Having been raised on a ranch, I developed a deep appreciation for the land that I lived on and for all that it sustained, including plants, animals and the livelihood of my family. With that same appreciation came an understanding that these things which I held dear were neither permanent nor immutable. Through carelessness and poor stewardship, they could disappear.
The desire to preserve natural resources is a reason I became a conservationist, and it is a similar desire to preserve what is good and valuable in our society and culture that lead me to become politically conservative. Americans live in an imperfect but great nation which offers tremendous benefits to citizens – benefits which required many generations of sacrifice in order to exist, yet are often taken for granted. Many of the institutions which Americans value most, such as rule of law, public spirit, family values and security of property, have been eroded away; conservatives recognize that they are neither “obsolete” nor “problematic”, but instead are important to maintain and preserve.
This understanding that existing institutions have value and that they have been purchased through great sacrifice and generations of trial and error is why conservatives wish to preserve them. Because of this, conservatism usually finds itself opposed to progressive thought, and the push and pull between the two has defined American history. Conservatism recognizes that not all progress is positive, that many things which now exist should be preserved and that some things which no longer exist should be restored.
A good example of this principle in practice is the use of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). TEK generally refers to indigenous and aboriginal practices of sustainability and management that were developed over many generations and thousands of years. Dismissed as outdated by many, today many TEK practices have been validated or rediscovered by current science. Had they been incorporated alongside modern technologies, humanity could have reaped the benefits of both long ago. As it was, many principles of TEK are only now being taken seriously.
The task of ensuring that those principles and institutions important to American society survive progressive reform falls upon this generation of American conservatives. They have inherited a nation that is more ideologically divided and politically tumultuous than it has been in decades. The decision to be a conservative, to understand the value of what has come before and to take action to preserve it, is not an easy one, but is absolutely vital for future generations.