Environmental Greens versus Political Greens
The “Statement of Principles” signed by the timber industry, the timber union and environmental organisations late last year is easily the best chance for decades to end Tasmania’s debilitating “forest wars”.
Every single organisation that signed on took a risk. A risk that the process would founder through Government intransigence, a risk of being outflanked and denounced by opportunists within their own constituencies, a risk that circumstances may deliver outcomes for their traditional opponents, but not for their own interests.
One of the most fascinating issues now that we have started to move into the ‘delivery’ phase, however, is the high stakes power play developing between the “environmental” greens and the “political” greens.
The environmental greens, while still leery of the pulp mill and its state approvals process, realise that the mill as now approved is a much better project than that approved by the state.
In fact, it could be argued that the state-approved mill is dead and buried and has been replaced by a federally approved mill which is much better and represents a huge environmental win for those actually genuinely concerned with the environmental outcomes around this project.
While they will never come out and actually support the pulp mill the environmental greens also recognise that the mill is an essential part of the very necessary restructuring of the Tasmanian timber industry, and that such a restructuring has the potential to also deliver them a very significant environmental reservation outcome, while also ensuring otherwise inevitable levels of social disruption are mitigated as far as possible.
The environmental or “small G” greens understand that this outcome is only available to them through the Principles process – if they can give a little on the pulp mill they will get a little in terms of the high conservation forests that will be “saved”.
On the other hand the political or “capital G” Greens have a vested interest in perpetuating the war in the forests as a way of maintaining relevance, funding, and political power.
They have no actual environmental objectives in relation to either the new, federally approved pulp mill or the Statement of Principles.
They have, however, put a line in the sand over the pulp mill and now find themselves conflicted between their political self-interest and the environmental outcomes that one might reasonably expect them to support.
The foot soldiers of the political greens include the likes of the Huon Environment Centre and the group Still Wild Still Threatened. Their actions and public statements are clearly designed to destroy and undermine the Statement of Principles’ chances of success, because success would involve compromising their political positions.
So to maintain political purity and that “self righteousness” factor that is such a motivator for such groups, the political Greens and their foot soldiers are attempting a classic “flanking move,” to position themselves as the true custodians of Green Purity and to demonstrate to the wider green community that they will not compromise.
In reality in doing so they are prepared to forego all of the actual potential positive environmental outcomes of the Statement of Principles.
This is the true nature of the so called “split” in the greens that we are currently witnessing.
There is another group who would also pose as “greens”, those who simply want to extract vengeance on Gunns with whatever perceived justification they can muster.
These people have the least justification for their actions than any other and are motivated in large part by the most infantile form of grandstanding. This group includes the wannabe high profile “talking heads” that have emerged during the talks.
The situation in Tasmania constitutes a “coming of age” morality tale for the environmental movement in Australia. Will they accept that compromise is necessary to achieve outcomes, or will the self righteousness factor and political self interest win out?
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