Saturday 23 July 2011

Greens must not cosy up to capitalism. They must resist it

In your interview with Mark Lynas he describes his conversion to "an environmental movement that is happy with capitalism", and urges greens to join him ( Have the greens lost their way?  July 2 2011 ).

"Is the green movement a leftwing, anti-capitalist movement?" your article asks. "Mark Lynas believes it is, and that those who style themselves as greens should be marginalised and allowed to die off so that they can be replaced by a new breed of market-friendly environmentalists like him." Is this really the future of the green movement? If so, it's one of defeat.

Along with human overpopulation, the principal driver of the accelerating eco-crisis – anthropogenic climate change , biodiversity crash, destruction and degradation of wild habitat, and a virtual holocaust of animal species – is precisely capitalism. Far from being realistic, to propose as a solution more of what is causing the problem is nothing less than delusional. Any green movement worth its name must therefore resist industrial capitalism, however hopeless that may appear, and the only serious questions concern how.

Lynas also condemns anti-nuclear protesters as "just as bad for the climate as textbook eco-villains like the big oil companies". But in the absence of a radical programme to reduce energy consumption and increase energy, conversation the hypertechnology of nuclear simply extends capital's empire.

 So too would the further industrialisation of remaining relatively wild nature through huge-scale wind "farms". Like putting a price on so-called ecosystem services and creating a financial carbon market – the acme of "market environmentalism" – these measures are all about turning a massive new profit. They also perpetuate the lie that no one has to make any significant changes in the way they live. Again, a green movement must have the courage to point this out.

What alternative vision does a truly green movement have to offer against that of Lynas? Not one that depends on business; nor government, hopelessly entangled through its fiscal dependency; nor technoscience, now equally corrupted.

What hope there is lies in building and strengthening local communities, civil associations and citizens' movements with a shared understanding that without ecological integrity, no other kind is possible. We need a sustainable society and culture with ecological values at its heart, where value isn't reserved for the imperial rulers – what Lynas calls "the God species" – but is identified with the common natural good that sustains all species alike.

As for the future of the green movement itself, if all it can offer is collaboration with business as usual, why should anyone bother? The "clause-four moment" that Lynas wants for the green movement (as if New Labour was the realisation of the labour movement, rather than its betrayal) would be its death warrant, and that of much more besides. Greens urgently need to engage with people's ecological intuitions, impulses and aspirations. Only that deserves to be called realism.


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