I'm writing to thank you for being conservative … in the deeper and best sense of the word, as one who upholds traditional values and refuses to sell them out.

One of humanity's oldest and deepest values, traditionally held in America and around the world, is respect for the land. Our ancestors who were farmers knew that to feed their families, they needed to conserve the soil, conserve the water, and conserve the natural balance upon which they depended for their daily bread. Our Native American elders believed that the land was sacred and should never be treated wastefully. Our Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ancestors believed God created the world and called it "good" and "very good," giving it an intrinsic value that transcended dollars and cents.

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That traditional value of the land will bring you to my neighborhood this Wednesday for Earth Day. Thank you so much for coming and speaking on the value of conservation - and the conservation of values that transcend money.

I lived in the Washington, DC, area for most of my life, but chose to move to SW Florida (Marco Island) because I love the beauty and wildlife of this region. Whenever I can spare a few hours from my work as a writer, speaker, and activist, I get outdoors to enjoy manatees and alligators, tarpon and snook, gopher tortoises and burrowing owls, swallow-tailed kites and bald eagles, cabbage palms and cocoplums. 

We are blessed in this area  with natural treasures, indeed, but we are plagued by even more threats poised to plunder them -for short-term corporate and political profit. 

Recently, a group of brave activists in the region managed to run off - for now at least - a Texas firm that was trying to frack the Everglades. But environmental successes are rare in a state whose politicians think Florida can never have too many sleazy strip malls, cheap hotels, or paved-and-gated communities ... and who remain in either ignorant or feigned denial about global warming and sea level rise in the state that will suffer most from it.

You’ve heard that our governor told state employees they can’t use the term “global warming.” I can tell you that I’ve heard stories from wildlife biologists and other environmentalists here that are even worse. For example, one biologist told me he is not allowed to use the word “environmental monitoring” because, according to our governor, “monitoring kills jobs.” Other professionals I know - who make their living to protect the environment - have to use words like “research” instead of “conservation” because our governor and his allies, in spite of the fact that they love to wave the “conservative” flag and appear on conservative cable TV, actually oppose conservation. 

Judging by what I see here in Florida, conservative actually means exploitive to a lot of people. People who wave the conservative flag the most seem the most willing to convert long-term natural public assets into some rich donor’s short-term cash asset. This breaks the hearts of those of us who love God’s creation and don’t believe cash value is the only value.

As a committed Christian, former pastor, and faith-based activist, I agree with St. Paul who said, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Each time I see an osprey circling or a dolphin leaping, I am moved with awe and wonder to worship - because I see God's fingerprint upon them. I don't want these precious creatures, or the habitats upon which they depend, to be sold out to the highest bidder. 

So thank you, Mr. President, for coming to the Everglades to celebrate a truly conservative value and to work to save this beautiful part of the world that is suffering because of human greed, ignorance, and political cowardice.

McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, blogger, and networker. He began his career as a college English teacher and then spent more than 20 years as a pastor. He has written more than a dozen books, including Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road and We Make the Road by Walking. He is an initiator with the Convergence Network