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Turning UKIP Bright Green

“Going green”: a phrase that strikes terror into the heart of the conservative and the libertarian. It conjures up images of wind turbines, organic farming, tofu burgers and tree-hugging hippies. Perhaps as a result of this, UKIP has generally distanced itself from traditional green politics, remaining skeptical of climate alarmism, opposing current renewable energy targets, and supporting fracking. No problems there, as far as I’m concerned. What worries me however is that UKIP lacks a coherent stance on environmental issues. We have sensible policies, but do we have a philosophy to tie those policies together?

American futurist Alex Steffen divides people, based on their general environmental philosophy, into four categories: the dark greens, the light greens, the bright greens, and the greys.

The dark greens are the real catastrophists, the ones who believe that humanity’s every action is turning beautiful, pristine, nature into some kind of concrete graveyard-cum-toxic waste dump. They include prominent figures such as Bill McKibben, who wants to ban 95% of fossil fuel use, Paul Ehrlich, who predicted that England would cease to exist by the year 2000, and Prince Philip, who once claimed he’d like to be reincarnated as a deadly virus. Dark greens are primitivist, anti-freedom, and anti-industry (ironic then that they align themselves with the left, when they are clearly the most horrendous reactionaries). The dark greens are not the ones we should be emulating. They do, unfortunately, have a strong foothold in current discussion, and need to be opposed by a more sensible line of argument.

So what about the light greens? Light greens are your everyday middle-class eco-warriors. They recycle, take showers instead of baths, eat less meat, and turn the lights off when they don’t need them. The light green philosophy seems eminently sensible: encourage people to take personal responsibility, reduce waste, do your own bit. The danger of this approach however is that it risks us sleepwalking onto the dark green path. It is not just actions, but the premises behind them that matter, and the light greens have very flawed premises.

I think the light greens are to the dark greens what Fabians are to Leninists. Light greens share the same philosophy—human impact is bad, industry is harmful, we need to learn to live with less, we need to build a more ‘ecological’ society etc—but not the same political strategy. They don’t want sudden, worldwide upheaval; they want a gradual transition from modern “dirty” industrial society to some kind of “clean”, utopian “harmony with nature”. I think the light green approach is something to be very cautious of.

The third approach, the bright green approach, is the one that I find most promising. Bright greens champion the preservation of nature and the sustainable usage of resources, whilst arguing that these two goals are inseparable from industry and innovation. Our prosperity, our standard of living need not be sacrificed for the sake of environmental improvement; we can achieve both by the same means. The industrial economy, the market based system, will be the source not of our downfall but of our continued triumph.

Right now, I think UKIP stands with at least one foot in the bright green camp. The party’s 2015 manifesto pledges to “keep the lights on”, supporting the continued (and expanded) usage of fossil fuels alongside nuclear and hydro. It pledges to make industry more competitive, advancing reforms that will encourage faster development and innovation, whilst simultaneously expressing a desire to preserve the countryside, protect the green belt and prioritise brownfield sites for housing. In the education section, the manifesto promises to abolish tuition fees for future scientists and engineers. It seems clear that UKIP is a party that wants growth, development, and new technologies to ensure an improved standard of living, whilst simultaneously preserving the beautiful green landscape that Brits treasure.

One foot with the bright greens, but the other foot, I fear, with what Steffen calls ‘the greys’.  Steffen’s description of this group is about as turbid as the colour he chooses to designate them, but it seems to include a ragtag bunch: crony businessmen, lobbyists, various politicians, intellectuals without scientific expertise, and climate scientists skeptical of the current (and rather wobbly) consensus. It is UKIP’s association with this group that earns it the label of “climate change denying”.

Whether individual members of UKIP are skeptical of climate change or not shouldn’t matter. The bright green approach allows us to avoid the dichotomy between “climate change denial” and leftist ecoprimitivism. We don’t need to take a position in favour of or against the scientific consensus, but merely in favour of human freedom: the freedom to acquire and use reliable energy, the freedom to develop new technologies, the freedom to transform (or preserve) the natural environment.

The best thing about the bright green approach is that it gives UKIP an edge of positivity. Other parties accuse UKIP of being negative, but they are the ones who, to a greater or lesser extent, think human industry will lead to climate catastrophe. By taking the adaptive,  optimistic, economically liberal approach, UKIP can bring a different argument to the political stage. Bye-bye wind farms, hello to a bright future.

Photo by tipiro

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10 Comments on Turning UKIP Bright Green

  1. Thank you for a balanced, well-written and much needed article, as relevant now as it was when first published. It has always annoyed me that those who adopt extreme positions on global warming (or when the warming shows signs of slowing down ‘climate change’) are through their policies not only bad for our economy (high energy costs) but also for our beautiful green countryside (unsightly huge windmills slicing up birds and bats). Very dark indeed.
    Although there is plenty of evidence that suggests that the dark-green global warming paradigm is deeply flawed it is difficult to prove that it is completely wrong. However, what is abundantly clear from their own failed predictions is that there is no crisis. We are not in imminent danger of frying or drowning and we voters should not be supporting politicians who promote Ponzi schemes as solutions to problems that are definitely over-stated and possibly non-existent.
    The bright green approach would be to use our own high-quality coal to save what’s left of our steel industry, fracking to power gas turbines and the oil in Kent to generate cheap electricity and use the money saved from paying the EU our membership fee and the mean dark green global warming machine to hasten the arrival of nuclear fusion which is potentially a lot closer than many would think. (Perhaps the Saudis pumping oil for all they’re worth is a clue to this.)
    As an interim measure we might even consider working with India on the development of molten salt thorium based nuclear fission reactors as a safer alternative to the pressurised water reactors that I believe are to be supplied by the French.
    In my view the future is very bright indeed. We are at the dawn of a new age of abundant, cheap, clean energy and will get there a lot faster without the corrupt EU bureaucrats holding us back. Oh and greener too!
    Vote LEAVE for a brighter, greener future.

