2 Sep 2011

'a fantastic introduction to Green politics'




Review: The No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics

The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics is a short introduction to Green Politics. Written by Derek Wall, a former Principal Speaker of the Green Party of England and Wales, it is published by New Internationalist, a co-operative which publishes the No Nonsense Guide series of pocket guides to issues from a leftie/green perspective.

At 40,000 words, the No-Nonsense guides often have to cram a lot into a small space, and this book is no exception. It gives a potted history of Green politics from its genesis the 1970s to date. This section alone is worth the cover price, as it gives a real feel for where Green politics and the wider Environmental movement have come from, as well as its global scope. Wall covers Green parties in every area of the globe in a relatively short chapter.

The book then goes on to talk about the most obvious distinctive of Green politics – the politics of keeping our planet in good condition. He talks not only about the impact of climate change, but a range of other environmental problems, addresses the way that the economic system is at the root of a lot of these problems, and even offers up a real working example of how we could remodel our societies to be genuinely sustainable.

From there, he moves on to the philosophy of Green politics. He examines the range of political beliefs that could legitimately lay claim to the Green label, covering everything from ecosocialism (which is quite common) to ecofascism (which is decidedly not). This chapter is the one that I feel suffers the most from the size limit. I would have loved to have seen more detail on the different nuances within the mainstream of Green politics – an analysis of what distinguishes green localists from ecosocialists, to pick one example, would have enhanced the book significantly.

The next chapter deals with Green approaches to economics, detailing the variety of approaches that are taken to the key issue of how we can restructure local, national, and global economies to be both fairer and more sustainable. Although some of the ideas he covers are outside of conventional economics, Wall nevertheless points to work by professional economists (including a couple of Nobel Prize winners) that backs up the positions outlined.

Following this, the book gives a whistle-stop tour through Green policies on a range of other issues, taking examples from across the world, and demonstrates some of the principles other than care of the environment that are at the heart of Green political thinking.

Finally, the book rounds off with a look at the current state of Green politics, the various strategies that politically Green groups take to try to effect change, and thoughts on how the Green cause can best advance itself in years to come.

Overall, the book is a fantastic introduction to Green politics. If you’re not familiar with Green political thinking, this is the perfect book to give you a basic familiarity with it. If you’ve been in Green circles for a while, but have never systematically investigated the politics, then this book will help fill in the gaps in your knowledge. Even if you’re an old hand in a Green Party somewhere in the world, this book will probably leave you better informed.

The one downside to this book is its length. Because it tries to cram so much into so little space, you’re often left wishing that things were fleshed out more thoroughly or that a chapter would go into some other aspect of Green politics that there simply wasn’t the space for.

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