Back in the day, meaning the 60’s and early 70’s, one’s concerns started to shift from the probability of ‘them’ dropping ‘the bomb’ and starting WW111 Annihilation through the concern for nuclear winter and the ecological catasrophe that impled, to issues of radiation, pollution, population and ultimately ecology.
Personally I first heard of global warming and the greenhouse effect in the sixth form (1968) and translated the implications of the exponential function from the maths classroom to the size of populations and the levels of waste.
These notions (memes) were widespread and formed the seeds around which Limits to Growth, Movement for Survival, the COunter Culture and all that crystalised. By 1974 in the UK The Ecology Party had been named, placing ecosystem concerns front and central to the programme firmly based on an ecology platform.
The train left the stationand headed off downthe tracks, but it turned out around the first bend that the track was not yet built and the pioneers had to be construct the line as it went along.
Not a problem if they had taken a firm bearing on the departure point and used this to guide the path, but distractions and immediate concerns took over and those who were keeping an eye on the original direction of travel were not heeded, thus the slow drift off course began. Pragmatism began to rule the day, winning the next battle without heed for the original objective. Classically being so busy cataloguing the trees that they understandably lost sight of the wood, dealing with the alligators and failing to drain the swamp.
Yes the goal was still acknowledged – a sustainable society. But by default this came to mean one much like the failing one but with the cracks papered over. Dreams were projected onto the goal, even whilst the tracks were being laid to deal with the immediate issues – get a councillor elected here, save this, stop that. The focus shifted from a deep understanding of ecological sustainability defining the path to whatever was needed to get this bit done.
At the same time there has been a complementary increasing focus on a “sociocratic” approach to issues, which elevates purely inter-human concerns of equity, justice, discrimination and personal space to the level of fetishes with higher priority than our place within the wheel of life. A deeply anthropocentric approach has emerged which is nothing more than the old renaissance view of the natural world as subservient to humankind.
More recently the vacuum on the left of the two-dimensional political spectrum caused by Labour’s embrace of the extreme right neo-liberal position under Blair, coupled with the fortuitous event around the BBC’s attempt to censor us which caused the GreenSurge has caused the party to focus far more on the socialist consequences of ecologism as if they were the main point, and to become somewhat disconnected from our green roots.
The rise of Corbyn is, of course, putting an end to this positioning – why would any left-leaning voter vote Green when there is a genuine resurgent socialist Labour Party to elect.
In the short term this will be appalling for the GP’s electoral prospects – we have succeed in alienating green minded Tory and LD voters (and there are plenty of them) by focusing on leftism and forgetting our true ecologism.
For a brief spell in early 2015 we were able to say openly, and with credibility in left-wing circles, that we were an anti-capitalist party. Which of course we are and always have been but from a somewhat different direction to the conventional far-left anti-capitalistas.
It may be that in the medium term the loss of ability to appeal credibly to left-socialist potential voters will enable the GP to rediscover its core values and effectively promote that very compelling message on the doorsteps of England. Especially so as it increasingly chimes with the tide of the times – people are starting to become genuinely aware of green issues that are starting to affect their daily life and their quality of life. From strange weather, to Arctic melt, to ocean deserts, to neonics & bees, to habitat loss, to dangerous food and the cocktail of chemical pollutants in the air we breathe and the water we drink and the food we eat, there is a genuine rising tide of awareness that the GP can tap into.
But we then run up against the problems of time-scales and democratic inertia. It would certainly be possible to use our democratic system to incrementally reform our society. Introduce big ideas like Citizens Income, Land Value Taxation, Monetary Reform and stopping the pursuit of economic (and other) growth as a good in itself. This is a worthy project and we can dream of Greens supporting a minority government in 2020 and forming a Green government in 2025 to start implementing these changes.
In the 1970s it appeared possible that we might make changes that would have gone with the flow of that tide and carried our ship of state with the current of historical tides as they ebbed. Instead we saw the introduction of neo-liberal ideas in the 1980s effectively throw a barrage across the estuary and trap the retreating tide allowing us to believe that things could continue as before. This also trapped politics in a cul-de-sac, making radical change unthinkable as we continued to sail around the lagoon we had created believing that we had overcome history.
As the waters around recede the pressure on the barrage builds. As the river of time flows in to the head of the lagoon the water inside rises. Inevitably the barrage will be overwhelmed and destroyed and a massive turbulent flood unleashed that will toss our ship of fools into the whirlpools and dash it on the rocks.
Our role in green ecologism is not now to pursue the chimera of quotidian political power, but to to be prepared to navigate the rapids ahead. To ensure that as much of real value as possible is carried with us, that the unnecessary luxuries of unsustainable life are abandoned and to chart the course that we now must follow using a compass recalibarted to the original bearings from 1972.