Jul 26, 2017

The Greens’ not-so-simple, essential mandate: save the Earth

The environmental movement has come a long way from hippie love-ins and right-wing jokes. But the Greens, in Australia and elsewhere, have to acknowledge that it is the single most important thing they will ever do.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Before the Coalition’s Canavan of Covfefe mucked things up somewhat, the right, and a lot of the centre was having a high old time with the Greens. For years, the party has been trying to reshape its image, getting away from the happy hippie activist thing, donning the grey suit and open-necked white shirt "sent from the future to save you" look, or the black skivvy Newport Jazz Festival ’65 alternative. In one bad week, a lot of that got blown away, with not one but two resignations on the grounds of section 44 dual citizenship, and the possibility that others might follow, including some of those lined up to replace the departing senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters.

To cap it all off, the latter appeared at a press conference in a park with -- "Who was that guy?" everyone asked, "the one in the relief map scarf and the little glasses, was it her guru?" Was it that De Rucci guy who advertises furniture at the airport? No, it was Jonathan Sri, a Greens councillor (not counselor), fresh from his audition for the George Harrison biopic apparently, and landing the Greens squarely in hippie territory once again. News Corpse had fun, with poor old Lobbecke having to crank out a fairies down the garden pic, and Chris Kenny having a culture wargasm about the imminent demise of the party. Laura Tingle’s focus on the party room relations was simply rendering the issue in the only terms she knows how to talk about. Peter van Onselen wrote a sensible piece in The Australian, which sounded like a surviving sailor tapping out an SOS from inside an upturned hull. It was left to our own William Bowe to make the obvious sensible point -- the Greens vote appears to be holding at 9 or 10%, but the changing nature of parliamentary politics makes it unlikely that that will guarantee nine or 10 senators in the future.

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20 thoughts on “The Greens’ not-so-simple, essential mandate: save the Earth

  1. Roger Clifton

    One role where The Greens can shine is in responding to climate-related disasters. In a future of rising frequency of disasters, it is good strategy to often say, I-told-you-so because it segues to you-should-be-listening-to-us, which is, after all, good politics. Then, now-hear-this-bold-plan would be lapped up by journos who know you will deliver.

    However, those bold plans need to have been worked out, polished and written long before each class of disaster occurs. And there is an awful lot of ’em, so don’t block off your options.

  2. Geoff Davies

    Confused, but you kind of got there I guess. First you indicate the “left-leaning” parties have already got the message (really? So no Labor support for coal, excess water extraction, invading other countries, crimes against humanity, rampant financial markets …), then you say the only thing for the Greens is to push the deep message – we have only only one life support system and we’re wrecking it. Ok, good, though I might have said it better myself: https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/-the-greens-paddling-hard-but-missing-the-wave1,9388 .

    Missing here is the simple demonstration by Sanders, Corbyn and others that many people are desperate for some real action on the survival issues and on getting the wealth spread around more fairly. I don’t know why the Greens are missing that wave.

    1. gerald butler

      They haven’t missed the wave it’s rolling in to the shore at an increasing tempo. Labor with a bit more daring may catch it.

    2. Andrew

      Very good points Geoff.
      Andrew Glikson

    3. Andrew

      A very good point Geoff.

  3. Charlie Chaplin

    Yes, they do, Guy and since capitalism put us in this mess, the Greens continued embrace of it won’t take them – or us- where we need to go. Oh, it’ll gain them a few ex-Labor voting liberals – even a few ex-LNP ones- but it won’t grow their vote because many on the left will continue to withhold it- especially the young left. They’ll just keep shaking their heads, arms folded, saying “It’s not enough” and refuse to fill out that AEC enrolment form.

    So what do you want, Greens? Do you want to govern and turn this around? All it would take is just enough of the vote to give you the balance of power. Or do you just want to poach votes from Labor and the LNP, collect that sweet, sweet super and pass through the revolving door as a well heeled consultant/spokesperson on green/social justice issues?

  4. [email protected]

    “What was noticeable was that the party apparatus was able to regroup and move forward”. Really? Was it evidenced through the subsequent leaking of internal strategy documents to the oz. LOL.

