The Greens’ policy platform needs as much rebuilding as any other party’s, to make it strong and sustainable

When I was a child, before I put away childish things, about, well, a year or so ago, I used to think that eventually, if I kept my ears open, the Greens would explain themselves to me; if I kept my eyes open, I would figure them out. They had a communications problem, I thought.

I was wrong. Communication is not the problem. In fact, I think that the Greens present a pretty true picture of themselves, and get reported pretty accurately, on the whole.

They are all about the environment, and social justice, as you knew. Their policies, and their candidates, loosely form around these ideas. Candidates talk about the “social justice and environmental programme”, putting “social justice alongside the environment”, being “sustainable culturally and environmentally”.

There’s too rarely any proper articulation of the environment - social justice symbiosis — little effort to explain why and how these are both important — leading to the perception that these are just fig-leaved socialists.

MP Ken Graham has said that the Greens are the new Opposition: their message is not about left and right, who owns the means of production and growth, but a cleaner kinder sustainable world. Co-leader Metiria Turei recently aspired to be the “independent hub around which governments form”. That perception is a stumbling block, to both visions.

Here are some of the other political visions of this year’s candidates.

Jan Logie:
“Challenging the paradigm of economic growth is where the campaigns for the environment and social justice must meet … I believe the Green Party would be strengthened by choosing a candidate who has strong connections with social justice movements and who will provide a strong Green voice for equity and fairness … With finite resources we need to work together with equal urgency on social and environmental fronts …”

Catherine Delahunty:
“I am a political animal with a Te Tiriti foundation and I am very committed to justice as a basis for sustainability.”

Rachael Goldsmith:
“I grew up in a culture where it was ok to hurt children, where women and minorities were disrespected and devalued, where the environment was the last thing on anyone’s mind … Then the Green Party stood up. Demanded concern for our environment. Didn’t give up until children were free from sanctioned violence … That’s why I joined the Green Party, and why I would consider it an honour and a privilege to represent Green Party policies in my community, and carry on the hard work done that will continue to empower and protect our people and our environment.”

Mojo Mathers:
“My vision for Aotearoa New Zealand is of a genuinely inclusive society where everyone has a decent standard of living, is treated with respect and where our treasured natural places are valued and protected. I’m also passionate about how we do politics, including remaining true to our kaupapa, charter and policy principles.”

Metiria Turei:
“I am committed to the advancement of our Party as the dominant political voice for a fair, sustainable and prosperous Aotearoa where te Tiriti is upheld, our environment protected and restored and all our people respected.” And: “I have no issues with any Green Party policies”. (Really? There’s a whole other post in that, probably, but … moving on.)

Eugenie Sage:
“I believe strongly in earth justice and protecting nature. Climate change is the greatest threat to our future. By a determined focus on ecological sustainability and economic security, rather than endless material growth, we can help ameliorate the climate crisis. We must rediscover the truths of living simply so that others may simply live.”

Russel Norman:
“Our fate is to live in the era when the limits are reached — the limits of the planet’s ability to supply us with resources and absorb our pollution. Our job is lead humanity’s adjustment to living within these limits, in a way that fairly shares the burdens and benefits, while protecting and restoring the non-human diversity of life on Earth.”

If you put efforts to integrate social justice and the environment on a spectrum, it could look something like this:

  1. Doing some of each: With a couple of exceptions, for compare-and-contrast purposes, the candidates’ profiles are examples of this weak approach. A “decent standard of living” and our “treasured natural places” have equal weight, in no particular order; alternatively, they’re given an order that invites speculation about it.
  2. A sort of three-legged stool (for want of a better way of putting it): Policies that, per policy, deliver economic, social and environmental wins, like home insulation’s benefits for jobs, health and energy efficiency.
  3. Ecological economics: Ecological limits to growth set the conditions for other (economic and social) policies.

About this time last year, I borrowed Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Values manifestos, from 1972 and 1975. She was leaving Parliament. These were among the literature that had politicised her.

They were a revelation. They had a clarity not seen from the Greens before or since. They were founded on a theory of ecological overshoot and collapse: a theory for 2011, much more than 1972. 2011 is about the economy, but the economy is about the environment.

