Green Politics in Europe
Green politics is the conception of an ecologically sustainable society which began in Europe. It embraces environmental protection and conservation, liberation of the masses and democracy at the grassroots and ecological capitalism or green economics. The green politics is premised on the value that the indigenous people give to the environment. The paper examines how the various environmental issues prevailing have shaped the political discourse in Europe.
Yearley (1991, pp. 121-123) argues that the forces shaping the success of green politics are ozone layer deletion, threat of species extinction, energy policies and the problems posed by pollution. The European dream is closely linked with green politics in that it stresses sustainable development, quality of life and interdependence. The more communities a person has access to, the more options a person has for leaving a meaningful life.
Adherence to the precautionary principle has also been a key word in the cycle of green politics. The term precautionary principle was first coined in Rio declaration on Convention of Biological Diversity. The declaration stated that “where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific knowledge should no be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat”. The declaration stresses the need for prevention of environmental damage rather than remedying the effects on the environment
Changes to energy policy aimed at arresting the looming climate change. Imposing tariffs on fossil fuels and the diffusion of new technologies for instance those that deal in renewable power sources have become a central issue in political agendas. In Germany, there have been increased calls for the use of technologies such as wind turbines and solar cells. This political arrangement has very significant positive impact on the environment by reduction of pollution (Nordhaus, 1979, pp. 47-49).
Restriction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) according to Paarlberg (2010, pp. 114-115) has been a major political policy area in Europe. Although there is the general acceptance that the GMO technology has improved the quality and reliability of the world’s food supply, there are major concerns as to the harm that the technology will have a significant harm on the people through the impacts on the environment, health and the reigning economic orders. There have been general public concerns in Europe, which have sometimes evolved into political movements against GM crops and the acceptance of the GM foods is at an all time low.
According to Irving, Harrison & Rayner (2005, pp. 45-65), the effects that genetically engineered organisms has on the environment include the spread of transgene, potentials for pleiotropic effects and the possibility of the GM crops becoming weeds thereby increasing the weed burden that the farmers already grapple with. There is also the fear that the crops can invade natural habitats thereby interfering with the biodiversity. Restriction on the use of the technology has been advocated for by green parties since it can create long term problems such as crops the production of crops that are resistant to pesticides and also promote environmentally harmful farming
Due to extinction threats that the valuable ecological zones in the world face, there have been increasing calls for the protection of eco-regions. The areas that have the greatest amounts of biodiversity should be earmarked for protection. This follows the notion that environmentalists should strive to achieve a situation where all habitats and ecosystem types are represented within regional conservation frameworks. The representation approach can be used in a variety of situations from single habitats extending from just one watershed to those that are vast as to cover a whole continent. The focus is on the preservation of ecological processes and ecosystems (Olson & Dinerstei, 1998, pp. 67-78).
Ethical consumerism is also one of the pillars of green politics which is also called “democracy through the wallet”. The consumers do not buy anything that has the potential to harm the flora and fauna. Consumers have become a target for green campaigns because of the potential threats that products such as Ozone hole and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) aerosols posed to consumers. Consumers also put pressure which led to the early phase out of ozone depleting gases from fridges and freezers. Animal rights movements have also featured greatly in the green politic of ethical consumerism. In 1989, a spokesperson for Avon announced that they would no longer use animals to test cosmetics as a result of the consumer boycott that resulted from their use of live animals to test cosmetics (Irving, Harrison & Rayner, 2005).
The new thinking in urban growth calls for people to live think as citizens of a global community while effecting the changes in their localities. This local based environmental activism is new and was only popularize by the problems that arose as a result of haphazard development of cities without regards to any planning standards. There is increased pollution in the cities and loss of flora and fauna due to the unprecedented population growth resulting from the lack of planning. In desperation to change the existing patterns of land use, groups of citizens and environmentalists have come together to support new urbanism (Katz, 1994, pp. ii-viii).
Green politics is also opposed to nuclear power by encouraging nuclear power phase outs for example in Sweden. The Sweden’s social Democratic Party was unseated because of their pro nuclear power policies with the incoming government being voted in on the platform in cuts in the use of nuclear energy .The call for reduction in nuclear power stems from the problems that nuclear energy poses for instance gradual industrialization of rural areas and the resultant concentration of economic activities. These two scenarios can eventually led to environmental degradation of the rural areas undergoing the sudden changes because of the need to clear more land for the developments. Tight nuclear regulation was possible in France due to the demand by the authorities for standardization of reactor designs and construction. In Germany, the antinuclear crusaders used the courts to appeal against nuclear policies of the government (Nordhaus, 1979, pp. 45-51)
According to OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (2008, 358) groups opposed to use of nuclear energy stated nuclear technology is the epitome of democracy’s failure in the recent history. On top of the risks that nuclear poses to the environment for instance the Chernobyl accident which proved that the effects of nuclear accidents can extend national boundaries. There is also the general feeling among the public that nuclear technologies are prone to misuse. There have been calls by politicians, activists and scientists to transform nuclear energy regulation. The resistance by the people in 1970’s to the federal atomic promotions led to the reappearance of populist revolts against the Federal government which was perceived to be undemocratic. Due to the nuclear accident in Three Mile Island, many states prohibited nuclear plants. Later citizen activists and politicians getting support from a huge public antipathy resisted the development of nuclear products (Wellock, 1998; Nelkin & Pollak, 1980, pp. 27-32)
The concept of green economy came to be conceived as a result of climate change, increased globalization and the financial crisis. The decline in the supply of oil for the mainly oil dependent nations threatens the very tenets of the nationhood and therefore is a wake up call for people to use the limited resources in the most efficient way (Cato, 2009, pp. 2-5). Due to the political concerns of widening inequalities between the rich and the poor, there are concerns about how the economic situations have propelled them. Public opinion is driving green economics into the political debate thus leading to the development of policies which recognize the importance of wise use of resources bearing in mind the limits of the planet to provide for its inhabitants. Green economics calls for the reverence of the planet to avert such extreme consequences such as climate change and desertification. Moreover, it also calls for increase concerns not only for the human species but for the intricate ecology and the varied species (Cato, 2009, pp. 109-112).
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