Dan Boyle: Easier Being Green


From top, left to right: Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin TD, Finance Spokesperson Neasa Hourigan and Leader  Eamon Ryan TD launching the party’s pre-Budget 2020  submission in the Irish Georgian Society, Dublin last week; Dan Boyle

It has been ever thus. For thirty years I have listened to commentary that there isn’t any need for The Greens to exist, as other political parties have always been prepared to steal our ‘clothes’.

The problem with this often facile type of analysis is that it disregards the indifference, and more often contempt, the wider political system has displayed towards environmental issues during that period.

Sure pieces of clothing have been stolen, but the scale of environmental crises has sadly seen the Green wardrobe increase disproportionately.

And those stolen items have often been worn quite badly. Sometimes inside out. Sometimes back to front.

Much the same with the lack of depth in those clothes stealers having any real understanding of the crises we face.

Buzzwords get seized upon by those who want to don green apparel. Such terms get repeated ad nauseum to convey the impression of understanding, because in politics it seems perception is far more important than action.

Early in the lifetime of the Green Party in Ireland, a debate occurred on whether it should become a political party, or not. Far better, it was argued by some, to be a campaigning group seeking to ‘green’ political parties from outside the political system.

The political party argument won out for a number reasons. One fairly obvious factor was the prior existence of campaigning organisations.

A more persuading reason was a prevailing belief that the political system, with existing political parties, were beyond persuasion and had to be challenged.

Any movement needs to weave several threads together – the political, the educational and the campaigning. The past ebbing and flowing of Green support can partially be put down to these threads never pulling together strongly at the same time.

That isn’t the case now. Against that it may be the case we are now living in a period of peak environmentalism. If we are then we so badly need to make that count.

Pennies are beginning to drop, when pounds/dollars/euro need to. Public goodwill is at its most disposed towards taking necessary environmental action.

The political debate has been won to a certain extent. We continue to have a problem. The ability/willingness to address that problem has become a problem in itself.

A business as usual approach is incompatible with addressing our environmental crises. Saying the right thing, and being more concerned with the superficial, when not accompanied with appropriate action, makes those politicians, who choose this approach, to be very much part of the problem.

The climate deniers will always be with us. Far more dangerous are contrarians, agnostic on the science, but possesed of some pathological distaste for Greens, who they identify or engage with in stereotypical terms.

Often they can’t even agree on the stereotype. Terms, always used perjoratively, like naive, effete, middle class, or when the context demands it ‘crusty’, interchange solely as means to undermine the existence of environmental problems or to avoid necessary policy choices.

In this era of fake news contrarians tend to, conveniently, ignore that addressing climate change can only occur while social and economic fairness is also pursued.

The other weapon of the contrarian is to exaggerate the emphermal and represent that as typical.

This I have come to categorise as Reverse Cry Wolf Syndrome.

Either the tide is turning or it is about to engulf us all. I’m really weary of it.

But, with others, I intend to keep trying to work to wear down the petulant sulks of those whose indifference, hypocrisy and outright denial, has brought us to where we are now.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Top pic: Rollingnews

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9 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Easier Being Green

  1. bisted

    …the stolen clothes analogy has already been used by politicos when Joe Higgins questioned Bertie Ahern’s claim to be a socialist…the analogy here is just as valid…to attempt to equate environmental issues with the greens in general and Dan in particular are just as comic…

  2. Hansel


    I thought you’d be telling us that Pascal’s small increase in the carbon charge is pitiful and that there’s been no effort to really encourage sustainable behavior by redirecting carbon and transport taxes into sustainable equivalents.

    The Greens have a lot of political capital and goodwill, but some party members insist on shooting themselves in the foot: People like Eamon Ryan say things like “people in remote villages should share cars” and “the M20 shouldn’t be built”. And it’s very easy to say these things when you’re in Dublin Bay South and every service in the state is at your fingertips, but apparently not easy to campaign for congestion charges and inner city SUV bans.

    So in this regard, some of the Green Party’s biggest problems are certainly “qu’ils mangent de la brioche”. The aspiration for remote villages could have been shared heat, power generation payments (like the UK), electric vehicles etc etc etc. Ryan pontificating about lifestyles of people in far-off areas is…. problematic.

  3. Clampers Outside

    Your griping is unfortunate Dan… I still do love your contributions here :)

    You raise a point about contrarians and fake news, that they “The other weapon of the contrarian is to exaggerate the ephemeral and represent that as typical.”
    Is this not that tactic of groups like Extinction Rebellion? To exaggerate, and declare imminent end of days.

    Take for example just a few points from the Andrew Neil clip posted earlier today on this site….

    – –

    97% of the people on the planet will be dead in a few decades… say Extinction Rebellion founders.

    – –

    Extinction Rebellion claimed…
    “billions will die”
    “millions of children will die”
    ….”in the next 10 to 20 years”

    – –

    Andrew Neil spoke with an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson about their scaremongering tactics that have left children crying at their protests because they think they’ll never see adulthood.

    – –

    Andrew Neil: “To reach your target aviation would come to an end”

    Extinction Rebellion spokesperson: “Possibly”.
    The spokesperson goes further on that.

    – –

    I’m sure you wouldn’t say Andrew Neil is being a contrarian for pointing out these ridiculous claims which “exaggerate the ephemeral”…. or would you? I’d hope not.

    – –

    These are claims that the spokesperson themselves have said are “scaremongering” and in the same breath, purports that they are backed by scientists. Andrew Neil stops short of saying “you’re just making stuff up”.

    – –

    That’s real and genuine fake news, right there. And it is not contrarian to point it out.

    I understand you are not responsible for these idiots in Extinction Rebellion, but you must admit, they do more damage than good with there nonsense, making your job harder to win over those with “indifference” to the issues.

    – –

    While I’m here… any opinion on next-gen nuclear? If Thorium plant tests prove workable, would you back them?

    I would.
    Thanks Dan,

    PS – if ye remove all the cars, I’ll be out of work… Boom- boom!
    I’ll get me coat.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Seeking idiots as being representative destroys them and ignores the wider issue. It is the same tactic marginalise rather than engage.
      No one is talking about removing cars. Using them less and differently certainly. And that will produce different jobs!

      1. GiggidyGoo

        Ryan was talking about that exactly. Removing cars from villages of two or three hundred inhabitants, and ‘letting’ them have 30 cars between them to share.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Don’t believe M3 was necessary. Just couldn’t do anything about it. I think a Cork Limerick direct rail link should be restored. I would favour a Limerick/Waterford motorway linking with the M8 at Cahir. Awful thing nuance isn’t it….

      1. Hansel

        Dan, you’re being ridiculous.

        A Limerick/Waterford motorway has very low justification. The AADT is not there. Of all motorways to be in favour of, this is a terrible idea.

        M20 demand is not primarily end to end.
        Cork-Limerick traffic being routed through Dunkettle would be absurd.
        There would still be a high demand for upgrade of N20 in most parts, as AADT numbers are very high, and are made up of significant numbers of HGV’s.

        A Cork-Limerick direct rail link could be restored but it will not take the HGV’s off the current route because the rail tunnel in Cork isn’t big enough for the Euro containers, and North Esk has been commissioned.

        What you’re describing is a very very very bad idea. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

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