The Greens’ policies have a fair degree of cohesion and logic, that I suspect is Fitzsimons’ influence based on Values — also, incidentally, more emphasis on good science and economics than they get credit for. They flirt with all this stuff, from time to time, and wave bits around like one or other of the seven veils; nothing in this post is new.

They are still spending too much time at the shallow end of sustainability, and that weakens their message.

There’s the anti-smacking/beating/hitting, some Te Tiriti, some inequality, some civil liberties/democracy, the odd ode to Andrew Little … sometimes, as Goldsmith succinctly expressed it, the environment seems “the last thing on anyone’s mind”, and above all, the environment is the one inescapable reality. The rest is politics.

If I was imagining a green manifesto, it would have a heirarchy. It would say that ecological economics is the heart of green philosophy. For each first-tier policy, it would say that this is how, specifically, it supports environmental sustainability. It would do that on the basis that you need a planet, one finite planet, to live on, before you can do any of the other stuff. It would include social justice policies, to address inequality, to support the environment, by getting rid of a driver of growth.

Other policies, for which this can’t be articulated, would have a lower order.

This is why my manifesto won’t ever attain the big ‘G’, I'm afraid. Trampling on people is not sustainable, either. Human rights, civics, and so on are important too, vitally so (more important than the planet?), but it would take some sophistry to explain what they have to do with the environment (feel free to try and help me out, on the comments thread), so they would not make the first grade. A vote for the Greens is a vote for trees, not ‘Aila’ — I can see the spoof billboards now.

All the same, done right, it would broaden and strengthen, rather than relocate the Green Party. It is more than semantics. Sometimes it would affect the substance of the policies; certainly it would affect the emphasis put on some. But it would help them look less … woolly.

Comments (41)

by Robert Ashe on March 16, 2011
Robert Ashe

If I were an economic determinist, I'd agree with you, but by simply putting economics at the top of the policy hierarchy, you overlook the fact that humans don't behave rationally (hence the need for strong policies on democracy and non-violence), we don't behave justly (hence strong policies on fairness), and that nature has a value beyond a dollar value we can put on it (hence strong environmental policies). Messy? Maybe, but isn't real life that way?

by Claire Browning on March 16, 2011
Claire Browning

Hello Robert.

Don't believe I overlook any of those facts. The post is mostly about presenting the manifesto, not ditching it (despite tagline).

Let me ask you some questions now, since I already wrote 1200 words, and you've given me one sentence of rhetoric.

The Greens criticise the government for 'balancing' the environment and the economy, and demand an integrated model. Substitute fairness, democracy, te Tiriti, etc (take your pick) for 'economy', and isn't it the same for you guys, doing a bit of this thing here, and some of the other over there? How can you justify not putting yourselves through the same discipline?

Mostly, you get away with it, because the various agendas you're running don't always intersect, unlike economy/environment. But what do you do, when they clash?

And what do you say, to a green voter who thinks the NACT government is a bit shit (bluntly speaking - oh, and hypothetically too, of course), but a few Green policies are too, and some of the party's culture is tough? Vote Green, because you'll come round to our way of thinking eventually? Vote Green, even if you don't want the country run that way? Because it seems to me, this inclusive philosophy of the party's stops at championing minority causes. That would be a different logic to explain why you stick up for the environment (that doesn't have a voice of its own). I suppose I am in the end asking whether you really do want to make the environment a majority cause, as we must, in a very short time; because if you do, presentation matters, and some sort of logic that everyone can grasp, and priorities.

by Save Happy Valley on March 16, 2011
Save Happy Valley

Kia ora, the connection between social justice and the environment is called Environmental Justice and Climate Justice.

Essentially the point being, that regardless of wealth and position, inequality needs to be reduced, and environmental protection can benefit all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eco-socialism Eco socialism is what some of the left greens in the UK support, as does  the eco socialist indiegnous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales.

The Green Party of Aotearoa is not pro economic growth but as you know from the ecological economics conference has an interest in green economics and steady state economics, the party supports ti tiriti and indigenous rights and is concerned about social/environmental justice.

In short the green party supports workers rights and environmental protection. People and Planet.

The green party sees environmental protection and human rights as intwined.

Supporting new clean energy or green jobs for miners effected by the phasing out of the coal industry for climate and environmental reasons would be a climate justice response to that issue.

The green party supports a just society. Hence social, climate and environmental justice being the bedrock of a environmental movement that is more than an environmental movement, that is also about protecting and enhancing communities.

