ecology

The reasons why we should not leave ecology to the Left

17.08.2017 | By Paweł Musiałek

Ecology is a term which is exclusively associated with the Left. Now, it is high time we changed it. While rejecting ideological connotations of the green movement, the Right should finally appreciate the role of environmental issues. They do not always entail high costs, and sometimes they even can result in considerable savings.

In the 1960s, contemporary European Left underwent a crucial redefinition of its own identity. During the counter-cultural revolution of ’68 the concept of the New Left was created. In contrast to the “old” Left the new trend propagated innovative ideas shifting the focus from the primacy of the working class interests to the defense of various “excluded” or “discriminated” groups, ie homosexuals, black women, rebellious youths, women, etc. The “green” parties formed since the 1970s have focused on ecology, but very often their ideological “package” included the support of the anti-capitalist and emancipatory slogans of the left parties, as evidenced by the critique of globalization and the acceptance of legalization of abortion by Greenpeace which is the most famous ecological organization. Leftist parties gradually began to back the demands of environmentalists, although they have not given them a central place in the political agenda. This intermingling caused the movement of ecologists to unambiguously begin to be identified as a new “leftism”. As the time passed and the politicians for whom the ’68 revolution was a formative experience came to power, the issue of environmental protection became increasingly popular and together with the green parties it gradually began to enter the political ‘mainstream’. The decision of Angela Merkel to close nuclear power plants in Germany, which was the flagship postulate of the German Green Party since the beginning of its formation, was symptomatic. Adopting the environmental theme by the broadly understood left led to the postulates of these communities being criticized by the Right. The Right looked at the idea of sustainable development with great distrust seeing it not only as the threat to economic growth, but also as the part of environmentalists’ ideological agenda. Some of the postulates of the green parties obviously did not withstand substantive criticism, regardless of one’s sensitivity to environmental problems. The ban on shale gas extraction, or the demand for a complete abandonment of fossil fuels and the switch to renewable energy, are just the most glaring examples, not to mention the controversy over the issue of global warming which environmentalists treat like a religious doctrine.

The radicalism of slogans and actions often combined with the lack of common sense led to the fact that environmentalists were often perceived as almost “ecoterrorists” – ideological weirdos, rejecting the anthropocentric concept of reality and using the revolutionary “direct action” method. As a result of the activity of some radical groups in the green movement and the pushy media propaganda promoting a pro-ecological way of life, for many peple (not only the ones representing the right-wing views) the slogan “ecology” began to act as a red rag to bull. The response to ecology ecology ecology has become a pure affront, preceding the rational calculation of profits and losses and thus having a crucial impact on the decision-making process. The big part of the right now stopped listening to arguments and dropped environmentalists into the “red” sack, along with feminists, pacifists, and other leftist strangers, who deserve only a thick stick. They also showed no interest in environmental issues, which they treated as environmentalists – with contempt and disdain. A shame. While the ideological assumptions behind the postulates of the availability of abortion, euthanasia, or other moral novelties are in fundamental contradiction to the right-wing ideology, it does not cover all the issues dealt with by the left. Not all postulates are the result of a difference in the value system that can not be reconciled, as it results from completely different perceptions as to how the social world looks and should look. The problem with dividing the left and the right is that both these terms are not absolutes but rather relative terms, because unlike political doctrines – liberalism, conservatism, socialism (although they are internally differentiated), they do not represent immutable content. Fixed once and for all. What is considered right-wing in one state can be considered left-wing in another. Interest in the new problem is often the result of the first “puff” of a given topic by a given political camp, and not the result of incompatible philosophical assumptions. There is nothing deterministic in that it is the leftist communities that “manipulated” the subject of urban movements (although there are also sympathetic movements with the right).

The response to ecology became purely emotional and emotions which came before rational calculation of profits and losses, started to have crucial impact on the decision-making process. The big part of the Right stopped listening to arguments and dropped environmentalists into the “red” sack, along with feminists, pacifists, and other leftist groups, who deserve to whipped. Many members of the Right wing also showed no interest in environmental issues, which they treated just as they treated environmentalists – with contempt and disdain. It is a pity. While ideological assumptions behind the postulates of the availability of abortion, euthanasia, or other moral “novelties” are in fundamental contradiction to the right-wing ideology, some differences between the left and the Right do not result from differences in the value systems which can not be reconciled, as they stem from completely different perceptions as to how the society looks and should look. The problem with the division into the Left and the Right is that both of these terms are not absolutes but they are relative concepts, because unlike political doctrines – liberalism, conservatism, socialism (although they are internally differentiated), they do not represent a fixed and immutable content. What is considered right-wing in one state can be considered left-wing in another. The interest in the new problem is often the result of the fact that one political camp discovered a particular topic before the other, and it does not stem from incompatible philosophical assumptions. There is nothing deterministic in the fact that it is the leftist groups that adopted the subject of urban movements (although there are also urban movements sharing the right-wing ideals).

