On this week’s Bespoke Parenting Hour, host Julie Gunlock talks to IWF visiting fellow Danielle Butcher. Danielle is also the co-founder and Executive Vice President of the American Conservation Coalition, an environmental group that aims to engage young people and inform them of the importance of conservation and good environmental stewardship through common sense, free-market, and innovative ideas and policies.
Hey, everyone. I’m Julie Gunlock, your host for another episode of the Bespoke Parenting Hour. For those new to the program, this podcast is focused on how parents should custom tailor their parenting style to fit what’s best for their families, themselves, and most importantly, their kids. So today, we’re going to be talking about climate change, global warming, or as the Democrats and Michael Stipe like to say, the end of the world as we know it. That is not an exaggeration. This is the sort of thing people very…
You commonly hear people say today. Just a few days ago, John Kerry, who’s the President’s Special Envoy For climate, whatever that is, said. “We have nine years to avert the worst consequences of climate change.” Nine years. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is famous for saying these things, and worse, in 2019… It’s just to give you an example. In 2019, she said that the world is going to end in 12 years. So I guess she and John Kerry on the same timeline here.
And then, of course, there’s Greta Thunberg, who really is a major force behind some of the more hyperbolic statements about climate change, like AOC and Kerry. She too believes we have very limited time on the planet and has advocated extreme measures to reduce carbon that would truly alter human existence on the planet for generations. Of course, I say on the planet, but really only Western countries would even consider her draconian policy recommendations. China and India, the world’s biggest polluters, aren’t going to do a thing to satisfy Greta.
So not everyone would suffer under Greta’s climate reduction plans or carbon reduction plans, rather. But Greta has also done something quite unique. She has scared the crap out of kids. I’m sure most of you have seen the video of kids of the kids in Senator Feinstein’s office. This happened I think about a year and a half ago. They were crying. They were telling Senator Feinstein that she needs to do what they say, with the, children say. She gave them quite a talking to. She said, “I’ve been at this job for many years and you’re children.”
But what was interesting about that video was those children were accompanied by adults. And those adults were sort of egging the kids on and not comforting them at all, but egging them on to continue sort of harassing the Senator. It was a really bizarre video to watch. It’s not just that. You see kids parroting what they hear in these doomsday scenarios all the time. And the reason these kids are so upset is that they believe they will not live to adulthood.
Recent polling has even shown some young adults have said they’re not going to have kids because of climate change. And I think it’s fair to say that the increasing rates of depression and anxiety among kids, very young kids, can at least to some degree be attributed to the constant doom and gloom kids hear and this narrative that we’re all going to die in a very short amount of time. That is traumatizing. I grew up in the Cold War and the idea that the Soviets were going to nuke us at any second was extremely nerve-wracking for me.
I mean, I remember feeling like this could happen, and I worried about it. I think that what kids experienced today with the sort of climate alarmism is much worse. I think that we really need to think about how we’re talking about climate change and how we might dial it down a bit. My guest this week is Danielle Butcher. Danielle is a visiting fellow, a brand new visiting fellow, with the Independent Women’s Forum we’re thrilled to have her.
She’s also the Executive Vice President of the American Conservation Coalition, which is a really exciting organization, and I hope she talks about that a bit. And she’s also on the advisory board of the British Conservation Alliance, where she merges her love of leadership with her passions for free-market capitalism and the environment. In 2020, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Danielle has spoken at several prominent conservative events, including CPAC.
She’s appeared as a guest on Fox News Radio and NPR, and she’s had her work featured in publications, such as The Hill, The Washington Examiner, National Review, and more. So welcome, Danielle. I’m glad you could come on.
Thank you so much for having me, Julie. It’s great to be here.
So honestly, I was sort of preparing for this and there are so many things to talk about. I have a million questions, but I won’t ask all of them. But I’d really first like to hear a bit about the American Conservation Coalition. I think it is such an exciting organization, and it’s doing so much to bring conservatives into the environmental movement. And to be honest with you that is… I’m a gen X-er, and I feel like conservatives, the environmental movement, what?
That doesn’t make sense, but you’re really making it makes sense. The ACC is making it make sense. So explain to the listeners what it is.
Yes, I would be happy to. Our organization was actually founded because of that assumption that you just voiced that conservatives and environmentalism don’t go together and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. We were founded by a group of young conservative activists, and we were the type of students who were out door knocking on Saturdays and phone banking and going to CPAC on spring break.