A successful environmental justice outcome would be creating a low carbon economy with green jobs that everyone has access to. That outcome would be inclusive, and socially just.

 

 

 

by stuart munro on March 16, 2011
stuart munro

I agree that it would be nice to have a clear and consistant central message from the Greens.

But I think one of the reasons they remain comfortably above the 5% mark without one is that their opponents sometimes help define their positions for them.

Rodney Hide's recent effusions on mining National Parks have helpfully clarified that, no, there is not any way to pretend ACT is a utopian set of principled libertarians. Vote for us if you do not value a tourist industry and want to live in a landscape rich with toxic tailings...

With such stellar opposition, the Greens will have to work hard very hard indeed not to get into power at the next election.

by Matthew Percival on March 17, 2011
Matthew Percival

As a non-Green voter I find my major problem with the Greens policies is that the numbers don't add up and their policy lacks cohesion.

I can't for the life of me work out how the Greens are going to fund their substantial expenditure. They talk about broadening the tax base but what are the numbers? An inflation adjusted Capital Gains tax sounds like a compliance nightmare and (depending on how far reaching it was) wouldn't rake in a huge amount of money in the current climate. Their tax policy also leaves open opportunity to use Trusts and Companies to minimise taxation.

The website talks about taxing polluters but once they clean their act up your tax base diminishes. What then?

I also can't get my head around their employment policy. A massive increase to the minimum wage would be the last straw for a number of businesses already struggling and would likely result in increased unemployment. Limiting foreign capital would likely have a similar effect as would taxing "polluters". Yet don't the Greens want to minimise unemployment?

I question who would want to be an employer under a Green government and how a business owner would get a return of their investment given the constraints on business and high taxation.

The Green Party should always do well in New Zealand. Our citizens are proudly anti-Nuclear and I believe have a strong link to our environment. However I believe the Green Party inhibits itself with policies that don't add up and are counter-productive to it's other policies.

 

by Save Happy Valley on March 17, 2011
Save Happy Valley

Many greens supporters are small business owners. I guess an upcomming post from Claire could be an indepth look at green economics, and a follow up from the ecological economics conference.

Auckland and Wellington are looking more and more at what eco city models would look like, with Auckland announcing a solar drive: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/4773506/Auckland-to-trial-major-solar-po... Auckland is looking to put in place the country's largest solar power incentive scheme to move the city away from dependence on the Huntly thermal power station.

 

Green policies are affordable. More motorways and dirty coal are putting liabilities on future generations. We need to build a high skills, higher wage economy, not one build on always exporting low grade products to India, Japan and China etc.

The green party is calling for a shift in the way the economy functions. I suggest reading up on more details re policy, and see what parts you think are most important.

Mathew - have a look at this for a clean economy and energy plan:

http://beyondzeroemissions.org/ it is from Australia and has details on how Australia can build a clean energy economy. It is the kind of forward thinking that is currently lacking here>

Have a read of their clean energy document:

http://beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-stationary-energy-p...

'Don't miss out on this cutting-edge research, which shows how Australia can reach 100% renewable energy within a decade, using technology that is commercially available'

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan is a provocative and timely contribution to the climate change debate, and it deserves attention both here and abroad. The Plan demolishes a pile of conventional wisdom that Australian policymakers still seem unable to get past. The sorry history of Australian climate policy procrastination is littered with polluter-friendly analyses conducted by economic hired guns. Their work has been used to argue against action, or for illusory schemes that price carbon without reducing the greenhouse pollution billowing from Australian smokestacks and tailpipes. The effect has been to constrain debate and obscure from our view a very different vision—a rapid switch from fossil to renewable energy that makes economic and environmental sense.  By highlighting one of many pathways to achieving that vision, the ZCA report sheds light where it is desperately needed."
Dr Guy Pearse
Research Fellow, Global Change Institute
University of Queensland
Author of High & Dry and Quarry Vision

by Claire Browning on March 17, 2011
Claire Browning

I guess an upcoming post from Claire could be an indepth look at green economics, and a follow up from the ecological economics conference.

Hm. Well now. Following up from the ecological economics conference, there was this, of course. And this, plus this (all of which still stands, btw). And this. Oh, and this one, too (kind of incidental, admittedly). Then again, there was this.

