|Some of you are probably wondering why I didn’t follow through with my promise to publish my Green Movement Manifesto on ChangeThis!, the new and wildly popular site for the posting of manifestos and other lengthy and provocative ‘thought pieces’ on urgent and fundamental issues. There are two reasons:
The authors of The Death of Environmentalism, Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, have worked for various environmental organizations most of their lives, and featured prominently in some of the environmental movement’s greatest successes in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought in legislation that is only now being seriously undermined by Bush and others. They have taken a candid look at the almost uninterrupted history of failure of the movement since the mid-1970s — thirty years — and its increasing marginalization and inability to galvanize public opinion. Though you should read the whole 50-page manifesto, here’s the gist of it:
So: Vision and values first, and then build the movement and its agenda on that. In my Green Movement Manifesto I really started with the agenda for what I described as a coalition of the disenfranchised. That agenda was about communicating, teaching, recruiting, political (proportional representation), social (boycotts, think-tanks, demonstrations) and economic (tax shifts, new measures of well-being) activities, and creating Model Intentional Communities, new progressive media and Natural Enterprises. I used the term ‘Green’ instead of Environmental or Ecology because I thought it was more inclusive, more about us than just about it.
Suppose we take a step back and describe the vision and values of the Green Movement first, and then review the agenda and see if it fits?
Yesterday I produced what I believe to be a statement of universal human values: Happiness as a product of good Health, Home (including Environment, Belonging, Self-Sufficiency), Connection (Community, Relationships, Family, Love), Discovery (Learning, Creating, Forming Beliefs), Work, Peace (Freedom, Justice, Absence of Stress), Play, Awareness and Self-Esteem. I freely admit that these may not be the best terms, which, along with their organization have an implicit progressive ‘frame’ to them. But whether you want to combine Home and Connection into one core value (as environmentalists are wont to do), or elevate Family from an aspect of Home and Connection to a core value in its own right, I think you’ll agree that this is a reasonable broad-brush summary of human values (and, if you’re an environmentalist, of the values of all life on Earth).
If we’re going to build a Green Movement on values and vision, do we need to focus on or emphasize certain values, the ones that are currently least fulfilled by today’s non-sustainable and devastating culture? The New Apollo Project report focuses on two values: good jobs (Work) and energy self-sufficiency (Self-Sufficiency being an aspect of Home). Its thesis is that two massive current problems in the US — a lousy job market and energy dependence — can be solved by a single set of solutions, a single agenda. That agenda is about encouraging investment in renewable energy innovation and development. Its side-benefits include Health, a better Environment, and greater security (Peace).
But New Apollo is a project, not a movement. It seems to me a movement needs to be built on a strong and cohesive, relatively complete set of values. So I’m tempted to keep the entire set. We need of course to go beyond the ‘shorthand’ of these one-word terms and explain exactly what these values mean. So the first part of the Green Movement Manifesto should be about these values. We need to try to articulate their meaning and reinforce their universality by expressing them in new ‘frames’ that are compelling to all — progressive and conservative, libertarian, environmentalist, fundamentalist and agnostic alike. No easy task.
The next part, the Vision, will be easier. The vision is ultimately an achievable story in which the Values are realized and fully manifest. Hence, Manifesto. The key challenge here is to create a sense of urgency. The Vision needs to transport us into the realm of the possible, and make us long for its realization, ready and eager to be part of making it happen.
Another challenge will be ensuring that a wide variety of people perceive the Vision to be achievable. We live in such a cynical society that it’s become easy to shrug off our responsibility, and our lack of courage, by simply saying “It can’t be done, so there’s no point trying.” An unachievable Vision is worse than no Vision, because it merely raises anxiety and brands its authors as hopeless idealists. The line between a vision that is too incremental, and one that is perceived to be impossible, is often a fine one.
Is that enough for the Manifesto? While setting out the Agenda would certainly be beneficial — it would show How the vision could be achieved — it would also be controversial because, as I mentioned yesterday, the ‘How’ is extremely frame-dependent. My sense is that we’re over-burdening the Manifesto by putting the Agenda in it. The Agenda is Stage Two. Besides, stories are subversive — we may be able to use the Vision as a tool to allow people with different frames to see the ‘Value(s)’ of achieving the Vision — and that Vision alone may be enough to get them thinking about other, imaginative ways to realize it — changing their own frames.
And there remains the problem of the name — Green Movement. I like the name, because it’s simple, visual, positive, instinctively resonant. It’s also tailor-made as a brand, something people can associate with, call themselves, belong to, talk about, even wear (a woman I know makes unisex bracelets, and is intrigued by the idea of making something that Green Movement members could wear, give, share — a conversation piece). And what’s more, Green is neither Red nor Blue.
But it does have associations with the Green Party, which, in North America at least, is associated with the left, with fringe thinking, and with single-issue politics. We need to think about whether on balance it’s an asset or a liability, and if it’s the latter we need another name. We also probably need a logo and a catchphrase.
Why am I saying ‘we’? Because tomorrow I’m going to present a draft of a new Green Movement Manifesto, with a Value statement, a Vision, and possibly a new name, logo and catchphrase. And no Agenda, at least yet. But I wouldn’t presume that my draft will be more than something for the rest of us — you — to shoot at. If the Green Movement Manifesto is going to be enough to galvanize a billion or two people into thinking about, believing in, and striving for, a better, sustainable way to live, it’s going to need an enormous amount of collaborative effort — the Wisdom of Crowds, the Power of Many, and the Magic of the Collective Mind and Soul. From the ashes of Environmentalism we will build something new. So sharpen your critical and creative thinking, here we go!
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