For a cleaner, more prosperous world, ACC mobilizes conservatives around environmental issues, fostering collaboration in the pursuit of environmental conservation.
The rural south is full of hidden treasures. At least, that was my experience growing up in a small town in southeast Tennessee. I was raised minutes from the Ocoee river, and I was even closer to the lush and beautiful lands that make up the Cherokee National Forest. Growing up in this environment was what instilled an early passion in me for the environment and all that is involved in protecting it.
My hometown is located in a generally conservative region, and I grew up learning about all of the values that go along with that, while my passion for the environment grew alongside it. I saw the all-too-real impacts that humans can have on the environment, and I came to know and understand more about the concepts of climate change. For me, it always seemed natural that conservative thought and a passion for conservation could go hand-in-hand. It was not until later that I realized that Republicans and conservatives had been left out of an increasing number of conservation conversations in recent years. To remedy environmental issues and to truly make an impact, it is crucial that citizens and elected officials on all sides of the aisle work together in order to combat these threats. That was a major part of what drew me to Conservatives for Environmental Reform and then to the American Conservation Coalition (ACC).
While the environment is often considered a “liberal” issue in mainstream politics, history would indicate otherwise. Perhaps the most famous of historically conservative environmentalists is Theodore Roosevelt, who was responsible for the creation of the National Park System. Somewhere in between President Roosevelt and now, though, the conservative voice on the environment has become muffled as the path to solutions has been overshadowed by partisan disagreements. The Republican Party has been stereotyped as opposing environmental stewardship and clean energy innovation for too long. The American Conservation Coalition has spent the past three years changing that narrative.
Part of changing the narrative is presenting thoughtful, tangible solutions that will be effective in combating the dangers of climate change while not ignoring the fact that the variety of issues our nation faces are interdependently linked. While some have attempted to combat these threats by issuing vague promises with no real guidance or flexibility, ACC has spent countless hours building coalitions and relationships that acknowledge the very real concerns of climate change and explore how best to remedy them. Where many presented pieces of legislation fail to consider the interdependent needs across the multiple facets of policy and how those needs can be addressed simultaneously, ACC has unveiled the American Climate Contract, a framework that is both goal-oriented and adaptable.
Energy innovation, 21st-century infrastructure, natural solutions, and global engagement are the four pillars that uphold the core ideas in this contract. Just as the interests of our nation are interdependently linked, these pillars work together to ensure that when we make the environment a priority, we are simultaneously strengthening our nation on other avenues. As we build and rebuild our infrastructure, we can ensure that we do so sustainably to be absolutely certain that we leave a stronger environment and stronger economy for generations to come. By exploring energy innovation alongside the solutions that nature offers us, we can ensure that what we build is built to last. When we commit to leading the global charge for a cleaner world, we strengthen our international position even as we strengthen our domestic environmental health.
Too often, rural communities like mine seem left out of the mainstream conversations on fighting climate change, as much of the focus has shifted to urban areas and the impacts that big businesses can have. Yet, many of these communities have a vested interest in ensuring that the natural world remains clean and healthy. For many of these communities, the natural and scenic features around them provide the backbone of their economies with the rising trends related to ecotourism. The framework within the American Climate Contract is flexible enough to encourage our diverse communities—which are as interdependent as the issues our nation faces on a larger scale—to strengthen and build together.
It is a mistake to assume that climate solutions must come at the cost of undermining our nation’s economy. Corporations and private businesses may not do everything perfectly, but by empowering them to make conscientious decisions, our nation can approach these issues with a stronger, more united front. With the threats of climate change becoming more and more clear, we need all of the help we can get to address those threats. While other legislation might offer vague, intangible promises with attractive deadlines, the framework within American Climate Contract empowers businesses and individuals alike to build ideas and solutions that accomplish just that.
In a divisive world that tells us we must tear others down to build ourselves up, it is important to remember that true solutions come when we build something together. Every part of conservation is compatible with conservative thought. Those with differing viewpoints do not have to undermine their perceived opposition to reach real solutions—in fact, the very opposite is true. What we build together will be built to last, and the American Climate Contract is only the beginning.
This is the fifth installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract. Read previous editions here.