Which bit of green economics, exactly? The "indepth" part?

by Kevin Hague on March 17, 2011
Kevin Hague

There's always a problem responding to a criticism of communication - if you say I haven't communicated an idea effectively to you, I can't very well say you're wrong! Instead the constructive response is to explore how better to communicate the ideas.

So my starting point is to take on board the critique that we need to do a better job of communicating the integration of our policies on environment, economy and society. One of the difficulties here is that people who are particularly close to something have a bunch of embedded assumptions, so that connections that are obvious to us may not be to others. That's why it's always helpful to have the perspectives of others in working out how best to present our platform.

I'm open to argument, but personally I don't think that there needs to be a hierarchy of environmental and social goals. As you may know, however, I have given a number of speeches where I have argued that the relationships need to be changed between these three areas, with the economy being seen as a set of tools for helping us achieve our environmental and social goals. I would argue that currently environmental and social goals are compromised to serve the economy, as if it were some independent force of nature.

Don't read too much into the personal statements by candidates that you have quoted, Claire. Readers should probably know the context: these are personal comments made by candidates, published in an internal Party document, to assist all the members of the Party to rank candidates for the list. They are not communications by the Green Party, or comments intended for an external audience.

I accept that Matthew's comment had some validity. Policy isn't the place to put costings, of course, because they so quickly lose currency. However, it's true that we haven't always been rigorous about costing policy and explaining the source of revenue when we have communicated policy. Sometimes that has been because it's very hard to do (for example, in the taxation space, where movements in one tax are likely to cause complex changes in others). We simply don't have the resources to do this really well. However, we can do better, and I hope many observers will have noted that in this term we have almost always been rigorous in quantifying costs and benefits of our proposals (e.g. our Green New Deal packages, Mind The Gap, Getting There) and where appropriate revenue streams. The Mind The Gap document, for example, quantifies how much we expect to collect from a CGT and over what period, and demonstrates how this could be deployed to significantly contribute to a more equal New Zealand.

Greens do think very carefully about ensuring that the solutions we offer are practical and realistic. We have worked especially hard to do this in the current term, and the public can expect to see more of it in what we offer voters.

 

 

by Save Happy Valley on March 17, 2011
Save Happy Valley

I guess what is lacking is details on what a steady state economy would look like and again detail - for how that low carbon economy would work. The 'indepth' part... The ETS has proven to ineffective at reducing emissions, and the gulf of mexico oil spill, and endless mining disasters plus rising fuel costs, are a reminder that a clean energy economy is well overdue.

A 100% clean energy plan, and low carbon transport plan etc are the kind of details that might capture peoples imaginations, and get innovation and jobs happening. There is transition towns and people all over the country keen to work on making a fairer and greener economy and sociery, but  a real lack in overall vision. A term like Nuclear Free is clear in what it is about, a clean energy, low carbon economy needs to be explained and made clear and simple.

In short a plan for a low carbon Aotearoa has not been articulated, and if it where, and it was exciting, and people could feel it was achieveble... a very different debate would be occuring, than the tired same old one about clean air, clean energy, public transport etc not being affordable etc

 

 

by Claire Browning on March 17, 2011
Claire Browning

SHV - yes. I am monumentally flattered that you think I might be able to provide this - given that, when Kennedy Graham convened his conference, A Sustainable Economy for New Zealand, he invited the whole Parliament to come and help. And in the event, it wasn't something that even pretty much the whole Green caucus (plus staffers), plus assorted worthy brainy speakers (economists, et al), came anywhere close to nailing down, after a long day talking round it.

However - agreed. Haven't done that bit well enough, yet. I shall add it to the list, after battery hens, and biodiversity, and oil peaking and drilling, and ... oh, wait a minute. Who do I remind me of?

by Jack Santa Barbara on March 17, 2011
Jack Santa Barbara

My understanding is that the Green Party has adopted an ecological economics position.  But it is not clear how formal or comprehensive that adoption has been.

It should also be pointed out that two of the basic tenets of ecological economics focus on ecological sustainabilty (economic activity must stay within the limits of ecosystems), and social justice (equitable distribution of the benefits of economic activity should be widely distributed).

Regarding specific policies for a steady state economy ( the only kind that is ecologically and socially sustainable) have been well articulated (  see www/casse.org - look for the policy section).

