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The term green liberalism has been used to embrace those who have integrated green politics in their ideologies. These people value the earth highly and are committed to ecological and environmental sustainability (Jamison 2001). Green liberals acknowledge the dynamic aspects of the global systems but emphasize on the minimal damage of the environment and helps in the restoration of the damaged areas. Green politics has been a very dominant topic in the present political and moral debates. Green politics has led to heated debates among the scholars and the environmentalists on its definition and its political repercussions (Terrence & Dagger 2003).
Even though the origin of green politics can be traced back to the 19th century’s growth of industrialization and urbanization, the contemporary green debate began in 1962. These debates emphasized on the link between environmental degradation and industrialization (Anil et al. 2001). Richard Carson in 1962 disclosed the presence of natural restrictions to economic growth and development, an idea that violated one of the major principles of the contemporary leading liberal ideology (Jamison 2001). Since then, the question of whether environmental subjects should be incorporated in political ideologies has been a major topic of debate.
Some political experts view the green liberal solutions as a remonstration, agenda-led and transient political phenomena, while others place green thinking under the contemporary social movement. In general, there are those who attempt to incorporate environmental concern into the present school of thought and those who acknowledge the uniqueness of the green perspective and its broadness as a novel political point of view (Jennifer 2000).
The argument fronted by the first group of experts is that though green thinking is very helpful in environmental protection, neither the social objective nor a political direction for its attainment can be derived straightforwardly from the ecological point of view. Millan (2000) argued that while different types of social and political orientation match with green objectives, traditional non-environmental measures are required to settle on a political arrangement that is sustainable for both the society and the economy at large (Millan 2000). In William (2003) opinion, environment forms part of political theory but do not provide the foundation for such theories.
In economic matters, the green liberals fall between the classical liberals and the social liberals. In other words, green liberals favor minimal government interference similar to the social liberals, but more than the classical liberals (Terrence & Dagger 2003, Eckersley 2001). A number within the green liberal circles follows free market environmentalism similar to the classical liberals. This is the main reason why we have witnessed the blue green coalition in the global political domain.
Green liberal movements such as the Canadian Liberal Party, Green Party of Germany, and the Value party of New Zealand among others place the environmental sustainability as their main agenda among other political objectives (Wall 2010). There has been an increased cooperation among the green movements all over the world. The first global meeting of the greens was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the second in Sao Paulo in 2008. Besides the global green gatherings, there have also been a number of meetings all over the world whose main agenda is sustainable development such as the one that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa (Wall 2010, Anil et al. 2001).
Green liberal theory
The main characteristic of the green liberalism is the belief that nature is an inter-connected entirety that encompasses human, non-humans and non-living world. Green ideology rejects the belief that may result to the formation of a concept that humans are the most superior species. As per the green thinking, nature has an inherent value regardless of whether or not it has value for human beings. This essential principle of green thinking stresses that everything on this planet forms part of the biotic community. They form a huge web of complex relationships, linkages and possibilities (Wissenburg 1998).
Many of the green values follow from the acknowledgment of the interconnection and interdependency of all the living and non-living things in the planet. The first of these values, which is the respect for life, stresses that all forms of life should be respected (that is human, animals whether visible or invisible and plants).
The green therefore values political and social efforts that are aimed at protecting the conditions that takes care of or sustain all forms of life. This highlights the distinctiveness of green viewpoint from other political theories. The green’s ecological point of view of nature and human beings challenges the idea of human being as the centre of existence, a concept that all other political theories are based on (Wissenburg 1998).
Green politics is not restricted to environmental issues contrary to the common belief. Greens are seeking ways of dealing with causes of the growing human problems and challenges. Greens are also advocating for sustainable ideas on the social, political and economic arena. The code of sustainability as a condition for survival is a wide strategy envisaging change in all facets of human existence (Wissenburg, 1998).
Green theory draws our attention to the fact that separates attempts to clean up our environment or save our ecological units from extinction to provide the solution to our irresponsible ecological practices that have jeopardized the well-being of the current and future generations of life in the planet (Dave 2000).
Green thinking is also different from other political theories in the view that human beings are constituents of nature and the spontaneity of humans has explanatory and normative significance for the political theory (Wissenburg 1998). However, as an emerging theory, the greens still have to provide clarification of their positions regarding a number of subjects.
For example, the greens are well known for their dedication to decentralized democracy. Up to now, the greens support social organizations in undersized, decentralized communities, where straight democracy is followed. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if the decentralized systems certainly results to a more democratic and equitable society (William 2003).
Green theory mainly relies on scientific theories relating to the physical world in its formulation of the theory of nature and the place of humans in nature. The green concept of nature draws its facts from the 20th century scientific understanding of the universe, which has made the universe more complex than before. Therefore, the green theory signifies a complete novel approach to the concepts of nature and the goal of an environmentally sound society (Leslie 1999).
