Meet the Young Conservatives for Conservation: “Be Good Stewards of the Earth”

Meet the Young Conservatives for Conservation: “Be Good Stewards of the Earth”

As debates over climate change and the environment continue, a team of young conservatives are using grassroots cleanup efforts to create a plan for the future and make a lasting impression on Capitol Hill.

The American Conservation Coalition (ACC) encourages conservatives to participate in the climate debate while leading cleanup and restoration efforts in their own neighborhoods.

“Our goal is to engage young people, to get young people outside and show them how beautiful it is,” said Dani Lindsay, ACC's Florida national director. “As a Christian Broadcasting Network, I'm sure you understand that God calls us to be good stewards of the earth – and that's something that should be important to conservatives. Many conservatives are Christians, and we want to show them God's beautiful creation.”

A recent poll by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found that 81% of young Republicans under 35 see climate change as a serious problem and want to act. The larger gap in attitudes toward environmental protection exists between political parties. Data shows that Democrats are three times more likely to participate in such activities than Republicans.

Benji Backer, founder and chair of the ACC and author of “The Conservative Environmentalist,” is working to change that. “In this era of political tribalism, which I think we've all had enough of, even if it's just one side, the fact is that the left has controlled the narrative on this issue for a very long time,” Backer said.

After making headlines about 2023 being the warmest year on record and rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, Backer and his coalition want common sense solutions to protect the planet.

“The radical approach we have experienced all our lives has not moved us forward, it has actually set us back,” Backer said. “This should not be about politics; this should be about our planet.”

Since 2017, 40,000 members have joined the American Conservation Coalition's 150 branches nationwide. ACC President Chris Barnard says environmental activism is most effective when it focuses on concrete, community-driven solutions rather than extremism. He advocates empowering young people to lead cleanups and conservation projects in their own backyards and neighborhoods to create positive change.

“Instead of being angry on social media, blocking traffic or throwing tomato soup on priceless paintings, how about cleaning up your yard?” Barnard asked. “How about taking a hike with the people in your community or having your church do a cleanup?”

Barnard & Backer say that in addition to its practical efforts, the organization has helped pass important legislation and is also pushing the country to make smarter decisions on energy issues.

“Instead of producing fossil fuels in China — instead of getting uranium fuel from Russia — we need to produce it here in the United States because we can do it cleaner than anyone else and we do, cleaner than anyone else. But we also have a moral obligation to our own national security to bring some of it back,” Backer said.

In his new book, The Conservative Environmentalist, Backer challenges the Biden administration's Green New Deal, pointing out that the hotly debated $93 trillion bill would only cut carbon emissions by 4%, according to its own statistics. He also suggests that partnerships between energy companies and environmental groups to protect wetlands could be a way for America to engage in diverse energy production without placing a financial burden on future generations.

“The environment is about so much more than politics,” Backer said. “It's about our national security, our economy, our neighborhoods and our quality of life.”

Although the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) operates nationwide, Backer sees Florida as particularly promising for effective conservation efforts. The ACC is partnering with the HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute in Melbourne, FL, and hopes to use this collaboration to inspire future conservationists.

The HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute serves as an educational center for students and conservationists. It is known for its groundbreaking research that informs policy and conservation strategies. The institute's scientists lead important dolphin research, rescue initiatives and habitat restoration projects in the Indian River Lagoon, which stretches across 40% of Florida's east coast.

Teresa Jablonski, a scientist at the institute, emphasizes that all conservation efforts are interconnected in the larger ecosystem. She advocates starting conservation at the grassroots level, saying that working in your own backyard is crucial to making a meaningful impact.

“We have to work from the bottom up. We have to protect the fish habitat so that the fish stay healthy and the dolphins have enough prey,” Jablonski explained. “We are seeing a general deterioration in the physical condition of the dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon – over 90 percent are underweight.”

Even if dolphins may not be the problem in your backyard, environmentalists stress that by getting involved in your community, you are setting an example that makes a difference.

“It's all connected. We can't solve the dolphin problems without thinking about the impact this has on the entire ecosystem. That's why it's a pretty massive problem,” Jablonski said.

David Neuman, senior development manager at the institute, agrees.

“This is how you can make a difference by taking care of the environment locally,” Neuman said. “Whether you're helping HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute or your local community, that's the difference, and it's how we solve these bigger problems by helping to solve them locally.”

Environmentalists say this work is not rocket science – it's harder. It's not just ecological, but political, economic and biblical – protecting the earth and everything that lives on it. But they say it's a puzzle we can solve if we do it together.


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