A new conservative environmental group is making news as of late for their growing success, and is quickly rising to spread a message of conservative environmentalism in a narrowed field dominated by global warming. Conservatives for Environmental Reform (CFER), led by Benji Backer, is advocating a new type of environmental approach for conservatives– one that broadens the focus outside of global warming and attempts to tackle other issues just as relevant, yet largely ignored.
I spoke with Backer for a bit more insight into the group’s purpose and pathway to further success. “Conservation is a conservative principle,” he said, “and there are many reforms that can be appealing for conservatives, they just may not know about them. We want to make those reforms known.”
The World Economic Forum conducted a survey last year to ask millennials around the world about the issues they most cared about, and almost half of them– roughly 45%– cited climate change as the issue that stands out among the rest. This is an issue that conservative policies have often failed to address and missed an opportunity to speak directly to millennials. This gap, Backer said, is one of the problems he hopes CFER will solve:
There are many ways to attack environmental issues that attract conservatives. For example, alternative energy provides job and economic growth. It is also becoming cheaper and more effective than traditional forms of energy. Providing tax breaks and other incentives to businesses and families who are proactively helping the environment is vital, too. Too often, policies proposed in Congress focus on the punishments for acting against the environment. Instead, we should be focusing on rewarding those who help. Protecting farmers and those who hunt/fish are issues that we will be pushing, which obviously attracts conservatives. While it may be tough, we also need to convince some conservatives that government needs to play SOME role in protecting our environment. Of course, we want to keep government small, but there are a few areas where government is necessary (i.e. protecting animals, public land, etc.).
CFER will have the opportunity to counter groups like NextGen campuses, a group with a solid campus presence which states boldly on their website that “climate change is the most pressing issue of our time.” As a student myself in one of the most liberal counties in Florida, I see and interact daily with students who feel that environmental issues are ignored by conservatives and cite this lack as a major reason for their alliance with the Democratic Party. Backer’s group, he says, will focus on creating a presence on those college campuses through chapters and educational efforts to change the narrative for students. “I was sick and tired of liberals dominating the environmental discussions,” he told me. “Preserving, conserving, and protecting our environment is a conservative cause and it’s time our movement made it a priority. We need to get back in the environmental discussions.”
When asked about a strategy for promoting these ideas, Backer responded ambitiously: “Through local conservative groups across the country by holding education seminars, providing educational materials, speaking at events, and promoting activism,” as well as by introducing chapters and events on college campuses. The effect such efforts may have enables conservatives to level with the liberal environmental narrative that has harried many a college conservative, and will educate students about issues they already care deeply about.
Backer says that he “started CFER because I felt that there was a void within the conservative movement on the subject of the environment. I hope to begin a dialogue with other conservatives about why they should care about environmental issues, all while educating them and providing ways that they can help.” To learn more or join their mailing list, their website is www.cferusa.org.