GREEN POLICIES IN A NUTSHELL

 

(This is a scanned copy of a booklet that I wrote in the 1990s. It is dated in some respects, but may still be a helpful introduction)

Why have a green party?


In the first place, we need to establish the place of Green politics. Without exception the 'grey' political parties have each claimed to be 'Green', while at the same time they have denied the need for a distinctive Green political party. Greens should settle for being a pressure group, they say, and leave politics to them.


This suggests that grey politicians have not understood the nature of the ecological crisis we face. They regard environmentalism as another set of policies that can be 'bolted on' to their existing political philosophies, whether free marketism, social marketism or class struggle. They believe that environmentalism is a peripheral issue - a cuddly vote-catching issue about furry animals hopping around in leafy meadows. But the sobering truth is that green issues stand at the very centre of the existence of the human (not to mention other) species on this planet.


'Green' is a popular term for political ecology: and ecology is the study of the way an organism and its environment relate one to the other. Political ecology is about the business of harmonising the relationship between the human species and the rest of the world.


Let us take one example. We burn fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to satisfy our energy needs: this produces carbon dioxide. Forests can absorb the carbon dioxide bringing things back into balance. However, short term financial expediency measures (for example, timber extraction), together with the effects of airborne pollutants from the fossil fuels are causing forests to shrink. At the same time, other forms of pollution slow down the reabsorption of carbon dioxide by the sea. The result - an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which causes climate change worldwide, with disastrous effects on crops and a threat to low lying countries which border the sea. This is an example of a vicious cirde, an unbalanced relationship between people and environment.


In a word, the way we are running our global economy at the moment is not sustainable: the path we are on will, at some point in the future, lead to an economic and political crash of earth shattering proportions.

From this we learn that political ecology, far from being a peripheral issue, must be put right at the heart of economic thinking - both now and in the future.


Ecology and ecoomics are sister disciplines. 'Eco' means the space in which we live. Ecology therefore means the understanding of the space in which we live, and economics means the management of that space. How could we properly manage something that we do not understand? So ecology must lie at the centre of politics, not around the edges.
When grey politicians say we are a 'single issue party' they are right:
the issue is life on Earth, and all other political and economic issues depend on that issue as the many branches and leaves of a tree depend on the single trunk to support them.


What are Green Economics?


The basic principle which governs a green economy is that of being in
tune with the way the planet's life support systems work. "Harmony
with nature" in a phrase, which means obeying these economic (and
therefore ecological) laws and principles:
o Finite resources must be treated as natural capital.
o Renewable resources must be conserved.
o Production must be cyclical, not linear.
o The economy must be built on a firm ecological foundation.
o We must aim towards a stable state economy.
o The market must be guided by the needs of the environment.
o Every individual must be empowered - that is, enabled to feel that their actions and decisions really do matter.
o International security must be based on mutual cooperation, not mutual threat.


FINITE RESOURCES


The first law of green economics might be called Schumacher's Law, after the author of the book Small is Beautiful, who set out the principle. It states:
"Wealth derived from an exhaustible resource should be directed to making ourselves independent of that resource."
This applies especially to fossil energy sources like oil, coal, gas, and also uranium. They are the Earth's natural capital. Grey economists and politicians have been using this capital as though it were income. Despite their boasted sophistication in dealing with the complexities of high finance, they are committing a basic economic error.
Green policy is to apply a resources tax to all finite resources. In the case of energy we would earmark that tax for energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.

