No atrocities: Ecological reasons why black lives matter

Green Party member Rosey Thomas Palmer looks at how ecology must support equal rights for diverse communities and reformulate itself to support social justice aims as well as ecological ones.

George Floyd mural
Goerge Floyd mural

Mural of George Floyd, who was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Rosey Thomas Palmer

This article was originally published on the Greens of Colour website on 12 August 2020.

I am a warrior. I fight with words. On the outside I am a bog standard Green Party member; overage and lower middle class with a good education. My history, the make-over of my memories, my hardcore habitual reactions, my interests and my enthusiasms make me young and black. I was asked by Greens of Colour to look into external links and this piece is the first summation of my findings. I recommend it for active consideration by Greens across all spectrums. The two organisations that caught my attention were Extinction Rebellion and Earth First.

Extinction Rebellion was described on BBC Radio 4, in a broadcast led by Lucy Proctor (20.30 BST, Monday 13 July 2020) as potentially eco-fascist. The supporting evidence ranged from the destruction and defacing of monuments and posters to suggestions of population limitation, which have been discussed but not followed up. On a more generalised note, the programme referred to withdrawing into nature as a personal response where conflicted individuals ignore or downplay their social and political power, the more affluent and geographically mobile of them withdrawing to Iceland, or, in my case, Jamaica.

Earth First, founded in 1986, (earthfirstjournal.news) is an organisation dedicated to the protection of the forests that are so essential to the stability of our planet. Their work, though criticised for its apparent frustrated pessimism, is built on respect for the ancient lives of forests and allows activists to stake trees and spike deforestation machinery in attempts to halt destruction. Over recent years sympathisers who share the desperation of the struggle have been known to welcome famine, disasters and even pandemics as nature’s way to redress the balance.

Some contemporary thinkers suggest we seek to reformulate our awareness of ecology rather than accelerate it. Optimists point to a natural slow shrinkage of human population as significant. Some applaud and encourage electrification but enthusiasm has no means to address the carbonising effects of mainstream agriculture. Michael Moore, on YouTube, during the pandemic demonstrated the disjuncture of most predictions. However, commentators do agree that perpetual economic growth is a recipe for doom.

An alternative solution being promoted is a radical review of human consumption but this evokes a quick defence of our preferred lifestyles. So, whilst Green politics concern everyone, the acceptable way forward has become cautious examination, debate and selective adoption of isolated issues and solutions. The tendency to individualise decisions is supported by Jeff Gibbs (YouTube) as the “democratisation of climate.” It may offer the desired conclusions but the question is do we have time to reach them this way?

A clear answer to this conundrum is offered by the distinction between “deep” and “shallow “ ecology. Shallow ecology is the individualistic, opportunist view of one’s own capacity to modify their carbon footprint. Deep ecology is a perspective that respects systems and species as equal sharers of planet earth. This requires respect for life both across and within species. The first of these can be recast as inter-ecology and the second as intra-ecology. The Green Party, because of its allegiance to inter-ecology, also has a commitment to intra-ecology. Thus Greens of every personal origin are, of necessity, bound to the concepts and practices of anti-racism, equality and environmental justice.

Green of Colour spearhead this responsibility, on behalf of the Green party, by working to ensure that persons of colour (POCs) will be encouraged, empowered and enabled to participate in political representation in the UK. The Green Party challenges other major parties in membership numbers of POCs. Moving forward from numerical strength to ideological difference: our particular commitment is to deep ecology.

As such, the general membership of the Green Party and its executive need to consider not only such groups as Extinction Rebellion and Earth First but also Black Lives Matter, diaspora organisations, inter-ethnic groups and forums and those who lobby for the health and financial stability of diverse populations across the UK. The party needs to press for action on the equal rights of all citizens, not just as a liberal and peaceable way forward, but as an essential investment in the ecological values that make them Greens.

Rosey Thomas Palmer is a Green Party member and member of Greens of Colour.