Supporters of Green politics, called Greens, share many ideas with the ecology, conservation, environmental, feminist, and peace movements. In addition to democracy and ecological issues, green politics is concerned with civil liberties, social justice and nonviolence.
Unease about adverse consequences of human actions on nature predates the modern concept of “environmentalism.” Social commentators as far apart as ancient Rome and China complained of air, water and noise pollution.
The philosophical roots of environmentalism can be traced back to enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau in France and, later, the author and naturalist Thoreau in America. Organised environmentalism began in late 19th Century Europe and the United States as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution with its emphasis on unbridled economic expansion.
The problematic history of “eco-fascism” has been extensively analysed in Germany, where the modern Green Party first became established as an important political force. And there can be many superficial similarities between policies of Green parties and those of neo-fascist parties.
Green platforms draw terminology from the science of ecology, and policy from environmentalism, deep ecology, feminism, pacifism, anarchism, libertarian socialism, social democracy, eco-socialism, and social ecology. In the 1970s, as these movements grew in influence, green politics arose as a new philosophy which synthesized their goals.
In March of 1972 the world's first green party, the United Tasmania Group, was formed at a public meeting in Hobart, Australia. In May 1972, a meeting at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, launched the Values Party, the world's first countrywide green party to contest Parliamentary seats nationally. A year later in 1973, Europe's first green party, the UK's Ecology Party, came into existence.
The German Green Party was not the first Green Party in Europe to have members elected nationally but the impression was created that they had been, because they attracted the most media attention: ~ The German Greens, contended in their first national election in 1980. The German Greens started as a provisional coalition of civic groups and political campaigns which, together, felt their interests were not expressed by the conventional parties. After contesting the 1979 Euro elections they held a conference which identified Four Pillars of the Green Party which all groups in the original alliance could agree as the basis of a common Party platform: welding these groups together as a single Party. This statement of principles has since been utilised by many Green Parties around the world. It was this party that first coined the term "Green" ("Grün" in German) and adopted the sunflower symbol. In the 1983 federal election, the Greens won 27 seats in the Bundestag.
The first Canadian foray into green politics took place in the Maritimes when 11 independent candidates (including one in Montreal and one in Toronto) ran in the 1980 federal election under the banner of the Small Party. (Current Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May was the instigator and one of the candidates). Inspired by Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, the Small Party candidates ran for the expressed purpose of putting forward an anti-nuclear platform in that election. It was not registered as an official party, but some participants in that effort went on to form the Green Party of Canada in 1983 (the Ontario Greens and British Columbia Greens were also formed that year).
In Finland, in 1995, the Green League became the first European Green party to form part of a state-level Cabinet. The German Greens followed, forming a government with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (the "Red-Green Alliance") from 1998 to 2005. In 2001, they reached an agreement to end reliance on nuclear power in Germany, and agreed to remain in coalition and support the German government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the 2001 Afghan War. This put them at odds with many Greens worldwide but demonstrated also that they were capable of difficult political tradeoffs.
Global Green networking dates back to 1990. Following the Planetary Meeting of Greens in Rio de Janeiro, a Global Green Steering Committee was created, consisting of two seats for each continent. In 1993 this Global Steering Committee met in Mexico City and authorized the creation of a Global Green Network including a Global Green Calendar, Global Green Bulletin, and Global Green Directory. The Directory was issued in several editions in the next years. In 1996, 69 Green Parties from around the world signed a common declaration opposing French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, the first statement of global greens on a current issue. A second statement was issued in December 1997, concerning the Kyoto climate change treaty.
At the 2001 Canberra Global Gathering delegates for Green Parties from 72 countries decided upon a Global Greens Charter which proposes six key principles. Over time, each Green Party can discuss this and organize itself to approve it, some by using it in the local press, some by translating it for their web site, some by incorporating it into their manifesto, some by incorporating it into their constitution. This process is taking place gradually, with online dialogue enabling parties to say where they are up to with this process.
The Gatherings also agree on organizational matters. The first Gathering voted unanimously to set up the Global Green Network (GGN). The GGN is composed of three representatives from each Green Party. A companion organization was set up by the same resolution: Global Green Coordination (GGC). This is composed of three representatives from each Federation (Africa, Europe, The Americas, Asia/Pacific, see below). Discussion of the planned organization took place in several Green Parties prior to the Canberra meeting. The GGC communicates chiefly by email. Any agreement by it has to be by unanimity of its members. It may identify possible global campaigns to propose to Green Parties world wide. The GGC may endorse statements by individual Green Parties. For example, it endorsed a statement by the US Green Party on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Thirdly, Global Green Gatherings are an opportunity for informal networking, from which joint campaigning may arise. For example, a campaign to protect the New Caledonian coral reef, by getting it nominated for World Heritage Status: a joint campaign by the New Caledonia Green Party, New Caldonian indigenous leaders, the French Green Party, and the Australian Greens. Another example concerns Ingrid Betancourt, the leader of the Green Party in Colombia, the Green Oxygen Party (Partido Verde Oxigeno). Ingrid Betancourt and the party's Campaign Manager, Claire Rojas, were kidnapped by a hard-line faction of FARC on 7 March 2002, while travelling in FARC-controlled territory. Betancourt had spoken at the Canberra Gathering, making many friends. As a result, Green Parties all over the world have organized, pressing their governments to bring pressure to bear. For example, Green Parties in African countries, Austria, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, France, Scotland, Sweden and other countries have launched campaigns calling for Betancourt's release. Bob Brown, the leader of the Australian Greens, went to Colombia, as did an envoy from the European Federation, Alain Lipietz, who issued a report.The four Federations of Green Parties issued a message to FARC. Ingrid Betancourt was rescued by the Colombian military in Operation_Jaque in 2008. However, the efforts of the Green Parties shows their potential to unite and campaign jointly.