RENEWABLE RESOURCES


The second economic law is this:
"All renewable resources must be managed in such a way that they do not become exhaustible."
In other words, don't eat the seedcorn, and don't kill the goose that lay the golden egg.
Forests, fish and soil are examples of rene~vable resources whose importance for the continued existence of humanity cannot be overestimated. But all four resources are being used up: and if present trends continue, they will disappear. This is tragic, foolish and unnecessary.
Tropical forests of course are being destroyed for short term profits. The profits are extremely short term since economists and ecologists are agreed that even in the middle term, deforestation means economi as well as ecological disaster for the countries concerned. To make things worse, much of the destruction of these forests is through burning, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. Forests in Europe are dying, not so much from over-extraction, as from pollution by airborne acids and ozone derived from fossil fuel burning.
When we remember that trees actually reabsorb carbon dioxide, and therefore help to reduce global warming, we can see how important it is to obey this second economic law.
Like forests, fish populations are threatened both by greedy, short tern profit, policies that result in overfishing, and also by human pollution of the marine environment.
Soil is also slowly but surely being eroded by short term profit driven policies. Industrial farming treats the soil not as a living system, but as a raw material to be used. Synthetic fertilisers destroy the fibrous, spongy structure of the soil, turning it into a powdery substance that can easily be eroded by rain and wind.
The Green Party's policies would protect all these resources: for forest we would carry out debt-for-nature swaps (that cancel out the Third World debts in exchange for agreements for the forests to be protected for fisheries we would ensure that fish stocks and habitat were conserved: and for soil, we would steadily change from industrial to natural farming methods.

CYCLICAL PRODUCTION


The third law of green economics states that: "The linear production methods (extract-manufacture-use-dispose) are not sustainable, and must be replaced as far as is technically acheivable, with cyclical production methods (manufacture-use-recycle)."
This principle needs little explanation, and some forms of recycling (paper, glass, aluminium and ferrous metals) are now becoming commonplace. However, at present only a tiny proportion of what we use is recycled. Green policies aim to turn this situation around so that only a small proportion of materials escape recycling. The need for this is obvious: the world has limited resources of minerals. These minerals are extracted as ores, and much energy is used to purify them. They are then mixed with other minerals to make objects. If we throw these away, they will decay and mix in our scrap heaps to such an extent that it will be very difficult indeed for our descendants to separate and reuse them. Therefore we must gather together similar objects, for instance batteries, while they are still intact and recognisable.
This waste channelling and recycling is an extremely labour intensive process; so two problems - resource depletion and unemployment -are transformed by green economics into one solution, that of growth of the waste recycling sector of the economy. It can be seen that recycling also prevents pollution. "Waste" products are wastes no longer - they are to be seen as resources. Sewage is a good example of this: discharged into the sea, it is harmful to the health of the environment and of human beings. Correctly treat useful energy and a perfect conditioner and fertiliser for soils damaged by industrial farming. Two problems, one solution.
We can take this further by applying Closed Circuit Technology to industrial processes. This system gets away from the notion of discharging 'waste' to the environment. Instead, wastes are captured, and reacted with other wastes (acids with alkalis and so on) in order to produce substances that are either neutral or useful.
Cyclical Production is an objective to which the Green Economy must aspire, rather than an immediately realisable goal. The means for us to move towards this goal are as follows:-


a) All products should be designed for long life and efficiency.
b) All materials used in product manufacture should be capable of being recycled and there should be facilities made available to do so.
c) The processes of manufacture and distribution should economise on resources.
d) All wastes produced from manufacture must be capable of being absorbed benignly by the surrounding natural systems.
e) In the case of carbon dioxide, which cannot economically be recaptured, companies must contribute to the planting of forests which will absorb an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide released by the companies' processes.


BUILD FROM A FIRM FOUNDATION


The fourth principle of Green economics is that the economy must be built from a firm biological basis. The conditions that must be satisfied to enable us to live are: air, water, food, fuel, shelter and hygienic waste clearance. Now it is clear that all of these basic economic conditions are badly managed, both in the Third World and in the First World. Green policies will direct human and financial energies at stabilising these pillars of the economy, because without a solid foundation, the whole economic building is rickety. As one American Indian said: "When the last stream is polluted, and the last tree is cut down, then you will see that we cannot eat money".
These conditions are the first rank of the economy. The second rank consists of transport, manufacture, communication, exchange, service, finance and administration: these exist to support the basic economy, and not the other way round.


STABLE ECONOMY


The fifth economic principle is that of the stable state economy. It is an inescapable law of biology that the population growth of each species, including humans, is limited by three things: space, available nutrients, and its own toxins. There can be no argument about this in scientific terms; but when Greens apply this rule to human society, the response from establishment politicians and journalists verges on the hysterical.
Grey politicians gain power by promising the electorate ever increasing material wealth. In order to fulfil these promises they try to produce economic growth. This means ever increasing consumption of energy, ever increasing rates of consumption of natural resources (both renewable and non renewable) and ever increasing rates of pollution. This is a recipe for disaster. At some point in the future, finite resources will run out, and the economies will crash. Therefore, Green policy is to control and direct economic growth in such a way as to lessen pressures on resources and on the living world around us. The purpose of this is to buy more time in order to prepare for the impact that fossil energy depletion will have on our economies.


