Paperback review: Green Philosophy, By Roger Scruton

Love your country, protect your planet

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The Independent Culture

The environment is usually considered a cause of the left – a defence of the natural world against the despoliations of rapacious capitalists.

Roger Scruton argues that traditional values of the right also have a vital part to play – and that the similarity between the words "conservative" and "conservatism" is no coincidence. Successful environmental action – whether combating global warming or eliminating non-degradable plastic packaging – requires motivation, and Scruton urges that there is none better than good old-fashioned patriotism, or "oikophilia" as he terms it. Action at local level, national level and at the level of international co-operation must be underpinned by a love of one's own country. Solutions imposed from the top by supranational bodies to which no one feels any sense of allegiance will never work, he maintains. The basic argument will already be familiar to anyone who's read his A Political Philosophy, but here it's developed in detail, and illustrated by practical proposals. Scruton is a serious, heavyweight philosopher who has the gift of expressing complex ideas in clear, elegant prose; reading him in full flow affords the simple pleasure of watching an expert do what they do best. Pages 187-198 contain the most devastating critique of utilitarianism I have read. Yet the tone is less waspish than in some of his earlier work, and Scruton seeks common ground with those of the left who, like him, love their country and the natural world, calling in aid Georges Orwell and Monbiot, and his own socialist father. He makes a cogent, erudite and ultimately hopeful case – persuasive even to a left-leaning liberal like me.