Over the weekend there’s been a number of stories about environmentalism and politics in New Zealand. Read more below about how the environmentalists are the new socialists, New Zealand’s environment is going downhill under present management, the Greens can see themselves working with National, and market solutions are still the favoured response to climate change.
First off, on Friday, Chris Trotter in his column on Humanity’s big new struggle, saluted the growing ‘Climintern’ – his name for the new international movement that parallels the old Communist International, but in this guise is focused on saving humanity rather than the poor. Trotter, like the Climintern, seems to have no class-based (and therefore progressive) analysis of battling climate change, and therefore seems to be going along with trivial market solutions to the problem.
There’s a news report on how this country could be known as "100% Impure NZ", as the environment contains NZ's dirty little secrets, which could harm export and tourism. There’s some interesting statistics and facts that suggest NZ is not run in a very sustainable way.
Matthew Hooton writes in the Sunday Star-Times that Helen Clark’s goal for NZ of being ‘carbon neutral’ is just a cynical sound bite that by her own admission has more to do with fostering national identity export marketing. He points out that NZ’s poor environmental record under Clark’s tenure means that New Zealand has just been pinged by the UN ‘for having one of the fastest rates of emissions growth in the world - worse than the oil-addicted United States of George Bush - while our total forest cover is falling for the first time in our modern history’. And it’s interesting to read this rightwinger saluting the Greens – along with National of course – in working on more substantial policies in this area.
This theme of the Green Party working with the right came through in a more interesting column in the Sunday Star-Times by Irene Chapple on The Power of Green. In this, leader Jeannette Fitzsimons reinforces that the Greens are repositioning themselves in the middle of the political spectrum, where with popular support ‘she believes the party could be cast as kingmaker, pitting National against Labour in a green-off for the minor party's support.’ Furthermore Fitzsimons suggests that National’s so-called natural constituency of farmers will not be a barrier to change, as they’re the ones who will suffer from the extreme weather produced by climate change. She is now helping Federated Farmers launch their campaign to reduce effluent run-off. She is predicting a ‘green-off’ between National and Labour to win Green Party allegiance.
But the same article asks if the opposite is going to happen: ‘Does the greening of Labour policy mean the death of the Greens just as Don Brash's elevation nearly killed Act?’ Commentators like Jonathan Boston and Matt McCarten think not. But the issue raises the issue of where the Green Party is going politically. There are still many on the left, such as Matt McCarten in this article, who swear the Greens would never go into a coalition with National. They suggest that Green overtures to National are only pragmatic posturing. But isn’t this akin to the suggesting prior to 1984 that Labour would never privatise or restructure the economy in favour of the rich? Or that the Alliance would never vote to send troops to help the US invade a poor country? Parties obviously change, and the Green Party can be observed to be on a very definite right-wing trajectory. What’s more, many of the European green parties that the NZ one aligns itself so closely with have been in rightwing coalitions and are now very much non-left parties. As many environmentalists like Guy Salmon, who is interviewed in the Chapple article, say there is nothing intrinsically leftwing about being an environmentalist, and many of the most successful ones see themselves as rightwing. Salmon, speaking from Sweden, how he is ‘astounded at how Green the right-wing parties in Nordic countries’ are. The article points out that the National Party too has a whole host of green proposals on air and water quality, including ‘a contestable $1 billion sustainability investment fund over 10 years, transferable water permits and new national parks.’