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Meet the Young Conservatives for Conservation: ‘Be Good Stewards of the Earth’

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As debate goes on about climate change and the environment, a team of young conservatives is building a blueprint for the future through grassroots clean-up campaigns, while making an impact on Capitol Hill. 
 
The American Conservation Coalition (ACC) encourages conservatives to join the climate conversation while also leading clean up initiatives and restoration efforts in their own neighborhoods.
 
“Our goal is just getting young people involved, getting young people outside and showing them how beautiful it is,” said Dani Lindsay, the ACC’s state director in Florida. “Being the Christian Broadcasting Network, I’m sure you understand that God calls us to be good stewards of the earth—and that’s something conservatives should care about. A lot of conservatives are Christians, and we want to show them God’s beautiful creation.”

A recent poll by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions finds that 81% of young Republicans under 35 see climate change as a serious issue and want to act. The bigger gap in conservation attitudes exists between political parties with data showing Democrats as three times more likely than Republicans to participate in those activities. 

Benji Backer, founder & chairman of the ACC and author of “The Conservative Environmentalist,” is working to change that. “In this era of political tribalism that I think we are all sick of, even just sick of one side – there’s a reality that the left has controlled the narrative on this for a very long time,” Backer said. 

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

“The radical vs. radical approach we’ve witnessed our entire lives hasn’t gotten us anywhere, and its actually set us back,” said Backer. “This shouldn’t be about politics; this should be about our planet.” 

Since 2017, 40,000 members have joined 150 chapters of the American Conservation Coalition nationwide. ACC President Chris Barnard says environmental activism is most effective when focused on tangible, community-led solutions rather than extremism. He advocates empowering young people to lead cleanups and conservation projects in their own backyards and neighborhoods as a positive way to enact change.

“Instead of being angry on social media, or blocking traffic, or throwing tomato soup at priceless paintings; what if you cleaned-up your backyard?” asked Barnard. “What if you take people in your community on a hike or your church did a cleanup?” 

In addition to hands-on efforts, Barnard & Backer say the organization has helped pass major legislation and is also pushing the country to make smarter decisions when it comes to energy. 

“Instead of doing fossil fuels in China – instead of getting uranium fuel from Russia – we need to be producing here in the U.S. because we can do it cleaner than anyone else and we do, do it cleaner than anyone else. But we also have a moral obligation to our own national security to take some of that back,” said Backer. 

In Backer’s new book, The Conservative Environmentalist, he questions the Biden administration’s Green New Deal, pointing out the highly debated $93 trillion legislation would only reduce carbon emissions by 4% according to its own statistics. He also offers that partnerships between energy companies and environmental nonprofits to preserve wetlands could be a way for America to engage in diverse energy production without financially burdening future generations. 

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

Although the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) operates nationwide, Backer views Florida as particularly promising for impactful conservation efforts. The ACC is forming a partnership with the HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute in Melbourne, FL, aiming to inspire future conservationists through this collaboration.
 
HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute serves as an educational hub for both students and conservationists. It is renowned for its pioneering research that informs policy and conservation strategies. Scientists at the institute lead vital dolphin research, rescue initiatives, and habitat restoration projects in the Indian River Lagoon, which extends along 40% of Florida’s East Coast.
 
Teresa Jablonski, a research scientist at the institute, emphasizes that all conservation efforts are interconnected within the larger ecosystem. She advocates for starting conservation at the grassroots level, stating that working in your own backyard is crucial to making a significant impact.
 
“We need to go from the bottom up. We need to protect the habitat for the fish, so the fish can be healthy – so the dolphins have enough prey,” explained Jablonski. “We see decreased body condition in dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon across the board – over 90 percent are underweight.”
 
While dolphins might not be the issue in your backyard, environmental leaders emphasize getting involved in your own community sends a message that makes a difference. 
 
“It’s all connected – can’t solve the dolphins’ problems without thinking about how this affects the entire ecosystem so that’s why its kind of a daunting problem,” Jablonski said. 
 
David Neuman, senior development manager at the institute, agrees. 
 
“That’s how you’re going to make an impact is by taking care of your local environment,” said Neuman. “Whether it’s helping HUBBS SeaWorld Research Institute or whether it’s helping your local municipality – that’s really where the difference comes in and that’s how we solve those bigger problems, is by helping solve local.” 
 
Conservationists say this work isn’t rocket science – it’s harder than that. It isn’t just ecological; it’s political, economic, and biblical – to steward the Earth and everything in it. However, they say it’s a puzzle we can solve if we do it together. 



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