7 June 2017
David Herbert, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Jarrow
David says: If you recognise climate change as the biggest threat we face, then a green vote is not a wasted vote; it sends a message to the others that are ignoring it, including Labour. Read this to see why.
Why a vote for your Green candidate is important here in the North East - by Sandy Irvine of Newcastle Greens:
Today we held a stall on our local High Street. I talked to an energy engineer from Siemens. It was interesting and challenging to hear his views on the limitations of renewable energy technologies. The dominant topic of conversations with passers-by, however, was the need to back Labour to kick out the Tories.
It was surprising how many people argued (and this is echoed in many social media posts) that Corbyn has taken the Greens' clothes and there is now not much difference between the Labour Party and the Green Party. So, following this line of reasoning, it is even more right and proper to vote Labour.
In reality, there is still an enormous chasm between the two standpoints.
A good place to start is the current Labour Party Manifesto. In his foreword, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn does not once mention climate change, the biggest, the most urgent and the overriding issue of our lifetimes. Naomi Klein's book argued that the climate crisis "changes everything". Well, clearly not Corbyn's Labour Party. It is too mired in the politics of the past. Of course, it has to make some genuflections about 'decarbonisation' but, otherwise, totally fails to see the significance of global overwarming and indeed a multiplicity of other crises (see, for example: http://biophilosophy.ca/Teaching/2070papers/crist.pdf)
Not surprisingly, then, what is called 'the environment' only makes its first appearance on p93 and for only two short pages. It falls within a section entitled "Leading Richer Lives". This treats the environment as some sort of luxury choice, an optional bolt-on, once the 'more important' things have been sorted out. Yet a 'healthy' ecology is the precondition for a durable economy (eg https://www.routledge.com/…/Washington…/p/book/9780415632584)
Already, total human activity is in the 'red', in a state of overshoot (eg http://www.overshootday.org). The real recession today is the recession of the Earth's life-support systems caused, primarily, by that excess. Extreme weather events, more frequent and more devastating floods, bigger and more destructive forest fires, rampant soil erosion, the devastation of wildlife, toxic overload … all are but symptoms that the human economy has, in toto, grown too large in relationship to Earth's resources and assimilation capacities. Thus the 'plasticisation' of the oceans is poisoning sea life (eg https://www.theguardian.com/…/more-plastic-than-fish-in-the…)
The UK economy itself has what is sometimes called a 'three-planet' economy (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/countries/). It is self-evidently unsustainable. We only have one planet Yet the Labour Manifesto calls for "faster economic growth". Of course, supporters will argue that 'smart planning', efficiency breakthroughs, 'decoupliing' (of economic growth and environmental impact) and so forth will make it possible to squeeze out more growth and without the damage of past growth. Not so! Many studies evidence that this is all 'pie-in-the-sky' (some of it is summarised here: http://www.steadystate.org/discover/enough-is-enough/; https://www.newsociety.com/Books/T/Techno-Fix; http://richardheinberg.com/bookshelf/the-end-of-growth-book and http://clivehamilton.com/books/growth-fetish/ )
We need a radically different path: better not bigger. Labour, however, is stuck in a politics of 'moreness', not 'enoughness'. The social ills it rightly spotlights will not be cured by what is essentially a reformed version of 'business-as usual". Indeed there are directly links between economic expansionism and the decline of human community and personal well being. [Some of the evidence on the links between economic growth and declining human well being are summarised here: https://www.newsociety.com/Books/B/Better-NOT-Bigger; http://www.yesmagazine.org/…/can-love-save-the-wo…/affluenza; and https://www.lilliputpress.ie/…/the-growth-illusion-how-econ…].
A more sustainable and fairer way of living depends on a different vision, one that will include more radical redistribution and wealth and investment than the Labour Manifesto is willing to contemplate (some associated myths are dispelled here: https://policypress.co.uk/why-we-cant-afford-the-rich-1 and http://www.lindamcquaig.com/TheTroubleWithBillion…/index.cfm).
