The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics
by Derek Wall
Derrida said that the meaning of a word was always deferred. He meant that words have meaning only in contrast to other words. Black makes no sense without white and so on. The search for the meaning of a word goes on forever.
Sometimes it seems that green politics is always deferred. Just when you think you have reached an example of green politics, you see a flaw and look for another example and so on.
This is because green politics goes deeply against the rhythm and grain of the world we live in, the world of the throw away planet. We have a civilisation, if you can call it that, which seems profoundly uncivilised to my mind, based on taking the resources of our beautiful planet, turning them into commodities and throwing the goods produced away, so the cycle can begin again.
Work, consume, throw away is the religion of the age and those who speak against it are heretics. Nobody likes to be a heretic, so greens like the rest of humanity are tempted to bend with the wind of market pressures and media instruction.
For example, we have the transition movement. In many ways an inspiring movement based on transforming local communities so that they are sustainable. However, local does not go deep enough. Here in the UK, where I live, huge spending cuts mean that bus and rail fares are rising sharply and if I try to cycle to my nearest town I risk death because of busy roads. Local is good but does the transition town movement look at the operations of governments and corporations that structure localities so it is difficult to be green? Without political change our efforts can be more compensatory than practical.
We have Green Parties - don't get me wrong, I am a devoted Green Party member and a local councillor for the Party. Green Parties are committed to changing structures at a government level and challenging corporations.
But they face a difficult task; profound challenges to wasteful capitalism are not always electorally appealing and there is immense pressure to conform. The Green Party has won elections and gone into government in coalitions but have not so far had the power to make the deep changes needed.
We move on! In many ways green politics has shifted to Latin America. In Venezuela and Bolivia, governments have directly challenged capitalism and called for ecosocialism. In Ecuador and Bolivia Mother Earth rights are part of the constitution. All of this is hugely inspiring but these countries are still tidied into global markets and largely extractive economies which still depend on using oil, gas and mineral extraction for prosperity.
To the best of the transition towners, Green Party activists and Latin American left, I am happy to say you are my friends and inspire me. However, the conservative and simple desire to be good ancestors and leave the planet in a decent state for our kids is not an easy thing. It means profound economic and cultural change. We must always think more deeply, work harder and challenge what seems like common sense. Confused? Well, try this simple test: if the media and the markets love you, you know you are doing bad by the rest of nature and your children's children.
More positively, The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics is inspired by three sets of people.
First is Hugo Blanco
, the indigenous leader from Peru. In 1961, in his 70s, he lead a peasant revolution in Peru. Most greens tend to forget that the indigenous in the Amazon have organized
; they are on Facebook and Twitter and time and time have used non-violent direct action to stop the rainforests being destroyed. I salute Hugo and I salute the lucha indigena.
Second are my good friends Jerry Hicks and Alan Thornett. Jerry worked at Rolls Royce in Bristol where they make planes and weapons. Alan worked at the Cowley motor works. Both argue that we don't have to make weapons or cars but can live on green production
. Inspiring people! The one million climate jobs campaign
also shows we can do things differently.
Third and most profoundly I am so inspired by Elinor Ostom
. Unlike my friends above I have never had the pleasure of meeting Elinor and I am not sure how she would react to adulation from an ecosocialist leftist like me. Elinor was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for economics for her work on the commons. More I think than anyone, she has shown that we can have an economic system based on sharing and ecology. I don't think there will be much left for humanity unless we shift to an Ostrom economy where we overturn the work, consume and throw away model and embrace prosperity without growth. Elinor has done such vital work in this area, focussed, modest, experimental and fascinating. Love everything she does!
It ain't easy being green but the alternative of ecological destruction, rising injustice and war is unthinkable. Green politics is the most important thing and one of the most difficult.