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The Wrong Kind of Green

March 19, 2010

A really great article appear in The Nation early this month, titled “The Wrong Kind of Green.”

One of the big debates I’ve had with myself for a long time (especially while I was in Copenhagen) was about how to take a stance on political issues. Do I opt to support policies that move an inch in light of what is “politically realistic?” Or do I call for exactly what science demands and denounce anything less than that?

While I still can’t totally agree with the “System Change, Not Climate Change” argument that the author puts forth, he does bring up some good points that make me feel like I should never support anything less than what science demands: The conservatives take a position so far to the right, that they force the middle to move their way. If the left takes a centrist position in favor of some movement, that position continues to move to the right by definition.

From the article:

By pretending the broken system can work–and will work, in just a moment, after just one more Democratic win, or another, or another–the big green groups are preventing the appropriate response from concerned citizens, which is fury at the system itself. They are offering placebos to calm us down when they should be conducting and amplifying our anger at this betrayal of our safety by our politicians. The US climate bills are long-term plans: they lock us into a woefully inadequate schedule of carbon cuts all the way to 2050. So when green groups cheer them on, they are giving their approval to a path to destruction–and calling it progress.

Even within the constraints of the existing system, their approach makes for poor political tactics. As Suckling puts it, “They have an incredibly naïve political posture. Every time the Dems come out with a bill, no matter how appallingly short of the scientific requirements it is, they cheer it and say it’s great. So the politicians have zero reason to strengthen that bill. If you’ve already announced that you’ve been captured, then they don’t need to give you anything. Compare that to how the Chamber of Commerce or the fossil fuel corporations behave. They stake out a position on the far right, and they demand the center move their way. It works for them. They act like real activists, while the supposed activists stand at the back of the room and cheer at whatever bone is thrown their way.”

The one point that I slightly disagree with is whether passing some bill is better than passing none. Even if I do decide that I wouldn’t support it because it isn’t in line with science, I think there is still an argument to be made that passing the bill is the hardest part and it is easier to amend it later.

I’m sure my opinion will fluctuate on this issue for some time. For now, I’m really feeling the need to be the “left flank” and move the center more in my direction.

Update: The Nation also posted the responses from all of the “Big Greens” mentioned in the article.

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