At new year, in spring time, and on Anzac Day, my calendar clocks another year, and I resolve to start again, again. This blog is not immune to it: it’s time for a change, because we know everything we need to, about National’s green blues

“This article is a stub. You can help [Wikipedia] by expanding it.”

In March, I said the Greens need a better narrative for their policies. They need to tell Joe Average why each policy is important, and how they relate to one another. They need an agenda for themselves; if they agreed on a philosophy, this would help. Their candidates right now are standing more or less around the ‘four pillars’; they’re standing for the Greens, in other words, and that may be all a Green Party is, in the end. However, historical accidents aside, it is not succinct or compelling enough to win a broad base, or run a good government. It evokes the wrong emotional response, of pissing people off.

It frustrates me, as a policy writer, to see the story told by the Values Party, forty years ago — a little dated now, yet oddly contemporary — in a muddle, the very minute we never needed it more. I thought the Greens, of any party, might live by their whakapapa.

Well, [expression of frustration redacted] I will write it myself.

Maths and nature are the problem, summed up here by David Suzuki; in 1972 and 1975 by Values, when they asked us to think Beyond Tomorrow; here by Tim Jackson, describing what growth has done, and failed to do, and how much more of it Earth would need but cannot sustain; here by Al Bartlett.

The political problem is finding the will and the way to break bad news to a bunch of people who do not want to hear it. It needs to be turned into a good news story, that explains itself, to anyone, simply, logically and persuasively; that is unthreatening, despite challenging the status quo.

It is a problem, too, of finding a story that works, and works quickly: a policy platform with real integrity, built on good science, and economics. It must meet all of the challenges, which are in the end the same challenge: fossil-fuelled over-consumption (climate change, peak oil, food insecurity, the GFC). It must meet them, in a way acceptable to today’s voters.

It must promise the world Enough.

Since Values already did, it makes sense to pick up those threads, and make a lifeline for the future; to weave them into a new narrative, about a sustainable economy for New Zealand; to ask, “what Values do we need today, to build a society that is environmentally and economically sustainable?”.

In March, I suggested two tiers. Each policy would need to explain how it supports environmental sustainability, because you need a planet, one finite planet, to live on, before you can do any of the other stuff. That is the one truth, I argued, the rest is politics. This would require a range of policies, including social justice policies; it wasn’t ‘environment trumps’. However, policies that could not meet this test would either be lower order, or some of them might need to change.

Six weeks later, I’ve refined it a bit, and do you know, it has four pillars, an instant selling point — just, er, not the same four pillars.

1. Environment
2. Economy
[Society] 
3. Social justice
4. Resilience

Or, smart and fair and kind and strong?

In fact, I cannot do this all by myself, all at once, which is by way of an apology. What follows is not very good; it just is what it is, today.

Environment.

1. State of the environment reporting, on the stuff of life, that sustains and feeds us — air, water/oceans, soil, climate, ecological footprint — and using the reporting for fiscal/policy planning
2. The economic value of conservation. 
3. Conservation and business: the role of business, and risks of running the conservation estate like one. 
4. Dual purpose policies — soil carbon, pest control. 
5. Why does biodiversity matter? Well, the UN’s Rio Earth Summit 1992 thought it did, where it was twin to climate change, and a Convention was drafted for each.
6. Maybe, Nature’s rights (and our corresponding duty)?

Economy.
What would an economy look like, that put the environment first, and worked smarter, not harder?

7. Steady state — how might that work? 
8. Tax and other income streams, like fee and dividend, and resource rental. 
9. Our big earners — dairy and tourism. 
10. Economic sovereignty — owning our own future. 
11. It would be fuelled by clean energy. What kinds?
12. What would business look like? 
13. What would government look like, and what would it do, eg, would it use its purchasing power for green procurement, or change SOEs’ SOIs, or you know, actually regulate for stuff that gives back, instead of taking things off people like, oh I don't know, their heritage buildings, and democracy? 
14. Role of the third (community, voluntary) sector. How might policy support them?

Social justice.
Were it up to me, I might not call it social justice at all, but humanity.

