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Back to Green Principles

By Stuart Hertzog
June 18th, 2007

The Green Party is not just about the environment

A field of sunflowersGreen politics is not just about the environment. It is far more holistic than that. Green political principles are based on an egalitarian, anti-authoritarian, eco-centric, environmentally-concerned, and decidedly democratic approach to politics.

After years of unchecked emission of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases, we are now faced with global ecological catastrophe. It’s time to end this downward spiral. Widespread adoption of Green political principles is vital for the preservation of life on Earth, protecting human and animal rights, and maintaining our democracy.

The four pillars of Green politics are:

  • Non-violence
  • Social justice
  • Eco-centrism, and
  • Grassroots democracy


The degree to which a society uses violence to settle disputes over territory, resources, wealth, or religious belief is the measure of its civillisation. A peaceful planet is the mark of an advanced culture. Non-violent attitudes and techniques must be adopted both in interpersonal relationships and towards other species.

This means an end to war, not squandering human intelligence or wasting natural resources developing and manufacturing armaments. Each individual has a choice in how to earn a living, and choosing a non-violent livelihood is fundamental to a harmonious life. Profiting in any way from warfare or arms dealing just isn’t Green.

Social Justice

Disparities in social status or income can be maintained in the last resort only by force, so a non-violent society naturally gravitates towards ensuring equal justice and human rights for all its members. Green political philosophy merges the social idealism of the nineteenth century with the human-centred environmentalism of the twentieth, making Green thinking essentially socially liberal and progressive.

That is not to say that people who view themselves as conservatives cannot also be Green. Value conservatives are those who wish to conserve habitat and ecosystems along with non-violent social ethics. People can be fiscally conservative but socially progressive. The key is that social justice is available to everyone, rich or poor.

Green parties occupy the middle ground between Left and Right – the Middle Way.


Free-enterprise capitalism stresses individualism and self-centredness as the ideal, while socialism puts collective needs ahead of egotistical self-satisfaction. The former rewards those who gather power, wealth, and prestige to themselves, while the latter spreads rewards throughout the society. But both are human-centric.

Green philosophy departs from both capitalism and socialism in that it sees humanity as part of a broader, living web. Survival depends on maintaining the health of the entire ecosystem, so our focus must shift from ego- to eco-centric. The word economics comes from the Greek oikos (house) and nomos (steward).

Our economic system must become eco-gnostic – knowledgeable stewards.

Grassroots Democracy

At the start of the previous Cold War era, retiring US president and former general Eisenhower warned that western democracy was in danger of being hijacked by military and corporate interests. He was right. Covert decision-making by the rich and powerful has been masquerading as genuine democracy. The threat of defence and industrial job losses has kept politicians in line.

The danger foreseen by Eisenhower never went away. After a brief period of stability following World War II, those same forces regrouped under the neo-conservative banner. More than ever, our fragile democracy is under attack, undermined by the militaristic response of western governments to the new global terrorism stirred by religious fundamentalists – terrorism that western military actions help maintain.

At the same time, western media has become increasingly corporatist. Instead of being an open and inclusive democracy, we are becoming a managed democracy. Lies, propaganda, secret deals, and restricted access to information widen the chasm between power-holders and the people. This is a most dangerous time.

Antidote to Corporatism

Corporations and political parties are ruled from the top, down. CEOs and political leaders issue orders that must be obeyed. Green politics came into being as an antidote to that. Green politics is the politics of grassroots empowerment.

As new generations of Greens move into politics, it is vital that Green principles are not forgotten by the leaders of Green parties everywhere. Yet that is what appears to be happening. Increasingly, Green parties are becoming just like all the others.

We must always keep in mind the four pillars of Green philosophy – Peace, Social Justice, Eco-Centrism, and Grassroots Democracy – if we want to be truly Green.


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