I’m doing some research for a project I’m working on, and am hoping you might be able to provide a little insight for me. The general subject has to do with environmental policy and management.
For the past several years, things environmental has been perceived as “liberal” issues, and both the people embracing these issues and those who criticized them have come from a lot of different angles. More recently, though – perhaps starting with former Reagan aide Jim Bakker’s comments on the subject – we have seen more and more conservative figures and groups stepping up to claim the issue as their own. These include Republicans for Environmental Protection, so-called “crunchy conservatives,” and the Evangelical Environmental Network.
The question has to do with terminology and how conservatives (whether libertarian, neo-con, or social/evangelical in orientation) see and talk about these issues, because the language we use says a lot about the underlying belief systems. The specific word I want to ask about is “sustainability.” My research indicates that many conservatives hear in this word and its derivatives a sort of liberal code and that when they hear it they’re automatically on the defensive because those who use the term tend to believe in a variety of other causes that conservatives are opposed to.
So here’s the multi-part question:
- Do you have negative impressions surrounding the use of the term “sustainability”? That is, is it in some way a “bad” word or does it signal that the speaker is someone whose interests are at odds with yours?
- Do you believe that other conservatives react this way? If not, what is your impression of how the term is regarded in conservative circles?
- Clearly those who use the term do so because it aligns with values they consider positive. When you think about why you value the environment (and here feel free to speak more generally about the conservatives you know), what sort of positive terminology would you use instead? That is, where a liberal might talk about sustainability, what would you talk about?
I greatly appreciate your time here, and would also ask you to pass this link on to conservative-minded people that you think might have an insight into the question.