Grey politicians are beginning to talk about sustainable growth instead of unlimited growth. This is a welcome turn of events, but the way they talk shows that they have not understood their s~ubject properly.
Sustainable growth is defined as growth that does not eat into the natural or financial capital that our children will inherit. This is fine -but if we take the increase in human population into account, it would involve not just zero growth, but massive reductions in economic growth. Yet politicians who advocate 'sustainable growth' bitterly attack our modest proposal for economic stability.


Note that within the stable economy, there will be plenty of scope for growth in benign industries like pollution control technologies, and plenty of opportunities to create employment in areas like waste recycling, repair, and organic agriculture; but econegative industries like the arms trade will find themselves in a deep recession. The Green Party is not against growth in the GNP per se, but wants to limit the actual quantity of resource throughput and the burden it puts onto life-support systems.


In parallel with economic stabilisation comes population stabilisation. The Green Party recognises the need for this throughout the world, since population growth in a context of economic stability would lead to unacceptable poverty. Our policies are specifically designed to carry out this process in a voluntary way through education, although to hear the media accounts, you would think we were advocating the slaughter of the innocents.


Grey politicians and journalists assert that stable state economics will prevent the poorest people from making economic progress. This is not the case. Redistribution of wealth within society can take place more easily in a stable economic system than it can in a growth economy. In fact it is in the nature of growth economics which is driven by acquisitive instincts, for money to accumulate in the hands of the rich.


CREATIVE TAXATION through a GUIDED MARKET


the rest of the community in return for the privilege of exclusive use of that land. If my piece of land has on it a site of special scientific interest, a unique habitat for wildlife, or an area of historical or archaeological significance, then the payment of CGR could be reduced in recognition of my loss of revenue in not developing it.


One of the major tools for bringing about the Green Economy is Creative Taxation.


Already taxes are applied to tobacco, alcohol and leaded petrol in order to discourage their use. Green policies take this principle and apply it right across the board, taxing processes and objects which are environmentally destructive (econegative) and relaxing taxes on processes which are environmentally friendly (ecopositive). In this way we will gently but firmly guide the market into sustainable ways of working.
For example, one of our basic taxes will be the Community Ground Rent (CGR). Ground is the surface of the Earth, which is our common heritage. By "owning" a patch of land, we deny the rest of the community access to it. It is just, therefore, that we should pay a rent to

EMPOWERMENT


The global ecological problems that we face are immense. They can be met and overcome, but only if the energies of all human beings at each and every level of society are directed towards the goal of harmony with natural systems. Government cannot rely on consumer pressure alone to make the necessary changes: and the electorate cannot delegate responsibilities onto Government.
We must each one take responsibility for the wellbeing of our planet, and this implies empowerment: the realisation that we all have an important part to play in the whole.
Empowerment means reform in seven key areas:
o Education
o Employment
o Health
o Democracy and decentralisation
o Freedom of information
o Constitutional reform
o Security


EDUCATION


This is the first step to empowerment. It is vital that as many people as possible understand as deeply as possible how ecological problems arise, and of how we can go about solving them. This implies a far greater status and reward for the teaching profession, and a far greater financial investment in education. The reasons for this are twofold: first that our children's education is the hope of the future: and secondly that without voluntary cooperation that springs from understanding, there is a danger that desperate solutions may be imposed by grey governments at some time in the future in an authoritarian way.
Green thinking affects the form, as well as the context, of education. Rather than the diverse, separate disciplines, we wish for a more unified view of education so that education helps rather than hinders communication between specialties.


