TRThursday: Roosevelt the Conservationist, not Environmentalist
I wish I had gained a love of history in my youth, because it changes how we view the history that is being written in our daily lives. It also provides a great deal of perspective on how easily history can be revised to suit the current-day influencers. One of the popular methods of altering history is hijacking it, by relating current people and events with those of the past. In this way, the facts are not altered, but the perception is, and, as we have all heard, perception is reality, at least it is good enough for a vote.
Most recently I have noticed this with the Democratic Party’s adoption of Lincoln and Lincoln-esque values. There may be examples on the Conservative side of the house…oh wait…there isn’t one…but myself being a Libertarian-Leaning Conservative I may have missed them. The Lincoln-Democrat argument goes like this: “Lincoln was against racism, and so are we [Democrats], therefore we are the party of Lincoln.” This is done much more subtly, but it is still quite obvious. Though, if you are not a student of history, this may pass the BS test. Not only was Lincoln a Republican, but the Democratic Party was founded to represent the interests of the South which Wikipedia calls “agrarian interests (especially Southern planters)” which is a nice way of saying, white slave owners. Their early stance on States Rights I can get behind, but prior to, say the 1920’s, the party produced the most vile rhetoric against blacks that has ever been put on paper.
However, this is #TRThursday and isn’t about the Democratic Party or Lincoln, but I have seen something similar with Theodore Roosevelt and Environmentalism, and Lincoln is a good parallel.
- #TRThursday articles give us some manly insight and wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt every Thursday. Sometimes a quote, sometimes a snippet of his life...always manly! Read other TRThursday articles here. -
Conservationism vs. Environmentalism
– a person who works to protect the natural world from pollution and other threats.
– someone who works to protect animals, plants, and natural resources or to prevent the loss or waste of natural resources.
At first glance the terms conservationist and environmentalist sound as if they are interchangeable, but a closer look at both the terms themselves as well as the actions of their supporters throughout their short history, show a sharp distinction. While both concern themselves with the environment, the divide is on human involvement and a focus on either protecting the environment from humans vs. conservation of the environment through the responsible actions of humans.
Environmentalism places nature at the center of the argument. Human intervention and action within the environment should be kept to an absolute minimum. Usage of the environment which might result in contamination or damage is not allowed.
Conservatism places humans at the center of the argument. We are expected to behave responsibly, though not perfectly, and actively tend to the world. The use of the environment to meet the needs of humans is acceptable as long as we continue to conserve natural resources and wildlife for future generations.
Roosevelt the Conservationist
“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt’s hunting exploits are legendary enough to not devote time to them here. Let’s just say he liked to shoot animals and eat them or hang them on his wall. He was an avid sportsman and would not shoot an animal if the sport and challenge was not in it. It is likely that you also know of Roosevelt’s contribution to our National Parks system (if not see more here). You may, however, not be familiar with his founding of the first ever hunting club with the goal of conservation at its core.
The Boone & Crockett Club
In 1887, a sporting young Roosevelt pulled together a group of hunting men of his ilk: generally men with a good deal of money, time, and hunting experience across the still developing North American continent. After seeing the dangers of over-harvesting and overdevelopment of land in his short tenure as human and hunter, Roosevelt saw the immediate need to conserve and protect both wildlife and land for future generations. Thus, he founded the Boone & Crockett Club, named, of course, after the hero-hunter-wilderness men of his day, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
Roosevelt continued to hunt, but did so with less voracity than in his youth. It may seem a strange contradiction that a man witnessing the waning of species and land would continue to hunt while promoting conservation.
Nick Offerman has an interesting and hilarious justification for this seeming hypocritical stance:
“In his defense, when he arrived at the party, there was still plenty of beer, as it were, but knowing well the magnitude of the approaching traffic, he was able to enjoy his sport while at the same time comprehending that such pillage must come to an end.” – Nick Offerman, Gumption
Roosevelt firmly believed that man had a responsibility to care for his world. He also believed man had the capability of doing good to the earth. I too believe that we have a responsibility to “tend to the earth.” It is good for us, but it also puts man in commune with nature. Rather than viewing ourselves as a destructive alien force, we ought to rightly understand that mankind is the supreme tenant of this planet, and perhaps the universe. That might not fit well on a bumper-sticker, but it will hold us accountable for our generation and those to come.
Do you find yourself on the Environmentalist or Conservationist side of things? Share in the comments below!