In my political involvement I have met many politicians, many were high ranking. I can honestly say that most sincerely mean to make this a better world. We may disagree what is needed to improve things, but the motivation appears largely consistent across the political spectrum. Yes, there are some career politicians, the Osbournes and Camerons who joined their parties in order to become successful. However particularly on a local level, but also largely in parliament, most do not fall into this category. Nevertheless, even with a sincere original motivation, our system of whipping, our first-past-the-post voting system (creating a two party tendency), party funding and lobbying sadly can turn these well-meaning politicians into corruption, self-serving and tribal practices. These are some of the reasons why we in the Green Party campaign for electoral reform; we also have solid policies to ensure a decent democratic practice and foundation within our own party.
Putting these important systematic failings aside, I have always wondered how come that if most politicians wanted to make this a better place, how then could we all be so different? Surely equality, protection of the most vulnerable in society and our planet should be something we all could agree on. But this does not seem the case. I have recently asked a Lib Dem friend how his party could support capitalism and neoliberalism, when it is absolutely clear that this is simply not sustainable? He acknowledged this truth, but said that electoral success would not be achieved with such a radical agenda; but that change needed to happen slowly with the ultimate goal of a sustainable future. I found this curious. It implies that we would need to pretend to the public that our current system is ok, which I would strongly oppose on moral grounds.
Let’s put ideology aside (although this is a personal drive for me in politics) – capitalism relies on high resource/ energy use, hyper-consumerism, inequality and on growth. Competition and consumer expectations push prices down, which means it further relies on cheap resources including energy and labour. Many manufacturing industries have, therefore, moved to third world countries to get cut their costs including exploitative labour.
This, of course, also means that our industries here in the UK have consequently suffered with many people losing their jobs, leading in turn to increased inequality. Yet we still all need to consume so that owners and shareholders continue to make their expected profits. Many of them would argue that without such inequality, people would not be incentivised to do an unpleasant job for little money. In the States the American dream warps this inequality as some personal failure, a failure that the relevant people have just not worked hard enough, have not followed their “American dream” where anybody can start with washing dishes, ending up as a millionaire. This is actually a clever misdirection and in doing so also motivates individuals to work harder under difficult and unfair conditions.
Energy and other natural resources are simply not unlimited, as we live on a finite planet. We only have a certain amount of water or land to grow things on. The production of a can of beer takes between 200 and 300 litre of water. Now this does not take a genius to figure that this is simply not sustainable. We had last week the Earth Overshoot Day, which marked the day we spent more resources this year than we can replenish. So in short we will borrow for the rest of this year from our children and grandchildren.
In 2010 the Conservatives won many voters with their continuous pleat to live within our means, economically speaking. I am saddened and astounded that we do not consider living within our environmental means of high priority.
Our environmental limits do not only involve using too much of our resources but also the destruction it leaves behind. Air pollution, for example, is an increasing health concern costing already thousands of people’s lives – over 40,000 per year in the UK alone. If we continue to use dirty energy like coal or driving cars on carbon fuels, our children’s and grandchildren’s health will suffer far more significantly than what we already are experiencing. And of course there is climate change, which according to experts is the greatest threat to humanity. Raising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, threatening our food and water security will be terrible for us all, but it will also cause millions of climate refugees and likely conflicts or even wars.
Growth is necessary for capitalism as the free market relies on profits from trading. If everyone wants to make a profit whilst trading, ts if successful will increase demand and hence production, which drives growth. Unfortunately as most conscientious economists will tell you it also creates bubbles, by the unnatural increase of profits with each level of trading. We have seen this in 2007 and 2008 where the mortgage bonds, which were believed to be safe, were traded over and over again, until in the end they were much more worth than the original price. When these mortgages were not repaid, the bubble burst, and not from the original money these were worth but with multiplied margins. Although we know all this, we have not challenged this system. Our government must be fully aware of this, as do economists; however nobody appears to wish to be the one who says this is irresponsible and actually will bring another crash. Additionally considering the depleting energy resources of fossil fuel (not including coal as this is too dirty to carry our energy demand), we will also be facing very soon a fossil fuel bubble, and when that bursts, we will be hit by something we have never seen before. But that would require a lengthy explanation, which I have not got the space here for.
So above, I have tried to give a brief, pragmatic account of the situation we have, a situation which is simply unsustainable, where we are gambling our children’s future away for the profiteering of a few rich and/ or corporate elite. It is only the Green Party that seems to understand this. Environmental, social and economic justice are inherently linked. We simply cannot continue with this neoliberal and capitalistic system. Many economists, by the way, completely agree and predict a collapse of this modern capitalism. Although socialism and communism, particularly traditionally, have also not offered the answers regarding sustainability, like many other Greens, I would argue for an eco-socialism with zero growth. We are brave or just honest enough to say that growth is unsustainable and that capitalism destroys our planet, whilst causing exploitation and inequality.
How come that other parties and politicians do not appear to agree? I can understand that some believe in capitalism and in the sense that some inequality is necessary to motivate people to work and better themselves. I may not agree, but I can follow the logic. However this still leaves the question, why they ignore the facts of limited resources, climate change and the unavoidable risk of bursting bubbles within this crazy trading and capitalistic system?
I think that many do not actually understand this, or have not bothered to really learn about it either. I have come across a frightening amount of politicians voting on certain items, whilst being unashamedly open that they did not actually know much about the specifics. They then simply follow party line, and of course the party line is marked and shaped by their donors and lobbyists. Of course I can understand that there are issues not everyone is educated on. When I have needed to do something as a councillor or speak about an issue, I also have come across topics I simply had little knowledge of. However being elected, politicians act as representatives for the electorates and consequently I spend time and researched it. That is what responsible politicians should do.
Additionally, I believe that parties in power tend to think in term times so for the next four or five years. Doing radical changes causes upset, fear, risks and uncertainties for the public but also economically for trade, industries and the banking sector. Sadly I fear that our mainstream parties do not wish to be associated with such challenging times, as they wish to get re-elected. But isn’t that irresponsible if by doing nothing, the consequences will be far worse?
Sadly as long as we continue to keep this electoral and political system including FPTP, whipping, lobbying, private and corporate donations, we will not be able to get clean, fair, transparent and decent politics. Corporate and neoliberal power will remain to determine our political agenda.
That’s why I am in the Green Party: we see and honestly speak out about these truths. If I wanted to get easily elected, I would have joined a different party. I have considered it, thinking that if I get elected into a good position, I could then try to change it from within. But no, I could not pretend that we are not facing undoubtedly and knowingly a terrible future if we do not radically change. We have not got the time. Finally, another important aspect for me has been when joining the Green Party that we do not only speak about the risks and problems but we do offer excellent solutions. We have the achievable answers to make this into a clean, sustainable, equal and fair country and world.