Over the years I have generally failed to vote, sometimes through apathy, sometimes organisational failure, but mainly through a strong and unshiftable feeling that no political party in any way represented a future that I supported.
Over the last few years I had become increasingly convinced that the Green Party had to be the one for me. I passionately believe that green issues are hugely important, and that they are largely ignored and sidelined in mainstream politics. So I decided I needed to vote Green; to send a clear message, along with the thousands of others flooding to the Green Party, that these issues are important, and must be taken seriously by political parties.
But as I was coming to this conclusion I started to look in more detail at the Green Party and watch its output in the media, social media and it’s mini-manifesto. Once I did this I started to feel rather disappointed about the lack of green I found there. Strong rejection of nuclear fuels and GM crops could certainly be seen as green policies, though both I feel are mistaken and tend to make the green agenda seem more about a slightly hippy influenced Luddite attitude than the kind of progressive, inspirational green policies I would like to see promoted.
Beyond these policies there feels too little green, in the Green Party. I can see that there is a strong argument that they need to show they have a rounded and complete policy agenda, that they can be a credible political party with things to say not only on the environment, but on foreign policy, education and the health service. But what I really want from the Green party is a passionate, innovative, forward thinking promotion of Green centred policy making – yet where is the focus on green space, on improving habitats, on increasing connectedness to nature?
This is not to say that the Greens should pigeon hole themselves as being only about green issues – because these issues show precisely why focus on protecting our natural environment should be a core part of how a government makes decisions in all policy areas. Green space can bring healthier, happier citizens, more active and less in need of NHS treatment. Outdoor education can inspire a generation of children to understand and value the world around them whilst building skills across the educational curriculum. Better habitats can protect against flooding, reduce the costs of water treatment and engage people in a richer, more exciting natural world, bringing connectivity to a world of mental wellbeing and connected communities.
So green policy making does not need to be a niche pigeon hole. It is a core philosophical stand point on which wide reaching policies can be built. As an example I would encourage the Green Party to follow the approach of (and build into their manifesto) the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts’ ‘Act for Nature‘.
The Act aims to instill this approach to integrating wildlife and environmental policy into the heart of all government decision making and the campaign running to promote the act focuses on a wide range of implications from health and wellbeing to ecosystem service management.
In the words of the campaign itself, it promotes the underlying key concept that, ‘A thriving natural environment is part of the solution to our most pressing social, economic and environmental problems.’
With the Green Party conference fast approaching I think and hope they have a massive opportunity. People are disillusioned with the traditional political parties and Green Party membership is soaring. The Green Party have a huge opportunity to bring environmentally focused decision making to the heart of government and bring new, innovative approaches to environmental issues. I hope that is the driving force behind the conference, and behind the manifesto. The impetus to show broader credibility and broad policy making should flow from this and not get in its way.