  2. Most thought provoking article and well written to boost. I too, having had a lifelong interest in geology, am deeply sceptical about the ‘scientists who all agree’ that man is almost entirely responsible for climate change. Who are these scientists, what are their qualifications in what branch of science and who funds their research I wonder?

    There is clearly no doubt that man does have a negative influence on the balance of nature when it comes to pollution, deforestation and over fishing. However, these can be controlled sensibly if the political will is there on an international basis. Sadly, I really don’t believe that is the case. Politicians worldwide will pander to the lobbying of global big business – along with any personal or political benefits that may bring.

    • Completely agree with you on both counts. This is a very good article indeed, and I’m of the same mind regarding climate change and man’s role in the negative depletion of the natural balance of our planet’s fauna and flora. Yes, big business leaders, whose gods are wealth and power, definitely run our world and they must surely take their share of the blame! But because they have no interest in changing this destructive pattern, we’re on the bumpy road to nowhere. So sad.

  3. JulianTheSceptic // August 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm // Reply

    How about a follow-up article on Air Quality? This is an area where eco-warriors rant on about the ever-increasing (estimated) number of people who ‘die’ from air pollution, particularly in cities?

    Scratch below the surface and you find that those that die have chronic conditions and do so slightly earlier. And the whole focus seems to be (1) on counting the EU, with its ever more draconian measures as ‘the good guy’ (2) forcing local authorities to do its dirty work, even though pollutants blowing in from another continent are NOT under their control (3) demonising the freedom of private car travel unless it’s in an over-priced electric vehicle.

    Fifty shades of bright green (and grey) to explore there…

  4. This a very interesting article that challenges Ukip to create and present a philosophy, the absence of which is regarded as a weakness, by theoretically educated folk. Practical people who are most important in contributing to a successful society, are often criticised for being pragmatists, and not generating philosophies or theories; and there are, thank goodness, many practical and experienced people in our party. But if a philosophy can be created, without it hampering our practical, effective approach, then so be it, I say.
    I fall more or less into the Bright Green Category, although I remain deeply sceptical regarding man-made climate change. I have a ground source heat pump that keeps our mid-19th C house warm continuously, for little expenditure, which I installed to replace the expensive, smelly oil boiler we inherited. We drive fuel efficient, though large, cars. We recycle happily and compost. Consciously I try not to waste, anything but without becoming obsessive or being miserable about it !

    But my education, which includes a degree in Physical Geography/Geology, allows me to research on Meteorology and Ancient Climates (Palaeo-Climatology); so I am very aware of how climate has varied enormously over time, globally, without any help from humanity. Also my knowledge of Meteorology, Physics and Statistics allows me to question the validity of the climate models beloved of the “warmist” group. In short I think many of the assumptions and methods off data gathering are unconvincing. So whilst I agree wholeheartedly that the climate is changing, I remain deeply doubtful that we are have very much effect on it, although I concede that we may be having some effect.
    So on balance I am happy to support the Bright Green camp, but with some reservations.

  5. UKIP has made a good start in wanting to ban the export of live animals. It should continue to focus on animal welfare and thereby attract more support from millions like me who are sick of hearing about ‘man-made’ climate change.
    This insistence on what ‘man’ has made, what humans seek, want, need, must have, will do, etc is typical of the monstrous anthropocentrism which forms the basis of our world view.
    ‘Nature’ is mentioned in this article, and presumably non-human animals are lumped in this category. But don’t all the sentient beings sharing our planet, that inhabit the land, swim in the oceans and fly in the air deserve more consideration than this? Their habitat is stolen or polluted by the excessive and ever-growing human population. Added to this, selfish, greedy,cruel humans exploit wildlife and other animals in all manner of ways: stealing their young, killing them for ‘medicine’, breeding them for fur, hunting them for sick pleasure, tormenting them in scientific experiments. The list of cruelties is unending.
    This dreadful situation is the very real ‘man-made’ crisis and scandal, not the so-called ‘climate change’ hysteria.

  6. In this scenario I would definitely put myself in the bright green camp. I use LED bulbs, have a hybrid car and at my home in Portugal (at significant expense) installed a substantial photovoltaic display and an air source heat pump for central heating and air conditioning. However I might also be just a little grey.

    My earlier article summarises my position:

    I’m intensely sceptical of a climate change lobby that is
    willing to fabricate and mislead to keep their ideology alive. Predictions that fail are forgotten but they continue to predict knowing that most will not critically assess what they are saying.

    An eventual move away from burning fossil fuels is a right
    and proper objective but more for reasons of our security and political stability than the speculative doom-mongering that dominates the Climate Change, (apparently no longer called global warming since it isn’t), industry.

    • I agree with you entirely, David. I paint ‘the greys’ rather negatively in the article, but many are informed people who have a right to feel skeptical. Alarmist predictions have never come true, and most of green politics is motivated more by socialism than science. It would be nice if the best of the greys and the best of the bright greens could band together for a common political strategy.

  7. Adam, thank you for an absolutely brilliant article.

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