Greta Thunberg’s strength (and weakness?)

Greta has made two vital statements:

“I want governments to panic” and

“System Change, not Climate Change”

But she declines to go any further. That is the task of politicians. If Greta got involved in the details, someone would attack her, and her status could be undermined. She has done what is necessary,

But it has not happened yet. Two days after the Batley & Spen by-election the Guardian (3.7.21) contained seven reports (168 column inches) but there was apparently no mention of climate breakdown during the campaign.

Yet there were two items on climate breakdown in the same issue: an article about wildfires and 490C in Canada by Jesse Winter, and a more general one on the global climate threat by Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at UCL London, and Leeds University.

So I have gone back from resignation to rage at my exclusion, by what should still be the Ecology Party from the Batley & Spen By-election.

But there was a Green candidate in the election: Mike Davies of the Alliance for Green Socialism. I have  perused the AGS Website. The message is clear in the first sentence:

The AGS believes that global warming and other threats to our environment could destroy our society.

But Mike polled 104 votes – 0.28%. Why would the Green Party have done any better? We do not even challenge his claim that Capitalism is a main cause of the problem. But if making that statement (for example in an election leaflet) was sufficient to persuade enough voters to elect him (or the Green Party) it would have done so by now.

My campaign would have started from Greta’s two key statements, as above.

The AGS website makes no mention of Greta Thunberg or Extinction Rebellion (XR). Depending on finances, I would have had posters saying

“The end of the World need not be at hand!”

This would be supported by the vast and growing evidence of climate breakdown which is already happening. Mike seems to have made no attempt to tap support either by “Fridays for the Future”, or XR.

Bearing in mind the 1989 European Election result. where the Green Party polled 15% mainly in Conservative heartlands, I would have concentrated whatever person power there was in Conservative wards. The high 1989 result was because although heeding ecological threats must predispose Greens to redistribution, it is residents of the leafier shires (e.g. Conservative-voting parts of Birkenshaw) who recognize the climate threat more readily than those now dependent on food banks.

Mike’s message would simply put off Conservatives.

But is Greta’s reluctance a weakness? “System Change not Climate Change” is certainly crucial, but it is meaningless unless given some practical embodiment. But that is our job as would-be politicians , not Greta’s.

This weblog does advocate such an embodiment of system change: a basic income paid for by taxes related to the ecological footprint of resources. But Greta is right to keep her message clear and unsullied. The brutal fact is that there are no acceptable answers to the threat of climate breakdown. But they will be less unpleasant than letting it happen. All a by-election can achieve is to direct the electorate’s attention to the need for system change.

Batley & Spen was a missed opportunity, but the strategy of Greens contesting all by-elections to test whether this is possible is still a live issue. An MP is currently threatened with prosecution, in Wakefield. We may risk the same fate as the AGS in Batley & Spen, but is no-one else so terrified of climate breakdown as to try anything, however unlikely, if it might save the Ecosphere for future generations?

I appeal for support for this approach now. It is after all what the Green Party was founded for, before the danger was imminent.

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