Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A new ideology?

‘Renewable energy alone cannot decouple consumption from climate change; just because energy sources are called ‘renewable’ does not mean there is an infinite amount available that can be accessed sustainably. Demand for energy is a political issue. Our energy priority should be to satisfy human survival needs, not to keep a worldwide division of labour, which is based on profit, in place.’ Kolya Abramsky, editor of a 'Sparking a World- wide Energy Revolution' (AK Press) www.akpress.org

Well, that’s one powerful viewpoint, though hardly a new one -it’s basically the traditional Marxist analysis updated . Abramsky looks to grass roots action and collective and co-operative organisations as the way ahead, and that certainly would be welcome- there will be many battles ahead if we want to get a sustainable energy system adopted and done properly.

However, a little oddly, he also says that IRENA, the new Internationa renewable energy agency based in Abu Dhabi, could be a possible source of support for desperately needed technology transfer to help people in undeveloped countries create viable sustainable communities. We’ll maybe. But evidently it’s hard to shake off reliance on central agencies! Maybe we are all secret Stalinists really

What else is on offer in terms of new ideological frameworks- following up on my previous Blog ? While once it was Marx, Trotsky and Gramsci, social science/politics undergrads these days seem to be brought up on Harvard Professor John Rawls’ classic ‘Theory of Justice’, which cleverly does away with the need for ideology altogether by describing a rational, logical moral and ethical framework for action and policy making. There is much stress on ‘fairness’ and little recognition of the massive imbalances in power and wealth that shape the word as it is, and make it hard to move toward any reasonable degree of equity, fairness or justice. No harm in trying of course, as liberals through the ages have argued- even if currently the main target of the modern student generation seem to be the Liberals, who have it seems failed to be fair and just! By dumping the Lib Dem promises on grants- but also on nuclear power.

The political right meanwhile has an almost clear field of play- so much so that they can even afford to toy with neo-socialist ideas about market intervention and liberal ideas about wider ownership and community. Much of this may be token, when the reality is cut backs, job losses and pain for most, continued affluence for a minority, but it’s a Great Society illusion that seems to be what many people want to sign up to. Certainly in the energy field it’s leading to more (verbal) support for Feed-In Tarrifs and the like, and maybe some actual changes, as long as they don’t interfere too much with the mainstream economics of energy or plans for nuclear expansion.

Which leaves us, if we want really significant change, with the greens. It’s fairly easy to write a green manifesto- much as once with the Liberals, you can add in everything that sounds good, with little fear of having to live with it as an actual policy in power. It’s very value driven stuff- not just based on equality, fraternity, justice, but also on deep-green eco-centric views, along with radical views about lifestyle, community and culture. With a dash of new age spiritual thinking added in. That may make it hard for reds and greens to get on. But otherwise, that combination still seems to be the best bet for the future. We need decentralism to balance Stalinist tendencies, and grass roots workerism to balance overly fey abstraction. A proper coalition?