Activists shouldn’t be satisfied with new Govt’s green credentials
By Mark O'Leary
On Saturday 25 July, members of Extinction Rebellion ‘dropped dead’ on Opera Lane in Cork city, to respond to the formation of a new government. This government is based on what Catherine Martin has called, ‘the best green deal in the history of the country’.
As an environmentalist, it is hard to disagree.
Before the election, measures like an annual seven per cent per annum emissions reduction and massive public transport investment were relegated to environmentalists' dreams. Thanks to the Green’s impressive work, they are now being planned for in the corridors of power.
Regardless of how many commitments the Green’s coalition partners ultimately wriggle out of, this was the best deal politically possible.
So why did Extinction Rebellion ‘drop dead’ to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with what has been achieved? Why as an environmentalist, do I still feel so angry?
The answer is that what is politically possible is not enough. The UN Environmental Programme states that we need a global 7.6 per cent emissions reduction per annum, until 2030 to give us the opportunity to remain under 1.5 of warming this century.
As a wealthy country, we should be responsible for even deeper, more rapid reductions. Why should we celebrate 7 per cent?
Is rounding down from what is necessary a victory? As I write this a third of Bangladesh lies underwater. Are we supposed to celebrate what another 1.5 per cent of warming will bring to vulnerable people in the majority world?
There is no doubt the Irish Government’s environmental position is stronger today than at any other time in history. The question is not whether the Green Party was right or wrong to enter government. The question is what do we need to do now to bring our existence into harmony with the natural world and in doing so build a just society that gives people the opportunity to live fulfilling lives. The Greens, as I am sure most of their membership will agree, will not achieve this over the next five years.
There are certain questions which lie beyond the peripheral vision of Leinster House.
Without addressing the imperative for economic growth, the ideology of consumerism and the compulsion toward accumulation which dominate how we currently relate to the world, we will consume a path to a way of life which is a shadow of our current conception of dignity.
Alternatively, we can re-evaluate our priorities, so that community, nature, democracy and meaningful work light the way to a more balanced, kinder civilisation.
This will require love and rage. It will require a mass, grass-roots movement simultaneously engaged in building alternative structures of life and raising consciousness. It is perhaps the most monumental task in human history and one of the most beautiful and inspiring.
Beyond high politics, this is where environmentalism and rebellion must go. Saturday's 'die-in' is one of millions of tentative baby steps that people are taking all over the world, toward a brighter future.
We chose to demonstrate on a busy shopping street, rather than outside some building representing political power because it must be people, not politicians, that bring about true system change.