Similar examples may be quoted on the other side of the barricade. There is a symptomatic anecdote told by Richard Bugaj about how solidarity MPs in the Contract Sejm were collectively joining the human rights commission, but there was nobody willing join to the commission of the economy. This behaviour did not originate in the ideals of the opposition, but simply in the lack of interest in the subject (the results of which we can feel to this day). Ecology is also one of the ideas which was “monopolized” by the Left and which without any ideological tensions could be put forward by the Right. It does not stand in any contradiction with its doctrinal assumptions or values which are crucial for the Right. The leftist ecological monopoly is strenghened on both sides. On the one hand, the Left often emphasizes (and rightly so) that it was the first to develop the sensitivity to environmental protection and the first to raise the postulate of sustainable development. On the other hand, the Right reinforced this message by escaping from ecology as a topic which was already “taken” by its opponents. It illustrates the well-known mechanism of shaping the political identity of the gropu group depreciate their “ideas” even if they are sensible. Well, many at the right of the place rejected the ecological slogans, not because they have always opposed these postulates, but simply because the political opponents put it out. The rejection of ecology is a consequence of the process of strengthening the group identity of the right which naturally builds up in opposition to the left and the slogans it pushes out. This mechanism, of course, also works on the other side, as evidenced by the pain with which some left-wing communities internalized the idea of patriotism.

The right hand should look more closely at the ecological “industry” that swells in the eyes, among other things. Thanks to the European Union’s environmental policy, which promotes the idea of sustainable development. Interest should not immediately mean full acceptance of all ecological demands. You should carefully analyze the pros and cons. This will probably deny many of the ideas they propose, but they will find and overstretch. The group which consists in criticizing and depreciating the ideas of the opponents even if in fact they make some sense. This mechanism also works on the other side the political scene, as evidenced by the pain with which some left -wing groups internalized the idea of patriotism. The Right should take a closer look at the “ecological” industry which is booming thanks to the European Union’s environmental policy promoting the idea of sustainable development. The interest in this area should not automatically mean a full acceptance of all ecological demands. One should carefully analyze the pros and cons. This will probably lead to the refutation of many ideas proposed by the green movement, but some of them will definitely deserve close attention.

The fact that the Right in Poland has already adopted and propagated many left-wing ideas should be an encouragement for politicians . For example, referring to the concept of a postcolonial country is nothing more than the acceptance of neo-Marxist theses, according to which the real conflict in international relations is not between states, as realists explained, but between larger political formations ie the developed and the developing countries. In this conflict, the latter cannot change their economic situation due to their position in the international division of labour which was permamently designated for them by the former. Another leftist idea adopted by the Polish right-wing politicians is the concept of cultural hegemony developed by a Marxist philosopher Gramsci. He assumed that the dominant class constructs certain ideology and imposes it on the society which gradually starts to recognize this ideology as objective reality. Consequently, political power results directly from cultural hegemony. It is not hard to guess which hegemony the Polish Right is talking about and trying to overcome.

An interesting topic to consider is energy efficiency. Although this term does not sound as attractive as energy security, and it is not as exciting as the slogan “Gazprom turns off the taps”, its significance for the Polish power industry is equally important. Implementing solutions that reduce energy intensity has a huge potential, which so far has not been taken full advantage of in Poland. Reducing the energy consumption of the Polish economy through thermo-modernization of buidings or raising the awareness of the long-term costs of using particular technologies can lead to huge savings (billions of Polish Zlotys). In this context,what it is very embarrassing is the low awareness of the importance of segregation of garbage, which allows to save not only the large amount of energy needed to process the raw materials in order to obtain new materials, but also reduces atmospheric pollution as well as waste and wastewater.

Therefore, this topic should be of interest not only to ” the young, educated an living in big cities”. The current environmental problem from which we should start if we want to catch up with other countries in the sphere of environmental policy is the issue of air purity, especially in the cities situated in the south of the country, but not just there. One can get the impression that some part of the right-wing politicians automatically criticized the so-called “anti-smog law”, which allows local governments to regulate the quality standards of fuels used to heat homes. It is worth emphasizing that in this case the struggle is not about “comfort”, but elementary issues of health and life. All data on the consequences of poor air quality in Poland are alarming, and the costs generated by the medical treatment of the ilnesses caused by air pollution outweigh the costs of possible support for those who are currently using the cheapest but most harmful carbon (or rather carbon waste) and are also often burning poisonous trash. It is worth emphasizing that the support for the anti-smog law, which is currently awaiting President Duda’s signature, does not have to mean the support for the removal of coal from the Polish economy, which the ecologists also want, and what would weaken the already low competitiveness of the Polish economy. Coal can be used in CHP plants (where no smog is produced) and in this way it will provide cheap heat to the urban population. This example should make clear to us how important environmental issues can be solved without compromising on the economic benefits . That is why the Right should become familiar with ecology, and then aproach this issue with common sense. We can not afford to leave such an important topic to left-wing ideologists. It would also be a pity if they gained the support of a part of central electorate, for whom nature conservation is an important issue, just because the Right has not responded to its ecological sensitivity.

 International_Visegrad_Fund,_emblemo_bluaThis text was created thanks to support of International Visegrad Found.

Photo: public domain (https://pl.wikipedia.org)

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