmental movement and its day of celebration with disdain and antipathy. Given that a healthy environment greatly improves the quality of life, this attitude is surprising; it would seem that a crusade for a better life would cross political divisions.

And somehow and some way this attitudinal divide between conservatives and environmentalists has to be bridged. The provision of a sustainable future is too important to sacrifice to the whims of partisan politics. Hopefully, the emergence of the so-called granola conservative movement can be the catalyst for the building of a bridge that connects liberals and conservatives on this fundamental quality-of-life issue.

In an influential article published in the National Review, Rod Dreher, a conservative Republican and senior writer for the conservative public affairs publication, proclaimed that political conservatism and an environmental-friendly viewpoint should not be adversaries. Dreher and his wife discovered the benefits of the environmental aesthetic via organic food: “We quickly discovered how much better food tastes if it hasn’t been processed.” Dreher writes about other conservatives who have adopted a “granola” lifestyle. For example, “(a)we over the miracle of birth led (Julianne Loesch Wily, an impassioned pro-life advocate) to study natural-childbirth practices, which hooked her up with herb-savvy Earth Mother types in Birkenstocks.” For Dreher, the continuing gap between political conservatism and an environmental viewpoint is nonsensical, unnecessary and ultimately degrades the quality of our lives.

However, granola conservatives cannot be the only ones working on destroying the ideological barrier preventing a strong and vigorous environmental policy from becoming a unanimous national goal. Traditional environmentalists have to do a better job of meeting political conservatives halfway, acknowledging that certain environmental policies and practices might do more harm than good, both in an economic and ecological sense.

But whatever your political inclination, today is a day to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the earth and thank its impassioned defenders. As Dreher notes, “Two weeks ago, some conservative friends were driving me down the Pacific Coast Highway, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty, as they are. ‘I’m afraid we have to tip our hats to the tree-huggers,’ said one. ‘If it weren’t for them, much of what you see would be covered with tract houses and malls.’ “