What is Green Fundamentalism?

"In the outer sense, it puts ecology before economy, and long-term matters before
immediate and short-term ones. In the inner sense, it must be a policy which has
spiritual drive and makes moral claims." - Rudolf Bahro

Many books have been written on the topic of "Green" political thought. My purpose here is not to replicate these efforts but to try relating their contents to the context of our American political and economic experience. In this effort, I count upon the help of my many companions in the Green movement to add their voices and speak from their own considerable wisdom and experience.

Why "Green" political thought?

The "Industrial Revolution" has been driven by various ideological varieties of "mercantile capitalism", the dissenting views (communism and socialism), and its final form that fuses corporate capitalism and government: fascism. All of these "isms" can be, for our purposes, subsumed under the broad heading of "Industrialism".

Green economic and political thought presents a new approach to the dominant paradigm represented by Industrialism and its single pointed devotion to the task of maximizing profits while concentrating wealth and power. Green thought identifies this Industrial paradigm as possessing internal contradictions that, while tremendously successful in accomplishing its goals, are leading our species toward annihilation. The most obvious contradictions can be stated in their simplest terms as: a "rejection of (or ignorance of) limits"; a world view that is fundamentally "anthropocentric" and "patriarchal"; and a value system that takes consumption as the highest good.

Green political thought goes beyond any attempt to redefine our modern dilemma in old Industrialist terms and systematically builds a new paradigm for sustaining life on this planet. I hope to be able here, to present the "bare bones" outline of this Green paradigm and, over the course of the next few months, to flesh out some of the most important concepts.

Why "fundamentalism"?

The term "fundamentalism" in Green political thinking is a reference to the split that developed in the German Green Party between the two "wings" of political strategy: Fundis (Fundamentalists) and Realo (Realpolitiks). The Realos proposed working within the system, compromising and forming coalitions to accomplish the Green vision. Fundis rejected this strategy as diluting the Green vision, and so betraying the need for a new paradigm. Philosophically, I find myself standing with the Fundis in rejecting the notion that Industrialism can be reformed. To express this in the context of our project here: Is there any value in trying to repair the "highway of Industrialism", to widen it's lanes (especially the left lane), to improve the lighting and fill the pot holes - if it is leading to the abyss and possible extinction of our species?

"At this level realpolitik - and our groups concern themselves with very little else - means that
we try to make the dragon's armour-plating a little lighter, to clean his teeth and deodorize his
bad breath and sort his excrement." - Rudolf Bahro

This web page is devoted to the ideas put forward by the founders of the Green Movement -
with special attention to "fundamental thinking".

What are the basic issues?

Green economic and political thought rests on three broad and basic ideas: We live in a finite world ; we must move to an ecocentric view of our world ; the change we are calling for in consumer capitalism rests on the need for personal transformation.

First: We live in a finite world.

Those who propagate Industrial ideologies either ignore, or are ignorant of, the indisputable fact that we live in a world that is finite, a planet of limits. The five categories that relate to the Industrialist view of limitless growth are : Unlimited resource extraction, unlimited industrial expansion, unlimited consumption, unlimited population growth, and unlimited pollution.

Second : We must move to and ecocentric view of our world.

The dominate world view is both anthropomorphic and patriarchal. If our species is to survive, we must gain the understanding of the interdependence of all phenomena with humans playing a part, but not in a patriarchal hierarchy that places humans in the center of being acting out dominance-or-submission modes over all else that lives.

Third : Our goals can only be accomplished through engaging in personal transformation. As Mahatma Gandhi so beautifully put it: "We must become the change we hope to see". We are guided in this effort by our "Four Pillars" and "Ten Key Values".

Excerpt from Jonathon Porritt, "Seeing Green: the politics of ecology explained"
(Oxford : Blackwell, 1984) pp. 43-4

The claim made by Green politics that it's 'neither right, nor left, nor in the center' has understandably caused a lot of confusion! For people who are accustomed to thinking of politics exclusively in terms of the left-right polarity, Green politics has to fit in somewhere. And if it doesn't, then it must be made to.

But it's really not that difficult. We profoundly disagree with the politics of the right and its underlying ideology of capitalism; we profoundly disagree with the politics of the left and its adherence, in varying degrees, to the ideology of communism. That leaves us little choice but to disagree, perhaps less profoundly, with the politics of the center and its ideological potpourri of socialized capitalism. The politics of the Industrial Age, left, right and center, is like a three-lane motor way, with different vehicles in different lanes, but all heading in the same direction. Greens feel it is the very direction that is wrong, rather than the choice of any one lane in preference to the others. It is our perception that the motor way of industrialism inevitably leads to the abyss - hence our decision to get off it, and seek an entirely different direction.

Yet it's built into our understanding of politics today that capitalism and communism represent the two extremes of a political spectrum. The two poles are apparently separated by such irreconcilable differences that there is no chance of them ever coming together. According to such a view, the history of the world from now on (however long or short a time-span that may be) is predicated upon the separateness of these two ideologies.

There are, indeed, many differences; in social and political organization; in democratic or totalitarian responses; in economic theory and practice. But for the moment, let's not dwell on these. Let us consider the similarities rather than the differences. Both are dedicated to industrial growth, to the expansion of the means of production, to a materialist ethic as the best means of meeting people's needs, and to unimpeded technological development. Both rely on increasing centralization and large-scale bureaucratic control and coordination. From a viewpoint of narrow scientific rationalism, both insist that the planet is there to be conquered, that big is self-evidently beautiful, and that what cannot be measured is of no importance. Economics dominates; art, morals and social values are all relegated to a dependent status.

I shall be arguing two things in this chapter: first, that the similarities between these two dominant ideologies are of greater significance than their differences, and that the dialectic between them is therefore largely superficial. If this is the case, it may be claimed that they are united in one, all-embracing 'super-ideology', which, for the sake of convenience, I intend to call industrialism. Second, that this super-ideology, in that it is conditioned to thrive on the ruthless exploitation of both people and planet, is itself the greatest threat we face. As Roszak puts it: 'The two ideological camps of the world go at one another; but, like antagonists in a nightmare, their embattled forms fuse into one monstrous shape, a single force of destruction threatening every assertion of personal rights that falls across the path of their struggle.'

If that is so, there must be something with which we can replace it; not another super-ideology (for ideologies are themselves part of the problem), but a different world view. That is the not unambiguous role that Green politics is in the process of carving out for itself.

* Highly recommended *

"Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster: The Politics of World Transformation" (An Inquiry into the Foundations of Spiritual and Ecological Politics) Rudolf Bahro Gateway Books, Bath 1994

"Building the Green Movement" Rudolf Bahro New Society Publishers 1986

"From Red to Green : Interviews with New Left Review" Verso 1984

"Green Politics : The Global Promise" Fritjof Capra and Charlene Spretnak E. P. Dutton, Inc. 1984

"Beyond Growth : The Economics of Sustainable Development" Herman E. Daly Beacon Press 1996

"Green Political Thought" Andrew Dobson Routledge 2000

"The Green Reader: Essays Toward a Sustainable Society" Andrew Dobson Mercury House, Inc. 1991

"Thinking Green! : Essays on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Nonviolence" Petra K. Kelly Parallax Press 1994

"The Politics of Women's Spirituality : Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement" Charlene Spretnak Anchor Books 1982

"The Promise of Green Politics : Environmentalism and the Public Sphere" Douglas Torgerson Duke University Press 1999