23 Jun
2016

Learning from History

A splendid afternoon and evening yesterday spent with David Taylor going through some of his archive material on the early years of the green movement from 1974 onwards.

Scanned a load of documents and posters and photos which will appear in due course on the Southwest Eco-Green history area at southwest.greenparty.org.uk/southwest-green-history

It is extraordinary to reflect on what was started then, and how it seems that almost nothing has been achieved in 40 years. On every important ecological measure we are still on exactly the track we were travelling in 1972. The Limits to Growth base case (carry on as you are) is depressingly accurate. There are so many ways or points at which you can say that mistakes were made, and if only we had done this, or that, things might have been different – but that is merely hindsight.

The important thing is to learn the lessons of the past 40 years and apply them to the situation we are in today.

Forty years ago I was not politically active, but I well remember all the ideas that were in the air at the time – ideas that are embedded in the early PEOPLE and Ecology Party documents as well as Green CND and other parts of what felt like a common movement.

We talked long into the night about all this and maybe something will germinate and sprout. A couple of years ago David started a 40-Forward movement, which attracted much initial support but then stalled. Maybe we can take that somewhere.

Personally I feel that it has to be about building a movement – right back to what the original gang of four set out to do in 1973 And that means working very locally and personally – movements cannot be imposed from above, they are created by people rather like the individual fish in a school, or starlings in a murmuration all start to move together in the same pattern.

Nobody instructs or orders each individual starling what moves to make – the murmuration is an emergent property of a group sharing information – presumably about where there is good feeding and safe roosting, but perhaps about the nature of time and space – we have no idea, we merely see the movement as a whole.

The new Movement for The Future, or whatever it ends up calling itself, needs likewise to be an emergent property from ecological systems awareness in human individuals.

We must start from the myth, the mythology, the narrative which tells this story effectively – not by preaching about what must, or must not be done. Once people share a common narrative vision then they can be trusted to do the right thing – far more effective than trying to prevent them from doing the wrong thing for reasons that they do not understand. That is “understand” in the complete sense of embody, feel, breathe, rather than single dimensional rational understanding.

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