15. Why fix inequality? How does it affect the environment, and vice versa, locally and globally? Must a defender of conservation’s intrinsic value also grant the intrinsic value to a society of fairness?
16. What about the intrinsic value of kindness, to all — ie, an animal welfare policy?
17. Population policy, for sustainability: cap, or growth? 
18. Place of the Tiriti o /Treaty of Waitangi and Maori. Not just a social policy this, or the honour of a promise: the affinity between Maori and conservationists’ view of the natural world, that’s seen ‘kaitiakitanga’ written into our key environmental Acts, and the Greens and Maori Party line up with one another, is as much about the environment, where Maori can (often) be a powerful ally.
19. Why workers’ policies? Is there something you can say about equality of means in the broad sense — empowerment?

Building resilience.
Adapting to the changes we can already see, and minimising their risks.

20. Food quality and security (+ implications for land?). 
21. Transport. 
22. Houses (+ secondary benefits of each of these three). 
23. Building resilience in Christchurch, a ‘green fields’ example; and Wellington; and Transition Towns. 
24. Some more about vaguely-remembered good ideas, like one I thought I’d heard about in Nelson: offsetting, by paying to green someone else’s home, who cannot themselves afford it. 
25. Seeding change from the ground up — grass roots, collaborative, democratic.

That’s what you can look forward to.

After a while spent doodling, trying to draw this, so that it might look anything like a flower, I can report that this does not work. However, it is a whimsy I like, and I will probably keep trying. A tree might work better.

Holding the government to account, or whatever, is important, but three years has taught us all we need to know about them.

There are many many posts of mine on this; more would be more of the same. Their ‘rip shit and bust’ resources policy, for conservation mining, digging lignite, and drilling oil. Their conservatism, masked as pragmatism, on cleaning up after ourselves: air, oceans, waste, biodiversity, emissions reduction targets. Their “ambition for New Zealand” to be middling, like Australia, if we’re lucky.

These are political fossils, dead wood. This year, on this blog, I would like something green.

 

Comments (12)

by Richard Aston on April 26, 2011
Richard Aston

Good on you Claire for attempting this.

You say "They need to tell Joe Average why each policy is important, and how they relate to one another." I would add " how they relate to Joe Average" .

For me the bigger issue is how are the pillars, Social justice, Grassroots democracy and Nonviolence are connected to Ecological wisdom. Were they an afterthought or perhaps the simple fact that most greenies ( I cound myself as one) have human sensibility as well and naturally bring on board a mixture of social justice/wellbeing policies.

How can the green story be transformed into a human story?

From what I can see the green story gets resistance when the foreboding becomes overwhelming for people, when the solutions cut humans out through rigid rules and restrictions, when green policies are perceived as threatening to economic livehoods.

Aside from policy what do we need to do to enliven the concept of kaitiakitanga in us all? How do we get across the idea that caring for the earth and it's inhabitants is very much about caring for us humans with our social needs.

 

by Andin on April 26, 2011
Andin

All good thoughts and much needed. I'd just put Social Justice or humanity at the top of the list. Not for any egotistical reason. My logic runs thus; If we are going to save ourselves and each other presumably. We have to care for each other a lot more than many presently do.

Our big picture history aint pretty and it left a stain(sorry, a metaphor). So a common response is to care for one's ingroup. This will just get worse, maybe culminating in islands of people on a resource depleted planet  fighting for their survival. You'd think with so many movies like this, we might have considered the possibility. And how to avoid it. But no we're still following our nose.

Anyhoo, what was I sayin'. Oh yes, if we get ourselves sorted out, cause enmasse we're a mess (hehe). We might have a future on this planet. Where do we start, stop fight each other and dismantle all war apparatus (or put them to peaceful ends). Sorry I dont want to drag it off topic already.

But we are talking about humanities place on this planet. A planet that pays us no heed. And why should it?

But we have the ability to heed it. What a gift.

by Richard Aston on April 27, 2011
Richard Aston

Andin your point about needing to care for each other a lot more is a very good one. Could it be true that a society rich in caring, a practical caring based on knowing we are all interdependant, could such a society equally and without question extend this caring, this sense of inderdependancy, to the earth on which we are all dependant?

