Russel Norman has been peddling his 'green capitalism' again. If it sounds too good to be true that's because it is.
We have a profoundly hopeful vision for a richer New Zealand — a country where rivers run clear, our kids are happy, and there are good-paying jobs in a smarter, greener economy.
It will take vision and leadership to get us there and the Greens have a record of both.
Forty years ago we led the debate with what is the most profound new idea of the last century — that we live on a finite planet with finite natural resources.
This simple idea is changing the course of human history.
It is the idea that we can tap into the unlimited resources of human creativity and generosity so that we can live great lives while respecting the natural limits of the planet.
Most of this is political puffery but, although Norman is being coy about it, what he is arguing is that we can create a environmentally friendly capitalism, one that will respect 'the natural limits of the planet'.
If you believe Russel Norman - the man in the business suit who fraternises with business 'leaders' - his 'smarter, green economy' will not only stop climate change and the further exploitation of the planet but, as an added bonus, it will create thousands of environmentally friendly jobs.
If it sounds too good to be true that's because it is. It says something about the current low level of debate within the Green Party that Norman actually got praised for this speech which amounted to nothing more than a reaffirmation of market values.
While Norman likes to stand up in parliament and berate the government for its environmentally damaging policies, the fact is that he's a hypocrite. The ugly fact is that Norman is as much a defender of our current economic system as John Key or David Cunliffe. He believes that 'the power of the market' can be brought to bear on the world's deepening environmental problems. He believes, as former president Bill Clinton believed, that 'Adam Smith can have a green thumb'.
He does not recognise the inherently anti-ecological character of capitalism - an economic system that concentrates political and economic power in the hands of those who pursue the accumulation of capital without restraint.
Indeed his denial of the adverse impact that capitalism is having on the planet is typical of most mainstream green parties and organisations. This denialism prompted writer and activist Naomi Klein to say in an interview last year that the values and priorities of neoliberalism have been integrated into mainstream environmentalism. Said Klein:
Authors John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark are more explicit. In their book, The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War On The Planet they write:
“We are confronting the question of a terminal crisis, threatening most life on the planet, civilization, and the very existence of future generations. … attempts to solve this through technological fixes, market magic, and the idea of a ‘sustainable capitalism’ are mere forms of ecological denial, since they ignore the inherent destructiveness of the current system of unsustainable development – capitalism.”
But Norman believes capitalism can be reformed and made “green”. This might attract the conservative 'blue-green' voter that Norman and the Green's have targeted, but we should hold no illusions that the polices that Norman and Green's support will be of any tangible long term benefit to a world confronting an environmental crisis that has been provoked by the very economic system that Norman and the Green Party support and defend.