And through our activism, we would find time and time again that when talking to our peers and talking to other young people, we would hear them say things like, “I vote Democrat because of climate change, or I’m a conservative, except on the environment.” We realized that two things were true. Number one, the right did not have a clear message on environmental issues, and it was pushing young people away.
And number two, we realized that even though the left was talking about these issues and did have the Green New Deal and other solutions, they didn’t necessarily represent young people either. It’s not a secret that the current mainstream environmental movement is very negative, very fear-based, and we realized that young people wanted something that was more positive and more hopeful.
And so, we decided we needed to change the culture of environmental conversations, which is why our organization was founded so that we could focus on those more positive solutions like innovation, like competition, and really show how environmentalism and conservatism could go hand in hand.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about ACC is I feel like it’s almost… This sounds weird, but I feel like it’s almost… There’s always safety in numbers, and I feel like having an organization like yours with full… And it’s filled with… I mean, you guys are very happy warriors. You’re cheerful. You don’t have a negative sort of message. It gives someone a place to go who has those sorts of… I mean, it still is that coalition. I don’t think so anymore.
Like not as much anymore, but at least, even a decade ago, I think to be pro-environmental conservative was a bit of a strange combination. I think one thing that’s nice is that there is an actual organization. There might have been individuals that sort of voice this, but to have an actual organization voicing it I think it’s really necessary. Also, I think when you were an environmentalist and you might have more conservative thoughts, you might think, I have no option but to leave the conservative movement. I have no option but to be a Democrat.
One thing that I think is really exciting about ACC is that it says, “Wait, wait, wait. There’s a home and there’s a movement. And there are people who think just like you.” I think that’s really important for the conservative movement.
Yeah. I mean, I absolutely agree. And something we found is that most conservatives are very inline with environmental values. I mean, look at the GOP base. Traditionally speaking, these are the people who live in rural areas, and so they’re experiencing nature firsthand. They work in agricultural communities or in traditional energy sectors. Our base has a very important and historic connection to nature. And of course, we want clean air and clean water.
This assumption that the narrative for so long that conservatives can’t or don’t care about the environment just couldn’t be further from the truth. I think you’re right. It’s really important that we have a sort of home where we can go to, to discuss these ideas and figure out the messaging, and feel comfortable talking about them and reclaiming them.
Right. And also, I think so often when you get into these conversations, “Oh, you’re a conservative?” Oh, never mind.” It shuts down. So I think you’re also saying a place to talk, a place to discuss these things where you’re not automatically dismissed. And I know that you all work very hard at forming coalitions with people on the left, with groups on the left, and making that sort of affiliation not a game-changer or not a kill button. It’s like, it doesn’t really matter if we agree on certain principles. I want to pivot a little bit.
This is after all the Bespoke Parenting Hour, so I want to pivot a little bit to how this involves kids. Because I think environmental issues are discussed in schools and I’m not sure they’re always discussed. I’m not going to say I’m not sure. I know in many cases. I deal with this. I have an elementary school student. I have a student who’s just now in middle school, and then I have an eighth-grader. They have been drenched in environmental talk since kindergarten since preschool even. And it’s not just in the schools, but in general, in the media.
But in my intro, I mentioned the scary language that so many activists use. I mentioned earlier, I’m a gen X-er. I think even a decade ago if you had heard some things that we hear, like John Kerry just this week saying that we only have nine years left. That is the same thing we hear from AOC. Even President Biden recently said, I think it was last week, that climate change threatens the existence of our planet.
And I feel like those kinds of phrases if that had been tossed out, like when I was in college, that would have been like, “Oh, that’s an extreme environmental group, but if you deal with like people that don’t have those extreme narratives.” But now it’s coming from, as I mentioned, these are noted politicians, well-respected politicians. And this does trickle down to kids, especially with Greta and her very alarmist rhetoric about how we’re all going to sort of die. I’d like to get your opinion on this.
How do you feel about this rhetoric, and how it might shut certain people down? And shut people down or really turn people off like conservatives, who when they hear that kind of stuff, they just roll their eyes and don’t want to talk about it.
Well, I think for kids, it’s really sad, right? I mean, when I was a little kid, what I wanted to do was go and play outside and build forts in the woods and have that kind of innocence of childhood. And sure, I heard about environmental issues and we talked about recycling in school, but the way that has advanced over the last decade or so is just so extreme. I think Greta is a perfect example of that. If you’re familiar with her story, she became an activist because she was so worried about climate change that she couldn’t eat and she couldn’t sleep.
