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.
In this, we will remain independent of political parties, campaigns or commercial vested interests, but will be happy to cooperate with anybody – individuals or organisations – who shares our beliefs and our sense of urgency.
TOWARDS DEEP HOPE – JOHN FOSTER
Green House is pleased to announce the recruitment of a new member to its core group - John Foster, the writer and philosopher based in Lancaster. John is perhaps best-known as the author of ‘After Sustainability’ (Earthscan/Routledge, 2015), and he has been collaborating with Green House since that publication, with a particular focus on developing our approach to climate change.
The first major outcome of this collaboration is an essay entitled ‘Towards Deep Hope’, which forms a report for the new Green House project ‘Facing Up to Climate Reality’ (see below). This is an important contribution to the climate change debate, at perhaps the most fundamental level: an essay on what climate change tells us about the place of human beings in the world and what being realistic about our climate future entails.
Facing up to climate reality, John Foster writes, clearly demands that we confront the future realistically. This essay is a conceptual exploration, conducted through reference to relevant policy issues, of what realism here could mean.
On one interpretation, it could mean recognising the compelling evidence that we have left it too late to save ourselves from climate disaster. But on another interpretation, it might be realistic to insist that we can never, even in extremis, rule out the transformative possibilities of human action. We could call hope inspired by such possibilities counter-empirical, since it refuses to be daunted by likelihoods, albeit dismaying, derived from past experience.
Counter-empirical hope, however, is protected by definition against merely contingent failure – if what is thus hoped for just happens not yet to have happened, we can always go on hoping. (Hence the constant tendency of such hope to slide into utopianism.) But – again, by definition – we can’t be hoping for anything unless we recognise some risk that it won’t happen. So what is risked in counter-empirical hope must be that we find ourselves up against necessary rather than contingent failure: and the domain of significant necessary failure in human affairs is that of tragedy, where destructive weaknesses are the inescapable concomitants of key life-strengths.
Active recognition that our climate plight is already tragic is the only way to keep honest the kind of hope on which we must now rely. That means not only escaping from the recently-popular and still solutions-oriented ‘wicked-problem’ framing of the issues, but also building tragic awareness into all practical policy thinking henceforth. If we can manage this, hope can still reach out for transformative possibility while remaining deeply and realistically grounded.
You can download the essay here, or order it in printed form from our Publications pages.
FACING UP TO CLIMATE REALITY
Green House has launched a new major project. This project addresses the widening chasm between climate science and climate policy, the reasons for it, and how to bridge it. Its starting point is that the time for false hope is past, and only courageous realism will enable us to respond adequately to now inevitable and impending serious climate damage. This message – as we have found already when expressing it in public – can be cathartic, leading to a realistic assessment of future needs and prospects and avoiding the despair and paralysis that result from the collapse of a fragile or shallow optimism. The premise and shape of the project are set out in an introductory essay available here.
As the second publication under the umbrella of this project, we are very pleased to publish an essay by Robert Hutchison entitled ‘This Moment: the emergency, the opportunity’. Hutchison argues powerfully that the climate situation must be declared and treated as a global emergency if we are to have any chance of responding appropriately. Unlike Brian Heatley and Rupert Read in their Introduction to the project (link above), he still sees the very urgency of the situation as primarily an opportunity, in that the recognition of the emergency may be precisely what is required to trigger action to avert it, whereas Heatley and Read believe that the time for averting the worst of the catastrophe has almost certainly passed, and that ‘appropriate action’ now means mitigation not so much of human-caused climate change itself, but of the worst impacts that now unavoidable change will visit on global human civilization. The debate between these two slightly different perspectives on the climate reality that now faces us is a vital one: it might even be termed the vital debate of our time.
SINISTER INTEREST - REFORMING THE MEDIA
The political turmoil in the UK over the last two years has drawn attention once more to
the questionable role of the media in our democracy. In our latest pamphlet, Green House's John Blewitt argues that Britain’s mainstream media is no longer fit for purpose.
Its coverage of the EU and Scottish referendums, the General Election, and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the unethical practices revealed by the Leveson Inquiry and its woefully inadequate coverage of climate change and other escalating ecological threats, have made the need for fundamental reform both more obvious and more urgent. The structure and concentration of media ownership, and the interference of shady anti-democratic organisations in the public sphere, are endangering one of the essential institutions that a liberal democracy requires to function effectively. This polemical pamphlet is a significant contribution to the current debate about what needs to be done if democracy is to flourish in a world of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’. Only the enemies of democracy and of open public debate and discussion benefit from an unreformed media and the widespread assumption it engenders - that everybody lies.
Read 'Sinister Interest - Reforming the Media' here.
DEALING WITH EXTREME WEATHER
The next event linked to our 'Facing up to Climate Reality' project is an international conference on how to deal with the kind of extreme weather events that climate change is bringing. This event will consider the impact of the Lancaster floods of December 2015 and will compare this experience with other experiences of extreme weather events across Europe, and will feature speakers involved in city planning and administration from a number of other European countries. We will share knowledge and experience and work together towards better planning and civic responses. It will take place in Lancaster on Saturday 28 October. The event is free to attend, and you can register here.
As well as the conference on the Saturday, on Friday evening there will be an opportunity to see the film ‘Pedalling and Paddling’, made by a local film maker, about a group from Lancaster setting off to cycle to the COP21 talks in Paris just as the floods hit Lancaster; and on Saturday evening, an opportunity to see the play ‘Blackout’ at the Dukes Theatre, based on local people’s experience of the power cut. Details of these linked events will be sent to everyone who registers for the conference.
This event is organised by the Green European Foundation with the support of Green House Think Tank and with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation.
Green House is coordinating a transnational project for the Green European Foundation entitled ‘The potential impact of Brexit on the prospects for a Green transition in Europe’. Six countries are taking part – France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and the UK. In each country, a public discussion event will be held with a particular focus on the implications of Brexit for that country; the events will be linked by a common framework of questions, and the concluding conference – in London on 11 November – will bring together representatives from the all the participating countries and organisations for mutual learning and planning. It is anticipated that the project will result in a book to be published in 2018.
Ray Cunningham, who is coordinating the project for Green House, has written a short survey of the Brexit landscape for the Green European Journal. The article links to the project page on the Green European Foundation website, with details of all the forthcoming events.
Speakers at the concluding conference include Molly Scott Cato MEP and Caroline Lucas MP, as well as politicians and experts from all the countries involved. Participation is free, and you can now register to attend here.
CLAIMS FOR A DECENT LIFE AND A TRUE DEMOCRACY
In the latest Green House 'Gas', John Blewitt explores the intellectual legacy of William Morris and Edward Carpenter. Both were active in the socialist movement in the late nineteenth century, and are both often seen today as progenitors of the twentieth-century green movement. For both Morris and Carpenter, a true democracy meant worker autonomy, co-operative organisation and a beautiful and healthy environment in which to live and work. These ideas were given practical expression in the Guild Socialist movement in the opening decades of the last century and in the enduring interest in, and development of, worker cooperatives today. John’s discussion also embraces the imperative need to end the depredations of an increasingly marketised society. You can download 'Claims for a decent life and a true democracy' here.
Green House is delighted to welcome two new members to its Adivsory Group. They are Norman Baker, the former Transport Minister and long-serving MP for Lewes, now working directly in one of the areas he promoted politically, that of green transport; and Julian Huppert, the prominent scientist, transport and civil rights activist and former Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge. More details on all the members of our expert Advisory Group can be found by clicking on the relevant drop-down heading under 'People' above.
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