  5. Humphrey Bower

    Dear Guy, I began voting Green instead of Labor when the latter caved in to right-wing populism on the issue of asylum seekers. The Greens are now the only party that represent my values when it comes to human rights, social justice, non-violence/disarmament and the environment (as well as electoral reform, political/financial corruption, internet surveillance and other issues). I don’t think these values are entirely class-based; and historically they have long been been shared by Green parties in Europe and around the world. Best, Humph

  6. Will

    It’s a good question, Guy: should the Greens be eco-warriors, or instead social justice warriors, or just continue being a pale imitation of both? Asked in that way, the answer does appear self-evident: you’ve got to prioritise the planet, not its people. After all, no serious person disputes that the planet and its people today are now objectively in serious conflict, so, why shouldn’t the Greens stand up for what they’ve always really truly believed in?
    But, there’s the rub. How can the Greens (in Australia, or anywhere) ever hope to make people vote en-masse for the planet ahead of its people? If your answer is ‘self interest’, then you’re going to be facing some stiff competition from neoliberal quarters: They’re the world champions at mobilizing self interest. You’re maybe looking at an entirely different politics – not group but individual identity – popularising the want to be recognised first and foremost as an environmentalist. I for one am not sure how that reconciles with the commitment to ‘people’ that I take to define the socialist. It’s on the same plane – disavowing the primacy self interest – but it’s relocating the compulsion to care from the communal to the biosphere that just doesn’t feel to have any catch. The existential crises may be environmental, but their origins and their solutions must surely be societal.

    1. Humphrey Bower

      I see no inherent conflict between the interests of ‘the planet’ and ‘its people’, only between ‘the planet’ and the (perceived, short-term, narrowly defined) ‘interests’ of SOME people.

      1. Will

        That’s because you think politics all just comes down to mere differences of opinion, Humphrey, rather than structural antimonies that can never be reconciled. Your whole schtick is the denial of inherent conflict. It’s the end of history all over again.

        1. AR

          Hey, don’t blame middle eastern eye shadow (kohl) for being a homophone for the planet killer.

        2. Humphrey Bower

          Will, if it all comes down to ‘structural antimonies that can never be reconciled’ then we may as well give up on politics now, except of the ‘might makes right’ variety. Democracy and the rule of law imply something else: namely a belief in the possible adjudication between competing claims in the interests of justice, at least as a regulative ideal. In other words: legal and political discourse, discussion, deliberation and decision-making are also forms of symbolic or communicative action that have real outcomes and make a real difference. That’s why we have elections, parliaments, laws, courts, agreements and treaties, not to mention other forms of organised political action like meetings, strikes, demonstrations, protests, petitions, campaigns, boycotts, etc. That’s my ‘shtick’, and it doesn’t just come down to ‘differences of opinion’. As it happens, I also believe that the interests of political, economic, social and
          environmental justice ultimately coincide, and that it is only the systemic distortion of any one of them (typically economic under capitalism) that causes a corresponding distortion in the others (although one could also point to racial or gender-based forms of injustice as having their own autonomous logic and effects). Hence my support for a pluralist party like the Greens. History has more than one arc of justice, but they are parallel. Best, Humphrey

  7. RogerL

    none of your commenters dare discuss the point you make about human civilisation being cooked off the planet.
    really seems to transcend all other issues.

    1. gerald butler

      Talking about climate change ,in general conversation, has become touchy where l live. It’s not quite at the ” don’t mention the war” level but closing. People are apprehensive and feel powerless, however, compared to 25 years ago the message has definitely arrived. Keeping it pinned to the public notice board, lit up with solar lights, is the way to go.

  8. AR

    The Black W(r)iggle wants nothing more than to join the bigboyz and pretend to be a mover & shaker instead of what he is, a tacker & trimmer.
    The pity is that he is prepared to rinse & repeat the Greens until that distressing shade is so diluted as to be indiscernible.
    I just hope that the replacements for Ludlam & Waters have kept the faith and can oppose the continuing deracination of the party.
    There is a bumper sticker which inverts the old motto to proclaim “No Environment without a strong Economy!”, seriously, which would seem to be perfect for the current greying of the Greens.
    As to grundle’s final thought that the choice the other way is a hard road of action or “turn to selfish hedonism on a time-limited planet.” I’m very afraid, for my grandkids – I’m doing fine and will be gone before the faecal matter interfaces with the air conditioning running full blast, that the option no longer exists.

  9. Graham R

    When the Moon
    Hits your eye
    Like a big pizza pie
    That’s Covfefe

  10. Graham R

    Some see The Greens as a watermelon party – green on the outside but red on the inside, which suits me just fine.

    But I think they need to become a social justice party first, a concept that automatically embraces the welfare of the only planet we have. They need to become, oh dear, a rhubarb party.

    I think they should even change their name to something like The Social Justice party.

    And where, Crikey, is the box to tick for notifications of replies to this article????????

    1. AR

      Yeah, more fiddling – Why is the comment section again being mucked about, again – wot is it with tekkies that they just can’t leave well enough alone?
      After that strange beta(?) format on Monday, then semi reversion to the ‘norm’ but retaining the strange ‘notify‘ option of responses in general or specifically to ones own, now we, or at least I, am not receiving any notification of subsequent comments

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