On Wednesday, Nov. 1, students from Concordia College, Minnesota State University Moorhead, and North Dakota State University gathered in Barry Auditorium to hear former Congressman Bob Inglis speak on behalf of RepublicEn, a conservative movement aiming to combat climate change with free enterprise.
Dr. Kenneth Foster, political science professor and chair of the President’s Sustainability Council, worked with Concordia senior Patrick Sorrells to bring this event to light.
According to Sorrells, Inglis spoke about his plan to instate a border adjustable revenue neutral carbon tax, making the United States fully responsible for the negative aspects of carbon pollution, even for outsourced goods.
“It would incorporate into the cost of goods the bad effects of pollution. This would in turn incentivize people to be more selective about what they buy, since the prices of products that cause this kind of pollution would be increased,” Sorrells explained.
Concordia College tries to be a sustainable institution, as evidenced by the no-trash classrooms and the recycling bins around every corner, but having speakers appear on campus helps to encourage a unified belief in sustainability regardless of political affiliation.
According to Foster, climate change became a touchy subject once it was painted as a liberal farce to increase the government and its powers. This is one of the reasons why he believe Concordia needs to host talks like Inglis’.
“Bringing these groups to campus can help conservative students to see that they can play a role in debating what we, as a society, can do to deal with climate change,” Foster said. “It is essential to have trusted leaders on both sides of the political divide who are willing to bring people together to find common ground.”
“This event is important because it highlights the fact that one can have beliefs that don’t align 100% with their political party, and still be associated with said party,” Sorrells said.
Another reason Foster and Sorrells pulled this event together is because they felt it fit with the college’s ideals.
“The mission of RepublicEn also fit really well with President Craft’s sustainability goals and initiatives, which was helpful in deciding to do the event,” Sorrells said.
Inglis came to Concordia after a successful visit last semester from RepublicEn’s director of strategy. Sorrells reached out to conservative student leaders at MSUM and NDSU to boost attendance. Both he and Foster thought the event was a success.
“I thought it went well, and both students and faculty told me that they appreciated hearing from Bob Inglis,” Foster said. “The only disappointment was that not very many students who identify as conservative attended the event, despite a lot of outreach specifically to conservative students.”
Sorrells had a similar regret, expressing that he wished he could have advertised the event on MSUM and NDSU’s campus sooner. Despite this, one student thought the event was a hit.
“The event was in Barry Auditorium, but the seats they did have were pretty packed,” said Liese Peterson, a Concordia senior.
Just hearing about the topic, Solving Climate Change with Courage and Conservatism, was enough to pique her interest.
“I went to the talk because I was curious,” Peterson said. “There needs to be Republican support [for climate change], especially with the current system, because you have a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President.”
If such an event were to happen again, Peterson said she would definitely attend.
“I want to be open to all of the ideas and not be like, ‘It’s a Republican idea, therefore it’s dumb,’” Peterson said. “I mean, you can’t call yourself a critical thinker if you close off ideas purely based off where it comes from.”