Green House Conference on 18th October on the Future of Green Politics
What follows is a report that has been sent to us by 'Green House' about their October Conference.
Green House Think Tank
The first session was about what green politics (or 'ecologism') can and can't
learn from the long-established traditions of conservatism and socialism. For
the conservatives, Roger Scruton spoke about the importance of conserving not
only natural resources but also social capital . . . .
and about the conservative
sense of the importance of continuity through time and solidarity (well, he
didn't actually say 'solidarity') between generations, past, present, and
future − a point expressed in classic form by Edmund Burke in his key
conservative text criticising the French Revolution. Conservation and
conservatism belong together.
Michael Jacobs, for the socialist side of the argument, pointed out that there
are few more anti-conservative forces than capitalism, which constantly
produces change and appropriates for its use whatever it can turn into economic
resources. Here the classic quote is Marx's "all that is solid melts into
air." Ecology and equity belong together – and, whilst long-term
continuity through time is important, we also need a sense of urgency, above
all on climate change. The climate issue is now about getting most oil reserves
kept in the ground. The outcome depends on state action, and can't wait until
greens have established some utopia.
There were many other contributions to the debate, including from Andy Dobson
and Caroline Lucas, and overall a sense that there was enough being packed into
the discussion to have potentially lasted for the whole day. But before very
long, we were in workshops debating the future of NGOs, eco-socialism,
eco-feminism, direct action, trade unions, community action and transition
towns, and spirituality. And that was just the morning!
'Where do we go from here?' in the afternoon led to no definite conclusions,
but there were very many suggestions. A major theme was whether greens need to
be part of broad-based alliances, and if so, whether that has to involve
compromises − and if it does, what compromises we are and aren't willing to
make. Or perhaps we can twin-track continued green radicalism with some
pragmatic alliance-building at the same time, maybe in collaboration with the
The final session was on Green Parties. Sara Parkin gave a heartfelt plea for
Greens to fully prepare for the opportunities which are coming our way. Jean
Lambert pointed out that the June 2014 European Parliament elections should be
such an opportunity, with proportional representation giving the Green Party a
real chance to make gains. Neil Carter and Andy Pearmain presented evidence
which in their view showed that the Green Party would be making a mistake if it
positions itself clearly to the left of Labour, a view hotly disputed by some
of the audience.
Overall a good time was had by all − but the questions still remain: 'Where do
we go from here? and 'What is the future of green politics'? All this will take
more than a one-day conference to sort out, but very few days make as big a
contribution as this one.