One of the major challenges in promoting ecological economics is the enormous task of educating people regarding the inherent flaws in the current economic paradigm, and the inevitability of a steady state economy - hopefully by design rather than disaster).  In fact the book by economist Peter Victor, "Managing without Growth: by design rather than disaster" does a good job of summarizing the need for a steady state economy, as well as demonstrating that it is feasible, and the kinds of policies required to make it happen.

The theory and policies are there - the issue is one of education and political will.

 

Jack Santa Barbara

by Claire Browning on March 17, 2011
Claire Browning

Kevin - thanks.

I hope many observers will have noted that in this term we have almost always been rigorous in quantifying costs and benefits of our proposals (e.g. our Green New Deal packages, Mind The Gap, Getting There) ...

Yes. It's been noted. Those three are in a class of their own - top class.

Readers should probably know the context: these are personal comments made by candidates, published in an internal Party document, to assist all the members of the Party to rank candidates for the list. They are not communications by the Green Party, or comments intended for an external audience.

Oh, I know. I know. I am not behaving myself, at all ... and yes, it is a bit of a low blow to accuse the Party of communicating badly, when it wasn't the Party communicating. (Except I daresay you'll be putting them, or something like them, all up online when the list comes out. Right?)

Otherwise, all I would say in response is that you're presumably not suggesting anything anyone said for the important purpose of list ranking was untrue.  I think that you're - how can I put this - over-optimistic, if you think those individual MPs' philosophies don't get communicated, implicitly or explicitly, every day in Parliament in one way or another and de facto start to look a lot like the Party's philosophy, in the absence of anything else to point to.

I accept that it was somewhat inconvenient, to lay it all out quite so precisely.

by Richard Leckinger on March 17, 2011
Richard Leckinger

Do keep talking - all of you! As the male Policy Co-convener of the Green Party, it is refreshing to hear it debated outside the hallowed halls. As Kevin has pointed out, communication is always a challenge. We live in a world that prefers everything discussed in silos for easy comprehension (and manipulation). When Greens argue that everything is interconnected, we are bucking the trend and can indeed appear a bit 'wooly'.

by Claire Browning on March 17, 2011
Claire Browning
Even if it's past each other? Everything may be interconnected, as you say, but it helps to find the right handle, don't you think? I don't know where ''silos'' came from - not me - nor Kevin's ''heirarchy of environmental and social goals''. The post still says what I thought I remembered writing: that you need to decide which among your social agendas directly supports the essential environmental one, and use that to prioritise scarce party resources, and explain yourselves publicly.
by Claire Browning on March 17, 2011
Claire Browning
Oh and by the way - since Rick is enjoying himself so much, and in the interests of keeping him perky. I was going to use Getting There, and Mind The Gap, as other examples of the 'weak' approach, originally - one for inequality/social, one for emissions reduction/environment.
by Luke Stewart on March 17, 2011
Luke Stewart

Getting there from memory was produced specifically to address Nick Smith's claim that despite having an entire ministry behind him that is was our responsibility - as people calling for 40% reduction by 2020 - to figure out how he should do it.

by Luke Stewart on March 17, 2011
Luke Stewart

Returning to your core argument as well. I think it is worth understanding that when the MPs communicate there are trying to break through peoples preconceptions. Regrettably political communications are not essay's they are (or should) be design to evoke an emotional response in the recipient.  I would hold up the Green New Deal packages as a great example of using integrating environmental and social gains.

by Claire Browning on March 18, 2011
Claire Browning

Luke, sure. But I'm saying, I can understand why 'people' have those preconceptions; they are not irrational, at all, and if this thread is any guide y'all seem less interested in breaking through them than complaining about being misunderstood. I have put hours and hours - weeks probably, cumulatively, at my own expense - into trying to be objective and figure the Green Party out. And I'm sympathetic to your cause! No other journalist or voter is going to do this. As a political party, as Kevin sort of pointed out, whether you feel hard done by is irrelevant.

by Save Happy Valley on March 19, 2011
Save Happy Valley

I think the Australian green party is an example of a party making good gains and breaktrhoughs regardless of what the media says. Year by year, and election by election they are increasing their vote and position.

The greens Brasil candidate getting 20% of the presidential vote is another sign of a green party on the move.

