Meet the millennial-led movement fighting for free-market environmental solutions.
The American Conservation Coalition.
It’s a group you’ve probably never heard of before. However, it is one I suspect that you will be hearing a lot more about in the future.
This coalition of environmentally conscious millennials is a new and rising force in conservative politics.
Dedicated to changing the conservative environmental narrative and promoting innovative and common sense free-market environmental solutions these young people are shaping up to be a big part of 21st-century conservatism.
Founded just last summer, this youth-led movement has already spread to over 20 states and has over 40 official members working as local ambassadors spreading its ideas.
Recently, I had a chance to chat with organization’s Director of Strategy, Matthew Mailloux.
We spoke about all things environmental and political including Trump, Trudeau, climate change and carbon taxes.
Compiled below are his candid thoughts on all these issues as a millennial conservative looking to lead the charge for reasonable, tangible and results-based environmental policy.
The ACC’s Founding & Goals
“The idea really came from Benji Backer who’s the president and founder of both Conservatives For Environmental Reform and the ACC. Him, along with myself and Danielle Butcher, have worked over the past six months to continue building the organization and charting that vision and identifying as many opportunities as we can here for 2018.
The vast majority of what we want to do really boils down into two focuses. One of them is educational—continuing to bring these ideas to college campuses. This spring we’re hoping to be on 50 college campuses nationwide as a test program for what we want to do in the fall and into the future.
We’re trying out different types of events and panels and seeing what works on campus.
Reasons For Getting Involved
“I really saw this, at the time, a new organization as a great opportunity to do something about a set of issues that I knew was important and I knew conservatives cared a lot about but didn’t necessarily have the tools to talk about in a convincing way. It was one of those things where all people ever hear about is the argument against regulation . . . in an environmental sense. Conservatives needed a voice to stand on and not simply just shoot down the other side’s ideas.”
The ACC’s Policies
“We see our policies fitting into four main buckets. Its clean energy, its federal land, its sportsmans rights, especially around hunting and conservation, and also the agriculture point you see on our site as well. It’s not just about clean energy, it’s not just about national parks; it’s really a broad slate of issues that are deeply important and have immediate, relevant and tangible impacts on our communities. That’s where we want our focus to be as an organization.”
The Climate Change Debate
“We’ve seen this time and time again that whenever you start to talk about the climate change debate or a carbon tax or anyone of those other topics that we always hear about in the news you have both sides spin their tires and run around in circles and never get anywhere. You’re never going to change someone’s mind in a debate like that.
But what our model comes down to is focussing on issues that are already impacting our community, finding opportunities to educate the public and say here’s something that’s broken, here’s a free market solution that can fix this problem and by the way, let’s keep in mind what the root cause of these issues is. We’ve seen in numerous cases that it can be tied to warmer temperatures of higher sea levels or any one of those other symptoms of a changing climate.
As an organization, it’s not something we lead with, it’s not one of those core pillars but, in just about everything we do, you can see an argument that would tie it back to a smarter, free-market approach on climate change.”
The Government’s Role In Promoting Green Tech
“I do believe there is a role for the government to make sure that we are being good stewards of the environment and to that extent, we are big supporters of the National Parks Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the EPA to some extent, especially as it starts to get back to the basics and start to focus on what its intended mission is.
But our focus, especially when it comes to government dollars or government support, is that we would prefer to see those resources invested on the front end focusing on research and development. We’d like to see college-level technology grants making sure that we’re doing everything we can to bring the new technology to market and online as opposed to individually using companies that are already using established technology.”
Trump’s Environmental Policy
“We have had some initial conversations with some of Trump’s policy advisors in the environmental policy space. . . I think they’ve done a good job on the first part; at rolling back some of the regulation. But what they haven’t done to date is replace that regulation with the right setup that will really allow the free market to prosper: making sure that the right protections are still there but allowing a free market conversation to really ignite.”
“. . . I think Trump’s cuts are part of a larger conversation around the size of government and that’s a very important conversation to have separate from anyone focus. When you look at where the cuts are coming from, from an environmental or stewardship position, we think that a more nimble EPA is a good thing. We want to return as much power back to the states and encourage local decision-makers to do what’s best in their communities. We think that people on the ground will have a better grasp than Washington D.C. bureaucrats ever could.
