The Conservative Ecologist and Free Market Environmentalism: Classical Liberalism Reasserted

By Edward T. Wimberley and Bradley K. Hobbs.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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The “conservative ecologist” represents those persons who value the environment but who do so from within the context of classic liberalism, with its emphasis upon individual liberty within a democratic society. Consequently, while such persons are considered conservative only to the degree that modern progressives have co-opted the term “liberal” to reflect their own comparatively socialistic values, they particularly cherish individual freedom and liberty – especially in terms of making free choices within the marketplace – over any other ecological value. The conservative ecologist could be described as more ideologically affiliated with libertarianism than with socialism. Their orientation is not valued within the modern environmental movement and is in fact antithetical to the political-economic vision of that movement. This paper discusses the nuances of the role of the “conservative ecologist” within the comparatively collectivist environmental mainstream, describing how collectivist approaches to social and environmental ecology have failed while classically liberal, pro-free-market approaches create sufficient affluence to allow for environmental protection and sustainability.

Keywords: Free Market, Environmentalism

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.29-45. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 603.739KB).

Dr. Edward T. Wimberley

Professor, Ecological Studies, Division of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Dr. Wimberley is a professor of ecological studies at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) having served as the founding Dean of the College of Professional Studies and the College of Education. Dr. Wimberley has published extensively and diversely in the social sciences, to include work in psychiatry, health care, health policy, social work, environmental policy, environmental philosophy and ethics and theology and ecology. He is the author of more than 30 articles in professional journals, and the author of two books, including an upcoming text on ecological philosophy. Dr. Wimberley holds a Ph.D. in public affairs from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a Master of Social Work from Pitt, and is an ordained Presbyterian minister, educated in theology at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he graduated magna cum laude with a Master of Divinity degree. Dr. Wimberley is a native of Florida who was born in St. Augustine and educated at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.

Bradley K. Hobbs

BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise, Department of Economics and Finance, Lutgert College Business, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Bradley K. Hobbs is a university professor who developed an appreciation for both morality and profits through his experience as the child of a successful, small business entrepreneur. He has always been deeply curious about how to help make the world a better place. He has, somewhat begrudgingly, become convinced that capitalism is the only social arrangement consistent with human flourishing. He resides in the U.S. but considers himself a citizen of mankind.