Thursday, 5 February 2009

London Green Party Education meetings & TEN BOOKS TO SHAKE THE WORLD

Thursday, 5 February, 2009 9:33 AM From:"Sean Thompson"

Apologies to people outside London, but I am the London Fed's political education officer and I want to get as many people as possible to the first of our series of discussion meetings, particularly since it is being introduced by our own dear Derek Wall.

I would be very grateful if you could you forward the following details to as many London – or close to London - GP members and supporters as possible.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre
(NB See TEN BOOKS TO SHAKE THE WORLD Reading List below)

Monthly educational discussion series in 2009
for all members and interested contacts of the Green Party in London

These meetings are to help Green Party members and supporters broaden and deepen their understanding of green politics. The books noted are described on the attached book list but reading them is strictly optional. All to be held in the meeting room on the ground floor of the Archway Resource Centre, 1A Waterlow Road N19 5NJ (immediately next door to the Green Party HQ) at 7.30pm. Waterlow Road is two minutes walk from Archway tube station.

The first four discussions will be:

1 Globalisation and the global recession
Introduced by Derek Wall
Books: Green Alternatives to Globalisation, Caroline Lucas & Mike Woodin, Pluto Press Babylon and Beyond, Derek Wall, Pluto Press(also The Credit Crunch by Graham Turner, Pluto Press)
Monday 9 February 2009

2 Origins of modern green thinking
Introduced by Sharar Ali
Book: Green History, Derek Wall, Routledge
Wednesday 18 March 2009

3 William Morris - the First Green?
Introduced by Jane Ellis
Book: William Morris, EP Thompson, Merlin
Wednesday 15 April 2009

4 The pensions crisis
Introduced by Pete Lang
Books: none
Wednesday 20 May 2009


This is by no means a definitive reading list, nor could it be, because there is no established orthodoxy within the Green Party. We are a broad church – a heterodox and pluralist party whose members come from a variety of political traditions and who hold a wide variety of opinions (although we hold a number of key views in common). This booklist seeks to show that wide range and to demonstrate how such a plurality can contribute to a rich and productive debate.

The books described below have been chosen because they each contribute something to an understanding of the breadth and depth of green politics and because they are all currently in print (except one, which is readily and cheaply available second hand from Amazon).

Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto
Mike Woodin and Caroline Lucas
Pluto Press 2004
This book is an accessible and concise statement of a Green alternative to globalisation. Arguing that globalisation marginalises poor people, threatens livelihoods, and is destroying the environment, Caroline and the late Michael Woodin propose a new approach - Global Localism - that thinks globally, but acts locally. They argue that Global Localism could be adopted and applied to help solve many of the current international crises, including climate change, trade and development, agriculture, the future of the EU, and international security.

The Economics of Anti-capitalist, Anti-globalist and Radical Green Movements
Derek Wall
Pluto Press 2005
Derek has written a whistle stop tour through the various elements that make up the anti-globalisation movement, starting with the Keynesian type reformers like Soros and ending up with the eco-socialism, via autonomists, eco-feminism and anarchism. In effect it is an enquiry into the various political, economic and philosophical elements that make up modern anti-capitalism - with Derek taking a bit from most of them to pull together a coherent eco-socialist position. Here we find Marx for beginners plus all the other anticapitalists from billionaire George Soros to radical greens - ideal for busy activists and interested newcomers to green politics. Unlike most books on capitalism and anti-capitalism where you need an honours degree in economics or politics to understand the fundamental issues, Derek's history of capitalism is both very funny and very enlightening for the non specialist reader.

To Have or to Be?
Erich Fromm
Continuum 2005
Fromm was a psychotherapist and political activist who combined a background in Freudianism and Frankfurt School marxism. He argued that 'modern man has become alienated and estranged from himself within consumer-oriented industrial society' and called for 'a rebirth of enlightenment to allow each person to fulfil his individual needs while maintaining bonds of social fraternity.' In this book he looks at the concepts of selfishness and altruism, applying these to the crisis of contemporary society and possibilities for solutions. He considers ideas introduced from many great people of the past (Spinoza, Marx, Eckhardt, Buddha) and identifies a common thread between them. He then uses this common theme in order to state that man has two options in deciding how to relate to this world - one based on selfishness and greed, the other based on love, solidarity, creativity. He also wrote The Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society.

William Morris, Selected Writings and Designs
William Morris (ed. Asa Briggs)
Penguin 1973
Poet, novelist, weaver, textile designer, wallpaper designer, typographer, socialist, conservationist – and outstanding in all these fields – phew, what a man! Essential writings of the founding father of green politics (and essential reading for any Green), out of print, but available very cheap from Amazon. An alternative (or additional) introduction to Morris is E.P. Thompson's monumental William Morris, Romantic to Revolutionary, without doubt the best political biography of Morris.

