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Quoting Liberally

2/3/2006 12:00:00 AM


A person could go a little batty, keeping up with the politics of this whole climate-change thing.

This week President Bush announced that we Americans are addicted to oil. (My husband and I got a good chuckle when we opened the New York Times to that headline on Wednesday morning, but his direction did seem somewhat hopeful.) The next day he said he didn’t really mean it. In the same week, environmentalists were disappointed to learn that the National Association of Evangelicals decided not to take a stand on global climate change as many had hoped they would. Environmentalists and evangelicals may be moving toward creating alliances, but we still have a ways to go.

Coincidentally, this week I read a review copy of Rod Dreher’s new book, Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmer, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican party), which is just hitting book stores. The book has already met with some attitude (from both liberals and conservatives alike), but I couldn’t put it down. I read it cover to cover within twenty-four hours.

I was hooked from the very first point of Dreher’s “Crunchy Conservative Manifesto” for “conservatives who stand outside the contemporary conservative mainstream.” Dreher’s manifesto makes these shocking statements: “The point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper.” “Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.” “Small and Local and Old and Particular are to be preferred over Big and Global and New and Abstract.” And finally, the one that completely won my heart: “Appreciation of aesthetic quality—that is, beauty—is not a luxury, but key to a good life.” (I want this guy on my editorial advisory board.)

At the very least, Rod Dreher should be a Natural Home & Garden subscriber; we cover all his favorite topics, from Slow Food to organic gardening to creating beautiful, sustainable homes (“the way they look, and the way we build them, matters,” he writes). He urges readers to simplify, to choose quality over size and to follow the principles of New Urbanism. As I read Dreher’s book, I felt truly, comfortably at home—as long as we weren't talking politics. For the most part, Dreher spends most of his words trying to wrest the definition of “conservative” from its modern-day association with big business and moneymaking. “Crunchy conservatism draws on the religious, philosophical and literary heritage of conservative thought and practice to cobble together a practical, commonsense, and fruitful way to live amid the empty consumerist prosperity of what Henry Miller called ‘the air-conditioned nightmare,’” he writes.

As for climate change—that issue of the week—Dreher and I also see eye to eye. “The problem is that most of us think about global warming, the depletion of fisheries, and the eradication of the rain forests as ‘environmental’ problems. They are public health problems. They are ‘family values’ problems. They are religious problems,” he writes. I learned a lot about conversing with green-leaning Christians by reading his chapter on the environment.

In the concluding chapter, Dreher made a statement that has stuck with me in the days since I finished his book: “Most all of us, left and right, are on more intimate terms with what we fear and what we loathe more than what we embrace and what we love.” So well said. I’m convinced that all of us—left, right and center—share basic core values. We all want to live quality lives, provide love and nurturing for our families and (I believe) contribute something to the world. If we could manage to simply sit down together and break bread over a long, lingering Slow Food supper, we’d find that who we vote for (and maybe even what they have to say about climate change) would become small matters.

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