The central thesis of philosopher Roger Scruton case for an environmental conservatism, says Leah Kostamo, is that the primary motivation for care for the earth is oikophilia—a love of home.
Oikophilia, Scruton argues, is what emboldens people to make sacrifices for their surrounding environment and neighbour. Scruton spends many pages tracing the history of oikophilia, particularly in his native Britain, and howoikophilia has been destroyed by internationalism and big-government subsidies and regulations.
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In light of the success of small-scale initiatives born out of a love of one’s own place, the question then becomes “How do we engender oikophilia?” In the bigger picture, Scruton would advocate for the lessening of central government control so that civic associations and local municipalities are forced to deal with their own environmental issues. Secondly, Scruton suggests that oikophilia can be fostered through education. In this regard I am reminded of Rachel Carson’s much quoted statement that “if a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” This task is obviously going to be challenging given our current youth culture’s love affair with the iPod and all things technological, but it is not impossible. In our experience, even the most citified kid comes alive when set loose on a farm or in a forest. This “aliveness” is essentially wonder at the natural world and attachment (or “re-attachment”) to “home,” which Scruton argues will in turn be transformed into concern and care for the environmental problems of one’s local area.