15 Aug 2011

Global green politics

1 Global green politics

The term ‘green politics’ was once synonymous
with the German Greens, who have participated in
governments for much of the last three decades. But
Green parties have now gone global – from Kenya
to Mongolia, Taiwan to Brazil. And green political
activity encompasses non-electoral campaigns and
direct-action techniques the world over.

IN 1983, 28 MEMBErS of the German Green Party
were elected to the West German parliament. Dressed
informally in jeans, some of them brought in plants to
place on their desks. Their colorful arrival contrasted
with the suited members from the traditional parties.
Their success marked the first entry into a national
parliament of a group of greens. The German Greens
were elected in 1983 on a platform with four key
elements: ecology, social justice, peace and grassroots
Green parties were born in the early 1970s, grew
in the 1980s and green politics is now a global
phenomenon. Green politics is first and foremost the
politics of ecology; a campaign to preserve the planet
from corporate greed, so we can act as good ancestors
to future generations. However, green politics involves
more than environmental concern.
Ecology may be the first pillar of green politics but
it is not the only one. Andrew Dobson, an English
Green Party member and academic, has argued that
green politics is a distinct political ideology. While
much ink has been spilt defining the term ‘ideology’,
Dobson argues that it is a set of political ideas rather
than a single idea, even one as powerful as concern for
the environment. He argues that a political ideology
provides a map of reality, which helps to show its
adherents how to understand the world. He also
believes that ideologies demand the transformation
of society. He uses the term ‘ecologism’ to distinguish
green politics from simple ‘environmentalism’.
The second pillar of green politics – social justice
– is vital. Greens argue that environmental protection
should not come at the expense of the poor or lead to
inequality. This social justice element places greens
on the left of the political spectrum. Greens argue,
however, that the right-left spectrum is not the only
dimension of politics, not least because there are many
political parties that are committed to social justice
but which fail to protect nature.
The third pillar – grassroots democracy – also
distinguishes greens from many traditional socialists
who have often promoted centralized governance of
societies. This is a principle that greens share with
anarchists and other libertarians.


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