Greens recognise that the ecology supports humanity, and so we must nurture nature for the long term rather than diminish for our short term gain. The fundamental principle is that humanity must have the humility to recognise its place in the scheme of things.
Flowing on from that principle, Greens generally hold that the naked pursuit of profit runs counter to the first principle. It follows that there must be some moral compass to temper the demands of the economic imperative. This applies to governments in their interpretation of economic indicators and companies in their quest for profit.
The Greens moral compass is founded in the liberal humanist tradition of freedom, fairness and equality. The environmental imperative expands the definition of humanism to include future generations and non-human constituents. The Greens moral compass is scientific and therefore rational rather than faith based. That means that the movement’s assumptions are built on evidence and so the movement welcomes the questioning of those assumptions.
These principles are globally expressed in the four pillars of The Greens: Environment, Social Justice, Grassroots democracy, Non-violence.
The history of the four pillars and the variations on how it is expressed in different countries only serves to underline the fundamental nature of these principles. The Swedish Greens Three Pillars, for example, are expressed in terms of solidarity with the Environment, World’s People and Future Generations.
I have deliberately structured this essay around the Environment, the Economy and Morality to address specific concerns with Green policies expressed by key constituencies. The examination of these concerns is the first step in the frank and fearless analysis that a transformation requires. Before commencing that examination, I want to clearly restate the principles at stake.
Actions speak clearly
Greens (and the non-Greens voters who hold these principles) generally agree on the actions required to implement those principles.
To protect the environment we need to
- reduce waste,
- use renewable energy,
- replace conspicuous consumption with a more frugal lifestyle and
- curb destructive and extractive industries
The major damage that we seek to prevent includes:
- the collapse of marine ecosystems,
- the climate chaos caused by global warming and
- the squandering of non-renewable resources.
To manage the economy in a fair and responsible way, thus ensuring ongoing and stable (read sustainable) governance, we need to ensure that
- economic growth takes place within the parameters set by the environment,
- wealth is fairly distributed and
- innovation replaces population growth and extraction as the driver of growth
The application of these principles again leads to some obvious and fairly uncontroversial actions. We must:
- Temper conspicuous consumption with frugality
- Limit the globalisation of the economy by the needs of community and sustainability
- Empower governments to hold corporations accountable
- Switch subsidies to innovation of sustainable rather than extractive practices
The morality of Greens is well summed up by the opening lines of the atheist’s creed.
If you are hungry I will offer food
If you are thirsty, I will offer water
If you are cold, I will offer warmth
If you are in need, ask and I will offer help
If you are depressed, ask and I will comfort you
These first five statements of that creed are universal. They represent the close alignment of Green principles with rural and regional electors and with the morally driven middle class.
I do not do these things out of hopes of being rewarded, or out of fear of being punished.
I do these things because I know them to be right.
The assertion of a moral imperative as opposed to being driven by reward and punishment is common to all who believe in individual good rather than individual sin – libertarians as opposed to authoritarians. That statement is also the basis of individualist as opposed to collective codes of government. Separating these two threads is a critical component of the analysis of Green messages to the electorate.
(The rest of the atheist creed is considered under red herrings, below.)
Implementing that code to govern morally implies that the end does not justify the means. The practical attributes of a Green government required to uphold these principles include:
- Humane social and foreign policy
- A secular state that limits religious intolerance
- Balance needs of the community and ecology with the needs of the economy
The real-politic of principle
Greens struggle to understand why such an obvious and wonderful set of principles do not translate immediately into votes. Realistic Greens recognise that high-minded principles need to be backed up with real policies, but the Greens policies are largely ignored by the media, discarded in the overwhelming objections to the Greens as a credible political alternative.
Taking apart that blanket rejection is exactly the frank and fearless analysis that sets The Greens on the transformative path from donkey to dragon. It has two quite distinct components.
- Conservative voters loathe the Greens
- Mainstream voters do not trust us
The next two sections of this essay deal analyse these attitudes in the light of the Queensland 2012 state election. A detailed accounting of the numbers is provided in the sidebar Greenslanders? Not!