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Rethinking the ideological and educational basis of conserving resources to ecologically sustain our continuing, widespread, and growing consumption in view of long term needs.

Mindful Conservatism, C. A. Bowers, (2003)

"What does an individual...want to conserve?"

p. 20

" the answer must also address the needs of the world's most impoverished people."


"The idea that change is inherently progressive continues to be an essential underpinning of thinking in the West."


"The emphasis on conserving, whether by individuals, communities, or cultures, would allow us to return to the mainstream of human history."



The Classical Liberal Agenda of Today's Conservatives

The Wise Use Movement and other Liberals who Parade as Conservatives

What do Futuristic Scientists Want to Conserve

Linguistic and Biological Diversity

The Practice of Mindful Conservatism

Educating for a Sustainable Future



"It would be more correct to say that our use of the two most important political terms, 'liberalism' and 'conservatism,' has become ....distracting."

"examined the characteristics of modern culture that contribute to overshooting the sustaining capacity of natural systems."

p. ix.

What do we want to conserve?

p. 3.

"intergenerational knowledge"

"leaves people without the skills and traditional systems of mutual support that represent alternatives to the double bind of becoming dependent on consumerism while lacking a source of income." (with which to afford further consumption)


Maintaining an open door to corporate interests."

p. 22.

"greatest compassion was shown to the energy industry--the producers of electricity, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power."

p. 23.

Follow the money:

"documents the connections between the corporate financial donations to the Republican Party and the corporate officials who participated with Vice-President Cheney in shaping the new energy policy."

p. 25.

To equate conservatism with the pursuit of economic self-interest or even with preserving capitalism is utter nonsense--.

p. 26.

"morally coherent and ecologically responsible communities are based on intergenerational knowledge and responsibility that help keep consumerism in balance with other relationships and activities that strengthen community networks of reciprocity and self-reliance.

"networks of interdependency and intergenerational responsibility have been replaced by ...individual subjectivity."

p. 27.

"The negative effects of this drive to commodify every aspect of life can be determined on a personal basis by considering the extent to which relationships and activities have been incorporated into the market."

p. 29.

"Natural systems are turned into exploitable resources, then into consumer products, and after a short period of use they are returned to the environment as toxic wastes that undermine the viability of surrounding natural systems."

p. 29-30.


"For too long we have taken self-proclaimed conservatives at their word...what it is that self-proclaimed conservatives want to conserve, particularly when they are addressing what scientists (whom they commonly refer to as practicing 'pseudo' and 'politicized' science) call the ecological crisis."

p. 45-46.

The Wise-Use Agenda clearly reflects the movements close alliance with corporations who are dependent on maximizing their access to Nature's resources."

p. 52.

"Critical thinking based on a mindful conservatism deeply rooted in intergenerational knowledge of life-sustaining community-Nature relationships is profoundly different from the Western myth that represents change as synonymous with progress."

"a sense of caution and concern"

p. 53.


"The technologies derived from modern science are now a ubiquitous part of daily life. As the rate of scientific discoveries continues to accelerate, more aspects of life-forming processes are now being integrated into the industrial process."

"The myth of modernity , which connect individual happiness and success with the dynamic nature [character] of the industrial-dominated marketplace, has been embraced by much o of the world's population."

p. 67

"the dominant challenge of our to raise the material standard of living of billions of people without further accelerating the destruction of the Earth's natural systems. "

pp. 67-68.

"The small number of scientists now promoting the 'precautionary principle' are a source of hope....the point is not to stop doing science and stop developing new technologies. Rather to carry on these necessary tasks in ways that are informed by a more complex understanding these traditions vary from culture to culture."

pp. 88-89.

"strengthen self-reliant and less environmentally destructive communities."

We need to identify "what traditions need to be renewed."

"The scale of the ecological crisis now makes it necessary to make a shift in consciousness where accountability is measured in terms of not undermining community-sustaining traditions."

p. 89.


Edmund Burke:

"change must be evaluated in terms of whether it contributes to the further well-being of the community; second, decisions about what needs to be conserved, renewed through modifications, or rejected need to be based on a 'partnership between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born'."

p. 91.

"local knowledge systems of non-Western cultures."

p. 95


"The word tradition, like the word conservative, has a pejorative meaning reinforced by the elites of institutions that promote a modern, consumer oriented culture."