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Green and Liberal ideology
According to Terrence & Dagger (2003), ideologies originate out of a crisis. The 20th century has seen wanton destruction of the planet’s ecology. Liberal ideology explains the environmental crisis in terms of individual, personal property and market interrelations. According to the liberal ideology, individuals should be free to chase their interests and free of state interference, particularly in their private economic activities.
Individual economic activities on a liberal perspective emphasizes on optimizing private material benefits. This behavior is natural, since human beings are naturally self-centered and interested in their own gains. This behavior, according to the liberal ideology does not contribute to ecological destruction since capitalist economy does not tolerate wastefulness and inefficiency (Terrence & Dagger 2003).
Liberalist view wastage of common resources in a capitalist economy not as a crisis but as a probable outcome. In case of environmental degradation, ecological resources should be privatized and its use controlled by the market forces. According to the principles of liberal ideology, the remedy for environmental crisis is privatization and non-regulation of the natural resource utilization (Terrence & Dagger 2003). Liberalist believe escalated demand for a particular resource will increase its value and cost and therefore slow down its usage to the uttermost efficient level (Robin 2001).
Conversely, green ideology provides a different explanation to the fundamental basis for the ecological crisis. The perseverance of an ecological crisis, despite of privatization and deregulations of the use of ecological resources, have shown some weakness on the liberal ideology. Green ideologists believe that all our problems for most part results from our intellectual relationship with the surrounding and the practices that stem from our acquired knowledge.
According to the greens, anthropocentrism is the major cause of imbalance between human beings and the rest of the natural world (Terrence & Dagger 2003, Eckerseley 2001). Anthropocentrism has resulted to disregard for nature and motivated the growth of unsustainable economy. Both liberal and green ideology explains the causes of the environmental crisis and provides their analysis of the situation and set strategies to address the same (Porritt 2000).
From the liberal ideology, economic growth is viewed positively and is seen as the necessary factor for maintaining high consumption level, which is tantamount to higher social mobility. However, the green ideology views economic growth as increase in exploitation of natural resources, thus harmful to the ecology, human health and does not represent upward social mobility (Pearson 2000).
Greens do not totally condemn industrialization, but opposes the high level of activity emerging from industrialization aimed at achieving rapid economic growth, increased consumption and large-scale production. Instead, greens are advocating for localized economies where individuals can asses their impact on environment and implementation of modified lifestyles that are less destructive to the environment (Porritt 2000).
Green liberal solutions
Green liberals constitute socio-political movement whose main agenda is the well-being of the planet earth and sustainability for the future generations (William 2003). The main objective of the green liberals is to minimize reckless destruction of the environment resulting from economic activities and to protect the endangered species of plants and animals. The green liberals acknowledges the fact that natural world is changing and cannot be maintained as it is (Charles 2001).
Green liberals draw their socio-political standpoint from different sources ranging from the values of native peoples, to the ethics of the great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi. These personalities advocated for green thinking throughout their public life and encouraged each and every individual to take personal responsibility in the protection and conservation of the environment (Davidson 2000).
The green liberal economics emphasizes on the significance of the healthiness of the part of the earth inhabited by the living organisms (biosphere) to the well being of the humans. They view globalization as a threat since its eroding the indigenous cultures and the natural environment (Anil et al. 2001).
Green liberals promote decentralization and participatory democracy up to the grass- root level. According to green liberals each and every citizens should be give an opportunity to participate directly on issues that affects their eco-social well being. Decentralization and direct democracy encourages accountability and responsibility at an individual level in matters relating to the environment.
Therefore, green liberals are seeking ways of enhancing the role of planned democracy, founded on direct involvement of the citizens and building of consensus in decision making whenever possible. The main goal for this is to enhance responsibility and accountability at anindividual level. (Wall 2010).
Green liberal ideologies have encouraged political actions at the individual level, for instance ban on plastic bags considered environmentally unhealthy and production of environmentally friendly products. Governments’ policies on emissions and waste disposal are also clearly defined following the green principles. Green liberals promote bio-diversity, reclamation and conservation of natural ecology, enhancing peace among citizens and nations, encouraging local food production among other measures (Kimbrell 2002).
The main difference between the greens and the liberals is how they both understand nature and the place of human beings in nature. Liberals view the natural world as an open-ended system where unlimited economic growth is achievable while the greens view the natural world as a closed system. Capitalist economies have attempted to fuse the green and liberal ideologies to get the solution to the current ecological problems facing the world.
Green liberalism advocates for sustainable methods of production and consumption to avert the present global environmental degradation. Sustainable development aims at regulating the rate of economic growth while at the same time restricting and re-evaluating the consumption patterns. Green liberals have also been in the forefront in advocating for zero-carbon emission. Carbon emission is attributed to the global warming and the changing climate patterns.
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