The European Federation of Green Parties formed itself as the European Green Party on 22 February 2004, in the run-up to European Parliament elections in June 2004, a further step in trans-national integration.
Therefore, adherents to green politics advocate economic policies designed to safeguard the environment. Greens want governments to stop subsidizing companies that waste resources or pollute the natural world, subsidies that Greens refer to as "dirty subsidies". Some currents of green politics place automobile and agribusiness subsidies in this category, as they may harm human health. On the contrary, Greens look to a green tax shift that will encourage both producers and consumers to make ecologically friendly choices.
Green economics is on the whole anti-globalist. Economic globalization is considered a threat to well-being, which will replace natural environments and local cultures with a single trade economy, termed the global economic monoculture.
Since green economics emphasizes biospheric health, an issue outside the traditional left-right spectrum, different currents within green politics incorporate ideas from socialism and capitalism. Greens on the Left are often identified as Eco-socialists, who merge ecology and environmentalism with socialism and Marxism and blame the capitalist system for environmental degradation, social injustice, inequality and conflict. Eco-capitalists, on the other hand, believe that the free market system, with some modification, is capable of addressing ecological problems.
Green politics also encourages political action on the individual level, such as ethical consumerism, or buying things that are made according to environmentally ethical standards. Indeed, many green parties emphasize individual and grassroots action at the local and regional levels over electoral politics. Historically, green parties have grown at the local level, gradually gaining influence and spreading to regional or provincial politics, only entering the national arena when there is a strong network of local support.
In addition, many Greens believe that governments should not levy taxes against strictly local production and trade. Some Greens advocate new ways of organizing authority to increase local control, including urban secession and bioregional democracy.
Green politics on the whole is opposed to nuclear power and the buildup of persistent organic pollutants, supporting adherence to the precautionary principle, by which technologies are rejected unless they can be proven to not cause significant harm to the health of living things or the biosphere. In Germany and Sweden programs have been initiated to shut down all nuclear plants (known as nuclear power phase-out).
In the spirit of nonviolence, Green politics opposes the War on Terrorism and the curtailment of civil rights, focusing instead on nurturing deliberative democracy in war-torn regions and the construction of a civil society with an increased role for women.
Although Greens in the United States "call for an end to the 'War on Drugs'" and "for decriminalization of victimless crimes", they also call for developing "a firm approach to law enforcement that directly addresses violent crime, including trafficking in hard drugs .
Green platforms generally favor tariffs on fossil fuels, restricting genetically modified organisms, and protections for ecoregions or communities. In keeping with their commitment to the preservation of diversity, greens are often committed to the maintenance and protection of indigenous communities, languages, and traditions. An example of this is the Irish Green Party's commitment to the preservation of the Irish Language.
Greens on the Left adhere to Eco-socialism, an ideology that combines ecology, environmentalism, socialism and Marxism to criticise the capitalist system as the cause of ecological crises, social exclusion, inequality and conflict. Many Green Parties are not avowedly eco-socialist but most Green Parties around the world have or have had a large Eco-socialist membership. This has led some on the right to refer to Greens as "watermelons" green on the outside, red in the middle.
Despite this stereotype, some centrist Greens follow more geo-libertarian views which emphasize natural capitalism and shifting taxes away from value created by labor or service and charging instead for human consumption of the wealth created by the natural world. Greens may view the processes by which living beings compete for mates, homes, and food, ecology, and the cognitive and political sciences very differently. These differences tend to drive debate on ethics, formation of policy, and the public resolution of these differences in leadership races. There is no single Green Ethic.
Skeptics point out that industrial nations are in the best position to adopt state-of-the-art clean energy and corresponding high pollution standards and that Green Parties advocate going against economic progress. However, Greens respond that industrial nations are still those which use the most resources, and contribute most to climate change, and that as the poor world develops, we must help it develop with renewable rather than finite/carbon-based energy sources.
A further criticism is that Green parties are strongest among the well educated in the developed world, while many policies could be seen as operating against the interests of the poor both in rich countries and globally. For example, some Greens support increases in the indirect taxation of goods ("ecotax") which they perceive to be polluting. This can result in the less well off paying a higher share of the tax burden because more of their income goes to purchasing essentials. Green defenders of the shift towards ecotaxes respond that the poor are often the first and greatest victims of environmental degradation and do not have the resources to adapt or move away. Protecting ecosystems therefore protects the poor even more than the rich who can better adapt or move. Furthermore, equity positive tax or refund adjustments can be made to the progressive income tax system to compensate for any socially regressive consequences of the green tax shift.
Globally, Green opposition to heavy industry is seen by critics as acting against the interests of rapidly industrialising poor countries such as China or Thailand. A counter view is that emerging nations from the South would benefit environmentally and economically given the rising cost of fossil fuels by leap-frogging the fossil-driven industrial stage and moving directly to the post-fossil powered stage of production.
Green participation in the anti-globalisation movement, and the leading role taken by Green parties in countries such as the United States in opposing free trade agreements, also leads critics to argue that Greens are against opening up rich country markets to goods from the developing world, although many Greens would argue that they are in favour of trade justice - Fair trade over Free Trade. Contrary to the above view, Greens in Europe advocate the lowering of trade barriers and argue for the elimination of export subsidies for agricultural products in the industralised nations.
Critics argue that Greens have a Luddite view of technology, opposing technologies such as genetic modification which their critics see as positive. Greens have often taken the lead in raising concerns about public health issues such as obesity which critics see as a modern form of moral panic. Whereas a technophobic point of view can be found in the early Green movement and parties, Greens today reject the accusation of Luddism, countering that their policies of sustainable growth encourage 'clean' technological innovation like renewable energy and anti-pollution technology.