Daniel Wallach of Greensburg Explains How to Talk to a Conservative About the Environment

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ rainbow over Moose Jaw, site of Building Saskatchewan Green conference

Back in 2007, Daniel Wallach was the Executive Director of Greensburg GreenTown, with the difficult job of convincing some very conservative Kansans that they should rebuilt the flattened town as green as it could be. He wrote in TreeHugger how "The vision is to make Greensburg "a living laboratory" that will show the world how a town on the cutting edge of sustainability looks."

Daniel Wallach

Daniel Wallach, underexposed/CC BY 2.0

At the recent Build Saskatchewan Green conference in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Daniel spoke about his work in Greensburg and about how he sold the idea of sustainability to the skeptical Kansas crowd. He talked about what he called conservative values:

  • Conservation (abhors waste)
  • Preservation of what is precious (social traditions)
  • Thinking for the long term, not leaving messes for others to clean up. (National debt)
  • Respecting institution of family and traditions
  • Independence, resourcefulness, responsibility (fuel and natural resources)
  • Beauty of community, caring for one another, and creation (spiritual values and stewardship)
  • Taking responsibility for one's health (little government, little regulation)

I also asked him about this in an interview:

Daniel Wallach on talking to conservatives from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

This is not a new issue; in a study Political ideology affects energy-efficiency attitudes and choices it was found that if energy saving light bulbs were pitched as saving money, everybody bought them at the same rate; "In a real-choice context, more conservative individuals were less likely to purchase a more expensive energy-efficient light bulb when it was labeled with an environmental message than when it was unlabeled."

As Daniel Wallach says, it all comes down to self-interest.