Speaking out on environmental issues hasn’t worked for the Green Party in Ireland, says Conor Murphy, so a different tack needs to be taken
The Green movement has a problem. Though a seemingly timeless cause, there is an immovable and imminent ‘kill’ switch inside its most important issue: global warming.
That switch is the ‘tipping point phenomenon’. Once the level of carbon in the atmosphere has exceeded a certain point, there is nothing we can do – an avalanche of change has been set off that no amount of measures can ever hope to reverse. This means simply that if the international Green organisations want change, it needs to happen soon, or it will largely remain forever pointless.
Though this all sounds a Doomsday scenario, the Green movement all round the world know that simple but strong cuts now can stave off this threat of irreparable ruin, but the world’s various Green Parties have no support to enforce such cuts.
In Ireland, the Green Party is a somewhat underrated entity. Though it has shrugged off most of the naïvety that its members once held, its approval rating in opinion polls still rests on its core support of three per cent. After two years in power, no new ground has been gained with the electorate – in fact, it has been lost, given the results of last summer’s local elections – and it must be admitted that most people simply do not care about the issues they see the Greens represent.
Let’s think for a moment about the headline ‘Green’ initiatives you can remember from the Programme for Government. The increase in investment on renewable energy was rather limited and mostly a positive spin of funds that had already been earmarked, while the two other headline issues that a straw poll might identify would relate to genetically modified (GM) crops and stag hunting.
This is where maturity and logic should come into it. Why should the Greens specifically attack stag hunting? Because there is only one Hunt in Ireland, and almost nobody within the electorate would be affected. But the Greens should be either seeking a ban on all bloodsports, or on none at all. A headline-grabbing ban on a single hunt in Connacht only marginalises the group, when the country is in economic turmoil with no large scale benefits. Meanwhile, GM crops have been eaten for more than 15 years by billions of people, with no recorded adverse affects – and some are endorsed by the FDA, WHO and Royal Society of Medicine. Artificially enhanced crops could save thousands of lives in many drought-ridden territories, but elitists like Greenpeace still attack GM foods on the grounds that they haven’t been ‘tested enough’. As one character in the political satire In The Loop coyly quipped, “We don’t need facts when we’ve got the truth!”
It is time for the Green Party to abandon the crazies in the closet and to face the real world. It must make its policy choices on a strictly scientific basis, and avoid the fiascos of GM crops and biofuels. This need becomes all the more evident in light of revelations concerning major British environmental committees, who have been found to have been basing their arguments on falsified statistics from unqualified members of Greenpeace. The idiotic mistrust of science needs to thrown out now.
The way to most clearly inform the public about this change of tack (and the easiest way to earn more votes) is to completely rebrand the party in the style of its counterparts from the Nordic countries. These Scandinavian organisations are not purist Green parties (for whom the average borderline income family will, in all probability, never vote) but a much more palatable type of Socialist Green. As the media focus switches from the environmental conscience of the party to its position on broader societal issues, so too will the focus of the general public. The Green Party must represent a larger portion of the population if it is to earn the power it needs to implement the changes it wants. If this means it must steal the headlines with economic decisions, and to sneak the environmental issues under the radar when it can, then so be it.
This rebranding would allow the party to deal with typically ‘Green’ issues, but to disguise them as being largely economic moves. Investment in new wind farms, for example, will become a ‘jobs boost for the local economy’ and ‘capital investment in the construction industry’.
The Green Party needs to learn to bury its environmental issues until it has the power to actually make their cases. The global environment doesn’t care for fanfare, and merely needs action taken any way it can. This will hurt the ideal of a single-issue party, but a singularly-focused party is a lonely one in modern politics.
This may be a cold and alien tactic to a relatively warm, open and honest party – but if flower power can’t help the environment, underhand tactics just might.