While the green wave and environmentalist culture are gradually becoming government practice and the very symbol of New Europe, in Italy it is still the case that we, the ecologists, are mere spectators looking on from the water’s edge. It’s not only that we don’t have the courage to try to ride the wave, but we don’t even dare to get our feet wet, held back by our awareness that we might not know how to swim. However, we have to try.
To date, we environmentalists have been the guests of other political cultures, which would always add us to the list of “important” things in their program, without ever recognizing that we had our own, autonomous and well-rounded form of political thought.
We don’t focus on the environment simply to protect nature (there are associations and organizations for that). Rather, we focus on the environment because we think it is a strategic key element for building an economic and social policy, in order to build a more just society for all and bridge inequalities. And we believe that the ecological point of view is by itself able to propose a recipe for governance, both on a local and on a global level.
Furthermore, this perspective could also give new life to the Left, which finds itself in a great crisis about its role and identity in our country. Think of the mayors of Barcelona and Madrid, Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena, who have decided to focus on the total energy independence of their cities, which is to be achieved by increasing energy savings and energy efficiency. Madrid has decided to change the electricity supply contracts for 1,300 sites belonging to the municipality, requiring that they only buy electricity produced from renewable sources.
Barcelona’s decision was even bolder: Colau’s city council has decided to create a public company, Barcelona Energia, which buys and sells renewable energy exclusively, and which will provide 3,908 public locations with clean energy. The objective is to free the city from all dependency on the energy industry oligopoly—accordingly, it was decided that the public company would buy and resell the extra energy produced by the solar panels installed by the city’s inhabitants (i.e. that which is in excess of what they consume for their own needs).
This is a great example of how environmental policies can become social policies, genuinely revolutionary in questioning the powers-that-be and the traditional management of common goods. This is why we environmentalists should have the courage to step forward and propose innovative perspectives in the management of natural resources and entire territories, affirming the innovative power of our vision: a new economy, new forms of participation, a new democracy. In this vision, citizens are no longer mere users/consumers, but conscious actors and grassroots producers, able to steer the direction of the market.
Yet, despite all this promise, over the past years we, the Italian ecologists, have been nothing more than a vowel in an acronym, the color of a letter in a political alliance’s symbol, a tacked-on afterthought, an ever-smaller interest group within a secondary coalition, and—indeed—one star out of five. Enough of that. The other political cultures will have to contend with our proposals and will have to understand that our fight against climate change is more relevant to the fight against inequality, to new jobs, to the safety of citizens, to the right to healthcare, to the state of our country’s territories, and to industrial policy than any other political theory in existence today.
The environmentalist culture is one which necessarily looks toward the future and brings together the local environment—where communities actually live—and the global dimension, that of migration, geopolitics and pacifism.
But how can we explain to the leadership of our Italian Left—all-male and fully convinced of their absolute rightness—that focusing, say, on the issue of the health of the bees means talking about agriculture, industrial innovation, community identity, the local economy and security for individuals? If we don’t gather up the courage to stop our wanderings in search of an external, temporary political home, if we don’t show the strength to affirm the solidity and strength of our own political vision, we ecologists are condemned to remain stateless, and the European green wave will break fruitlessly against the intractable political backwardness of our country.
Rossella Muroni is a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies from the Liberi e Uguali party.
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