Which process would naturally come first ?
1 Caring for the earth leads to caring for each other
2 Caring for each other leads to caring for the earth

by mudfish on April 28, 2011
mudfish

I like what you're trying to do. But I'm going around in circles trying to critique one aspect or change another or balance one priority against another - it's a big topic - seems too big to sell to Joe public. And I'm sorry I'm not going to put much time into more than a quick response. 

I started off thinking - I don't agree with Andin - I strongly support equality of opportunity but don't put "fixing inequality" (q15) high on my list - but then it's the social issues that many people will vote for - and it's only people that get to vote, which is perhaps why the anthropocentric parties do so well.

Richard said:

From what I can see the green story gets resistance when the foreboding becomes overwhelming for people, when the solutions cut humans out through rigid rules and restrictions, when green policies are perceived as threatening to economic livehoods

My only contribution is that a clearer differentiation between the short term electoral cycle goals and the long term vision might be helpful - 3 years, 3 generations (or 7 generations if you follow the native american wisdom). This is what we plan to do this term, these small steps in this direction. That's the bit that gets voted on anyway.

by Claire Browning on April 28, 2011
Claire Browning

Mudfish ... you needn't apologise. The inadequacy of my own efforts is so vast, pretty much anything from anyone else is going to be a source of great joy. Well, that's not quite true. Trolls and morons get short shrift, as regular punters will know. But I liked yours - and the others, too.

it's a big topic - seems too big to sell to Joe public.

Yup. Which is precisely the problem. The trick is to boil it down, in the end, to something that you can.

by Richard Aston on April 28, 2011
Richard Aston

Mudfish you are right about longer term thinking - so hard to engage people into but you well right. I know a man who was key advisor to his iwi and he told me they had just completed their 10 year plan - all good - but thought it was a little short term so have started working on a 1000 year plan. He said it changes all you thinking looking that far ahead.

 

by Richard Aston on April 28, 2011
Richard Aston

I have to say I get a little uncomfortable with terms like Joe Average, Joe Public and the idea we have to sell ideas to - lets extend it a little - to Joe Moron.

I know my own arrogance reasonably well and its never served me well in the realm of communication of ideas.

 

 

by Claire Browning on April 29, 2011
Claire Browning
Well, of those three, 'Joe Public' is not pejorative, it's just a statement of fact. As is, sometimes, moron. Sorry Richard, I'm being facetious. I promise to (try to) be open to others' quirks of self-expression and human failings, if you will do the same! - even when it makes you uncomfortable.
by Andin on April 29, 2011
Andin

"Which process would naturally come first ?
1 Caring for the earth leads to caring for each other
2 Caring for each other leads to caring for the earth"

I would say they are inextricably intertwined and it would be my hope that these avenues would be explored, not leapt upon as the "solution". Which the current system, politically, seems to demand. Its kind of new territory.

I dont know..maybe we have to try a different approach.

Mudfish

" but then it's the social issues that many people will vote for - and it's only people that get to vote, which is perhaps why the anthropocentric parties do so well."

Social/environmental to me seems an deliberate divide that confuses the issue. And its really beyond what people in one country will vote for. Its a global issue now. But I'm not suggesting we do nothing as a country or individuals.

The problem is (as the blog sez) convincing more of us to look at the issue/s. Of course the other option is future generations forced to do something in deteriorating conditions.

by Andin on April 29, 2011
Andin

Dammit I always forget something.

Its just going to take, imo, a lot of local solutions. There is no one size fits all in human or environmental terms (I hope we agree on that).

And that's a problem, not for the people usually, but systems/institutions bawk at it, or take some shoving.

It also raises the issue of levels of control/oversight, but I'll stop there.

by tussock on May 03, 2011
tussock

If the greens want a coherant central message to tie their policies too, maybe it could just be "stop fscking things over". If you'll excuse the common touch.

You know, like the environment, the poor, victimless criminals, the age old foundations of the justice system (overworked thanks too all those victimless criminals, eh), our schools, solo parents, local industry, ....

But if you do that, you've got to expose how all those current policies are fscking things over in the first place, which is what the greens do, but no one hears, because there's more "important" things in the news instead.

by Claire Browning on May 04, 2011
Claire Browning

If the greens want a coherant central message to tie their policies too, maybe it could just be "stop fscking things over". If you'll excuse the common touch.

I most certainly will excuse it - delighted, in fact, to have company, down here in the gutter ...

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