But what is concerning is that when you look at things like the National Parks Service for example, it has an 11 million dollar deferred maintenance backlog that’s accumulated over the past decade or more. Congress simply hasn’t allocated enough funds to keep up with the maintenance of the facilities, the roads, sewers and what not in national parks. Those are the concerns that we’re most heavily focused on.
Overall, we think it’s an opportunity to educate the public to show that not all cuts are bad but where we are making cuts is very important to pay attention to. That our national parks are underfunded and some other organizations like the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) saw another big cut in Trump’s administration as well, those are some things where it’s very important to take a step back and say ‘does the government need to do this or is this something that can be done on a state level?’”
The Paris Climate Accord
“I see the Paris Agreement as an imperfect model that doesn’t really accomplish the goals that it sets out to do. I think it’s a lot of feel-good talk by nations around the globe but doesn’t really begin to make any type of meaningful impact. With that, I think the US is better to be involved in those conversations and retaining our seat at the table primarily because if we aren’t there we will defer leadership to people like Europe, China and other countries that are then going to be allowed to write policy and regulations that will impact global commerce. Simply walking away and deferring that leadership role is ultimately a disservice to US interests. I think it’s important that we negotiate a good deal. Something that makes sense for us and something that is actually focused on outcomes and not just what makes us feel good.”
Trudeau’s Carbon Tax
“The schedule they are on right now going from $10 to $50 dollars a ton in such a short time frame is already aggressive. If 50 [dollars per ton] is only just a drop in the bucket of where they need to get to, I think that underscores the idea that there needs to be some type of solution other than just another government program that’s about specific taxes on a byproduct of doing business.”
The Reaction From The Right & The Left
“It’s one of those interesting things that people on both sides of the aisle have particular views as us as a new organization. We have people on the Far Right who think were a bunch of liberals running around trying to advance this radical climate change agenda. Conversely, you have a bunch of people on the Far Left that are running around thinking that we’re just puppets for Trump. In reality, we’re this group of independent thinking millennials that have identified a better system than we currently have and sometimes that favours the ideas of one tribe or another but in the end everything comes back to that conservative message of empowering people to do what’s best [for the environment] using the power of the free market to accomplish those goals.”
Millennials’ Concerns About Environment
Millennials care about this issue as much as anything else. They worry about the environment at the same rate as they worry about job security and healthcare. I think that speaks volumes as to where we are as a generation. If our conservative movement here in this country is going to continue to exist, we need to make sure that we are addressing these concerns with our best and brightest minds making sure that our ideas are not lost under the weight of the ideas of the other side of the aisle.”
Other Generations Attitudes Towards Environmentalism
“I think the next generation [Gen X] will continue the trend of being hyper-aware of environmental conversations. I think the larger challenge will be convincing people our parents’ age and grandparents’ age that didn’t necessarily grow up in an era where these conversations were so commonplace. We need to make sure to give them the tools and talking points to say maybe this didn’t necessarily need to exist in the 1970’s but for where we are today, these are policies that make sense, that get to the heart of the issue, that are focused on outcomes and still allow you to be a conservative and vote that way without any sort of qualifications. I think a thing we often hear from conservatives is that ‘I’m a conservative – except for on the environment.’ Really what you’re saying is that unlike other people in this movement, I do genuinely care. That’s become some sort of quasi-liberal position when in reality, I don’t think you have to be mutually exclusive.”
How To Be A Conservative Environmentalist
“Yes. We really are conservative. We believe in limited government, we believe in property rights, we believe in getting government out of the way. . . Having conversations on how public-private partnerships in national forests or parks can ultimately lead to better outcomes for those ecosystems. How innovation and technological advancements can do far more to conserve our resources than strict regulation ever could. If you’re trying to save trees for example, are you going to limit the amount of paper that can be made or are you going to invent something like a USB stick? One of those solutions is inherently a government solution and one of those solutions is inherently a free market solution. I think it speaks volumes to the power of the free market versus the limited impact regulation is really able to have long-term.
I think it goes without saying that the smartest people tend not to be in government. We should allow these incredibly bright minds to innovate and invent and help solve our problems. We shouldn’t shut them out because we think our government leaders are the geniuses of the world.”
Taking Back The Conversation
“These ideas are broad enough and important enough that as people hear more and more about them they’re going to be inclined to get involved. They’re going to have a vested interest in retaking this conversation from some of the more radical voices on The Left and get back to this idea of a sane pro-environment, pro-growth conversation that we owe it to ourselves to have.”
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