Green History Reader in Environmental Literature, Philosophy and Politics
Derek Wall
Routledge 1993
This book traces the development of ecological writing through history and gives a broad critical review of green ideas and movements, reinforcing the importance of environmental concern and action in our own time. Animal rights, ecology as science, feminism, green facism/socialism/anarchism, land reform, peaceful protest, industrialisation, ancient ecology, evolution, grassroots activism, recycling, Taoism, demographics, utopias, sustainability, spiritualism...(pause for breath), all these issues more are discussed. Authors examined include Alice Walker on massacre in the City of Brotherly Love, Aldous Huxley on progress, Lewis Mumford on the organic outlook, Engels on natural dialectics, Thoreau on the frontier life, the Shelleys on vegetarianism and playing God, Bacon on the New Atlantis, Hildegard of Bingen on green vigour, the unknown writer of the Bodhisattva and Plato on soil erosion etc., etc. This is less humourous than Derek's more recent Babylon and Beyond and, as an academic book, rather expensive, but it is the most thorough history/revew of green thought available and well worth reading.

Capitalism as If the World Matters
Jonathon Porritt
Earthscan 2007
Jonathon Porritt is a former leading member of the Green Party and its predecessor, the Ecology Party and a former Director of Friends of the Earth, who is now a confidante of the Prince of Wales and advisor to a number of large corporations, including as Marks and Spencer. In this book he argues that capitalism may be the best solution to poverty and global environmental degradation, albiet a reshaped and highly regulated capitalism. He is aware that the majority of active greens see capitalism as the root of the problem, but he argues that they are ignoring the potential of market mechanisms and property rights. His book does not offer a detailed description of his vision of a green capitalist society, nor of the practical steps needed to tame and channel the anarchy of the market, but he does suggest an alternative view for the direction of green politics and he is among the clearest and most coherent proponents of that view.

The Enemy of Nature: the end of capitalism or the end of the world?
Joel Kovel
Zed Books 2007

This book presents the diametrically opposed analysis to that of Jonathon Porritt. Joel Kovel puts the case that capitalism, with its unrelenting pressure to expand, is unreformably destructive to ecologies. He argues against the reigning orthodoxy that there can be no alternative to the capitalist system,on the grounds that submission to it is suicidal as well as unworthy of human beings. Developing a synthesis between marxism, ecofeminism and the philosophy of nature, he criticises existing ecological politics for their evasion of capital, advances a vision of ecological production as the successor to capitalist production, and sets out the
principles for realizing this. Joel is an American academic and ecosocialist of formidable intellectual stature; his book is extremely densely argued and at times can be a little hard going, but it's really worth the effort.

Heat: how we can stop the planet burning
George Monbiot
Penguin 2007
This is deservedly a best seller, in which George Monbiot argues that carbon emissions need to be reduced by a whopping 90% if we're to avoid hitting the 'tipping point' which will accelerate us towards global disaster. Essentially, George prescribes a diet of privation. If we want to avoid a forcible return to Neolithic huntergathering, we need to elect to ration ourselves: and cutting our energy consumption to the bone is the only way ensure a positive outcome. That means eating what's locally available, keeping our cars in the garage and evolving a workable system of public transport and food deliveries. And most of all, it means an end to globetrotting - because there's no fast and effective way to travel that's acceptably carbon-neutral. Where the book is weak is dealing with solutions that can involve people other than those currently living relatively comfortable lives in relatively prosperous urban and suburban neighbourhoods. Monbiot makes a valuable point when he says that the keys to change are held by exactly those people with most to lose, but then largely ignores the problems and life experiences of just those people. What do you do if you live in a rural area with little or no public transport, the nearest shop is eight miles away and Ocado don't deliver within fifty miles of your home? Or if you live on a run down council estate with no shops, no jobs, few services and little public transport on the edge of Glasgow or Leeds? Nonetheless, this is a really valuable and thought provoking book.

How We Can Save the Planet
Mayer Hillman
Penguin 2004
In an easy to understand, yet very comprehensive account of global warming, Mayer sets out the problem, explaining how global warming is happening, and why it must be avoided. The current strategies, mainly of the UK government and industry are described, and exposed as woefully inadequate. In the second half of the book, Mayer explains what he considers a fair and just system for reducing our CO2 emissions on a global scale – the concept of contraction and convergence; and a mechanism for how we in Britain can fairly share out the massive reductions in emmissions required of us – the extremely contentious idea of individual carbon rationing. There are, of course, all sorts of details to argue about – both within the book and growing out of it – but it is an enormously important and useful contribution to the debate.

Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered
E F Schumacher
Blond & Briggs 1973
This is one of the most influential books of the late twentieth century, as far as green political economy is concerned – and rightly so. Schumacher maintains that the western worls's current pursuit of profit and progress, which promotes giant organisations and increased specialisation, has in fact resulted in gross economic inefficiency, environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions. He challenges the doctrine of economic, technological and scientific specialisation, and proposes a system of intermediate technology, based on smaller working units, communal ownership and regional workplaces, utilizing local labour and resources. His essay on Budhist Economics is a gem, and his essay on intermediate technology in the Third World was based on his work establishing of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now the organisation Practical Action) in 1966.

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