Published Humanitas, Volume XXVI Nos. 1 & 2, 2013

How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism, by Roger Scruton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 464 pp. $29.95.

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has emerged as one of a rare breed today: the prominent public intellectual who writes on matters of broad interest in ways that, while accessible to nonspecialists, are sophisticated and truly intelligent, and who is not bound to some shallow partisan agenda. In How to Think Seriously about the Planet Scruton seeks in part to re-establish, or to remind us of, the close relationship between conservatism and concern for the environment. He also argues that the only really sound and successful environmentalism is a conservative environmentalism, and describes such an approach. In the process, he offers a broadly Burkean understanding of what conservatism is.

Scruton explains: “My intentionin this book has been to argue the case for an approach to environmental problems in which local affections are made central to policy, and in which homeostasis and resilience, rather than social reordering and central control, are the primary outcomes” (325). Many of the ideas which appear in How to Think Seriously are drawn from prior works by Scruton, but they are here organized around, and applied to, the practical problems of the environment and environmentalism. The environment and environmentalism are in fact two distinct—though of course intimately related—problems. Scruton argues that environmentalism as it has been typically exhibited by the left is generally not good for society, and often not even good for the environment. Yet…

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