Politics, they say, is the art of the possible. But the possible is not fixed. What we believe is possible depends on our knowledge and beliefs about the world. Ideas can change the world, and Green House is about challenging the ideas that have created the world we live in now, and offering positive alternatives. The problems we face are systemic, and so the changes we need to make are complex and interconnected. Many of the critical analyses and policy prescriptions that will be part of the new paradigm are already out there. Our aim is to communicate them more clearly, and more widely.
THE REAL ECONOMICS OF ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY
What are the real basic causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem decline? This question is asked and answered surprisingly rarely, and when it is, the most frequently proposed answers just scratch the surface of what is at stake. Victor Anderson's new pamphlet TREEB: the real economics of ecosystems & biodiversity gets to the economic and other issues at the root of what is happening to our planet.
UK GREENS AND EUROPE - BETTER IN OR OUT?
With the date of the UK EU referendum now fixed, Green House is entering the debate - not on one side or the other, but as a platform for green views on the issues. Our first contribution is a response to the gap identified by Caroline Lucas, who was quoted in the Guardian on 27 January as saying, “the bottom line is that I don’t think people are really going to be motivated to vote for the EU on the basis that their mobile phone charges are lower now. They want to feel inspired by the EU as something positive – exciting, dynamic, open minded and gregarious.” This inspiration is what Dick Pels (former leader of the Dutch green think tank Bureau de Helling and author of numerous books on European politics) aims to provide in the Green House Gas A Heart for Europe, based on a book with the same name which will appear in English shortly.
Dick will also be a speaker – alongside Molly Scott Cato, MEP and Green Party Baroness Jenny Jones – at a Green House public debate on the referendum to be held in central London on 2 June. Previous Green House publications on the EU can be found in our Publications pages.
GREEN POLITICS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Widening the focus from Europe to the global South, Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex (and the latest recruit to Green House's Advisory Group) argues in our latest Gas that we urgently need to bring Green politics to bear to chart a different model of development that provides real prosperity and well-being for all the planet’s inhabitants while placing sustainability centrally. This would be a radically different approach to development that addresses the root causes of under-development in growth mania, unregulated global business, militarism and worsening inequalities. To achieve this requires a progressive development politics that forges alliances with sympathetic governments and institutions and social movements and NGOs seeking to realise a vision of development as if both people and planet mattered.
This is intended to kick-start a bigger debate. To join in, download Green Politics and International Development here.
GOOD SHARING, BAD SHARING
Everybody's talking about the Sharing Economy. Some celebrate its capacity to help create a more equal society, but others warn of the threat of new all-powerful monopolies, and point to the example of Uber. In a new Green House Gas entitled Good Sharing, Bad Sharing, prominent German Green Reinhard Loske argues that whether its results will be positive or negative depends on whether the 'new economy' is designed to maximise profits or to maximise social benefits. If we can manage to find the right political regulatory framework for it, then the Sharing Economy might just show us the way to a sustainable future - and even to the demise of capitalism as we know it.
GREEN HOUSE PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY EVIDENCE
Green House has recently submitted evidence to four ongoing UK public policy inquiries: to the inquiry being conducted by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee into the role of the Treasury in relation to sustainable development and environmental protection; to the Kerslake Review into the current role, responsibilities and operating mandate of the Treasury, commissioned by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell; to the inquiry on Intergenerational Fairness by the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee; and to the open consultation on the National Infrastructure Commission. All of these submissions can be downloaded from the Responses section of our Publications pages.
Another new Green House publication is an e-pamphlet authored by Andy Pearmain and entitled Newer Times. In this piece, which takes up a generation later the idea of the famous Marxism Today ‘New Times’ thesis, Pearmain suggests that the coming of robotisation is going to fundamentally change the nature of our society and our politics. It means an end to Labourism, and suggests new opportunities and a new need for Green ideas such as the Citizens Income. For, under the influence of robotisation, we face either a hideously unequal future where a few are rich while the rest are unneeded, or a genuine leisure society at last for all.
Simultaneously, Green House is publishing a response by its Chair, Rupert Read, to Pearmain’s pamphlet. Read argues in response to Pearmain that robotisation itself is going to be a very temporary phenomenon: planetary limits will (within a generation or at most two) severely limit the supplies of raw materials and energy needed to enable large-scale robotisation, and pollution-crises part-speeded-up by huge investments in automation will have the same effect. The question is whether we can rein in robotisation soon enough to ensure that ‘Peak Robot’ occurs under our control, and not as a result of a crash forced on us by collapsing ecosystems.
Green House sees the debate here as a central one for our times, and a topic that has not been dwelt on nearly enough by all those serious about our politics and our shared future. We hope that you will join the debate, on social media and beyond.
GREEN POLITICS AND THE LEFT
'Politics is the art of the possible,' to repeat the well-known quotation from Bismarck at the head of this page. He added to this definition '....the attainable - the art of the next best’ . For Greens today, politics has to be about more than ‘the next best’. Clearly, political goals have to be attainable, but what is considered attainable has for the last thirty years certainly not been either of the best or even the next best.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party - a Labour leader ‘without historical precedent’ - offers a challenge to all those who oppose continuing inequality, climate change and the dominance of ‘Capital’. For Greens he offers a special opportunity - an opportunity to articulate and promote a progressive politics that is distinctly different from that of the Labour Party, and one which is more capable of successfully addressing the complex and interconnected problems of the 21st century.
