Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Green Internationalists

An American, a German and Geordie walk into a bar.

Nope, not another rubbish joke, but just a night out with Greenpeace. Okay, maybe not a typical night out as we're in Germany with seven and a half other supporters as part of an international rally against an open cast lignite mine and a few of us are down the local pub enjoying the common language of beer...and Status Quo.

But Greenpeace is an international organisation and eco-warriors are a fairly international bunch. Our own UK party for example included representatives of most of the nationalities of the United Kingdom; English, Welsh, Cornish and, as I have already said, Geordie, as well as a UK resident Yank, a German, a South African, and a Swede.

Perhaps Greenpeace is a little unique amongst environmental groups. I don't expect a national gathering of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England is quite as diverse. However we were also a fairly cosmopolitan group on Barton Moss I remember, even though Boris now claims he is actually from Bolton and only picked up his accent on his travels.

There is a bit of a tension here though, is there not, given that these are the people holding up the building of Heathrow's Third Runway and trying ban short haul flights? Lets 'unpack' this a little as they say.

"Show me an environmentalist and I will show you a hypocrite"

As George Monbiot said, in the absence of government action, environmentalism is, and always will be, for other people.

Eco-warriors travel, some rather more than others. I've not been on a plane for thirteen years, but when I last flew it was from the runway I'd tried to stop the building of. I have driven over every road I ever protested against too, and done most of them in Greenpeace vehicle. A former Greenpeace ED used to take his holidays in the Pacific.

We may have travelled twenty hours on an overnight coach with the two most cheerful drivers in the Midlands in order to get to Germany, but the flying environmentalist is just as real as the anti-nuclear activist who'll tell you about the danger of getting cancer from Sellafield whilst smoking a roll up.

Streuth, with us trying to save the world we don't really need anyone trying to destroy it, do we?

The Anti-UKIP

But, as fans of bypasses and short haul flights tell us, travel isn't all bad. It broadens the mind, brings nations and cultures together and generally makes the world a better place all round. I think most of us would respect someone who's well travelled rather more than one who's never left home and spends his spare time knitting organic yoghurt, and with good reason.

I mean, the western nation whose citizens are least likely to travel abroad is the USA. Nuff said. 

And it seems Greens are generally pretty well travelled.

A survey by GlobalWebIndex in May this year revealed that people who'd vote for the Green Party were more likely to eat foreign food and more interested in other cultures and countries than people who would vote for any other party. At the opposite end of the spectrum were, surprise surprise, UKIP.

The survey has a pretty decent sample group of 7504 overall including 282 Greens and also reveals that we are less optimistic about the environment, less interested in personal financial investments and more interested in equality than voters for the other parties, which all makes sense.

Not that I can claim to be all that cosmopolitan myself. From my English breakfast to my pint of mild, my Elgar CDs to my Led Zeppelin records, my taste in food, drink and music would probably even be regarded as a bit conservative even by George Orwell, a man who was radical only in his politics. However I can claim friends in or from most of the EU, so maybe something is rubbing off even on me.

The world on your desktop

So how do we square this circle of wanting to part of the community of nations whilst cutting down our fossil fuel use? Electric trains, planes and automobiles doesn't entirely solve the problem, even if they were available now, which they mostly aren't.

One clue is in the GlobalWebIndex survey, which shows Green voters are more likely to use social media. However having facebook friends around the world is all very well, but eventually you're going to want to visit them.

The reality is there is no way round this. Our heads and our hearts are pulling us in different directions. Whether it's Tradable Energy Quotas or a Carbon tax, Acting Local will make the globetrotting that results from Thinking Global very difficult for us.

So I guess I should be very grateful that I was able to meet so many international friends in person. In years to come, when I'm sitting in the dark round the wood burner, pedalling hard to get enough power to work the internet and calculating how many more TEQs I'll have to save up to get a train to Germany I'll perhaps look back at these days of cheap travel and wonder why I didn't see more of the big wide world whilst I had the chance.

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