Follow-up to my provocation

My article on what I perceive to be a shift away from deep ecology towards shallow ecology certainly provoked lots of debate, which I supposed was my intention. In this post I want to follow up by correcting an error I made, expressing regret about one or two things, and making an observation about open debate in the internet age.

Correcting errors

I was under the impression that the motion to change the philosophical basis was driven forward, and largely voted through, by newer members of the party, in particular people active in the organisation Young Greens. I described it as “their scalp”, and said it “came about in part through the emergence of something of a ‘bloc’ of Young Greens”.

I should point out that Josiah Mortimer, who proposed the motion, has himself described it as “Young Green-led”, and there were tweets such as this one from York Young Greens describing it in similar terms.

However, Benali Hamdache posted a comment making clear that I was ascribing too much responsibility to the Young Greens:

I chaired the workshop debating the policy. In that there were a number of young greens who opposed the policy, and a number of non young greens who spoke passionately for the motion. The workshop was 26-2 for the motion. In plenary the motion passed with substantial non-YG support. YGs represented a quarter of attendees and not all supported, indeed some did speak against in plenary. 74 attendees were YG, yet the motion received I believe a substantial amount more votes. All considered I think it unwise to put the vote as solely YG factionalism.

So thank you, Benali, for the correction. I’m sorry, and apologise for, the error.

Expressing regret

I also regret conflating what are perhaps three separate issues:

  1. The motion itself, shifting the party out of the deep ecology movement towards a form of shallow ecology in which social justice is seen as a prerequisite for, and central to, environmental justice
  2. The recent public policy positions of the Young Greens organisation that I was aware of, which had no substantial references to environmental issues
  3. Statements like those by Adam Ramsay where I feel there is a degree of factionalism that is aligned against “old ways” and in favour of a kind of old Labour or hard left approach

Had I written something three times as long, I could have separated these out and taken more care to make my point. But I doubt many people would have taken the time to read that. Indeed, many failed to take the time to really read and reflect on the article I did write.

That said, it’s also all too easy, when drafting an article on your laptop over a few evenings, to miss the emotional impact of some sentences or even the overall piece. I knew full well that I would annoy some people, and get lots of people disputing parts of my argument, but I didn’t anticipate that some people would be quite so upset by it!

Several people have accused me of attacking all Young Greens for not caring about the environment. I never made this claim in my original article. My opening paragraph stated ” I think there is a lack of environmentalism (or perhaps even a current of anti-environment thought) within the Young Greens”, and in fact I closed my article stating that “I would like to think there are fellow Greens aged 30 and under who still think that ecology is a central concern”. There is a clear difference between the the interpretation I have been accused of and what I actually wrote.

But I could have made clearer, at the outset, that I know many Young Greens do care passionately about the environment, and that many who subscribe to what Arne Naess called the “shallow ecology movement” do care passionately about the environment. Indeed it was Young Greens who brought an emergency motion in support of the No Dash for Gas activists.

Open debate in the internet age

In among many polite, considered responses in person, by email and on Twitter, I have been subject to a heady mix of outrage and feverish condemnation on Twitter.

I have been told that my article was “deeply offensive”, “upsetting”, “bizarre and insulting”, and that they were “seriously worried by the attitude expressed”. I was accused of misrepresenting individuals’ views, even though I never mentioned them by name. One person told me, “I demand an apology”. Arguments levelled have been full of straw men, equivocation, false dichotomies and cherry picking.

I can take criticism, I don’t mind being called names, but I find this all a bit much. We have all posted a comment in anger, and sent aggressive tweets as kneejerk reactions. I’ve done this myself too often. But I wanted to call it on this occasion.

I have responded to comments that I felt were generally polite, and will ignore others.


  1. Hi Tom, yes I do demand an apology. Because I have a degree in Environmental Sciences. I also have campaigned on environmental issues for years and YES – I care about social justice. The initial blog did attack the Young Greens for not being ‘green’ enough when I personally know that a lot of the members of YG commitee and outside do a lot of campaigning on green issues. Ok, some want to highlight other policies that the Green Party have more – so what? How is that bad? When I’ve been canvassing people know the that the Green Party stand for the environment and not much else sadly. So, I’m disappointed that it has come to this. Utterly disappointed.

    28th February 2013
  2. I didn’t want to step into this debate too much, but just to say the attempts to push the motion within the Uni of York Green Party as ‘Young Green-led’ was simply because the UoY Greens’ ‘audience’ is young people/students, and we wanted to show that young people within the Greens are active, are respected, and are listened to. It was not saying it was a ‘Young Greens motion’ – the Young Greens NEC never officially supported it – and it was not to say it was supported ‘en bloc’ by Young Greens (I don’t think it was). It was simply stated to our fellow students that young people can and do bring things to Green Party conference and achieve change, in contrast to all the other parties, where young people are largely ignored.

    I’d also like to say I came into politics through CND and anti-nuclear direct action, so I do take issue (and offence) at claims that Young Greens don’t care about the environment. All the Young Greens I know are environmentalists AND social justice activists. They don’t see one as necessarily superior to another. Many Young Greens come into the party through environmentalism, many through social justice – either way, I would be surprised to find a single Young Green who didn’t care about the environment.

    We tried incredibly hard when drafting the motion to balance the two, to show social justice/environmentalism as closely interlinked, as massively important, and as central to EVERY Green’s politics.

    Young Greens are a minority within the party – less than a quarter of total members. There is no ‘bloc’ and no homogeneous thought. 71% of conference backed the (admittedly badly named) motion, despite there being only perhaps 60 or so Young Greens voting. So it gained widespread support. I think the important thing now is to work together, improve it if/where the new Philosophical Basis needs improving at later conferences, and in the meantime to rally behind what is a great step forward for the party’s development and emergence as the party of environmental AND social justice.

    12th March 2013

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