In 'Contract with the Earth,' Gingrich argues that conservatives should embrace environmentalism
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman says environmentalism today suffers from being seen as "liberal," "girly," "unpatriotic," and even "vaguely French."
That doesn't sound like the kind of movement that would appeal to any self-respecting political conservative.
But now Newt Gingrich, the fierce and incendiary conservative speaker of the US House of Representatives in the 1990s, has co-written a small book that aims to gently coax his fellow conservatives into the environmental camp. It's OK to be green, argues Gingrich and his coauthor, Terry L. Maple, a former president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta and professor of conservation at Georgia Tech. [Editor's note: The original version incorrectly called the school Georgia Tech University.]
A Contract with the Earth aims to play off the "Contract with America," a set of political promises made by Gingrich and his fellow Republican candidates that helped vault the GOP into power in Congress in 1994.
But "A Contract with the Earth" is much less dynamic and bold than its predecessor. It seems more interested in being inoffensive than calling for radical change. Environmentalists may find its recommendations fall far short of revolutionary.
Platitudes sprout like toadstools. "The fate of people, wildlife, and habitat is linked in important ways," the authors remind readers. More truisms abound. "We need leaders who can unite us, not divide us," they say. "We should be willing to consider and evaluate any good idea, regardless of its origin."
Who can argue with that? Much of the tiptoeing involves calls for conciliation between liberals and conservatives in order to protect nature. But the argument that conservatives belong in a big tent of environmentalism begins to sound more like the voice of a savvy politician who realizes his political philosophy has drifted into near irrelevance on a crucial issue and is eager to get back in the game. "Currently, liberal politicians operate as if they own the issue; in their reaction, conservatives appear to disdain it," the authors concede.