The Rise of Green Power is worth a read http://www.suite101.com/content/the-rise-of-green-power-a208572

The 21st century could very well see the first elected Green government if increasing environmentally orientated trends continue.



by Save Happy Valley on March 19, 2011
Save Happy Valley

"Environmental influence is rapidly rising throughout the world. There are 37 Green Parties in Europe, 14 in Africa, and the Green Party in Mexico controls five cities. The rise of Green power is clearly developing on an unprecedented scale."


by Antoine on March 21, 2011
Antoine

Hello

I am an economically dry, socially liberal yuppie.

I would never vote for the current Green Party because they are a "bunch of pinkos" who seem to care more about marijuana, multiculturalism, sow crates and "enhancing communities" than (say) endangered species, indigenous pests, erosion, water quality, or recreational use of the conservation estate.

But I would leap to vote for what I would describe as a "real" Green Party - an organisation that cares deeply about the environment but doesn't give a rats about social justice.

I don't know if the current Green Party understand how many people share my views, and how poorly the Greens cater for us.

Many of us would wish there was a second green party that we could actually vote for. Do you think there is room for two green movements in New Zealand politics?

A.

P.S. In my ideal world, the "second Green party" would pretty much ignore greenhouse issues and focus on local problems that New Zealand is more able to resolve. I'm not a greenhouse denier personally, but there's a lot of them out there, and I suspect the existing Green Party's focus on green energy puts a lot of them off...

by Claire Browning on March 22, 2011
Claire Browning

Antoine - there's a bunch of stuff in that comment that I am going to let slide, because I am just so pleased with the rest of it.

by Claire Browning on March 22, 2011
Claire Browning

On further reflection ... maybe better briefly deal with a couple of bits.

But I would leap to vote for what I would describe as a "real" Green Party - an organisation that cares deeply about the environment but doesn't give a rats about social justice.

Up to a point, they do go hand in hand. The argument is about which point: the Greens say everything is relevant to everything, and I disagree; certainly I disagree from the point of view of setting priorities.

I sometimes think it is easier to lift it out of the local arena, and look at it globally, to explain it: the drive for growth in China and India, for example, to lift their living standards; the arguments about funding clean development. The thing won't work, unless we can find a way to deliver that, sustainably - and that means the people (countries) who can do more, who got rich quick and dirty, shouldering most of the burden.

In my ideal world, the "second Green party" would pretty much ignore greenhouse issues and focus on local problems that New Zealand is more able to resolve.

If you're not a "greenhouse denier personally" (but some of your best friends are?), it follows that we lack this luxury. It is going to get hard to "focus on local problems", once the greenhouse issues make themselves felt. Past a certain point, it is going to get impossible.

by Antoine on March 22, 2011
Antoine

Hi Claire

Thanks for letting my annoying tone past :)

>> But I would leap to vote for what I would describe as a "real" Green Party - an organisation that cares deeply about the environment but doesn't give a rats about social justice.

> Up to a point, they do go hand in hand. The argument is about which point: the Greens say everything is relevant to everything, and I disagree; certainly I disagree from the point of view of setting priorities.

Exactly. So my stance is that the point has already been reached and passed in New Zealand - we already have a sufficiently just society to enable us to get on with solving environmental problems. I may be wrong in this belief, but certainly many people feel this way.

> I sometimes think it is easier to lift it out of the local arena, and look at it globally, to explain it: the drive for growth in China and India,

Yes, I'm sure. But in doing so, you lose the attention of many people who want politicians to deal with local problems rather than global ones.

>> In my ideal world, the "second Green party" would pretty much ignore greenhouse issues and focus on local problems that New Zealand is more able to resolve.

> If you're not a "greenhouse denier personally" (but some of your best friends are?), it follows that we lack this luxury. It is going to get hard to "focus on local problems", once the greenhouse issues make themselves felt. Past a certain point, it is going to get impossible.

No I genuinely believe in man made climate change and most people I know appear to feel the same way.

The point I am trying to make is that when the Green movement focuses on greenhouse issues, they (a) turn off the deniers, and (b) fail to give other environmental issues proper attention.

But this is "nice to have" stuff for me. I'd settle for a Green Party that was focused on the environment including climate change but excluding social issues.

