Green May

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May is a green time, and a time of elections. May 5th is the date of elections for local and home country/London assembly elections. The next few weeks will go by in a flash, and there’s a lot at stake. There is also the EU referendum hot on its heels on June 23rd. I’m voting to remain in the EU, and for Green Party candidates, including Sian Berry for London Mayor.
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I’m making this choice for a big reason: our civilisation has gone blind to the ecological basis of life and is too exploitative of both human and non-human resources. Other left wing parties are focused only on easing the exploitation of human resources, not seeing enough that social justice is dependent on the continuing health of the planet. Green politics is, for example, grasping the inequalities revealed by the Panama Papers but then asking about the wider environmental impacts of how that wealth was generated.
 
Environment doesn’t just mean birds and recycling and pretty country walks. It is the world, the entire mesh that we inhabit, and it’s important to attend to it because that mesh is so messed up. Above all, our future is threatened by climate change, which is turning out to be as bad and as fast-coming as the worst case scenarios. Climate change is not just an issue, a string of words, an idea in a box, a spot of rough weather. It’s a slow global bomb, and its cause is at root the global system of extraction, exploitation and ecocide. And as the singer Anohni says, this system means we are cannibalising our planet.
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I hope that Greens don’t forget this big picture as part of the conversation when campaigning on issues like housing prices, cycle lanes or staying in the EU. But how we manage those conversations in a way that doesn’t put people off is another thing. It’s so easy to scare people when talking about climate change, or to seem as if we take a negative stance, rather than standing for something.
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But we do know that Green policies themselves have a lot of support. In the Vote for Policies quiz and various polls, Green policies are consistently very popular (20.6% in the 2015 General Election). And in the Represent tool, most users agree with Sian Berry. And there’s a great rising tide of political distaste for Greens to ride. There’s the calls for Cameron to resign, or for a snap General Election, and though neither are likely to happen I’m quite hopeful that by early May the combination of further revelations of offshore wealth, elections, joint strikes, and the example of millions of French with their nuit debout, will stir up more general awareness of the need for system change.
 
The French protests are led by young people, so what about young people in the UK? Are they just too busy to be campaigning? The deadline to register to vote is coming up on the 18th and only 44 per cent of young people are registered, so there are just a few days to get that sorted. But also we have to convince my generation and older that Green is the best way of helping their children, and creating a more equal liveable city. There must be a lot of people like me, who are parents unable to understand how other parents could vote for actions that so damage their childrens’ future. There must be people who are no longer willing to vote for the kinds of people who brand most of us ‘low-achievers’, who would remove essential support payments from the disabled, who breezily transfer all our schools out of the public realm, and destroy our treasured NHS? There must be more people who are starting to piece together all these actions, to see it as ecocidal corporatism privatising everything held in common for the future?
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The question is, will these people starting to see the need for system change understand that Green policies offer the best vision for it? There’s a phrase ‘it’s not easy being green’ – and that’s not just true in terms of living a green lifestyle but in terms of influencing others towards a Green mindset. There’s a lot of paradox to deal with. In human history, the planet has never been in such a state of crisis, but there has never been such a time for hope. A Green politics is both more idealistic and more rooted in reality than any other politics. Because most people have forgotten that land looked after in common is the key to wealth, they are easily sold the neoliberal myth that we have to exploit the environment to feed the people. Part of this myth is the assumption that having standard jobs and plenty of money offers the best means to thrive, compared to the more sustainable idea that the best means to thrive is to generate healthy biodiverse places that provide food. And yet the root of opposition to Greens is that we don’t care about feeding the people.
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But we do care, and Green policies are a huge amount about social justice. Personally I care a lot about young people, about the extortionate price of higher education, the cost of student rents, the erosion of financial support, the fact that young people will have to wait until 25 for the new minimum wage, that they’ll have to wait until hell freezes over before they can pay off debts and buy a house. I’m deeply concerned about education reforms that are removing democracy and intellectual freedom but enforcing a profit-seeking ethos, for example, academic researchers being denied freedom to lobby or advocate policy change to government. And I care about local democracy. For example, public bodies such as local authorities are to be prevented from making financial investment and procurement decisions based on ethics, and yet their central government funding is to be cut almost literally to the bone so that they become entirely dependent on local revenue.
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So, if you care about these things too, the next 3 weeks are such a vital time. Unlike UKIP, the Green Party is not being allowed an election broadcast by the BBC. Tell young people to register to vote, tell people you know who are from EU countries they can vote, and have a look at what the Green Party offers to tackle things that bother you and affect young peoples’ future.
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