And she became so depressed. While it’s admirable that she has taken action and kind of channeled her passion into her activism, it’s also really scary that no one in her life was able to talk to her in a way that provided her with relief and made her feel better. Because the fact of the matter is climate change is a problem, yes, but we have solutions and it’s not the end of the world, and we don’t have to be afraid of it.
Yeah. I think parenting is a really important thing. When I talk about bespoke, what I cannot stand is telling people how to parent. Do it the best way that’s best for you, best for your kids. I don’t want to fall into this trap of saying, “You shouldn’t do this.” But The Washington Post published this long-form article last year on the topic of kids and anxiety, but it wasn’t just kids in anxiety. It was kids and anxiety due to climate alarmism. I mean, I’m sure you read it.
It’s a very upsetting article about how these kids, don’t know how to deal with it, but this was sort of in terms of bearing the lead. It was sort of interesting how the writer would talk about some of these kids’ parents. And I remember one part of this article, it talked about how these… They were sort of highlighting this family, and they were going through day-to-day things about this family.
And at one point, the writer mentions that the parents and the children will cry over nature documentaries, and it’s sad, about the destruction of the coral reefs and how they seek out coverage of Greta and try to… It was the parents as well as the children that had this deep anxiety, and the parents were doing nothing to shield their kids. But one thing I also find really interesting is there’s never… You just mentioned solutions. First of all, there’s never talk of good news, right?
There’s never like, “Hey, guys, in the 1970s when I was a kid, in the 1980s when I was a kid, water was in a worse shape than it is day or the air wasn’t as clean.” There’s never a mention of any of the good news, but also it’s the seeking out of the alarmist rhetoric to show their kids. Again, I’m not here to tell you how to parent, but that’s probably not the best way to deal with these issues with kids, to tell them the scare… Also to seek out like scariest messengers on this stuff. I mean, what is a better way to approach this with a child?
Well, I think that, first of all, kids are really excited by nature, and they’re really excited by cool technology. I mean, name a kid today that’s not just by Elon Musk and Tesla, right? That is a cool company and kids love that. And those are the types of success stories that we can be talking about because that’s a part of the solution. That story of innovation and entrepreneurship and creating like clean energy of the future and the technology of the future, are things that can be very positive conversations, but still very real conversations.
And I think that your point about burying the good news is also very important. I think the environmental movement today has a tendency to take things that are good news or that should be good news and to still find a way to make them negative. And I guess the example that I would give is the endangered species list. For example, if there is an animal on the endangered species list and it gets delisted, that is a good thing. That means that that animal population has recovered and it’s no longer endangered.
But somehow apparently it’s bad news to take an animal off that list because it looks like you’re not protecting it anymore, but the good news is that it doesn’t need that protection anymore. I think that’s a good example of how even the good news is somehow bad news.
There’s an addiction to alarmism in this country. It is panic porn, whatever you want to call it. This is a family show. I guess I shouldn’t say panic porn, but you get my point. There is an addiction to bad news, right? And we know how the media works. We know how the media works. Do you think people are really going to click on a happy story about something being taken off the endangered species list? It works better if you can reverse that narrative. And it’s so funny, I just have to share with you. Obviously, I live outside of Washington, DC. You live in Texas, right?
Yes, that is correct. I’m in Dallas, Texas.
I do want to touch on the blackouts. Are you warm? And are you okay right now? I know it’s over, but I do want to touch on that. We live in the DC area and the DC area has American Eagles. I’m not going to totally reveal my exact age, but let’s just say when I was very little like in elementary school or preschool, the bald eagle… Did I say American Eagle, like the retailer? Anyway, bald eagles were on the endangered species list. Okay? And of course, we heard about the eggs, and we heard about DDT. We heard all about that.
To this day, when my husband and I see a bald eagle, we act crazy. We jump up and down. We point. We go crazy. We are so excited to see a bald eagle. Whereas they’re quite common, especially in the Mississippi area, Mississippi River. I grew up in the Midwest. We started to see them. Our children think we’re insane because they don’t talk about the bald eagles like they did. But that’s a perfect example of something that’s… It’s a wonderful success story of an animal coming back from the brink of extinction.
You think about when I was little, it was presented as the bald eagle is in some trouble, but it’s been put on this list and there’s a lot of work. We’re doing lots of work to bring their numbers back and now they are. And I just wonder how that story would be presented today. Because going back to the schools, my kids constantly come home with stuff that I question and I have to course correct. I’m wondering if you could give some advice on the school front.