"he suggested that the word tradition carried so much negative baggage that we should drop it from our vocabulary." Because"we should think only about progress."

p. 120

Amish communities, crop rotation, legumes to renourish the soil done at the time when the cycle dictated by the land's conditions are right, as opposed to market cycles determining the crops that are planted.

p. 127.

Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language, and Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan's principles of ecological design are all good examples of retrieving and using traditional knowledge in an appropriately creative manner to renew communities.

pp. 228-129.


"Before addressing the specific reforms that must be undertaken, it is necessary to reiterate two other critically important reasons for reducing consumption."

one -- "too much waste" accumulates

two -- we cannot leave a degraded world to future generations.

p. 163.

His recommendations for change:

Bower's addresses five changes that have to be made in education:

  1. Change from an autonomous to a nested individual.
  2. responsible individualism to past, present, and future.
  3. Recognizing that technology is neither neutral nor progressive and either amplifies or reduces certain aspects of existing culture.
  4. Realize there are limits to what can be bought or sold and that the commodification of relationships, knowledge, and skills must be reversed.
  5. Discarding the faith in Western technological development as the single, only approach for other non-western societies.

pp. 167-172.

"changing the basic interpretive frameworks in ways that lead to conserving the nonmonetized traditions of community..."

"In this era, where global warming is only one of many radical changes taking place in the Earth's ecosystems, it is essential that public school teachers and university professors begin to address the fundamental question in ways that achieve ecojustice."

"self renewing capacity of natural systems."



Intergenerational knowledge

Bower's belief that in order for traditional arrangements that sustain a community to remain strong enough to meet people's needs and cope with new tools and new ecological problems. For this to happen the wisdom of the older generation must be freely available to the newest generation to adapt older forms of knowledge, services and techniques to meet emerging problems.

The loss of knowledge about the biotic community from indigenous people, for example, is a key concern for Bowers as he points out we are losing traditional languages at a faster pace than we are losing species. If the indigenous knowledge of climate, plants, animals and topography of places disappears, we will have less information with which to solve emerging ecological problems.


Bower's ideal that rests of Burke's belief that the good of the community from one generation to the next must be the basis for further change based on four principles.

  1. an eradication of racism.
  2. reducing consumerism so that the westernization of the developing world's resources is diminished.
  3. revitalize the skills, relationships and activities of less well off ethnic groups as an alternative to hyper consumerism
  4. "taking responsibility for ensuring that the environment has not been degraded in ways that diminish the prospects for future generations."

p. 92


Classical liberalism,

belief from revolutionary France and England in the freedom of ideas, individual liberty, and a competition through civic debate among a "marketplace of ideas" in order to promote the public interest in order to perfect human institutions in solving social problems.

Mill, Rousseau, and Godwin; Jefferson and Lincoln

Classical conservatism

beliefs born of the excesses of the English and French Revolutions that rejected individualism in favor of collective security based on traditional sources of power, such as the military, courts and clergy while favoring established customs and central authority.

Burke, Hobbes, and Locke; Hamilton and federalists


beliefs that led the opposition to the Crown (sovereign King or Queen) in the French and the English revolutions that advocated a faith in reason, an overthrow of church authority, establishment of laissez-faire approaches to government control of commerce and an abiding faith in majority rule, the primacy of law and protection for civic liberties such as assembly, due process and order based on public safety. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries they advocated:

    • shorter work days and weeks with worker protections
    • abolition of slavery
    • free trade and a repeal of tariffs (Corn Laws)
    • written Bill of Rights (Declaration of the Rights of Man)
    • were against the use of convict labor
    • favored equality for women and men before the law
    • Women's rights (to own property and inherit wealth)
    • old age pensions, accident and health insurance
    • taxation of clerical, or church property
    • universal public elementary education and literacy
    • trial by jury and due process
    • trade unionism, the right to organize labor, & collective bargaining

Called Jacobins and derided as enemies of order.

Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Jean Paul Marat, Joseph Priestley, Charles Sumner.


ideology associated with opposition to Revolutionary movements that spread in Europe from the Lutheran Peasants Revolt in Germany (1520s) through English (1640s) and French (1790s) Revolutions and the European wide revolts of 1848, where anti-populist advocates shunned mob rule, supported the monarchy or a strong central governing oligarchy representing the chief interests of the state (commercial or landed), common law was subject to Chancery or imperial administrative law courts that enforced class divisions, protected property, favored monopolies and mercantilism. They supported a strong central government, the military, and the influence of organized churches and clergy in the affairs of state.

Metternich, Bismark, the Papacy, Mussolini, Fascists.

See: Conservative versus progressive