Friday, March 22, 2013

Another green world...


Using the non-pejorative sense, a utopian idea is an end without a means. One of the benefits of utopian, or perhaps thinking beyond immediate goals, is it can inform and refresh political activity. One of the sites I occasionally browse is the Long Now Foundation. As you can see it is quite corporate, and it’s very obvious the location within current social structure makes it utopian. Yet it's projects, from wildlife recording to language preservation to the general emphasis on planning and legacy are exactly the kind of things a communal society would be doing in earnest.

Here is a blog post about flood control, not the sexiest subject perhaps but given the fact of global climate change and how much of human settlement is based in low-lying areas it’s an important topic. The great investment the Dutch government made in flood control paid itself in a few decades. In order to allow residents to continue living in parts of the country the proposal is to convert farmland into flood land, another long-term project. The lives and livelihoods of affected farmers must be taken into consideration (I don’t know if they have been) but, apparently the cost-benefit ratio is worth it in terms of housing stock but I would guess also biodiversity.

I don’t like the term eco-socialism. It seems to me to be apologetic. The Green movement, judged on its own terms is not such a fantastic success, no more than any other movement. Socialists should incorporate environmental concerns without incorporating utopianism. The biggest difficulty for Green politics is agency. There are a number of ways in which environmental reform can be realised. Green politics can pull in several directions. Lest we forget, there is such a thing as eco-fascism though it’s usually an attack-term – Karl Max Schwarz anyone?).

Linking environmental concerns to working class agency of course starts with issues around the quality and cost of living, the first will be driven down and the second up as the legacy of climate change accumulates. Flood defence is one issue. Electricity generation is another. Why, in a country like Britain, with long hours of sunlight, consistent wind (Britain has 40% of Europe’s wind energy but only generates 10% of wind-powered electricity) and three tidal rivers, do we not have cheap, clean and plentiful energy? Environmental concerns permeate issues such as transport, housing and food. It is still difficult to found a meaningful environmentalist practice though. Global climate change is an even bigger challenge than capitalist austerity. But solutions will need to come.

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