My article on what I perceive to be a shift away from deep ecology towards shallow ecology certainly provoked lots of debate, which I supposed was my intention. In this post I want to follow up by correcting an error I made, expressing regret about one or two things, and making an observation about open debate in the internet age.
I was under the impression that the motion to change the philosophical basis was driven forward, and largely voted through, by newer members of the party, in particular people active in the organisation Young Greens. I described it as “their scalp”, and said it “came about in part through the emergence of something of a ‘bloc’ of Young Greens”.
I should point out that Josiah Mortimer, who proposed the motion, has himself described it as “Young Green-led”, and there were tweets such as this one from York Young Greens describing it in similar terms.
However, Benali Hamdache posted a comment making clear that I was ascribing too much responsibility to the Young Greens:
I chaired the workshop debating the policy. In that there were a number of young greens who opposed the policy, and a number of non young greens who spoke passionately for the motion. The workshop was 26-2 for the motion. In plenary the motion passed with substantial non-YG support. YGs represented a quarter of attendees and not all supported, indeed some did speak against in plenary. 74 attendees were YG, yet the motion received I believe a substantial amount more votes. All considered I think it unwise to put the vote as solely YG factionalism.
So thank you, Benali, for the correction. I’m sorry, and apologise for, the error.
I also regret conflating what are perhaps three separate issues:
- The motion itself, shifting the party out of the deep ecology movement towards a form of shallow ecology in which social justice is seen as a prerequisite for, and central to, environmental justice
- The recent public policy positions of the Young Greens organisation that I was aware of, which had no substantial references to environmental issues
- Statements like those by Adam Ramsay where I feel there is a degree of factionalism that is aligned against “old ways” and in favour of a kind of old Labour or hard left approach
Had I written something three times as long, I could have separated these out and taken more care to make my point. But I doubt many people would have taken the time to read that. Indeed, many failed to take the time to really read and reflect on the article I did write.
That said, it’s also all too easy, when drafting an article on your laptop over a few evenings, to miss the emotional impact of some sentences or even the overall piece. I knew full well that I would annoy some people, and get lots of people disputing parts of my argument, but I didn’t anticipate that some people would be quite so upset by it!
Several people have accused me of attacking all Young Greens for not caring about the environment. I never made this claim in my original article. My opening paragraph stated “ I think there is a lack of environmentalism (or perhaps even a current of anti-environment thought) within the Young Greens”, and in fact I closed my article stating that “I would like to think there are fellow Greens aged 30 and under who still think that ecology is a central concern”. There is a clear difference between the the interpretation I have been accused of and what I actually wrote.
But I could have made clearer, at the outset, that I know many Young Greens do care passionately about the environment, and that many who subscribe to what Arne Naess called the “shallow ecology movement” do care passionately about the environment. Indeed it was Young Greens who brought an emergency motion in support of the No Dash for Gas activists.
Open debate in the internet age
In among many polite, considered responses in person, by email and on Twitter, I have been subject to a heady mix of outrage and feverish condemnation on Twitter.
I have been told that my article was “deeply offensive”, “upsetting”, “bizarre and insulting”, and that they were “seriously worried by the attitude expressed”. I was accused of misrepresenting individuals’ views, even though I never mentioned them by name. One person told me, “I demand an apology”. Arguments levelled have been full of straw men, equivocation, false dichotomies and cherry picking.
I can take criticism, I don’t mind being called names, but I find this all a bit much. We have all posted a comment in anger, and sent aggressive tweets as kneejerk reactions. I’ve done this myself too often. But I wanted to call it on this occasion.
I have responded to comments that I felt were generally polite, and will ignore others.