Green Libertarianism

By Dr Glen Barry

Humanity desperately needs different ecologically based spiritual and political systems to maximize the possibility of the Earth and humanity surviving the torrent of industrial pollutants emanating from humans breeding like bunnies. Dramatic social, political and spiritual change centered upon green principles will be required if humankind and our brother and sister species with whom we share the Earth are to have any prospect of a desirable and sustainable future.

These "Earth Meander" essays - meant to be read as a series - examine issues like war and religion in relation to environmental policy, because the old political and spiritual frameworks threaten our ability to give the global ecological crisis the attention, resources and focus it requires. As a political ecologist I am delving into ecological, political and spiritual responses adequate to save our species and our Earthly habitat.

Nothing is sacred but the Earth and truth. Current belief and political systems are inadequate to address converging climate, water and extinction crises. We need to draw upon the world's great but antiquated political and religious systems, as well as recent advances in ecological, evolutionary and other sciences, to develop new means to organize society and its demands upon natural capital. Our very existence depends upon this new human evolution.

There is nothing more fundamental than humanity's reliance upon the Earth, and nothing as valuable or fragile as liberty to rejoice in Gaia's bounteous opportunities. This essay is a call to worship the Earth and embrace an ecologically informed political vision of freedom, justice and sustainability.

Fundamentalist Paganism

I denounce christian, islamic and judaic fundamentalists because they blindly follow belief systems for another time and place, inadequate to address contemporary ecological disintegration. The endless feuding and warring between various blind faiths, that view the Earth as being disposable and humans as supreme, has caused much of the environmental damage and social problems that now threaten to destroy us all.

A modern, secular world depends upon a minimum level of acceptance of freedom, scientific truth, openness and diversity. In our eagerness to be tolerant and politically correct, we must not sanction militant fundamentalists of any stripe based upon unknowable faith and opaque books. Clearly the route to divinity and salvation for the Earth and her inhabitants was not pre-ordained by prophet's millennia ago. We know so much more now than they did then.

I began worshipping the Earth and her multitudes of Gods as I saw my first clearcut in Papua New Guinea's rainforests. Never have I seen something as obscene as mowing ancient rainforests to make cardboard boxes. The cry of the then homeless birds of paradise haunts me still to this day. I was devastated and have never really recovered from the mental anguish and substance abuse this caused. Here was evil incarnate. I came to realize that because God is truth in the Ghandian tradition, and Earth is truth in the ecological science perspective; then given transitivity, the Earth must be, and is, God.

I have been hard in these writings upon organized religion. But what could be more self-evident than our utter dependence upon mother Earth and father Sun? Is there anything more awesome and God like than the nurturing sun rays and water mixed with soil growing our every need while consuming our waste? Contemporary social and environmental ills are a result of alienation from the Gods to be found in mountains, trees, rivers and all species' life.

Pagans have been killed by all the major religions throughout history. With the loss of Earth based polytheism has also gone humanity's connection with the Earth, and recognition that we exist upon her whims. Where does your food come from? Where does your poop go? And what is the source of your drinking water? If you do not know you are spiritually and ecologically lost.

There are many habits found in the faithful that follow ancient prophets (but false messiahs) that are commendable. Worship of Gaia, and living for her and all the human family's well-being, needs to take the best of Islamic devotion, Christian love and Jewish ambition and meld them with ecological science. Let us bring forth a new Earth based faith that listens to many prophets while recognizing creation in all its wondrous biological, cultural and geographic beauty is the messiah.

Fundamentalism is dangerous when based upon unknowable faith. But we know beyond scientific doubt that ecosystems sustain our existence; and that healthy water, air, land and oceans free from industrial pollutants are required to live and continue our, and many other, species. To ignore the truthfulness of fundamentalist paganism - that the Earth is God - is to be superstitious and to follow false gods.

Green Libertarianism

As ecological systems begin to fail, inevitably there will be a dramatic human response to try to fix the global ecological system. An "Age of Ecological Restoration" will come, and the sooner the more likely it will be successful. Humanity achieving a state of just and equitable ecological sustainability will require a mix of the best of both the conservative and liberal political traditions.

Traditionally there have been very good reasons to be conservative - change your agriculture too much or radically and you starve, lose your morals and any number of tragedies can befall. But conservatism has been ill suited to make dramatic changes when they are needed. It has taken liberals to get equal rights for women, laborers their just wage, and to end slavery. And the state of the world's climate, water, oceans and land are going to require similar liberal change.

Nonetheless, the most clear, truthful thinking coming out of otherwise bereft political circles is being done by conservative libertarians that recognize that government cannot save us. Responses to terrorism, militarism, ecological collapse and human injustice that depend overly upon taxing workers and building government are repressive and will inevitably fail. Government is already too big and has no right to dictate how to live other than that we not undermine the potential for all to continue living in ecological sustainability, liberty and justice.

A prime libertarian failing has been an unwillingness to acknowledge that there are ecological truths that require enforced limits upon human activities to maintain ecosystems and thus life. To understand we would not dump nuclear waste in Lake Michigan is only different, in a matter of degree of ecological insight, from knowing all species have rights and should be maintained.

As a progressive, free thinker I am drawn to the liberal Green platform of grassroots democracy, social justice and ecological wisdom. Yet in my dealings with the Green political movement I have observed a small group of self-absorbed, marginalized, ineffective and often old hippies that are divorced from reality and human aspirations to be free. Their policies seem by many to be a return to communist policies that have largely failed. They have identified many of the problems and solutions, but not how they are to be sold and implemented.

Given the strengths and failures of Greens and Libertarians, I would suggest that it is only a synthesis between these traditions that holds the best chance of formulating a political philosophy adequate to maintain free thinking human civilizations and the natural world. There will be no existence without green policies, and no opportunity to enjoy its bounty without liberty.

Given that conservation is deeply conservative and liberty profoundly liberal, I call upon all independent and free thinkers to embrace a politics of Green Libertarianism.

In Closing

I have held an ambivalent yet keen interest in violence all my life. This means I have gone back and forth between extremes - excelling as an enlisted soldier, to considering being a conscientious objector; despising war, yet drawn to war movies; and have been both abused and an abuser. All while loving the Earth with every ounce of my being, even as I failed miserably to handle anger and depression over her and humanity's death.

If I were a young man again I would take the hills to wage war in defense of Gaia. Instead I am working on a novel called "Earth Revolution" (which may never be completed) imagining what must be done. And though I am generally leery of "isms", I would suggest Political Ecologism, Green Libertarianism and Fundamentalist Paganism are keys to a fulfilling and sustained future for the Earth and all her inhabitants. It is time for a political and spiritual agenda that harmonizes and updates the great traditions in these realms and is adequate to adjust to the dire conditions in which humanity and the Earth find themselves.