Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The State of the Environmental Movement

I read with interest Colin James' article about the changing view within the Greens organisations worldwide, and even more interest the Greens' reply at their blog. In my opinion frogblog is generally a very decent blog, which provides a good analysis from a Green perspective of issues. Perhaps more importantly, I think it is better at furthering the ideology of the Greens than say Rodney Hide's blog is at furthering that of ACT's. I enjoy both.

But their reply to James' article I believe is largely disingenuous and rather politically calculating in areas of the article it wishes to attack. James says this of the Greens upcoming conference (where I'm sure we all hope to see more Morris Dancing):

A different sort of green literature has developed in the past few years - and it is not the sort the Green Party will happily hand out at its conference this weekend.

This new literature began in 1998 when Bjorn Lomborg, once a deep green, began questioning the assumptions, methodology and statistics of orthodox green positions. Lomborg still claims to be green (as the Business Roundtable found when it brought him here to speak), but a skeptical one.
James is of course referring to Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist", which challenges conventional Green thinking by providing statistics which show the state of the Earth in a far nicer light than conventional Greens would so desire. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Lomborg, the Greens' attack on James' point misses the boat completely:

James is wrong if he thinks debate isn't happening within the Green Party about the nature and future of the environmental movement. One of the most lively debates on the Green Party members' forums in recent months has centered around two pieces of environmental movement navel-gazing emanating from the United States: the first called "The Death of Environmentalism" and the second called "The Soul of Environmentalism".
Now, that's fine that it may be going on in the members' forum, and great that the members can indeed read. What I, and I could be missing something here, am still waiting to see from the Greens is some challenge of Lomborg's views. James' point still remains: the Green party will not hand out Lomborg-esque literature. Exempli gratia, I sat through an interesting lecture provided by two of the Greens' media team, in which Green literature was handed out on 'peak oil' and student debt.

The frog then goes on to try to blame the media who do not publish their solutions to problems - only the problems themselves. This is a problem that many minor parties find themselves in, as illustrated perfectly by Kim Hill's interview of Rodney Hide. She lambasted him for not being a "statesman", until he pointed out why he was there on the show, asking her "Why did you invite me on tonight Kim?". The answer of course was because of the scandals. He then proceeded to use the opportunity for explaining ACT's vision.

In this respect I think it is fair for minor parties to feel hard done by - the Greens get no headlines "Income Tax of 0% on first $5,000 by International Earth Day" like main parties seem to manage (whether or not those parties so desire those headlines is beside the point). But by the same token, blaming the media is surely just another case of illustrating the negatives, as opposed to getting the positive aspects across.

James' second criticism of the Green movement is that they are easily tainted with the brush of extremism and as such many of their views, even their good ones, are ignored by the populace. This is already occuring, or at least people are trying to taint them, as the blog itself noted when it discussed United Future's attacks on it here. I think that James' point here is true to a degree - as true as other parties painting ACT as 'extreme right-wing' serves to portray them in a negative light.

I do applaud the Greens since they are willing to accept, as frog goes on to say, that utilising the market is fundamental to environmental issues. However, when reading their piece a while back on the Economist article about market solutions to environmental problems, they seem to have things the wrong way round. They agree with the view that the market can solve many environmental problems. Yet the part they praise and emphasise is the government regulation that provides for the market. Now both are important, but I think it also means that they get tainted with the 'regulate' brush as well. I think the media would be willing to publish articles and discuss a Green party's solutions more often if they served to dispel the myths surrounding the Green party by more strongly advocating the market solutions, set up by legislation. After all, it was similar discourse in America that won the argument in the Senate over how best to deal with sulphur emissions - resulting in tradable sulphur credits. Similar aspects of Kyoto are to be applauded.

At the moment, the Greens are not vociferous enough in their support for market solutions.


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