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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Greens must turn on and tune into the mainstream

This article appeared in the NZ Herald on 6/10/2005. There is an interesting response from Frog of the Green party.

Although it is arguable that the majority of the New Zealand population is green, only 5.3 per cent voted for the Green party.

Is this because the Green Party is disenfranchising environmentally minded New Zealanders by the cocktail of policies it requires the voter to swallow with the Green pill?

Why does the Green party require that you also swallow the red social-engineering pill and the multicoloured hallucinogenic pill?

Would it not be better served by avoiding matters unrelated to the environment, and redefining itself as a party with a distinct focus: its raison d'etre, sustainability and the environment?

By only identifying with left-wing economics, does the Green Party not substantially reduce its political influence in the New Zealand MMP environment by discouraging a large pool of environmentally concerned people who are economically right of centre from voting Green?

Effectively, the Greens have backed themselves into a minority corner.

What have they actually achieved since their entry to Parliament? Have they successfully communicated to the public that global oil production has peaked? Are we better informed about global climate change?

No - but we do know that Nandor rides a skateboard and Keith Locke likes body-paint.

Why on Earth are they saying anything about matters that do not relate to the environment? Most New Zealanders were against native forest logging, most were against genetically modified food, and most New Zealanders say the environment helps give us our distinctive sense of identity, yet the Greens have almost no representation of the people who make up this majority.

Where is the business community within the Green Party? The urban professionals? Or farmers?

Instead, there is a reluctance even to appoint a leader - preferring "leadership sharing" - an inheritance from the 1970s Values Party.

A perfect example of how the party marginalises itself is its stance on the decriminalisation of marijuana.

What does this have to do with Green politics or saving the environment? Nothing. Then why have an opinion on it, particularly if it is an opinion that distracts people from core environmental issues and is not a mainstream political view?

The Greens have a mandate to do one thing only - to improve the chance that the human race and other species will not become a mass-extinction story in the long-term, and, in the short-term, that through our own greed we do not cheat our children out of the lifestyle we are able to enjoy.

Whatever means are required to legally and constitutionally arrive at this end should be pursued. All else is noise and distraction.

This aim has most chance of success if it can permanently move both the Left and the Right in a Green direction: an impossible aim under the party's current modus operandi.

To sell this message it needs to promote a new definition of family values that emphasises the hypocrisy of all socially conservative parties that promote (so called) family values, while pursuing greed-based, shortsighted policies that guarantee that our children will inhabit a worse world than us.

The Green Party needs to wake the sleeping world to unquestionable truths about the environment and the requirements for immediate action: reducing CO2 emissions; conserving our natural environment; and developing sustainable alternatives to non-renewable energy sources.

There is a large community of socially liberal, economically conservative people with a green agenda who are not catered for by any political party.

The German Greens, who enjoy a wider support base than our "lefty liberal" Greens, are economically almost completely centrist.

The British Greens, who are a political irrelevancy (and would be even if Britain had MMP), are more left than ours.

Green politics is unique in that its values can apply across the traditional political spectrum. Environmentalism is ubiquitous, crossing social, economic and cultural boundaries, but the Greens court only a subsection of environmentalists.

Today it is a no-brainer to be an environmentalist - this was not the case 30 years ago when we were still largely ignorant of our impact on the environment.

But the Green movement has not caught up with the fact that its cause is now in the mainstream. The look, feel and indeed policy of the Green movement still looks like something from the 70s fringe.

The Green Party remains the only party that is thinking about the sort of world our children will inherit - both major parties in New Zealand pay lip service to this while offering voters instant gratification.

It is for this reason that the Green Party needs to do a better job of focusing on why it exists, and a better job of widening its support base.

We are Green and we demand a mainstream voice.

* Daniel Batten is chief executive of Auckland-based bioinformatics company Biomatters, and a member of the Thinking About Tomorrow Society.


  • At 10:39 PM, Blogger Matt Prescott said…

    Dan, you have made some very interesting points. Especially, in relation to the socialist ghetto the Greens have backed themselves into.

    I would like to see the next generation of greens develop a tight focus on scientifically strong and politically relevant policies, and on strengthening the economy... perhaps by reducing waste, eliminating perverse subsidies and creating opportunities for new eco-industries.


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