August 20, 2017

Ecology Party – 1979 European Election Manifesto

Vote for Edward Goldsmith

Ecology Party Candidate for The European Elections

Important Declaration

On Thursday, June 7th [1979] you will be asked to vote for a candidate standing for the European Parliament. Your first reaction may be to vote for whatever candidate represents one of the three main parties. Before you do this I think you should take the following considerations into account:

The European Parliament has little power to bring about changes that would immediately affect your everyday life. On the other hand it has the leisure which the Westminster Parliament does not have, to consider the critical medium-to-long term issues that will really affect your future and that of your children.

The last election was fought over relatively minor issues, the price of council houses, the level of income tax, the extent of government expenditure. These are not the issues that responsible people today should really be concerned about. We should be considering the fact that we live in an industrial society which is entirely geared to economic growth as a means of solving all our problems, and that today, whether we like it or not, economic growth, except in the very short term, is no longer a realistic possibility. It was only possible in the past because we could buy raw materials cheaply from all over the world and because we were one of the few countries capable of transforming them into finished products. We were the workshop of the world. Today the world is a workshop. Countries need their own resources for their own development and they are quite capable of making all the finished products which we once supplied them.

In any case resources are running out. Within the next few decades nearly all the economic sources of the main minerals entering into the industrial process will have been depleted. Cheap sources of energy will by then also have been exhausted. Nuclear power will never be a substitute for oil. It is no coincidence that in the U.S. 200 nuclear power stations have been cancelled since 1973 and no new ones are being ordered. The reason is that besides being too dangerous they are also far too expensive. America cannot afford them.

But even if further economic growth were possible the cost of achieving it in terms of the environmental and social disruption that it must cause would be quite intolerable. Just think of how it would affect the face of this country. Three per cent, economic growth for 25 years would mean doubling the level of economic activity. This would also mean doubling the number of motorways, factories, pylons, gas containers, multi-storey car parks, etc., and also just about doubling the amount of land removed from agriculture. Indeed at the current rate, according to Alice Coleman in her second Land Utilization Survey, the last acre of agricultural land in this country will have either been cemented over, turned into waste-land or into “tended space” by the year 2157.

We must also take into account the increased pollution that would be generated by so much industrial activity, the further contamination of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe, and the associated increase in cancer and pollution induced diseases. I think that any sane person must realise that all this would be intolerable.

But even if we were ready to pay this cost, what would economic growth actually do for us? Can it really solve our problems? The answer is undoubtedly no. Economic growth is the cause of, rather than the solution to, the real problems that face us today. Consider the present epidemic of crime. How can economic growth help to control it? The answer is by enabling us to engage more policemen and to manufacture more burglar alarms and armoured cars. But is crime due to a shortage of policemen, burglar alarms and armoured cars? Most decidedly not. It is due to the breakdown of the family and the community under the terrible stresses of the industrial way of life. It is but a symptom of the social deprivation and alienation that it inevitably gives rise to, and the expedients economic growth can finance to control crime, can do no more than makes its symptoms thereby rendering the diseases that much more tolerable and helping in this way to perpetuate it.

The same can be shown to be true of nearly all the problems that face us today. Consider unemployment, the one that perhaps preoccupies us most. As economic growth proceeds, more and more people are drawn into the labour market—44% of married women work today for instance as opposed to 6% in 1911. As a result to mop up unemployment we must find 170,000 new jobs per year. At the same time, as new methods of automating industrial processes are developed, so does the economy become capable of absorbing correspondingly fewer people. The manufacturing industry has actually ceased to provide a source of new jobs. This is not because it is badly organised. Even the most efficient industries such as the chemical industry employ less people today than they did ten years ago. As a result, all the new jobs provided in the last ten years have come from the service industries. But these are now automating as well.

Where then will new jobs come from? To this our politicians provide no solutions. Stimulating the economy—the Conservative solution—no longer works because of the inflation it would give rise to and because it would lead to increased expenditure on imported goods rather than home goods, thereby providing jobs abroad rather than at home. Ever increasing Government expenditure—the Labour answer—would also be inflationary, besides it must be financed by the profitable private sector, thereby reducing its profits and hence investment and further cutting down on the number of jobs it can provide. Thus further automating industry, which is necessary if the economy is to grow and compete with that of other countries, can only increase unemployment to a level that our society could not conceivably support.

The fact is that to solve all these problems we must put our society on a totally different course. Rather than increase our dependence on energy and resources, and capital, which will not be available, we must systematically reduce our dependence on these things. We must reorganise our society in such a way that it becomes very much more self-sufficient and self-reliant. Economic activity must take place on a very much smaller scale, cater for smaller markets, make use of less, rather than more, capital inputs. In our hearts we all know that there is no realistic alternative.

We in the Ecology Party are also convinced that this, in the long run, will provide us with a very much more satisfying lifestyle and one that is sustainable, which the present one is most decidedly not.

To achieve such a society, we may ask, do we have to be part of the European Common Market? If we are to become self-sufficient we must learn to cater for smaller rather than bigger markets and derive our materials from local rather than distant sources. Why then do we believe in Europe? There are two reasons. Firstly it is going to be very difficult to move our society in the right direction unless we have the cooperation of our main trading partners. Take the case of pollution. At least six European countries are systematically releasing all the poisons generated by their industry into the North Sea. This must be stopped if the North Sea is not to become a lifeless waste. But no country can act unilaterally without increasing costs and becoming economically uncompetitive. Joint action is required within a loose European confederation.

The same is true for unemployment. If we allow the micro-electronics revolution to take place, millions of people will be thrown out of work, but they will also be put out of work if we do not, for we would become uncompetitive and our industries would collapse. The only possible way to solve this problem is to obtain the cooperation of our trading partners in limiting the rate at which automation is allowed to proceed. There is thereby no other realistic solution to this problem, and this is best achieved within the framework of some sort of European confederation.

There is another reason why we believe in Europe. If we are to develop healthy cohesive and self reliant communities, they must become very much more responsible for the conduct of their own affairs. At the moment, whatever the appearances, all real decisions are taken at Westminster and at Whitehall. Every day, central government intrudes still further into our day-to-day affairs. The result is to create a nation of ever more helpless and irresponsible people. This process must be reversed and at all levels, that of the family, the small community and the region. All must learn to become very much more responsible for their own affairs. With regards regional responsibility, Europe offers us an unprecedented opportunity. We can create a Europe of the regions in which Cornwall, Wales, East Anglia and the other natural regions into which this country can be divided, can have direct representation at Strasbourg—thereby short-circuiting—for certain purposes at least—the central government.

Edward Goldsmith is highly qualified to defend these views at Strasbourg. He is one of the founder members of the Ecology Party, publisher and editor of The Ecologist magazine for nearly ten years, co-author of the Blueprint for Survival (1972), the first study that showed how we could break out of the industrial system and move towards a sustainable decentralised society—and which has now been translated into sixteen languages. He has lived in Cornwall for seven years, but has also spent much time on the Continent, speaks French and Italian, and is vice-chairman of ECOROPA, the think-tank of the ecological movement in Europe.


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