Beyond promises of "faster economic growth", Labour also seeks more international trade (p30). Yet there is, again, abundant evidence of the environmental and social harm it is wreaking. Arguably the Brexit vote along with the votes for Trump and Le Pen were in part a protest against the dislocation and marginalisation caused by the 'global casino' that is the world economy. Labour's global trade policies are a million miles from the Green vision (eg https://books.google.co.uk/…/Green_Alternatives_to_Globaliz… and http://progressiveprotectionism.com/…/localization-a-globa…/). On these grounds alone, it is amazing that anyone could think that the gap between Labour and Green thinking is now only paper thin.
Indeed this gap becomes even clearer when one looks at the conventional investment strategies Labour advocates : more rocket-on-wheels high speed trains, more airport expansion, and Crossrail 2. Amazingly, it backs the radioactive white elephants of more nuclear power, right at the time when the beast is, mercifully, beginning to die.
As if to underline the gulf between Labour and the Greens, "Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent" (p120). If used first it is not a deterrent. If used second, it has failed to deter. In any case, it didn't deter the Argentinians in 1982 and is not much use against illegal fishing, poachers, drug cartels, people smugglers, street gangs terrorist cells and most real threats to 'security'…. Indeed Labour's thinking on 'security' is entirely conventional. Meanwhile spending on Trident, aircraft carriers and the like drains resources that, spent elsewhere, might create better conditions for peaceful coexistence.
So too are its views on education, health and social care. Essentially they boil down to: "spend more". Yet we cannot just keep on pouring money into the welfare system. We need new approaches that also reduce demands on the system, not just patch it up. Those alternatives range from the introduction of a basic income system to land use planning that reinvigorates local communities within the existing built-up area rather than encourages the building of more dormitory suburbs on greenfield sites. Far stronger action on pollution and unhealthy diets must be the menu too. We need fresh thinking as well about a longer living society For example: https://www.greenparty.org.uk/…/green-party-older-citizens-…
The section on democracy is equally limited. Clearly, major forces inside the party opposes Proportional Representation. Its thinking on local government scarcely gets to grips with the crisis at that level (cf: https://www.lrb.co.uk/…/the-strange-death-of-municipal-engl… and https://policypress.co.uk/who-stole-the-town-hall).
Of course, Labour has a seemingly reasonable slogan "for the many, not the few". That seems only just. Yet an attempt to give everyone the consumption levels typical of, say, California might be 'fair'. But it would only create the equality of the grave. Any such attempt would destroy the Earth's life-support systems in the process. Indeed, the slogan of 'social justice' begs as many questions as it answers. Once again, we have to start thinking in different terms from those inherited from the shop-soiled Left-Right spectrum of politics (eg https://www.jstor.org/stable/29768890… and http://www.thesocialcontract.com/…/tsc1303/article_1138.shtm)
Labour supporters will perhaps claim that they are saying what needs to be said to 'kick out the Tories'. Yet the programme Labour advocates will do little to reduce the major threats now facing society. It may well make some worse in the drive for "faster economic growth". To be fair, some of its policies may make the lives of some citizens better in the short term and that can be but welcomed.
But we are running out of time to address the really major threats facing society. We have to do what we can to popularise policies that will defuse them. The myth that Labour is offering the necessary programme only gets in the way of that work.
Recognition how far Labour and Greens diverge does NOT preclude genuine co-operation around specific issues especially at a grassroots level. With regards to congestion and pollution problems on the High Street where the picture was taken, Labour Party and Green Party members have worked well together. The same was true in the battle over the local 'Core Strategy' development plan, even though it was bulldozed through by Labour controlled Newcastle and Gateshead councils. But such joint work cannot be based on false unity but, rather, a honest recogntion and acceptance of real differences.
At the coming General Election, the key task is to maximise the Green vote. Truth be told,in the vast majority of constituencies tactical voting will make little difference such as the distortions of our 'first-past-the-post' system. But a low Green vote will only strengthne those forces across all the other parties that seek to push the big issues of our times to the bottom of the agenda. Of course, in conversations at the stall, it wasn't quite possible to make all these points!
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