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Comment - Social Justice

The Philosophical Basis of the Green Party - Against the Change by David Flint.

I joined the Green Party three years ago because of my increasing fears about climate change (see my blog).

Climate change can only be addressed by a transformation in our economic base and social relations and this, I thought, needs a political party - the Green Party.

Since then I've come to appreciate the insights at the root of Green politics - that humans are not the only living things with rights and that without the support of the non-human world we all perish. Thus Green politics differs from all other political systems by having our relationship to nature, and not our relationships with each other, at its heart. I think the new philosophical basis obscures that key point.

Now all political parties must seek power and must therefore develop policies on many issues - some quite remote from their core concerns. For these policies we need some guiding principles and I want to have social justice as a key principle.

And, of course, we should seek social justice in our climate change policies too. A high carbon tax, which we need, applied in isolation would drive many more families into fuel poverty. Surely we should avoid this by using part, perhaps all, of the tax revenues to avoid this injustice.

Still more, the price of avoiding climate change will include the ending of growth in the developed world. This will not be acceptable unless we can promise people a better life with fewer goods but more health, leisure and community spirit. All these demand a more equal society.

But here's the sticky bit. The best time to adopt effective policies against climate change has already passed. Effective policies will cause pain to some - perhaps to many - and must be adopted in a world not hugely different from today's. We do not have time to neutralise all the special interests, to overthrow all the dictators and to conduct a social revolution first. Therefore effective policies will require compromise with special interests and dictators. To be effective we need absolute clarity about our priorities.

Avoiding catastrophic climate change ought to be our top priority because catastrophic climate change will destroy essentially everything we value from healthy food through biodiversity to democracy. If the worst scenarios are correct then it will destroy billions of human lives.

It's a hard choice and we may yet avoid it. We must work to avoid it. But if I have to choose between survival and justice then I will choose survival. The danger of giving 'social justice' equal priority is that it may distract us from the most serious threat we face.

First published in the EGP members newsletter, May 2013

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