EMPLOYMENT


Nothing is more disempowering than unemployment in the present economic system. It creates a feeling of uselessness and pointlessness. Unemployment breaks up families, increases the rates for death and disease and increases crime figures. Unemployment is a debilitating disease in the blood of society: and it is political madness to inflict this disease on society when there is so much labour-intensive work to be done to help with the healing of the environment. The core of the unemployment benefit problem is that people are paid benefit on condition that they do nothing. This is clearly absurd. The Green answer to this is to remove that "enforced idleness condition". This simple notional change changes a dead dole into a living wage- the Basic Income Scheme. (BIS)


Under this scheme, everyone receives an unconditional benefit. They are then free to earn more money in whatever employment they create or find for themselves. The effect of this measure is to break the unemployment trap and the poverty trap that feature so prominently in the present system. It is clearly ludicrous for people to be able to earn more from unemployment benefit than they could by working. The BIS ends this injustice, and creates a huge new workforce that is well paid from the workers' point of view - since the BIS is a form of work subsidy - but is not expensive from the employers' point of view.


For those already in work, the Personal Tax allowance already equates with the Basic Income. Politicians and journalists who attack the BLS because it pays money to the well-off should remember that under the present system, more money is paid to the rich in tax allowances and mortgage interest tax relief than is paid to the poor in benefits.


HEALTH


Much illness is a result of pollution, poverty, poor housing, ignorance and stress, all of which are ecological problems capable of being improved by the determined application of Green policies. We would place the onus on the producer of new chemicals to prove that their products are safe, instead of the current position where victims of chemical disasters have to prove that their illnesses were caused by the chemical.
The Health Service is struggling to keep up with the volume of demand made on it, and while it is undeniable that the NHS is underfunded, it is also true that demand on health services will always outstrip supply. Our answer to this is, first, a programme of education so that people are able to prevent the onset of illness, and understand how to treat their own minor illnesses at home. Second, nurse practitioners will
begin to take much of the routine load off general practitioners, who will then be free to investigate and treat more thoroughly. This in turn will relieve the pressure on hospital waiting lists. We will encourage I complementary medical disciplines like osteopathy, acupuncture and homeopathy to take their part in the Health Service.


DEMOCRACY AND DECENTRALISATION


Democracy is defined as government chosen by the majority of the people. The aim of this is to avoid oppression of the weak by the strong: to avoid the build-up of conflict of interests between the rulers and the ruled. The effect of democracy is to place the ultimate power oi the state in the hands of the ordinary person.
In Britain we do not have real democracy. Our electoral system works in such a way that 33% of the electorate can vote in 66% of the representatives who get 99% of the power. Also, the British first-past-the-post system divides the nation. Under this system parties whose power base is unevenly concentrated (Labour in the north, Tories in the south) do well: but parties with support evenly spread throughout the country are penalised.
Green policy is to change this outrageously stupid arrangement into a democratic Proportional Representation system. The Green Campaign For Real Democracy goes further than Proportional Representation, however. A central government, even if democratically elected, seems remote and unreal to the ordinary person. Local government at the level of neighbourhood, parish and district are much more accessible; I decisions made by the community's representatives on behalf of the community are easily visible: mistakes or successes are equally visible:
there can be involvement with local politics that can never be with national politics. For these reasons, Green policy aims to devolve power as far as possible down to parish and district level.


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION


Knowledge is power. The power of secretiveness is the tool of an aggressive state to disable its people. Secretiveness creates tensions which in the end can lead to violence. Therefore, by creating powerlessness, the state both removes from people their ability to contribute fully to the task of healing the planet, and also creates a future reservoir of violence.


CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM


A people that has no rights has no reponsibilities and no power.
Therefore, Green policy would establish a written bill of constitutional
rights for the British people. The main points, developed in the UK
Party's Green magna Carta and broadly similar to the demands of
Charter 88, are as follows:


o Proportional representation
o Bill of Rights
o Repeal of the Poll Tax (Greens object especially to a tax on the right to vote)
o Charter for Local Democracy - decentralisation of government
o Limit on political parties election expenditure
o Freedom of Information Act
o Repeal of 1986 Public Order Act. This will restore our right to peaceful protest.
o Democratic controls on the police
o Equal access to the law
o Replacement of the House of Lords by an elected second chamber


SECURITY


Up to now, the public debate over security has been limited to defence, and debate about defence has been dominated by nuclear weapons. The debate has been heated and confusing.
The Green party wishes to use logic to clarify the debate.


