The great physicist and teacher Richard Feynman, lived and taught by an aphorism of Einstein’s, “if you cannot explain it easily, you do not understand it [properly]”.
The greater Green movement has a much clearer view of the future than its political wing. Politics is, in part, the exercise of compromise in exchange for power. From its position of principle, The Greens find it hard to put those principles into practice.
In fact, it is the contention of this essay that, until a practical expression of the Green vision can be simply laid out, the Green dragon remains a donkey. Thus it is critical to lay out the principles that unite the Green movement and separate it from twentieth century governments.
It’s nature, stupid
The first principle is that human beings are subordinate to Nature, that is, we have to recognise and accept our place in the scheme of things. Brilliant as we are, as adept in creating and employing technology that allows us to challenge the ecosystems that have shaped life on this planet, we do not have the wisdom to wield such power.
To be Green, you have to accept that there are planetary systems that require protection from the excesses of selfish, thoughtless human behaviour.
This is at odds with the traditional and heartfelt belief that we are Nature’s shepherd, tending and improving her pastures as we tend and improve our own lot. Exploring and resolving that issue is a key component of mapping a Green future. Leaving behind the image of a pious bunch of nay sayers is the critical component in finding a supportable plan based on that vision.
Greed is not good
The second principle is that the worship of money is the root of much evil.
The profit generated by economic growth has become the altar at which all modern government worships. The raping and pillaging of the planet takes place in the name of profit, or of the economic growth that makes it possible. Democratic governments, falling prey to the principle that the people will always vote for more largesse, are unable to remove themselves from the teat of economic growth.
The betrayal of its socialist roots is behind the loss of faith in the labour movement.
That does not mean the Greens should inherit that mantle. Separating the simple redistribution of wealth from the reshaping of the economy is a critical component of this project.
It is interesting in this context that the well understood cure for Japanese stagflation, debt and immigration, has been resoundingly defeated at the ballot box for over fifteen years.
Each Japanese government that successively attempts to kick start the economy, is promptly tossed out by the affluent and well educated, middle class who prefer the status quo than economic growth at the expense of their lifestyle.
Learning to identify and express that yearning in the West is the challenge for first world Greens.
Nurturing the bounty
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Green belief framework to deal with is the notion of a nurtured bounty. While this looks like the radical, red-heart of the Greens movement, it is at complete odds with the notion of state-owned and operated assets.
Greens philosophically tend to sympathise with the pagan spirit of local deities and shared responsibility. Gift-giving economies bind their members into networks of shared responsibility, and Greens basically welcome the spirits of Nature as active members of that network.
When Christine Milne talks about rediscovering the rural roots that The Greens have in common with the farmers it is this spirit that she refers to, knowingly or otherwise.
The ecology of power
Traditional hierarchies of power are the natural evolution of the empire from family to tribe, tribe to kingdom, kingdom to nation and nation to empire. It has been based on the fundamental principle of organisation that requires the consumption of energy to create an increase in orderliness. The application of the second law of thermodynamics to living things has seen bacteria, ant colonies and humans centralise resources into colonies that naturally grow until constrained by the capacity to sustain the supply lines.
The formation of new commercial and power webs that behave more like complete ecologies than individual and parasitic colonies is the underlying shift from a capital constrained world to a resource constrained world.
It is at a community level, though, that The Greens have the most important and difficult role to play. Our collective response to the challenge of climate change and energy descent has been to actively engage in and promote personal responsibility for our ecological footprint.
We need to extend that responsibility into the more difficult aspects of governance, supporting our communities physically and emotionally. Providing guidance, wisdom and leadership rather than hiding behind rhetoric. The expressed preference for grass roots politics often descends into nothing more than distaste for the state. That is only valid, and viable, if we have operating spheres of influence that can take on the state’s responsibilities at a local level.
Mapping the four pillars
The notions outlined above are a re-expression of the currently documented four pillars of the Greens movement. I have deliberately expressed them, for the purposes of this essay, in the spirit of the change that needs to take place and to separate the underlying principle from the policy decisions (such as opposition to war) that might seem to automatically flow from them.
If these are the principles that underpin the Green movement then it is critical to examine how they differ from the views of their most vocal opponents.