If your children come home and they’re hearing stuff that is very doomsday-ish, and I know you’re going to think I’m asking for the same answer that you just said, but I’m asking specifically what’s the best way to approach teachers to talk to them? Is there information? What would you suggest? Giving them information, asking them to consider a happy story or a good news story, or talking about innovation. What’s the best way that parents can kind of approach their teachers if the teacher is like doing this sort of Greta doom and gloom thing?
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s such a tough question because obviously, parents all have different relationships with their student teachers. But I think that supplementing what they are teaching is probably the best way to go about that. If a teacher is including things in their lesson plan that are upsetting to your kids, they need to know that.
Their teachers need to know that this is upsetting to their children and being able to provide resources to them that don’t contradict what it is that they’ve been teaching, but maybe provide the brighter side I think is probably the most productive way to go about that. If they’re teaching something about climate change and your kids come home scared, have that conversation with their teacher about how they can also talk about the solutions and maybe give their students a little bit of hope.
One thing that happened to my son in school. I’ve been covering the agriculture sector for a lot of years and trying to reassure people about innovations in that sector, so whether it’s GMOs or smart technology that can guide tractors or drones that help harvest the crops and also pesticides and how they’ve gotten really smarter with the use of agrochemicals. He came home one day and the teacher had told the whole class that all pesticides are toxic and hurt the land and hurt the plants and hurt the humans and they should never be used.
And I was very upset because this was a science teacher. And here I am, I feel like I’ve been working for years to try to reassure people that proper use of pesticides that are tested can be used effectively and can actually help a farmer use less land, get more yield off the off that land that he is using. I went and talked to the teacher and she was so nice. It really shocked me. And she said, “I did say that, and you’re right that that’s not right.”
She let my son do a little presentation in class about certainly we don’t want to overuse them and certainly, it would be great if we could find technologies where we don’t have to use agrochemicals, but they’re useful right now. And he did a little presentation, so it was a great opportunity for him to learn or for him to actually present basically what he’s heard his mom complaining about at the dining room table every night. But it was a great learning opportunity. And I think the most important thing is that people do approach teachers.
I think there’s a hesitancy that may be on… And also when it’s something like environmental issues where people feel like it’s controversial or that you can’t push back. You would be accused of being called a climate denier or something. I think really encouraging people to do that is important. I want to talk a little bit about something that ACC and you’ve talked about as well as a nuclear power. I know that you’re not only… You talk about the benefits of nuclear power as one of the solutions for climate change. ACC is a great debunker of the myths of nuclear power.
What would you suggest people and what resources would you suggest that parents have not just nuclear, but some of these solutions? It’s, again, talking about trying to be more positive, trying to talk to them about how innovations can solve these issues, not necessarily government intervention. How do you change that subject with kids and explain to them how the free market, how the competition is key to finding a solution to climate change?
Well, I think nuclear is a really interesting topic because unfortunately, it does tend to have a sort of stigma associated with it as being dangerous technology because of some incidents that have occurred in the past. Now, the good news is that the technology we see for nuclear energy today is not even remotely close to the technology we had back in the day, and it’s really incredible the way that our technology has been able to advance.
I mean, if you just think about its landlines versus iPhones and how we were able to change that technology over the course of a decade is very similar to nuclear energy. The nuclear that we have today is not only the largest source of carbon-free energy, but it’s also the safest source of energy that we have. If you look into the history of nuclear energy and any other energy industry, whether that be oil and gas, wind and solar, what have you, nuclear has the fewest deaths and the fewest workplace injuries or accidents out of any energy forms that we have today.
I think a lot of it’s just talking about it and kind of debunking those misconceptions because nuclear really is this incredible technology that we have at our disposal to reduce emissions and lower energy costs.
Yeah, and this isn’t necessarily kids watching this, but all that great information you just gave, all people have to do is watch one hour of Chernobyl, which was a very popular HBO movie. By the way, my father is a retired nuclear engineer, and he was also a submarine. He worked in the engine room. I grew up obviously in a nuclear household, if you will, and appreciate it. I mean, my dad, he must have called me 15 times during Chernobyl to tell me, “This is wrong. That’s wrong. That’s not going to happen. That didn’t happen,” or whatever.
