The Guardian (UK) is calling the Green parties of Europe, which did very well in the May 26 European Parliament election, “radical”, and parties such as Margaret Thatcher’s heirs the British Tories are being labeled as “centrist” by that same media outlet. That is how far to the right The Guardian has moved. Here in Germany the Green Party is far from “radical” these days, having become more and more established and mainstream since its truly radical origin in the 1980s. And for years the German Green Party has chosen not to sound too “alarmist” about the growing climate crisis, in order to become “respectable” and win votes. But now a large segment of Europe’s voters are themselves growing alarmed about the climate crisis, and many of them have responded by voting Green. So it is now time to find out whether the Greens have any radical sense of urgency left in them, because only radical action on the environmental crisis will change anything.
Actions such as those by the movements “Extinction Rebellion” and Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” may not be enough to save the planet, but I find it very encouraging that so many people are now refusing to go along with the pretense that nothing has changed. Here in Europe, governments are beginning to pay attention. As James Dyke wrote in an excellent recent article carried by UK’s “The Independent” among others:
“The sudden increase in media coverage of climate change as a result of the actions of Extinction Rebellion and school strike for climate pioneer Greta Thunberg, demonstrates that wider society is waking up to the need for urgent action. Why has it taken the occupation of Parliament Square in London or children across the world walking out of school to get this message heard?”
(‘Climate Change: “We’ve created a civilization hell bent on destroying itself – I’m terrified”, writes Earth scientist’, in theconversation.com, 24 May 2019)
In fact, there have been some very encouraging developments here in the German political sphere — Chancellor Merkel’s conservative “Christian” Democrats and other establishment parties are freaking out after a group of young people who have large internet followings told their many online viewers — accurately — that those parties are hopeless on environmental policy, arms sales, and other issues, and that no one should vote for those parties in yesterday’s European Parliament election. The main video in question, by a young YouTube broadcaster who uses the name “Rezo”, has gotten many millions of views and has captured lots of media attention. I think this was a direct outgrowth of Greta Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” movement.
And indeed, the Euro-Parliament election results appear to indicate that quite a lot of people took the advice of Rezo and the other internet personalities in this group. The German Greens doubled their strength, the only party other than the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) to get stronger on May 26, while Merkel’s “Christian” Democrats and her coalition partners the Social Democratic Party both sustained sizeable losses – in the case of the crisis-plagued SDP, a continuation of its drastic slide in support for several years now, bringing it into the realm of encroaching meaninglessness and perhaps even oblivion along with other once-powerful European Social Democratic parties.
Now if only some of the heads-in-the-sand doctrinaire Left would also “wake up to the need for urgent action”, in Mr. Dyke’s phrase.
One of Germany’s most unpleasant politicians, the leader of the pro-business party of the wealthy the “Free Democratic Party” (neo-libertarian), recently said that the young people of Ms Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement should “leave climate change to the experts”. As a matter of fact, “expert” scientists are now saying much the same thing that these students say – that our species is now severely endangered itself, after helping to wipe out a mind-boggling number of other species since 1970 according to a number of new reports – so perhaps all of us who understand the urgency of the climate/environmental crisis already have far more expertise than these politicians and government officials who refuse to challenge our owners and employers to make major sacrifices. Perhaps it is purely coincidence that the Earth’s population has doubled in roughly that same time frame, just since 1970.
A number of influential writers on the Left think so, and they remind me of the German FDP’s Herr Lindner when they scoff at the two organizations driving this widening understanding, often citing the research of a site called “Wrong Kind of Green” which shows – apparently accurately — that some major greenwashers and greenwashing corporations are trying to identify themselves with these movements or even providing some financial support. The site has done some impressive and valuable investigation, but WKOG is now becoming a rallying point for many on what remains of the Left who vehemently deny that the Earth is overpopulated, and consider this spreading awareness of environmental crisis urgency to be “leftish apocalypticism”. They support such arguments with articles and writings from a great many sources, including some big names. But the needs of plant and animal species for room to live undisturbed rarely figure in their passionate advocacy of unchallenged human supremacy. No, for this sector of the Left, every thought about this issue and every related argument are anthropocentric.
Although I am not an optimist about our environmental trajectory, I am very gratified to see awareness of the depth of this hole we have dug for ourselves beginning to spread. And it gratifies me even more when conservatives are part of that spreading awareness.
Here in Germany, one of our two most conservative federal states is Bavaria (German: Bayern) at the county’s southern end. Although Bavarians can be maddeningly right-wing and reactionary on a vast number of issues, it is hard not to love many things about their distinctive regional culture, which (if you’ve never been here) you’ve probably seen in kitschified form in pictures from the annual Oktoberfest in München/Munich. I certainly plead guilty. I love drinking fabulous Bavarian Hefeweizen or “yeast-wheat” beer from a large ceramic mug (“krug”) or a beer stein with one of those fancy metal covers you open with your thumb. I love hiking in the mountains of the Allgäu in that region, and I even own a pair of leather shorts. This year, Bavarians became so alarmed at the news about endangered bees, and the deadly ramifications for their beloved agriculture and gardening, that they organized a grassroots state referendum to force Bavaria’s farmers to radically restrict practices which threaten the bees’ well-being. It was successful, and now the right-wing CSU party which has governed Bavaria for decades is solidly behind this transformation.
Whatever those people’s politics, I consider that the Right Kind of Green.