Red State Preservationist, or what the National Trust Should Have Said

Some of you who are members of the National Trust might have gotten an e-mail last week titled “Help Pass the Energy Bill.” Before I even saw that e-mail, this headline popped up on my computer screen “Drop the National Trust“–this from a site called WEBCommentary. “Well, well, what’s this all about?” I wondered, so I clicked the link, and it continued:

Once respectable organization now a political operative of climate alarmists

In a mass email to members, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) urges members to support the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” aka the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. However, nowhere in the email nor in the link to a form for urging congressional passage of the bill is it identified as the costly and counterproductive Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

So then I saw the Trust e-mail, and although I don’t think we should all run out and “drop the Trust,” I do think WEBCommentary has a point about the . . . well, lack of a broader perspective in the e-mail. So what does the Trust’s e-mail say? Here it is in full since I can’t find it posted on their website (although they do have a bit about the energy bill here):

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Support this bill!

http://my.preservationnation.org/site/R?i=cbjdbYLQfJ29k2_fl0UUKg

Currently, homeowners can only get a tax credit for buying new products to weatherize their homes; the credit only applies to NEW materials like replacement windows. If, however, you hire someone
to fix your existing window, often a viable and more sustainable choice, the tax credit doesn’t apply. We think that’s wrong. Take action to change that today.

This bill includes the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance Program (REEP), which would provide financial incentives in the form of state block grants to help owners of homes and businesses save money on energy upgrades, including weatherization or window repair. And, it would provide additional incentives for owners of older and historic properties to make these upgrades in keeping with the historic character of our homes, buildings, and neighborhoods.

Our effort to support this critical legislation is a key element in our ongoing work with Congress to address the needs of owners of older and historic homes. Homes represent the single largest group of
historic structures in our towns and cities.

This legislation is the centerpiece of our new Homeowners Campaign.

You can make a difference right now:

*  TAKE ACTION:

http://my.preservationnation.org/site/R?i=RHZFm3gLy8eprZ280MDNgQ..

– Tell your representative to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act

*  SPREAD THE WORD:

http://my.preservationnation.org/site/R?i=tKuoty_fcjS9Jn6i7hSSug..

– Ask 5 friends to contact their representative with the same message

The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance Program will provide $2.5 billion to communities throughout the country to help owners of older and historic homes renovate and weatherize their homes.

By taking action today, you join us in the first step to providing tangible help to those on the front lines of preservation — owners of historic homes and buildings — and educate Americans that in many cases the “greenest” building is one that has already been built.

CONGRESS TO VOTE ON GROUNDBREAKING INCENTIVE

Support Historic Preservation:
Tell Your Representative to Pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act this Friday. We need your help to ensure its passage because it includes — for the first time ever —
incentives for building owners to make their homes and properties more energy efficient while respecting their historic character.

Window Work

New legislation encourages energy upgrades for historic and older homes with financial incentives that have NOT been offered before.

First let me say I don’t have strong opinions one way or another about the American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill) because I don’t know enough about it. But I do know, because I pay attention to the news, that many many people have incredibly strong opinions on the bill, both positive and negative. The positives say it must be passed to save the planet from climate change, the negatives say it won’t save the planet but it will destroy our economy and drive more jobs overseas. And because fair-minded people on both sides of the issue feel so strongly about it, the Trust shouldn’t have come wading into it like a bull in a china shop without acknowledging the controversy. These kinds of missteps put preservationists who work in so-called Red States in weak positions with our constituencies because, fair or not, it paints us all with a “liberal extremist” brush.

Unlike Bob Webster, the author of the WEBCommentary who urged us to drop the Trust, I’m going to give the Trust the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just displayed bad judgment instead of outright deception. But even that assumption is cause for concern because it is itself based on the presupposition that nobody in a position to make decisions about this e-mail had any qualms about taking the approach it did. This inability to recognize another’s point of view as valid is a basic flaw in reasoning usually brought about by being surrounded only by other like-minded thinkers, people who all agree with you and you with them and you’re all one big happy family–you might call them the Groupthinkers.

While we would and should assume that everyone who works for the National Trust agrees with the basic preservation philosophy, should we also assume that they are all of one political party? If so, there’s trouble in the long run for preservation as a movement. Whenever you tie yourself to one party, you end up toeing that party’s line instead of being an independent player. Besides that, political parties ebb and flow. Just a few years ago, everyone said the Democratic Party was dead (yes, just a few years ago); now, everyone’s asking where the Republican Party went. Preservation should stand apart from that up-and-down–we can and must speak to people of all political persuasions.

I’m not arguing that the Trust shouldn’t have sent out a mass e-mail, but if they were thinking about their national constituency, they would have realized that there are conservative and Republican preservationists as well as Democratic and liberal preservationists (or at least there are in Mississippi and I suppose in most other states as well). The resulting e-mail would have been much different in tone: something like “we know this is a controversial bill, but we want to make sure that our historic neighborhoods are taken into account if it passes. These are the issues the Trust has addressed by getting these items added to the bill. If you support the bill and want to tell your delegation how important preservation of our historic neighborhoods and homes is to you, then . . . “

That kind of e-mail would have inspired confidence in all members that the Trust was fighting for preservation in the legislative arena, but it also would have 1) respected the political views of all members and 2) assumed that they were intelligent. As it is currently written, it not only disrespects (by ignoring the existence of their perspective) anyone who opposes the cap-and-trade legislation for its basic, non-preservation-related premise but also assumes any member who would oppose it is so stupid that they won’t realize that the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” is the same as “cap-and-trade,” which is being debated endlessly on the television.

I live in a conservative state, grew up in a conservative family, go to a conservative church, and have some core beliefs that would be considered very conservative. I’m also a passionate preservationist. I see no conflict between those statements. Does the National Trust?

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Categories: Environment/Green, Historic Preservation, National Trust

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  1. Which Preservation Organization? « Preservation in Mississippi

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