The Green Party: A Realistic Hope for Change?
An Interview with Andy Shadrack, Green Party candidate
On June 2 , voters once again will determine the governing party in Canada. It is unlikely that any radical change will occur, at least in regard to environmental matters. But there is a Green Party voicing ecological concerns for citizens across the country. In some electoral districts, a growing Green presence is having significant impact on the debates. Perhaps in the near future, Green values will find their way into the policies of the governing parties across North America. If not...well, let's focus, for now, on a positive vision for change.
Andy Shadrack, who teaches political science at Selkirk College, represents the electoral district of Nelson-Creston in the mountainous and rural southeast of the province. As many alternative-oriented people live in this area, the Green vote in recent elections has been among the highest in North America.
What are your realistic expectations of voter support for Green Party candidates in the federal election?
The 79 Green Party candidates in the 1993 federal election obtained from as low as .5% to as high as 2.3%. Here in the West Kootenay, in Nelson-Creston, we pushed that up to 11.2% and in a number of constituencies on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver we exceeded 4% in the 1996 BC election. The Green party as a whole achieved 30,000 votes, up from 12,000 in 1991...reaching 2%. I do not see it as unrealistic for the vote in the West Kootenay to rise to 15%.
In view of the relatively low support from voters thus far, does the Green Party have other principal objectives in running election campaigns?
Many Greens run in the election in a purely educational role. There is, in my opinion, an emerging difference between "reallo" and "fundi" over what platforms should contain. I believe it is possible for Greens to elect someone under the current electoral system by explaining how Greens would address day to day problems. Other Greens see our role as that of holding fast to a principled point of view regardless of whether or not Greens obtain votes. I think this is a mistake, as I believe elections and other politically active moments are times when you can have a dialogue with the population about practical ways we can change the way we live. I am increasingly opposed to those who think we can build platform and policy away from a constant dialogue with the people who either support us or who are at least open to our ideas because we share the same concerns.
Could you summarize briefly the main elements of a Green Party platform, highlighting your own choices of the top-priority issues?
Greens try to build platform around ten key values:
- ecological wisdom
- grass roots democracy
- personal and social responsibility
- community-based economics
- post-patriarchal values
- respect for diversity
- global responsibility
- future focus
In this context I think Greens need to spend a lot of time talking to both environmentalists and regular voters about how we could build a society based on sound democratic and ecological principles. My main concern right now is to understand how we can practically build an economy that consumes less of the natural planetary regeneration.
Economy, for me, must include healthy ecosystems, people and communities . . . in that order. I believe we need to re-learn how to build an economy based on what is available within our bio-regions, only trading what is surplus to ecosystems and our human needs. In the process of discussing policy, we must build in democratic feedback loops. The basic failure of both the Marxist-Leninist movement and the NDP [Canada's New Democratic Party, currently the governing party in B.C.] was that while they made wonderful policy, they never or very rarely thought out how they would implement this policy if they came to power. The NDP has been a failure, because they did not address with their coalition of support how they would overcome opposition to their intended policy. I therefore see two key elements in platform: a democratization of the political process by which decisions are made, and an openess to the people so that policy is actually owned and controlled by the people themselves. This I understand is the practice of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico.
In your view, is the human species progressing, declining, or remaining the same over time?
I think that all over the world common people are struggling with the ecological, social and economic situation facing them. In many places some very creative solutions are emerging, but those who control the global economy and governments that support them are becoming increasingly desperate. The current socio-economic system cannot survive and it remains to be seen whether those humans who understand this are willing to have the courage to stand up and build a system that will work.
Do you have any realistic optimism for life on this planet? If so, what's the basis for your hopeful outlook?
Life will always exist on this planet as long as the atmospheric conditions exist to support it. I am less optimistsic about whether human lifeforms will be among those that survive the next century and worry about how much of the existing biological diversity we will destroy while we destroy ourselves. In the interim I think it is important that those who wish to struggle for a different and more just human existence continue to offer positive solutions. I currently have more faith in nature than I do in humans, while recognizing that many humans are innocent victims of others greed.
In a society and culture that encourages exploitation of nature, how might people be encouraged to change their high-impact values and behavior?
As a Green I believe I must be a role model in living a life and educating others about the importance of maintaining and allowing restoration of healthy ecosystems. At some level humans do have an affinity for nature, especially those who live in rural areas. Urbanization has alienated an increasing number of humans from their natural source of survival.
We might presume that in the course of human evolution, greed and human-centeredness has helped our survival chances. How can we accept and work around this trait which now threatens the whole biosphere, ourselves included? Or do we need to find a way to change it to a conservationist ethic, at all costs?
Many idegenous cultures survived into this century due to a healthy respect for ecosytems. Adoption of the scientific method, which closely parallels the start of the burning of wisewomen (witches) in Europe, has lead us astray from a whollistic approach to life. Attending the the West Kootenay - Boundary CORE [round-table Committees on Resources and Economy] implementation strategy meetings with the Inter-Agency Management Committee has reinforced in me the understanding that economics (already seen by me as an inexact science) as it is now constituted is totally bankrupt.
Two good videos to watch are Marilyn Waring in "If Women Counted: Sex, Lies and Economics," and "Mondragon."
Waring was a member of the New Zealand government. First elected in 1975 at the age of 22, and having headed the prestigeous Finance Committee of the New Zealand parliament, she chose to bring down the government in 1983 over the issue of not allowing nuclear powered and/or armed vessels into New Zealand waters.
Mondragon is a video about how Basque peasants were able to organize democratically controlled industrial co-ops that, since 1957, have grown from a mere dozen apprentices to some 23,000 worker members in the 1990's.
Interview by Nowick
Gray, June 1997