Monday, 26 January 2015

The green dilemma

I'm interested in, and care for, the environment - so why do I have so much trouble with the Green Party? After all, I grew up in a good, Manchester Guardian reading household (though admittedly my parents gave the newspaper up when it weaselled off to London).

I certainly have issues with some of the party's policies. I objected previously, for instance, to their £10 minimum wage by 2020 target. And their politics is generally too left of centre for me as a default liberal. But there is no party that exactly represents my views, so I had a suspicion there was something deeper - and I have realised what it is.

When writing about green issues online, in Ecologic, and also in my latest book Science for Life, I point out a common failing which is letting the emotion behind certain trigger words overcome logic. So words like 'natural' and 'organic' with all their warm fuzzy connotations become equated with 'good' - even though there's a lot that's natural and organic (think the deadly poison ricin, for instance, or the bacteria and viruses and parasites that cause everything from malaria and ebola to flu) that is anything but good. Similarly there are keywords that are automatically considered bad. And the problem with the Green Party is that they come at environmental issues - a scientific endeavour - in a way that ignores the science in favour of fuzzy feelings.

The most obvious example of this is the total inability to think about nuclear power. It's a head-in-the-sand approach that says 'As soon as I hear the word "nuclear" I turn off.' No reasoning, no thought goes into it - it's pure knee-jerk. Instead they have the impractical target to have wind as the UK's 'main source of power by 2030.' In the end, all solutions to problems have pros and cons - but the Greens aren't prepared to look at them in a detached, scientific manner. And that's not good enough.

Now you may, quite reasonably, say that politics isn't a detached, scientific business. It's about hearts more than minds. It's about tribalism, not science. And of course I recognise there's an element of this. But the fact is we live in a world that is defined by science and technology. It's just not good enough to approach environmental and energy issues with that same hearts over minds stance. Almost all politicians are bad at taking a scientific viewpoint - but I find it particularly off-putting in a  party whose raison d'ĂȘtre is those science-based issues.

UPDATE: I'm also unhappy with a their general policy detail, now it is available. Apart from being suspicious of their taxation plans, I don't want to live somewhere that terrorism is considered 'an extremely loaded term' and all we need to do is be nice to everyone, which means we can pretty well get rid of our military. And when the party leader says 'So it’s simple, really: we have to entirely redesign the system,' in a piece in the Independent, that's really scary. Because that casual 'It's simple' suggests that these people haven't a clue how to make it happen. They seem to be taking the part of the innocent idiot Jim Hacker from Yes Minister repurposed with a change of party colours.

Take their concept of a 'citizens' income' which every citizen gets, eliminating most benefits. Sounds great in principle. Apart from not making it clear how they could possibly keep the cash flowing for this when they also want to shrink the economy. It's a brilliant example of something that sounds simple, but really isn't. Want more evidence? Look at the Green party stronghold, Brighton. It would obviously have the best recycling rates in the country. Or maybe 302nd out of 326. Hmm.

This has been a green heretic production.

"Green Party of England and Wales logo" by The logo is from the website.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Green Party of England and Wales via Wikipedia

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