Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Thursday, 1 March 2007

What does it mean to be green?

It means feeling a certain smug satisfaction, nay glee, at the 'misfortune' of the poor motorists who filled up with "go-slow" fuel at various supermarket service stations in the UK this week... Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Richard said...

Some of the news reports suggest it could be 'green' additives (eg ethanol) in the petrol causing the problems. Ironically, it's the modern 'greener' cars with catalytic converters etc. that are suffering; the older more-polluting ones remain relatively unaffected. Of course, with 1000s of vehicles off the road, you could say that the 'green' additives are doing their job rather well!

Tiger said...

Perhaps you feel it serves them right for buying fuel at Tesco?

My immediate thought was that it may have been adulterated with the dreaded rapeseed oil; further investigation reveals that they do source fuel from Greenergy, who specialise in fuel from crops and biodiesel.

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus – I hope you won't be driving to Wales to celebrate St David's Day!

Catherine Rowett said...

It wasn't just because it was the ones who filled up at Tesco, though that was part of it.

It was also just the pure satisfaction of having those who pollute the world and consume the fuel suffer something that hits just them and hits them directly for once.

That wonderful sense of natural justice. It's very rare.

Tiger said...

Ah, but it doesn't "just" hit the polluters in proportion. Natural justice tends to be applied with a very broad brush, if not a spraygun. As Richard points out, it's the delicate engine management systems intended to maximise fuel efficiency in modern cars that have been updet, while the filthy old bangers rattle on unscathed.

And what about those in isolated or rural communities, not necessarily even motorists themselves but nonetheless dependent on car-borne shopping deliveries, health visitors etc.?

Catherine Rowett said...

Well, there's a sense in which the ones who drive older cars are rewarded for their detachment from the throw-away society. The myth of the "green car" that you can drive with a good conscience because it's got a catalytic converter and goes on unleaded petrol tends to make people think they're virtuous for having a cleaner greener car. So, let's remember that they're still using up fossil fuels and pumping out greenhouse gases. They shouldn't be immune from the divine vengeance, just because they're less bad than they might have been if they'd been wholly unreformed.

And the people who depend upon road transport are still contributing to the global warming problem even if it's not they who do the driving. We have to ask ourselves whether that's a sustainable life-style. Just because it seems to be possible it doesn't follow that it is to be recommended, or that those who indulge in it are not to be held responsible for the pollution they cause.

Tiger said...

So would you depose the humble and meek from the mean benches on which they barely manage to squat, and let the hungry go empty away? A harsh Magnifi-cant, I think!

It's not the fault of the rural disadvantaged that they are forced to contribute to global warning through their dependence on [mechanical] road transport; there's currently no alternative.

A century ago, there were virtually no cars or planes. Country dwellers might take all day to reach the nearest market town on foot or by some lumbering cart, but that didn't matter, because such excursions were seldom called for; almost everything needed for daily life could be sourced within the local community. Fresh local produce was eaten in season, instead of exotic fruit shipped (or rather airfreighted) half way round the world from islands so obscure we can't even remember which ocean they're in. If one of the simple household gadgets broke, the village blacksmith or wheelwright could probably effect a running repair; today we'd just throw out last year's model (sorry, no spares available) and buy a replacement from Argos.

Sustainable motor transport may be achievable using bio-fuels or renewable hydrogen, but this still won't deal with traffic congestion and the alienation that results from the commuter lifestyle. That can only be addressed by political initiatives – and it won't happen quickly, because politics (true to its etymology) remains the art of the city, while our very language literally marginalises the country as "country-side" (and not just in English; the Welsh equivalent cefn gwlad "back of the land" is as bad).

Let's drag the political philosophers and city slickers out from the cosiness of their faux-ivory towers into the urban slums and rural hovels! Let them work from the ground up to establish a coherent, comprehensive strategy for long-term living that works, not a single-issue campaign shakily built on the shifting sands of semi-comprehension. A bas le fascisme vert! What we need in its place is a new green socialism.