People like me envision a Green Party that never needs to be on the opposition benches because they're happy to fit in with the economic and social agendas of the government of the day, in order to promote their own environmental goals.

A.

by tussock on March 23, 2011
tussock

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Pillars_of_the_Green_Party

It's not environment #1 because you can't have sustainable management of the biosphere when local people desperately need to get into some mountaintop removal to pay for food, when a handful of people in Wellington get to decide how important having clean rivers in Canturbury is, or when the men with bulldozers also bring along guns (as they do in less polite nations).

Instead we have a country where a few rich folk buy the big party's policies and we get bigger motorways, bigger trucks, and an "environmental protection authority" whose prime goal is to make rich folk richer.

by Antoine on March 23, 2011
Antoine

Tussock

You are so not convincing me.

A.

by Claire Browning on March 24, 2011
Claire Browning

LOL - on the train - which was ... embarrassing.

The link is useful, in the sense that Tussock makes a great point I should've, about what being a Green party means. Is it fair to test the Greens against Values standards, or is it a whole different movement? Would a party of the environment still be a Green party?

I would argue (and I think I've heard Fitzsimons say this, or seen it said, somewhere) that Values was actually the world's first Green party - that the name was irrelevant. All of the four pillars are in those manifestos, very strongly - but explained, by a basic philosophy.

I can just feel that this comment is about to become more and more random - but sometimes that hits jackpots, so here we go ...

It's almost as if what was implicit, in 1972 (the four pillars), beneath the explicit philosophy, has been subverted as the Green movement evolved, so that now the pillars themselves are the only explicit part. As the title of that Wikipedia page suggests: what are they supporting, exactly, other than a bunch of Green MPs in Parliament?

On the grassroots/participatory democracy thing:

  1. Clearly, it's a pillar, in the sense that it (in the form of proportional representation) gets the Greens to Parliament. Maybe (arguing against myself now) one ought to put that first (ie, being in Parliament is the first step to doing anything useful about the environment).
  2. But also, as much of a weakness as a strength, possibly.
by Antoine on March 24, 2011
Antoine

> being in Parliament is the first step to doing anything useful about the environment

Well, then, doing something useful about the environment is the first step to staying in parliament!

A.

by Judy Martin on March 25, 2011
Judy Martin

Fascinating thread. Claire and Antoine, you might be interested, if not convinced (especially you, Antoine) by this interview with Naomi Klein, which clarifies for me why climate change reduction and social justice are inextricable.

http://transitionculture.org/2011/03/23/an-interview-with-naomi-klein-pa...

and

http://transitionculture.org/2011/03/24/an-interview-with-naomi-klein-pa...

She is quite frank about the difficulties of promoting a functioning climate justice agenda.

I have quite a lot of sympathy with some of your arguments, Claire, because climate change is the reason I joined the Green Party, and the policy I most want to see action on. But the Green Party with all its messy, scattered, democratic grassroots interests is what is in Parliament, currently its strongest and most principled opposition voice, and the Values Party, for all its purity and coherence and its policies written by a handful of members,  was not (and I was a member).

Antoine, why don't the Blue-Greens meet your needs?

by Antoine on March 25, 2011
Antoine

> Antoine, why don't the Blue-Greens meet your needs?

So as I understand it, "Blue-Greens" refers to the part of the National party that deals with the environment, plus their advisors?

I guess they do some good stuff, and if I party-vote National I implicitly support them.

It'd be nice, though, to be able to explicitly cast a vote for the environment.

Also the Blue-Greens presumably would not have much influence over a Labour-led government (right?). Whereas a separate political party could work with either Labour or National.

That's how I see it anyway

A.

by Claire Browning on March 25, 2011
Claire Browning

But the Green Party with all its messy, scattered, democratic grassroots interests is what is in Parliament, currently its strongest and most principled opposition voice, and the Values Party, for all its purity and coherence and its policies written by a handful of members,  was not (and I was a member).

Well I was thinking about that this morning, funnily enough. Before I saw your comment.

I decided that because the Greens are in Parliament, that's the very thing that makes it even more important for them to set out their agenda clearly, and ironic that they don't seem to find this necessary. Values could have wittered on about the four pillars, and it never mattered: that would be normal for a manifesto, that doesn't have to grapple with the messy detail of execution. But the Greens are in power (to whatever degree), doing stuff, with limited resources and (assuming they believe their own rhetoric) limited time. And it's MMP that got them there, not the merits of the respective manifestos.

