New movements in history start as attempts to address the dreadful wrongs of their times. Christianity began as a movement protesting against the cruelties and callousness of the Roman social system. Socialism was an understandable response to the inequalities and squalor of the Industrial Revolution. At first their adherents were clear; their cause was just, and together they would change things for the better. Which, on the whole, they did. But the unity of such movements never lasts for long. Students of the early Church will recall the Ebionites and Gnostics. Later there were much larger schisms as Athanasians battled it out with Arians, or Monophysites with their Orthodox co-believers. The divisions in the socialist movement were soon chronic: there were Social Democrats, Socialists, Anarchists, Communists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trotskyists, Maoists, and many others, as each little group realised that their vision of the future was not to be quite the same as that of their Comrades.
What may be very loosely termed the Green or Environmentalist movement will soon face the same iron laws of History. The movement began as a very understandable response to the destruction of the planet in a reckless and utterly unsustainable manner, which will undoubtedly destroy us all. At first a whole plethora of groups like Greens, Friends of the Earth and Green Peace could rub along with the same goals, the same general actions Their efforts have been beyond praise. If anyone has given this narcissistic species one last chance, it was them. Yet success brings the need for hard choices and the following article by Harry Cockburn in the Independent shows how this will play out again and again in the years to come. We are grateful to Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire who has drawn our attention to this dilemma.
The UK Government is expected to give the go ahead to a remarkable new solar park project at Cleve Hill in the Thames Estuary. It will generate 350 MW of clean energy from 880 000 panels, no less. It will kick £1000 000 a year into local authority revenues. Patriots should rejoice, as it will be the world’s largest energy farm, leading the way to a zero carbon future. The company building it claim there will be a 65% increase in biodiversity. Understandably, Friends of the Earth support it.
Equally understandably, Greenpeace, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Kent Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England do not. All have done incredible work to protect what little is left of nature from barbarism and who have also earned the right to be taken seriously. They point to the danger of the storage system, which will cover 25 acres, and the general visual impact of a huge new industrial installation in the melancholic beauty of the marshes.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute it points to the increasing dilemmas which will be faced by the Green or Environmentalist movement. Dilemmas which its enemies will rush to exploit. Out there are some very rich unpleasant men, hooked on addiction to money, who will stop at nothing to wreck the growing movement for environmental responsibility. They are the common enemies of the groups named above. They fund denialist groups and fake science. They hire journalists and trolls to spread disinformation. They will use every trick to spread distrust and discord among environmentalists and progressives. They trade in paranoia, greed and despair.
Dilemmas and difficult decisions cannot be ducked or evaded. There will be defeats, splits and bitter personal animosities. But if everyone who cares about the environment always remembers why they are right, and that their cause is essential, they will still find the resources to win.
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