How important is Population?
Once upon a time it was obvious to anyone who joined the Green Party that two forms of growth must stop: per capita consumption – and population, if a planet fit for future generations was to have any chance.
At last week’s Green Party conference a fringe addressed by Karin Kuhlemann, of Population Matters, was attended by approximately 120 paid up Green Party members. Ms Kuhlemann estimates that perhaps 1/3 were sympathetic, 1/3 were neutral, or perhaps seeking further information. The remainder, though it was difficult to estimate their strength because they were much more vocal than the rest, made their implacable hostility plain. I understand that it was suggested that PM should be banned from any Green Party activities.
This fringe was drawn to the attention of the Leader and two Deputy Leaders of the Green Party at the Q&A session on the final morning of conference. It was reported as being offensive, but Ms Kuhlemann feels that might be going too far, though the level of hostility, and the way it was expressed were certainly robust. She says:
“I wouldn’t say people were rude as such (I didn’t get interrupted or shouted at during the talk), just hostile and completely disinterested in what I had to say, as they came into the room with their minds made up that population growth is not a permissible subject of discussion.
William Pinkney-Baird said PM was:
“a racist, sexist, imperialist political organisation who claimed Britain had no room for Syrian refugees”.
Anyone still trying to form an unbiased opinion can do so from PM’s website. Their policies are entirely in line with a Green approach. The reference to Syrian refugees was a comment several months ago – before the recent escalation – on the issue of sharing the burden. But that this comment is taken as proof that PM is evil, rather than something we need to get right together in a very difficult situation betrays a mind set totally oblivious of the ecological realities which brought both PM and the Green Party into existence. Some individual members of PM may well be as adrift from its principles as William Pinkney-Baird is from the Green ethos as I see it.
The leader, and two deputy leaders’ replies dismayed me more than the outright hostility. They could do no other than stress that courtesy was de rigeur, but all three implied that PM was an organization they were not personally in sympathy with. They could have said, but didn’t, “Limiting population on a finite planet is essential, but we do not necessarily agree with everything said on behalf of PM.”
This links up with the subject of last weeks’ blog – climate change. There is clearly a substantial portion of the membership which either has no conception of the Green paradigm, or does, and disagrees. Until ecological limits became a factor to be taken seriously, only those with a ‘right wing’ mind set offered any answers to Limits to Growth type problems of resource shortages – exclusion of others with less claim, and if necessary, removal of them entirely. Both the Green Party and Population Matters – see their website – were formed expressly to deal with impending ecological limitations in ways which are inclusive and fair.
But you would not guess this from the Green Party website, which makes no mention of why the Party was founded. New members could be forgiven for not even knowing that stabilizing population was basic to Green politics, but the leadership?? They were taken by surprise, but that none of them thinks PM is an organization we should be in dialogue with, indeed in close collaboration is abysmal.
My personal view is that population stabilization globally is indeed fundamental to a sustainable world, but that social justice measures, especially women’s empowerment (as in the PM website) should be given the chance to show that other measures are not necessary, so the Green Party need not feature population limitation prominently. However, the Basic Income , not part of the PM proposals, will be an essential component. We all agree on less inequality. But my personal take on the Basic Income will, I imagine reveal me as just another fascist. I think it should be generous for a first child, adequate for a second child, but gradually decreasing for subsequent children in a family. The Basic Income is drastically redistributive, but if all it does is allow a poor but expanding population to consume even more than the rich do now, our common goal of eradicating poverty on a finite planet will be further away than ever. We need to help impoverished people to reach the replacement levels in the affluent areas.
The vocal opponents of PM were all young. Do Young Greens associate themselves with or dissociate from this hostility?
Perhaps the opponents of PM were over-represented at the fringe. But if the ignorance of, and/or hostility to basic Green philosophy shown there, and in the climate change debate are typical, the Green Party is as far from its roots as is the Labour party from its roots, and we don’t have a Jeremy Corbyn bent on dragging us back.