I think that anxiety for the loss of environmental and human rights protections embodied in European law has provoked a loss of wider perspective in recent Green Party policy. Polemical reactions by Green party leaders to the follies of the Brexit campaign, have lead them to places where no green thinkers or actors should remain. For instance, the slowing of GDP which will inevitably follow exit from the EU has been heralded as the height of folly by both leaders. Yet both leaders also argue for economic de-growth.
It is true that a slowing of spending will have potentially dangerous effects on the casino of stocks, shares, currency-trading, usury, property prices and rent. As prices tumble, businesses collapse, tax revenues wither, unemployment soars and infrastructures crumble – with deep human costs. Those effects will vibrate through the Eurozone.
However, the level of spending necessary to maintain the casino will trash ecosystems and continue the acceleration of climate change – with far deeper human cost. No other political party will grasp the truth that whichever way so-called developed economies now turn will lead to differing sorts of tragedy. That should be the Green Party’s role. She should choose the only possible future for human cultures, which is to shrink economies to just the size that ecologies can support them – that is also the only course to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Before the casino crashes (it will crash) we need to make sure that self-sustaining communities have the resilience to survive more or less intact. The Green Party should be calling that community together.
As Green Party members will know, cultural CO.2 emissions in 2017 were 60% higher than in 1990 when nations first pledged to act on climate change (Anderson). I think that if we could devise the figures, we’d probably find – whichever day you are reading this (at least in UK Winter) – that UK activity will emit more greenhouse gas than any other day in history. Yet nation states, such as the UK, boast that they are meeting their climate obligations.
The Green, “enlightened” stance to European membership is a dangerously unconsidered reaction to the undoubted Brexit endarkenment. Similarly, for myself, I voted to remain, because I could not share the company of racist and flag-waving Leave campaigners. I would leave in better company. But mere reactions should not colour our deeper thoughts and policies.
What is the European project? – open borders for corporate “investment” in exchange for negotiated human rights protections.
The EU project, is at its heart, against any green first principles. The project is a consumerist bargain – statutory consumer rights are exchanged for statutory corporate supply. It is happy to “green” that corporate supply, but not to end it. The EU project is to create universal consumerism. Democracy and consumerism are often confused – no wonder – political parties are marketed in the same way and by the same agencies as pot noodles. A consumerist project to green the casino (market signals – electric cars, recycling, no plastic campaigns and so on) lends an impossible system credence. Changing a system by the system erodes its sharp edges – it looks more attractive – but it remains the same system.
Anyway, few in the Green Party will dispute that GDP could be renamed GDCC – gross domestic climate change. A 2% increase in annual GDP (spending) will mean a more or less 2% increase in GDCC, or CO.2 emissions. Current increases in renewable energy look impressive (at least for electricity generation), but they have not matched the (even more impressive) increase in Gros World Product.
Green Party members will know that GDP is a measure not of economic assets, but of the spending of them. Green Party policy would be better directed to nurture and defend a true economy of people, their needs, loves, futures and resources … An economy divested from both fossil fuel and the stock market may remain more or less alive as the casino collapses around it, because its substance will remain more or less erect. Much that binds will be unrelated to spending – friendships, trade relationships, the skilled and their apprentices, parenthood, people gathering to sing at the piano… Those essential bindings to an economy have no column for entry in GDP.
To be fair, protection of inherited cultures and languages is a part of the EU project, but as museum pieces. Watch them evolve into the present and they will be crushed, as we’ve seen with the recent tragedy in Greece and the coming tragedies in Italy, Poland, Spain…
Any national attempts at degrowth to a size which fits national ecological limits will be similarly crushed.
Here is Yanis Varoufakis, Finance Minister for those times…
“For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.”
The Green Party needs such a manifesto to resist projects, such as the EU project. In truth, only a mass romantic movement is appropriate to face our extraordinary times. Cascading species loss, wildly accelerating climate change and an economy consuming far beyond its means, cannot be met by “petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past”.
The EU’S human rights, consumer rights and environmental protections (that is common morals enshrined in law) are placed to placate objections to open borders to amoral corporate supply. That is – human right is balanced against corporate right. The amoral corporate supply is central to EU, Tory and New Labour policies.
Money flow mirrors (or should mirror) energy flow. It will be easy to generate green electricity to meet current electricity demand, but it will be impossible to generate green electricity for the new demands of industry, transport and domestic heat. In other words, fossil fuels cannot be replaced – they are too powerful.
We must find ways of life, which sit within the dramatically-reduced means of the resources that remain. We must do without both fossil fuels and the ways of life they have created, by finding new (or revived old) ways to live.
The scale of the change needed for cultures to survive is too great for either European, or Westminster politicians to embrace – that is – the end of aviation, the family car, suburbia… They came with fossil fuel and must go with it. There are two choices – the end of those things, or the end of settled human cultures.
Now I know that the Green Party is a political party set up to engage in political processes and so many members may feel it is stuck with the formal processes that we have – from local, to devolved national, to centralised Westminster. However, all those institutions are set in a media led lens, commonly known, but misnamed as the Westminster bubble – beyond that frame nothing will be accepted. Yet every action we take for both households and communities to settle within their ecological means is outside that perspective. It is as though the whole of UK and EU politics is a reality television programme levitated above both the measurable Earth and ordinary, good company. No convivial solution to climate change and social justice will entice a camera crew. If we act properly we will not be noticed. I propose that the Green Party should function as a new camera crew to bring ecology, economy and social justice into a more convivial focus.
Existing formal political processes are not the only political means.
Curiosity for, and delight in different cultures should be celebrated and brought in view whenever the parochial racist speaks, but to polemically bring the EU into view to counter those things is a lazy reaction.
We are also led down a blind alley with thoughts of Left and Right. As G K Chesterton said, communism is big business run by the state, while capitalism is the state run by big business. Both are contrary to G K Chesterton’s, a green, and so of course, any future.
The EU project is to have Europe run by big business, but within limits of negotiated social and environmental protections. That is the invitation – to trade national governance with corporate supply in exchange for those protections. Traditionally, such protections evolve and are kept alive by commons of good behaviour. By placing them in statute, they become enclosed and static – beyond evolution. As with all enclosures, living morality is replaced by statutory amorality. Personal morality becomes unnecessary, because (it’s said), we can trust in the law. Proponents of the human and environmental rights embodied in the EU project follow the same false turning that the New Labour project took, and which destroyed, for a while, the purpose of the Labour Party. It secured a winning ballot by accepting defeat for the Labour movement. Current Green Party polemic is following that same dangerous road. The difference is time – we cannot delay action on climate change. The polemic argues inside the enclosures, because it cannot see a way out. It should argue from inside commons, which have not yet been formed (or reformed).
I say it should appeal to personal morality – that after all, explains the success against all odds of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. They have occupied potentially increasing commons and that is why the poisonous invective of the monopolies rains on them with similarly increasing volume – just as it will rain on the Green Party. Let it rain.
Meanwhile, carbon limits are traded, natural capital (true-cost accounted) is bought and sold. Green dispensations, pardons and indulgencies have become a market place and the good behaviours of people, communities and nation states have become superfluous.
That is the battleground.
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