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May 22, 2000


Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists: A Conservative Manifesto, by Peter Huber (Basic, 224 pp., $ 25)

WHEN it comes to the environment, conservatives are often content simply to be right about liberals' being wrong. It's understandable: From the activists who warned 25 years ago of an ice age and now rant about global warming, to Julia "Butterfly"Hill's living in a giant redwood tree for two years, liberal environmentalists make fat targets.

In Hard Green, PeterHuber makes a convincing case that conservatives should take the environment more seriously. One reason is that liberal environmentalism ("Soft Green") isn't just misguided, it's harmful. Soft Greens base apocalyptic predictions on computer models that can't accurately recreate past conditions, much less predict future ones, and favor things like organic farming and wind power-which sound friendly but in fact require the destruction of massive amounts of green space.

Instead, Huber offers a conservative environmentalism ("Hard Green"), the goal of which is to increase and preserve what Teddy Roosevelt called the "silent places, unworn of man."This means embracing the free market, and technology such as the modern pesticides that help farmers grow more food on much less land. In addition, Huber advocates expanding the national parks and forests by both private and public means.

One might wish that Huber had packed Hard Green with more hard data, but his thesis remains compelling. He recognizes that while most people agree that Julia Hill is loony, they are happy that redwoods are around. Hard Green is based on a rational analysis but inspired by the beauty of nature. Huber borrows a page from T.R., conservation's patron saint, who "loved nature the way a man first loves a woman: selfishly, because he finds her beautiful and exciting, because he needs her desperately, however little she may need him. And what is wrong with that?" Not much.

© 2000 The National Review

Visit the Hard Green website



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