Produced by a collective of Green Party members, this appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Green Horizon Magazine.
The text was written by Linda Cree and Steve Welzer based upon contributions from (in alphabetical order):
Greg Gerritt, Bruce Hinkforth, Margaret Human, John Rensenbrink, Sid Smith, and Howard Switzer.
We are at a critical turning point for human civilization. All around us we see a world in crisis — a world facing overwhelming environmental and social threats. Our “way of life” is literally shredding the biosphere we depend on. Greens have been in the forefront of asserting that unless we make a dramatic U-turn and radically reorganize our societies, a human future may not be possible.
As things stand now, humans use 1.7 times as much biological productivity annually as is produced on planet Earth each year. So “Overshoot Day” — which marks the date when human demand for resources and services outstrips what the Earth can regenerate in that year — has progressed from December 31 to August 2 in the last fifty years. Such over-exploitation is impacting the entire web of life on the planet. Wild animal populations are down 60% since 1970, 90% of the large fish are now gone from the oceans, and 40% of insect species are in decline. We are passing limits on deforestation, the phosphorus cycle, climate disruption and numerous other indicators of ecological distress, all of which are completely intertwined with the health of our human communities.
We cannot have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Yet development in most of the world today is directed towards creating still more economic growth — more stuff for more people. This dynamic has benefited a tiny layer of the population, but for nearly everyone else, even many of those who have had rising incomes and the ability to consume more, the costs in terms of inequality and oppression, degraded oceans, climate chaos, deforestation, chemical trespass, dead zones, and wars is beyond bearing. It is beyond bearing for our communities and for our planet.
The Need For A New Narrative
Deep Greens are amazed that we’re debating issues with the assumption that all we need to do is get rid of corporations and build a power system based on wind and solar, never questioning the industrial mode of production. Many of our political leaders have led us to believe there are no hard choices that need to be made to build a sustainable world. They seem to believe that we are so addicted to our machines, our toys, and our lifestyles, that we cannot recognize them as the very reason for the production of greenhouse gases, the destruction of ecosystems, and the depletion of resources.
Western societies tend to conceive of “Progress” as being a linear movement toward mastery of nature, material growth, advancement of science, and expansion of technology. Disconnect from the natural world, however, has increasingly obscured the truth that the dominant culture’s trajectory is leading toward ecocide. Instead of recognizing the perils of continuing with business-as-usual, experts offer us more “technological fixes” which too often come with unforeseen consequences. Our modern reality does not, in fact, define a culture of true progress, but rather one that is, as Native American activist John Trudell has written, “industrially insane.”
There is an analysis which suggests that the growth imperative is a result of capitalist economic relations. Yet the problematic “progress and development” trajectories of our civilization pre-date capitalism and have been evident in every attempt to implement socialism in the modern era. On this basis we believe that the source of the problem goes deeper than simply economic relations.
We urgently need a new narrative. The Deep Green perspective has emerged as an alternative to all the old ideologies — conservatism, liberalism, nationalism, capitalism, socialism, etc. The Deep Green worldview questions traditional leftist and environmental assumptions about what needs to be done. Its vision of thoroughgoing social transformation begins with an examination of this civilization’s preoccupation with productivity values, its addiction to technology, its militarism, patriarchy, and anthropocentrism.
Although our situation is dire, we believe it is possible for a society to respond successfully to the threats we face. We know how people pull together after a storm wrecks their town. We need to call on that same sense of cooperation and care in the face of the unfolding crisis.
Growth Mania Has Led To Hypertrophy
Capital, technology, and the state have, for centuries, been an interlocking juggernaut fostering toxic industrialism and modes of production characterized by ecological irresponsibility. Meanwhile, the ideology of “development” has brought us to our current state of alienation from nature. Its growth mania has resulted in generalized hypertrophy (institutions and technologies too large to be controlled democratically) and a sense of cultural malaise.
Our key value of Ecological Wisdom is derived from the understanding of how regeneration in nature is dependent upon cooperation and upon the maintenance of ecological balance. Ecosystems tend to evolve to a climax state and then remain fairly stable for long periods of time. As evolution continues, equilibrium is established and re-established. Human systems, whether they are economic, social, or cultural, are merely subsystems of the over-arching ecosystem which contains them. Thus, human systems must also strive for equilibrium.
Neither capitalism nor extant socialism have prioritized these vital precepts. Thus, Deep Greens tend not to favor the term “eco-socialism.” We believe such a label channels our thinking into old ruts. We also have concerns about the relationship of socialism to the dominant parts of the old paradigm that stress centralized planning and mass production as well as a toleration of violence.
The Marxist analysis views all history as a narrative of class struggle that will end in a socialist society. Deep Greens fully support oppressed peoples in their struggles for dignity and equality. For that reason we strongly support unionization, strike activity, community organizing efforts, and worker-owned cooperatives. We share with the traditional left a proactive stance against all manifestations of exploitation, inequality, oppression and domination. Nonetheless, we draw different conclusions about “the history of all hitherto existing society,” and the posited higher and higher stages of development leading to the ultimate stage of socialism.
Green politics arose on the basis of a “new paradigm” critique of the industrial state. That paradigm is, in some ways, more radical than socialism. It takes the New Left’s desire for a participatory form of democracy and says something very new: scale is an important factor. The huge modern nation-states are always characterized by plutocracy, whether their productive assets are owned publicly or privately. They are never conducive to participatory democracy. That idea is the basis for the Greens’ key value of Decentralization. It represents a radically new direction for our civilization, yet hearkens back to the sanity of Indigenous lifeways.
Limits and Balances
Deep Greens acknowledge the concept of limits and the need to bring economic relations into harmony with the natural world. We believe the best way to do this is to transition to bioregional economies and to return power to local communities.
