1/8/24: Le nouvel Economiste: Ecologists and Greens, the climate emergency on both sides of the Atlantic

Howie Hawkins, founder of the Green Party of the United States, and Sandrine Rousseau, Member of Parliament for Paris Ecologists-EELV, talk about the rise of the ecologist movement

by Malcolm Biiga

On the fringes of American bipartisanship, minority parties, the “third parties,” are eclipsed by Democratic and Republican forces. Among them, the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is the fourth political force behind the Democrats, the Republicans and the Libertarian Party. GPUS was founded in 1984 by John Rensenbrink and Howie Hawkins. Hawkins has been a Green candidate in more than 25 elections – the most recent being the 2020 presidential election. Hawkins shares today his experience of environmentalism, alongside a French elected official: Sandrine Rousseau, deputy for Europe Ecology The Greens of the 9th Paris constituency. Member of NUPES, the EELV party recently renamed Les Ecologists, was also founded in 1984 under the name “Les Verts.” A historic convergence today brings together these two environmentalist parties with a common destiny.

When politics goes green

Political veteran Howie Hawkins, 71, founded the Green Party in the wake of his activist youth. “I became politicized in the 60s, in the America of the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. Democrats and Republicans were reluctant to denounce the racism and supported the war. So I joined the New Left movement that was anti-racist, feminist, environmentalist, and anti-militarist.” In 1984 Hawkins participated in the first conference of the Green Party in Saint-Paul (Minnesota), which began organizing the Green Party in the United States. The same year, the Greens party (which became EELV in 2010) was born in France.

A figure in EELV since 2009, Sandrine Rousseau was for her part national spokesperson and then deputy national secretary of the party. The MP embraced the environmentalist cause 25 years ago “by approaching ecology through work in economics. I was devastated to discover, for example, reports from the Pentagon which was already analyzing the geopolitical impacts of global warming. However, these conclusions were largely ignored by public opinion.” As a candidate for the EELV primary for the presidential election of 2022, she was beaten in the second round by Yannick Jadot. “Nevertheless, she persisted” as our American friends would say: Rousseau now defends ecofeminism in the French National Assembly.

Ecology, a third way?

Although traditionally placed on the left, can political ecologism be considered a third way, going beyond the left-right divide? The parties of right and extreme right are taking up the environmentalist question today, after having hidden it for a long time. However, the EELV MP contests this appropriation: “Ecology cannot be right-wing because destruction is linked to questions of growth,
resources, and predation, criteria favored by the center and the right to the detriment of the planet itself. Ecology is therefore fundamentally left-wing, but it must renew.”

Howie Hawkins confirms the third party status of the Green Party, which he also places on the left of the political spectrum. However, he refuses any alliance with the Democratic Party “which is not left-wing.” He also believes that “if Emmanuel Macron were in the United States, he would himself be a democrat”, and not at the head of a third party which would have transcended the divide separating Democrats and Republicans. The founder of the Green Party therefore encourages issue-based coalitions independent of the traditional bipartisanship of the United States. The Greens have thus allied themselves with other independent and progressive forces in the country like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

A green presidency?

Of course, Hawkins and Rousseau agree that the validation of green parties would be to see an environmentalist president access the highest office. For the American, the climate emergency even makes possible the accession of a Green to the White House: “Katrin Jakobsdóttr, of the ‘Green and Left Movement,’ is First Minister of Iceland since 2017. The acceleration of the climate crisis makes the Green Party more relevant.” The GPUS was also created in 1984, inspired by a European party movement very popular at the time: the German Green Party (Die Grünen), victorious in the
1983 federal election.

Same story on the French side: “as the climate crisis intensifies, climate skepticism also increases. If we want a green president – or rather a president green (laughs) – in France, we must design a desirable future for our children. To quote Churchill, this future will require ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ but it’s a collective challenge to undertake.” The 51-year-old elected official concludes by linking ecology and feminism: “predation is the engine of society: predation of the planet, women and minorities. An environmentalist president at the Élysée would therefore be a first, in more than one way.”

Originally posted at https://www.lenouveleconomiste.fr/ecologistes-et-greens-lurgence-climatique-des-deux-cotes-de-latlantique-108691/

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Posted on

February 10, 2024