Monday, 23 February 2009

The Recession and Green Politics

The conventional wisdom is that when the economy takes a downturn, so too does the public’s interest in matters environmental. The theory goes, that voters will only make concessions to the environment when they are feeling prosperous, and so all of this goes out of the window when times are economically bleak, ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ as the Clinton Democrats in the US used to say.

There does seem to be some evidence for this. In the late 80’s the English Green Party scored its best electoral percentage nationwide of 15% in the 1989 European elections, but with a recession in the early nineties, the party never even approached this kind of popular vote thereafter.

Paradoxically, an economic recession is actually rather good for the environment. The downturn in production and consumption slows down the exploitation of the planet’s resources and the resultant pollution associated with economic growth. People have less money to spend so make do and mend instead of throwing away goods and buying new ones, and businesses put on hold investing in expanding their markets.

Of course, recession is not good for people as they are thrown out of work or put onto reduced hours and wages generally are held down. Home repossessions increase, family breakdowns occur and crime increases. So, you won’t find Green politicians going around calling for more recessions to save the planet.

The Green Party (in conjunction with the New Economics Foundation) is advocating ‘The Green New Deal’ as a response to the current economic crisis. This is a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, if you’ll forgive my mixed metaphors. Here we have a situation where the prevailing economic orthodoxy of neo liberalism has failed to provide sustainable wealth creation and a sustainable environment. The Green New Deal offers a different way, by massively investing in public transport infrastructure and renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes. This will provide useful jobs and start to move us towards a sustainable environmental situation.

The Green New Deal on its own will not be enough to achieve a sustainable and socially just future, but it is a big step in the right direction, and who can deny that it is urgently needed?

'On Thursday, 19th March, Haringey Green Party hosts a public meeting on Green Work, which will feature a panel of speakers led by Jean Lambert, MEP, discussing the Green New Deal and the recession. It will be at the Kurdish Cultural Centre, Portland Gardens, N8 (close to Green Lanes, back of Harringay Green Lanes station) at 7pm. Non-members are welcome

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