I was also thinking further about Luke's point, that:

Regrettably political communications are not essay's they are (or should) be design to evoke an emotional response in the recipient. 

That's all uncontroversial playbook stuff - seem to recall 'the Hollow Men' saying similar, as it happens ... but I am just mischief-making now.

However, it may be a bit counter-productive, if for every 'Aila', you have a slew of other policies evoking the emotional response of simply pissing people off, either because they don't understand their relevance, or just can't accept that part of the package.

by Claire Browning on March 25, 2011
Claire Browning

PS. And people voting solely on the strength of an 'Aila', or similar, is bound to be a pretty soft vote.

by Claire Browning on March 25, 2011
Claire Browning

Also the Blue-Greens presumably would not have much influence over a Labour-led government (right?).

Or, the evidence suggests, over a National-led one, either!

by Antoine on March 25, 2011
Antoine

I know of a Minister of Conservation who would disagree with that! (*)

A.

(*) If she was allowed to speak in public, that is

by Judy Martin on March 25, 2011
Judy Martin

So what you're saying, Claire, is that the Greens are just frittering away their chance of making a substantial impact on the advancement of environmental economic policies by diluting their message by getting sidetracked on issues that are either trivial in comparison with those issues, or actively annoying to potential voters who like the environmental messages (like Antoine)? In other words, like Antoine, you would like the Greens to be pretty much an environmental party? I would have to part company with you there.

I was going to make a comparison with Chris Trotter but since I rarely read him directly but only read other's critiques that would not be fair to either of you.

by Claire Browning on March 25, 2011
Claire Browning
Neither of us would be flattered by it, that is for sure. But having now made the comparison, you'd better explain it: how exactly am I sounding like Chris Trotter? If you mean just sort of randomly generally hating on the Greens, then no, that's neither true nor fair Judy, as you of all people should know. But I suppose my 'hollow men' crack deserved an equally hard one back. Touche.
by Judy Martin on March 25, 2011
Judy Martin

No, no, and I wouldn't field Luke's slams anyway, he can well manage his own. The only reason I mentioned Trotter is that according to various left of centre blogs I frequent he bemoans involvement by the "left" in issues like gender and identity politics as weakening and diluting the core working class message for the groups he thinks it should be aimed at, and I wondered if your arguments were along similar lines, though different in content, obviously.

I've decided after years of observation that people tend to treat the Greens as a sort of Rorshach blot, projecting their own beliefs and values on to them to get an ideal picture of how they think we should be. For example I was surprised when I became involved that at least half of the activists I met had joined because of social justice issues - though still passionate environmentalists. Because I came from an ecological wisdom stance that wasn't in my consciousness at that stage.

Similarly, fans and detractors often have a "make or break" relationship based on just one policy which may be taken from misreported information anyway. But for every person who loathes a particular stance, there's someone somewhere who will give their vote to the Greens because of it. In the end, we are what we are, and voters will party vote us or not according to their own thought processes.

I do enjoy your critiques though, and your valiant attempts to mop up the ink. Apologies for the late answer, delayed by the last batch of blackberry jam.

 

 

by Claire Browning on March 25, 2011
Claire Browning
Well, I can vouch for your Rorshach theory - considering after two years doing probably exactly that, I look at your new candidates, and I think, that's it. In the end, that's really all that the party is. We weren't travelling anywhere after all - we've arrived. One last thing though. I put up the nuclear post for a reason. It's an example of how different logic would help refine the policy, short to medium-term, without necessarily changing the long-term aspiration.
by Antoine on March 25, 2011
Antoine

[shrugs bemusedly and wanders off, scratching his head]

A.

by Claire Browning on March 26, 2011
Claire Browning
See what just happened there?
by Judy Martin on March 26, 2011
Judy Martin

Yep, we lost one we never had : ). I will concede, as my last point, that in general, the democratic process does make policy development, especially the re-development of existing policies, glacially and frustratingly slow. The SPA does a fantastic job, but it would be wonderful to have the resources to do more.

I did think in that post though, you missed out Monbiot's most salient point - that nuclear power would have to demonstrate superiority over the whole of its life, from uranium extraction and refinement to safe disposal to convince him.

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