Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Green Parties have long been a mainstay in First World politics, ever since the Values Party, as it was called in New Zealand, established a specific programme for such parties. Spread now throughout developed countries, they enjoy varying degrees of success, from having parliament reps (New Zealand, Australia) to being part of governments (Finland, Ireland) to probable spoilers in presidential elections (the U.S.)

These parties have an ideology vastly different from other political parties. They are typically values and people-oriented, emphasizing decentralized governments, human-centred technology, renewable energy, grassroots democracy and values like co-operation, nurturing and peacemaking. While many parties call themselves 'green parties' (non-capitalized) their environmentalism is often challenged by economic worries, and can be laden with protectionist measures, thus ignoring other aspects of sustainability. By contrast, the values mentioned above are the core pillars of Green Parties (capitalized).

In Asia, however, Green Parties have, for the most part, yet to make a significant (or even minor) impact on local politics, and the reasons for this are complex and diverse. Firstly, it comes from the nature of politics across the continent. Not only do parties campaign on strictly traditional bread and butter issues, political arrangements like coalitions, especially those with the sole aim of gaining power, pose a formidable challenge to Green Parties. If making inroads among voters proves difficult, Green Parties will find coalition arrangements unviable; with limited seats and clout, to realize green policies, the core promises of Green Parties could remain unfulfilled, effectively alienating a Green Party's voter base.

The reason for that limited voter headway comes from the nature of Asian society at this point in time. Asia's rapidly developing economies are typically export-based carbon-belchers- focusing on manufacturing and large scale agriculture (palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia). This, coupled with the ever-present Asian attitude of 'the Americans started global warming', makes governments refuse large investments in green technologies, for fear that it would hurt their economies. The rapid growth in the region has also fueled a rampant culture of pollution-producing materialism, as Asia's nouveau riche aim to spend on fast cars, luxury crocodile skin bags and shark's fin soup, besides not giving a damn about tommorrow.

Still, for a party with the ideals of the Greens, it can still garner widespread support, with a little charisma and creativity. Targeting the youth would be an integral first step, as social and environmental awareness- green is, after all, the new pink- is increasing among this age group. Not only that, pitching its' case to victims of environmental crises, like Haryana, India's pesticide-poisoned farmers, would boost the Greens, thanks also to its' clearly stated political ideology that trumps the anarchy element in some Asia opposition parties- think Malaysia's Pakatan Rakyat.

In conclusion, it's time for Asian visionaries to begin preaching a different gospel of government, one that is not just green, but pure of heart as well. The whole of Asia going Green might just be what eco-crusaders need, but the challenges that kill other political dreams- corruption, cronyism, infighting- must be well negotiated too. Tread with caution, Greens.

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