But more importantly, that was the Soviet Union, right? My dad was like, “We did not break it like that. That’s just…” It was a great conversation. It was funny, but that’s the kind of thing I think that frustrates people is that I don’t think a lot of people understood that the ability to keep secrets in the Soviet Union from the… They didn’t have to. They didn’t have to reveal anything to the public, and they cut corners. That was one thing that was frustrating to me about how…
No matter how many fact sheets you crank out and great op-eds and stories about nuclear power, these visuals, like a movie like Chernobyl or some of the other things that happened at a nuclear power plant, it does sort of wipe it out. I think that that was awesome… It was a great mini-series, but it is kind of unfortunate because I think these are the things that drive fear. And that’s another thing. I think it’s very hard to compete… No matter what the issue is. It’s not necessarily on nuclear, but on climate.
It is very hard also to combat what’s out there in Hollywood and very famous people with a megaphone sort of parroting what they hear, the sort of scary messages. It is difficult, but I think, like what you said, just continuing to talk about it, continuing to give people information is the only way forward. I want to close on asking you about trends and where are we going. There was a poll out a couple… I think it was last year.
No, I think it was earlier this year, that said young people, these are gen X, gen Z saying that they’re actually not going to have families. They’re not going to have kids because they’re so worried about the climate, and they’re so worried about these sort of doomsday predictions. I find that tragic. I find that absolutely so sad that people really don’t think there’s a future. It reminds me a little bit, frankly, of the Cold War when people were like, “It’s not safe to bring families and children into this.”
My mom talks about that, how people thought back then that, “Hey, we’re about to get nuked by the Russians. Maybe it’s not safe to bring children into this.” I see kind of similarities in that. But going forward, do you think that people are going to continue to feel like the world’s going to end? When AOC spouts off like that or John Kerry says something like that, this extreme hyperbole, are people are going to roll their eyes, or is this still generating fear? I mean, there is a saturation point. So I’m wondering, have we met that, or where are we?
I mean, I have to say, I agree with you, and I think it’s so sad that we’re kind of approaching this issue with a defeatist attitude. People who are truly passionate about this and who are seeking solutions should have enough faith in their solutions that we can be bringing the next generation here and we can be fighting for them to have a cleaner future and to have a better future.
I think that, unfortunately, the mainstream narrative now that it’s unsafe to bring children into this world, but I think that we’re going to break past that at some point because you can’t move forward without some sort of hope. And what better hope is there than making the world a better place for the next generation?
I think one thing that’s a positive, and I hope you… ACC’s message and your message has always been the human mind is our greatest weapon against climate change. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. I assume that… I mean, I’ve sort of heard… I’m just generalizing here. But you guys really believe in innovation and creativity and what the human mind can do, sort of this concept of human progress, marching forward. It bends to the good and we are constantly finding new innovative technologies that can help improve the world.
I hope with the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine, I hope people are able to make that connection and say, “Goodness gracious, we had a horrible pandemic on our hands. And in less than a year, six months later we had a vaccine and that is amazing.” I feel like there’s not enough understanding of how quickly that vaccine was developed and enough… I should say, I don’t think people appreciate enough how quickly that… It just was historical. I think the same thing with climate change.
I think that we have people working every day to make changes that are not so disruptive that we plunge everybody into poverty or we take away millions of jobs or make food so incredibly expensive that people starve. I hope people are making… I don’t think. I don’t know. I don’t know if they are, but do you think this COVID thing has sort of made people realize that, for lack of a better phrase, but we can do this. We can do this.
I think we have to approach it with a mindset of we can solve problems, and I think that the COVID vaccine is a beautiful example of how we can do that so quickly and actually how oftentimes government impedes our ability to do so. I mean, with the vaccine, we saw the government kind of peeling back some of that red tape to allow the market to develop a vaccine faster. And I think that the same can be said for climate change.
Oftentimes we stand in our own way, and this is exactly why conservatives should be talking about these issues because markets and our values, our principles can get us there so much faster.
Right. Right. Exactly. Well, Danielle, tell us how we can find you, how we can find ACC, and any other projects or things that you want to promote?
Absolutely. You can find ACC online at www.acc.eco. That’s dot E-C-O. And you can find us on Twitter @acc_national. You can also find me on Twitter @dannysbutcher.
Well, Danny, I should’ve been calling you Danny the whole time. It’s funny because we’ve communicated through email, but we’ve never actually met because it’s a coronavirus, the age of coronavirus. Maybe soon we will meet face to face, but it has been great chatting with you and I really appreciate the work that you’re doing.
I think that if your way of approaching things, ACC’s way of approaching things, and better coalitions of conservatives and people who are truly concerned about the environment, I think if those relationships were strengthened, think we really would come up with some better solutions. So thanks again for joining us and telling us all the great work you’re doing.
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me, Julie.
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From all of us here at the Independent Women’s Forum, thanks for listening.