Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has been lambasted by reactionary forces for making the obvious connection between Typhoon Haiyan and climate change. But Russel Norman's mistaken belief in an 'environmentally responsible capitalism' means his analysis doesn't go far enough.

Yesterday in Parliament party leaders  extended their support to the millions of  Filipinos affected by the cataclysmic Typhoon Haiyan.

Green Party  co-leader Russel Norman, rather then offering some  politically convenient and bland gesture of support, chose to make the very real connection between the typhoon (the strongest tropical cyclone at landfall in recorded history) and climate change.

In this respect he was simply reflecting the view expressed by  head of the Philippines delegation to UN Climate talks presently being held in Warsaw.

Norman's comments  though were met by a barrageof jeers from the Government, itself engaged on a destructive plunder of New Zealand's environment in the disastrous pursuit of fossil fuels.

National MP Tau Henare tweeted: "This is the worst hijacking of the parliamentary process. Given the occasion @RusselNorman decides to give a speech on climate change."

The Government has been backed by one of its cheerleaders in the media. The NZ Herald's Audrey Young admonished: 'It was like getting a long lecture on cigarette-smoking instead of a eulogy at the funeral of someone who had died of lung cancer.'

Norman responded: 'The National Party is an obstructive. It's getting in the way of action, so they don't want to hear the truth and what the Philippines Government is telling us we're not willing to listen to the people of the Philippines and their Government and what they're asking of us, which is to take action on climate change, what on Earth are we doing? Is it just hand wringing in there but we don't want to do anything to try to fix it?'

Presumably the Government and Audrey Young would find fault with the message of The Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM, a Filipino socialist party). It has also not only  made the connection between the unimaginable ferocity  of the typhoon and climate change but, unlike Norman, has charged the capitalism for wrecking the environment in the pursuit of resources and profit.  It  has commented:

The still-rising greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis are disproportionately emitted by the rich and developed countries, from the US, Europe to Australia.

For centuries, these rich, developed countries have polluted and plundered our societies, emitting too much greenhouse gases to satisfy their greed for profit.

They have built countless destructive projects all over the world like polluting factories, coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants and mega dams. They have also pushed for policies allowing extractive industries to practice wasteful and irresponsible extraction of the Earth’s minerals.

They continue to wage environmentally destructive wars and equip war industries, for corporate profits. All of this has fast-tracked the devastation of the Earth’s ecological system and brought about unprecedented changes in the planet’s climate.

But these are the same rich countries whose political elite are ignoring climate change and the climate crisis.

Unlike Russel Norman and the Green Party, the PLM has laid the ultimate  blame for climate change where it should be laid -  at the foot of the capitalist machine.

The Green Party, like many Green parties around the world, lacks a coherent critique of capitalism  because it thinks that a environmentally responsible capitalism is possible. This dangerous delusion  has seen many green parties  ending up as  junior partners in neoliberal governments, providing green camouflage for reactionary policies.

Such could be the role  of Russel Norman  and the Green Party after the next election.

In their  book, Too Many People?, Simon Butler  and Ian Angus observe that:

'In every country, we need governments that break with the existing order, that are answerable only to working people, farmers, the poor, indigenous communities, and immigrants – in a word, to the victims of ecocidal capitalism, not its beneficiaries and representatives.”

This is a  message that Russel Norman and the Green Party are not hearing. Instead they are on a fools errand, vainly trying use 'the power of the market' (Norman's words) to bring about ecological justice.

It would be nice to think that Typhoon Haiyan might also be a wake-up call for Russel Norman and the Green Party but the chances of this happening  are, unfortunately, remote. This is a  party that has travelled to the right and become just another parliamentary stakeholder in maintaining the status quo, albeit with some minor tinkering.

In 2010 , at the invitation of Bolivian president Evo Morales, some 35,000 activists, from more than 130 countries met in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The World Peoples' Summit developed an action program to save the environment.

The final Peoples' Agreement People’s Agreement placed responsibility for the climate crisis on the capitalist system. The agreement also said:

 “Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.”


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