o If the consequence of breakdown of a system would be infinitely destructive, it can only be reasonable to use that system if the chance of its breaking down is zero.
o Nuclear war would be infinitely destructive of human civilisation.
o The chance of nuclear war breaking out is considerably greater than zero. Nuclear deterrence consists of a fragile web of electronic sensors, computer operators, military beaureaucracy, political theorists and politicians. Each component of this system is fallible, but in combination they are about as safe as a drunk flying a hang glider off a mountain in a thunder storm. The question is not how long it has been going on, but how much longer can it be expected to last?
o Therefore, since the probability of nuclear war breaking out is greater than zero, it is not be logical to persist with a nuclear deterrence policy. No civilised and reasonable people would wish to possess nuclear weapons and practise a system of nuclear deterrence. It follows that nuclear weapons worldwide must be got rid of in as short a timespan as possible.


There can be no doubt at all about the Green Party's stance on nuclear weapons. The aim of Green politics is to preserve the ecosphere. Nuclear weapons will destroy the ecosphere if and when they are used. Therefore we cannot use them, therefore we cannot threaten with them, therefore we cannot bargain with them. We would simply dismantle them and commit the United Kingdom to leading the world community of nations, the neutral, the non-aligned and the Commonwealth, in bringing political and economic pressure on the remaining nuclear weapons states until all sides had reduced levels of nuclear weapons to zero.


The first step on this international agenda would be a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would mean a ban on nuclear weapons tests and therefore a halt to the development of new nuclear weapons. This would be followed by a halt to the production and deployment of new weapons.


Similar international action would be taken against chemical, biological, and conventional arms.
Once a freeze on the production, testing and deployment of nuclear weapons is established, then arms reduction treaties like the proposed halving of strategic missile numbers have a chance of amounting to something. At present, as soon as a deal has been concluded, the weapons designers start finding ways to design weapons that are not covered by the legal letter of the treaty.


Since the breakup of the Soviet Empire, the need for disarmament has become even more pressing, not just for its own sake, but also to reward and strengthen the liberalisation process.


Green policy is for positive peace, not just the absence of war. We stand for the just distribution of wealth and political power in countries and between countries. We wish to conserve resources in order to avoid future quarrels over scarcity. We are also aware of the necessity for centred, quiet awareness among all individuals to offset the militaristic and agressive attitudes that create the conditions for war.


In the final analysis, military spending imposes a grotesque distortion on the global economy.


Every two weeks, the world spends on arms the amount of money required to provide adequate water, food, shelter, education, and health care for everyone on earth for one year. We simply cannot afford the military any longer.
The Military-Industrial-Financial complex poses a terrible threat to the security of all people and the security of the planet; equal to the threat of ecodestruction through deforestation, the greenhouse effect, ozone layer destruction, acid rain, desertification, soil erosion, pollution, nuclear waste, unemployment, social injustice, and all the other ecological problenis that we face. Two problems, one solution. If we can divert money and energy from destruction and turn it to constructive projects which will give security to both cooperating parties, we can survive on this planet. In place of Mutual Assured Destruction we would put Mutual Agreed Security. All that is needed is the political will, and the Green Parties are a manifestation of that political will.


This is not idealism; it is realism. Nuclear deterrence and militarism is not realism, it is detatchment from reality. If it is said that Homo Sapiens is a war-fighting animal, that we always have had wars and always will have wars, then what price the opinion that nuclear deterrence will keep the peace forever?


If we are to survive, there is only one war to be fought, the war against the ecodestructive consequences of our own ill-considered actions.


CONCLUSION


This booklet has taken a brief look at Green policies. It has tried to show not so much the detail as how all the policies are derived from the single aim of harmonising the needs of humanity with the needs of our living planet. Green policies are radical not because we want to satisfy radical whims, but because the crisis in planetary ecology demands radical solutions. If any policies do not serve that end, they can be changed: but no policy that is vital to the integrity of the ecosphere can be changed for reasons of electoral convenience. The integrity of the ecosphere is our fundamental belief. In the words of Martin Luther, "Here we stand, we cannot do otherwise".

 
© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 13.11.04