Bioregional economics calls on us to come to know our home territory intimately and to try and meet as many of our needs as possible from it, as suggested by our key value Community-based Economics. The modern megalopolis is anathema for this vision. Greens should encourage a return to humanly-scaled polities, institutions, and technologies, along with a revitalization of traditional ecological knowledge and rural living skills. This implies a substantial degree of re-localization: local production for local use, local manufacturing, local sales, local recycling whenever possible.
There is also wide recognition that we’re nearing the end of the fossil fuel era, a period of time that allowed for enormous population and industrial growth. Even if we weren’t dealing with the issue of climate change caused by industrial pollution of our atmosphere, we would have to face the reality that the age of cheap and easily accessible energy resources is over. The challenge of scaling down so that we can continue to meet basic human needs will require creative simplification and can best be accomplished by working together in small-scale communities.
A transition to greener lifeways will need to be accomplished with great wisdom. For example, the creation of solar and wind farms must be done in such a way as to minimize habitat destruction. The latter is as critical an environmental problem as is climate change and is the major cause of the Sixth Mass Extinction we are now witnessing. We need to rapidly phase out fossil fuel and nuclear power sources and replace them with clean energy. What comes on line should be less than what is taken off due to the savings of efficiency and our need to consume less. Clean, alternative energies can replace much of the current fossil and nuclear power we use, but we cannot turn the world’s forests, wilderness areas, and rural places into solar and wind farms. The emphasis should be on reversing the trend of increased energy consumption per person. We must be clear that the organization of the economy and the rate of use of resources is going to have to be very, very different.
One of the best things we can do for our future and for the biosphere is to phase out industrialized agriculture in favor of regenerative agriculture. The latter refers to a suite of holistic principles and methods that together have the potential to rapidly restore our rural and natural environments to full health, sequestering vast quantities of carbon, restoring ecological balance and biodiversity, building soil, and reversing desertification, all while producing more food of a higher quality. It also has the potential to restore agricultural communities to economic independence and security. Greens encourage everyone with any lawn, roof, or patio space to grow food for their own families. Those with relevant knowledge should sponsor education and training in horticulture, maintaining orchards, beekeeping, etc.
An End to Militarism
We must learn to live within planetary limits, but no new society will be sustainable if it is not based on justice and equality. This is why so much of the Green Party Platform is devoted to issues of social justice, racism, militarism, and poverty. We understand that you cannot heal ecosystems without ending poverty; and you cannot end poverty without healing ecosystems. Neither goal will be obtainable, however, if you do not shut down the war machine!
Our military is the most wasteful industry on the planet and few things cause more immediate and localized harm to communities and ecosystems than war. A country that claims to stand for freedom cannot run an empire without losing its soul, bankrupting the people, and eliminating real democracy. Instead of borrowing money to fund killing people around the world, the United States should abandon its preoccupation with geopolitical hegemony — and save a trillion dollars a year! We could fund an adequate national defense for less than a third of current spending.
The savings could allow for a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) for all US citizens, help us transition to bioregional living, supply funds for retraining military and industrial workers, assist in the creation of universal, single-payer health care, aid in the move to alternative energies, and facilitate programs to heal our ecosystems and our communities.
In addition to changing our funding priorities, we need to transfer the power to create money away from the private banking system (that dominates and directs the global economy) to our elected representatives. The monetary system is an awesome power that rightfully belongs to elected governments of, by, and for the people. Today all nations are in debt to the private global banking system which has been given the privilege of creating and issuing our money as debt. We must change this and allow all nations to originate their own money, debt-free, for the general welfare and care of their people and the environment.
A Question of Values
Industrial Culture emphasizes “self” and “consumption” as being the main road to the Good Life. This misguided emphasis contradicts the values espoused by the world’s great spiritual leaders and those taught in most traditional Indigenous cultures where unselfishness and restraint, (not selfishness and conspicuous consumption) are the values held in highest esteem.
We should learn from the belief of Indigenous peoples that humans and all other creatures are intricately related in the web of life — truly relatives. As part of our family, it’s clear we aren’t meant to dominate and subdue them, but to cherish and share the Earth with them. Deep Greens call for a reduction in human numbers as being necessary for the well-being of humans and all life on Earth, but we also understand that such a reduction must be voluntary and gradual. It can be accomplished gently over several generations by simply encouraging one-child families. As awareness of population overshoot grows, much vigilance will be needed to protect against racist, elitist, or any kind of draconian policies. Long-range vision and a deep reverence for all human life is critical.
Greens recognize that we need a basis of consensus as we move forward. This is where our key values come in. Taken together, our distinctive Ten Key Values provide us with an array of fundamental principles. While the trendlines of developmentalist civilization have led to over-centralization, over-concentration of wealth and power, and over-exploitation of natural resources, our values offer guidance for effectuating the much-needed process of changing direction.
Flowing from those values are specific ideas on how we can transform society. Deep Greens take seriously the responsibility to propose solutions and even to help craft legislation. But we are keenly aware that it would be presumptive to claim we advocate from a position of certitude or special enlightenment. Instead, our ultimate objective is to return decision-making power to the people. We support a mixed economy and encourage a healthy diversity in the kinds of communities and economies people fashion over time.
There are no “instant fixes,” but Deep Greens believe in the possibility of making the dramatic cultural U-turn that will lead our civilization toward the very different direction that’s called for at this historical juncture. We envision a future far lighter on material goods and factories, but much richer in relationships with other people and other creatures, and an appreciation of the natural world around us.
What humanity is facing in this new century is unprecedented, but, together, we can discern what needs to be done, foster social responsibility, restore ecological balances, and realize our vision of a more just, peaceful, and beautiful world.