Global Exchange is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmentsl justice around the world.

Let’s Redefine the Word Conservative

17th June, 2013 - Posted by Kevin Danaher - 1 Comment

kevindanaherThe right-wing in the United States worked very hard for many years to redefine the word “liberal” as negative. So now progressives should work equally hard to redefine the word “conservative” to be positive.

The true conservatives are those of us who believe in conserving nature, so future generations will not curse us for leaving them a burnt cinder of a planet with depleted resources.

To be conservative does not mean taking a right-wing position on all issues; it means to conserve, to not waste resources. Yet most of the people in Washington who call themselves conservatives do not believe in conserving anything.

They promote policies allowing corporations to convert our natural resources into money: cut down the forests, take all the minerals out of the ground, remove whole mountain tops to get at the coal inside, and inject poisonous “fracking” chemicals into the Earth to get at the last remnants of fossil fuels.

Reclaiming the word conservative to its true meaning would also help progressives get out of their culture of NO: no more wars, no more racial discrimination, no more destruction of the environment.

It is easy to understand how the left in the United States developed a culture of NO. We got really good at denouncing things such as U.S. support for white-minority rule in Southern Africa, and the way U.S. companies set up sweatshops abroad that take away jobs at home. Protesting these things came naturally to people who give a damn about the welfare of others, no matter what their nationality.

It was logical that well-educated people opposed to the U.S. role as imperial enforcer of global capitalism would rise up in protest. But stating clearly what you are against, does not create an alternative.

So decades ago the progressive movement started to build alternative institutions that could create jobs and heal the damage we do to natural systems. This could be called the sustainability movement or the green economy movement, but it amounted to a new model of doing business: a triple-bottom-line model that unites social justice, environmental restoration and financial sustainability.

Whether it is renewable energy, green building, organic agriculture, biofuels, water conservation technology, or recycling and composting, this new conservation economy is where the growth and profits will be in the future for the simple reason that as the natural resources gets depleted, the profitability of saving the environment goes up.

This movement for “conservation economics” is proving to be popular with governments and private investors alike. The city of Los Angeles will save $10 million per year after it replaces its streetlights with energy efficient LED lights.

Cities as conservative as Salt Lake City and Anchorage are capturing the methane that comes off their garbage landfills and sewage treatment plants, burning the methane in generators that power those facilities, thus saving money on electricity and protecting the climate from a gas that is far worse than CO2 for trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Companies both large (InterfaceFlor, the giant carpet company) and small (TerraCycle takes refuse out of the waste stream and makes dozens of products) are proving that there are ways to make more profits saving nature than destroying it. The Green Festivals—weekend green economy shows cosponsored by Green America and Global Exchange— attract 25,000-35,000 participants in diverse cities. So the green of money and the green of the environment are coming together.

And just at the time when the progressive movement is transitioning out of its NO culture into creating positive alternatives to nature-destroying capitalism, the right in the United States is painting itself into a corner of standing against science: denying climate change, opposing investments in green energy, and generally taking on a culture of NO.

So here is a project for the left. The right took the word liberal and made it negative. We should take the word conservative and make it positive.

Who are the real conservatives? It is the left and the scientific community, who are telling us that we cannot physically sustain an economy where money values rule over the life cycle, and we need to accelerate the transition to an economy where life values rule over the money cycle.

So let’s start using that word conservative in the proper way, and take away the adjective that has been so abused by the right.


What do you think of Kevin’s call to action;So here is a project for the left. The right took the word liberal and made it negative. We should take the word conservative and make it positive.” Share your thoughts in the Comments Section.

Dr. Kevin Danaher is a co-founder of Global Exchange and the Green Festivals.

One Response to “Let’s Redefine the Word Conservative”

  • Mark

    Like terrorism has now been changed to “man made disaster” or “a cut” is now a lack of raise in funds. It politic’s game to spin all things to favor. Now you wish to dabble. This is part of the problem. Where is the individual’s in this statement? Where is your individual mind? To group people and call them name’s is a demonizing tacit. “They did so should we” argument is of the playground, and should be theft there. A conservative is that, regardless of party. Treat each as they are, more importantly how you would want to be treated. This is mob mentality that shows no respect for individual right’s, and the individual. America is about individual right’s. It should be leader’s, and brilliant people to run our republic. The party regime’s will not allow any to run that may upset their takeover. They have us fight, while the overthrow of the republic commence’s in overdrive. Stay with parties at our peril. The parties have taken over the republic and you just want to continue their battle for them. If it’s not apparent you are not represented you are part of the problem, the mouthpiece, and all against the individual. It is party over the nation for most I see. You just are another. Keep defending your parties usurpatious takeover of the Republic, and propaganda.
    I hope you will write of the right’s of people, and there egregious harm the government has done to the citizenry, both parties. The time has come, reconsistute the constitutional republic. The United State’s Corporation listed in Porto Rico, is proven to harm to the Republic, and we the People. Write on that..and no I’m a constitutionalist.

Leave a Comment