Green Politics and the Left is a new form of intervention for Green House. It brings together in one downloadable pdf seven short essays by Green House members to explore and debate the new dynamics of Ecologism, Socialism, Democracy and Republicanism. Not everyone will agree with the authors here - indeed, the point of the exercise is to draw out and debate different perspectives on the new landscape - but democracy, and especially a Green democracy, is about deliberation, participation and informed debate. Isn't that what Jeremy Corbyn has brought to the Labour Party? Let's all join in!
‘Limits to growth’ comes to Westminster at last!
A report from the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth at the House of Commons by Green House Chair, Rupert Read
Growing is a dangerous business. A person over seven feet tall is at massive extra risk of having a heart attack. Imagine how it would be for them at eight feet tall. Or nine. Or…
Aren’t we always told that ‘the sky’s the limit’? That more growth is clearly better?
Consider some further examples. Some companies can be so big and interconnected that if they fail, then so does everyone else. And a population that is too big can strip the land bare and kill both it and themselves in the process. These are just two more of the problems with growing too much; the first, as is well-known, is one of the causes of the moral hazard that made the financial crisis so bad (and might well do so again, because the culture of gigantism has not changed), while the second continues to be a growing (sic) problem that we as a species are facing at the moment.
Growth provides benefits. But it also fragilises. When that fragilisation brings in its train risks of ruin, then it is utterly reckless to keep growing regardless.
But we were warned of these problems decades ago. In 1972 The Club of Rome published its landmark report, The Limits to Growth, which laid down a challenge to the world at large. It argued that we are fast depleting the Earth’s resources and polluting it severely, and that if we continue on our current path our way of life will collapse as soon as sometime during the 21st century. Of course this hasn’t happened yet, but how reassuring is that? How reassured should the turkey be, as each day it gets a little fatter?
The reasoning behind the claims of the Club of Rome is, in Green House’s view, clearly still valid (in fact, more so than ever), and some of their scenarios model alarmingly closely what the world is like, now, 44 years on. We live on a finite planet with an ever growing population some of whom are absurdly — decadently — rich and hyper-consuming, and many of the rest of whom (under the gun of advertisers) are continually demanding a better ‘standard of living’. Eventually the resources we have will run out, or we will be overwhelmed by our own ‘waste’ products, or both.
So, as I see it, the Club of Rome have rightly urged precaution. They have urged us to stave off the calamity before it happens. In my view, what they gave us was by no means a forecast. It was a schematic risk assessment. Warning us to be precautious - to head off the profoundly uncertain, potentially dire risks attendant on our current path. This point is so important that it is worth drilling down into a little further. For it reflects the need for government to take a view that is not confined to cost-benefit analyses, nor even to what the 'evidence base' tells us. Namely: the need for government to act according to the Precautionary Principle (see here some salient recent work of mine on The Precautionary Principle, co-authored with Nassim Taleb).
This Principle is (supposed to be) part of UK (and EU) law: however, it has been under sustained attack from some Parliamentary Committees in recent years (Cf. e.g. http://steps-centre.org/2014/blog/rupertreadgm/). When one considers for instance the risk of potential future pollution crises (of which we may as yet have no evidence), then arguably there is an in-principle Precautionary argument against further economic growth. Such growth fragilises us; it puts us more at risk. One can see this just by looking for instance at the things (especially on the pollution side) that the 1972 Limits to Growth report didn't see coming (because pretty much no-one did), especially catastrophic risks such as the ozone hole and dangerous climate change.
The key claim of the Club of Rome, then, as I see it, is that economic growth cannot continue indefinitely without likely hastening the collapse of society. So they aim to re-frame the debate about environmental degradation and the survival (and flourishing) of the human race to not be merely about climate change mitigation etc. (because: anthropogenic climate change is a symptom), but instead about heedless economic growth (the single biggest underlying cause). They challenge the assumption that the only way to bring true affluence (on which, see Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth), let alone greater equality (on which, see The Spirit Level), is through economic growth. However, their warnings have gone unheeded and the state of the planet has become more precarious. The rate of extraction of precious resources from the ground has increased, population has almost doubled since 1972 and inequality has grown too.
In light of all this, a group of like-minded people from the political, academic and activist worlds, including me and other colleagues from Green House, has implemented a new initiative, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Limits to Growth, with the specific aim of re-assessing the evidence for social and environmental limits to growth and contributing to the debate on redefining prosperity (APPG Limits To Growth). The APPG was launched on Tuesday, 19 April, in Parliament (APPG Launch Event). It was an important moment: the moment that the great issue of the 21st century finally, belatedly, came to the mother of all Parliaments.
Here’s a report on how the event went from me: https://www.the-newshub.com/uk-politics/abolish-the-treasury . And here’s some fascinating in-depth media coverage of it: https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/parliamentary-group-warns-that-global-fossil-fuels-could-peak-in-less-than-10-years-f0400914ed96#.j83ska5js
Get involved in the debate: comment on these articles, or share them.
And rest assured: Green House will keep you informed about the progress of this crucial APPG. We’re proud to have helped make it happen.
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