Of the many things dividing Democrats and Republicans, environmental policy is the biggest. According to a Pew survey released Monday, "protecting the environment" is a top priority for 65 percent of Democrats and only 28 percent of Republicans -- a 37-point gap that dwarfs the lack of agreement over "dealing with the problems of the poor and needy" and "reducing the budget deficit." Pew found slightly more agreement over the importance of "dealing with global warming," but the 28-point divide over that is still daunting.
Rev. Mitch Hescox, the president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network and a self-identified Republican, finds himself in the middle of that bipartisan divide. In the spirit of evangelical environmentalism, his ideology comes from an interpretation of Christianity that preaches protection of the natural world. But he also argues that a strong Republican history of environmental protection goes along with that. Hexcox writes in Patheos:
...in the area where currently division runs deepest, protecting the environment and addressing global warming, I find myself agreeing with President Obama that our country must take strong action to reduce pollution from fossil fuels that fouls our air, makes our water impure, and helps to create one of the greatest threats to our children’s future, climate change.
I would prefer that Congress pass a law that puts a price on carbon, thereby unleashing the innovation of the marketplace to create a clean energy future. But time is short, and absent that, I support the President’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution by using the Clean Air Act as mentioned in [Tuesday] night’s address.
As the Pew poll indicates, my support for the President’s leadership on climate change makes me a bit out of step with many of my fellow Republicans. But my pro-environment stance is actually in keeping with our strong Republican heritage of environmental protection:
- Teddy Roosevelt is the greatest conservationist our country has ever had.
- Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.
- Ronald Reagan pushed to make the Montreal Protocol stronger and then secured its ratification by the Senate – the first and only international treaty on atmospheric pollutants, in this case pollution that makes the ozone hole bigger, leading to skin cancer.
- George H. W. Bush signed the 1990 Clean Air Act, making it stronger as it went through the legislative process.
Unfortunately, today everyone is so afraid in his or her own ideology, we refuse to have reasonable dialogue and work toward the common ground these Republican Presidents found.