Let’s end the talk of a green fascism

Posted on July 25, 2012

“This is not a political statement but my colleagues and I find that it’s much easier to do business in communist countries and in dictatorships than in democracies……I’ll do anything I can to promote my business and if I can get to the right dictator and convince him to help me with my business, I’ll do that.”

What do we all think when a senior business leader says these words? How do we react? Do we judge them as reasonable or immoral? A sign of admirable determination or a sign of corrupted ethical values?

Consider your answer before you read on.

Now imagine that it is not a business leader saying these words but a senior conservationist stating that he would be happy to collaborate in exactly this same way in order to save endangered species; or combat climate change. I’m assuming that we don’t suddenly change our ethical judgement.

Or do we? Do the ends justify the means?

The above sentiments were, in fact, expressed by a leading conservationist (see video embedded below). This idea that conservation and environmental concerns are somehow important enough to trump all other moral considerations surfaces every now and then among environmental activists. And it doesn’t help. It doesn’t do justice to all the good work that these conservationists themselves and others have done and continue to do.

Calls for A Green Fascism

German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel recently published an article by Jorgen Randers, a Norwegian professor of climate strategy, author of a recent Club of Rome report and previous climate adviser to the Norwegian government. The article is titled “A Benign Dictator – That is the Aim”. He argues that one solution to the developing climate change issues is to have some form of benign dictatorship that can impose ‘solutions’ on the population without having to bother with irritating niceties like democratic accountability. He describes the Chinese Communist Party as just one such ‘benevolent dictator’, praising China’s politics which he describes as taking power away from the people for long term gain.

Randers also compares the Chinese Communist Party to the European Commission. As we all know the Commission suffers from what is euphemistically known as a ‘democratic deficit’ – in other words it is an undemocratic, unaccountable institution. It is notable that so much environmental regulation (and environmental funding) emerges from the democratically unaccountable Commission rather than from national governments who have to face voters every election cycle. Randers is just one of many who now look to Brussels as the savior of an environmental agenda, unhampered by having to convince the voters – the stupid little people as they no doubt see them – of the merits of their argument. Randers further bemoans the fact that the European Parliament is being given some more powers and that this may halt the march of an imposed green agenda.

And Randers is not alone. A couple of months ago I was in a discussion with a senior leader of a major environmental organization and this idea of a benign dictatorship was, once more, raised as ‘what we may need’. The New Scientist comments that China’s green initiatives are driven both by economic self-interest, and perhaps “a longer-term vision than beleaguered western democracies can muster”.

I ask myself – are these people serious or have they just lost their minds?

Have some in the environmental community really become such ideologically blinded evangelists that they have reached the conclusion that The Inquisition is the correct approach? Do some really believe that, if need be, we must sweep democracy aside in order to impose their own views of what the future should look like?

To look at it another way, do these leaders really believe that their own ideas and approaches are so intellectually and politically bankrupt that they have no hope of persuading the public of their merits? That we therefore need to embark on some sort of green fascist initiative?

Creating a persuasive argument

Sadly, this idea of promoting the environmental agenda through imposition is gaining ground in many quarters.

Personally, I take a different view. I believe that a considered, thoughtful and politically intelligent environmentalism can win over a significant proportion of the population, can be a powerful political platform and can thrive in well-functioning democracies.

One of the sayings in Britain during World War II was that loose talk costs lives. And so it is here. There is little that is guaranteed to lose support for the environmental movement than loose talk about a green fascism and lazily trading off public persuasion for the imposition of a green agenda through undemocratic institutions such as the European Commission. We would all be better off by developing an agenda that is capable of commanding public support rather than giving up on that and lobbying for an Inquisition.


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