The Green Party movement is rooted in sustainable environmental democracy, which derives historically from the early confederacy of five Native-American nations in New York state called the Iroquois Confederacy. The confederacy was matriarchal, cooperative, tribal, and regionally based. As Donella and Dennis Meadows note in their book Beyond the Limits (1993), the concepts of environmental stewardship and intergenerational sustainability originated in the confederacy. American revolutionaries Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin incorporated these Iroquoian concepts into their politics. In the last forty years, the democratic model has evolved into the bioregionalist or "green" model of integrative commons governance . This political approach is equally based on electoral consensus , environmental economics, and public welfare.
Green Party policy focuses on watershed patterns of resource use and control. Large-scale watersheds, or "bioregions," cross many jurisdictions, for example the Mississippi and Amazon Basins, the Arctic Circle, and war-torn regions. Ultimately, Green Party members, or "Greens," envision an integrated global commons congress, a "United Bioregions of Earth." Greens organize against environmental risks from nuclear power and rain-forest destruction to chemical-biological-nuclear warfare, and social risks from military oppression to the enslavement of women and children. Greens organize for human health as well as preservation of biological capital .
Primary Green movement source materials are all the nongovernmental organization (NGO) treaties finalized at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Green caucus of 30,000 people ratified many comprehensive agreements concerning diverse threats to sustainable society, and developed an entirely new language of public policy discourse. These treaties are of two categories: biological (deforestation, desertification, loss of biological diversity) and social (indigenous rights, militarism, and transnational corporations, or TNCs). The Green Party believes that the TNC global agenda targets all major environmental and community self-determination laws for elimination. These are contested as "nontariff trade barriers" under World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty obligations. Meanwhile, massive, internationally organized street protests against the WTO continued episodically.
Shortly after the 1992 Earth Summit, the number of countries with active Green Parties doubled from thirty-five to approximately seventy. The "European Green Parliament" is well established, and a Green/Social Democrat coalition governs Germany. Green infrastructure in the Americas is strongest in British Columbia. The United States lags far behind Europe: Only parliamentary political systems effectively admit Green proposals.
Operational principles, models, and priorities for the Greens in the United States were developed by Ralph Nader and his associates in the 1970s and 1980s. Nader cowrote the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and as the Green candidate in 1996, he opposed WTO supporters President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential elections. Nader's work derives from a 1963 Senate subcommittee testimony given by Rachel Carson, who pointed out that, regarding watershed toxicity, communities had both the "right to know" and the "right to protection" by government, thus establishing the first conceptual bridge between environmental law and human rights law.
see also Earth Summit; LaDuke, Winona; Nader, Ralph.
ehrlich, paul, and ehrlich, anne. (1992). healing the planet: strategies for resolving the environmental crisis. boston: addison-wesley.
johnson, huey, and brower, david. (1997). green plans: greenprint for sustainability. lincoln: university of nebraska press.
korten, david. (1995). when corporations rule the world. bloomfield, ct: kumarian press.
meadows, donella, and meadows, dennis. (1993). beyond the limits: confronting global collapse, envisioning a sustainable future. white river junction, vt: chelsea green.
sen, amartya. (2000). development as freedom. new york: anchor books.
shiva, vandana. (2002). water wars: privatization, pollution and profit. cambridge, ma: south end press.
steingraber, sandra. (1997). living downstream: an ecologist looks at cancer. boston: addison-wesley.
thomas, janet. (2000). the battle in seattle: the story behind and beyond the wto demonstrations. golden, co: fulcrum.
green parties world wide web site. available from http://www.greens.org.
The Green Party blossomed as an outgrowth of the environmental and conservation movement of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1970, Charles Reich published The Greening of America, a popular extended essay that effectively inserted environmentalism into politics. Reich, along with anarchist Murray Bookchin, helped inspire a worldwide environmental movement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, environmental activists, calling themselves Greens, began to work within the political system to advance environmental causes around the globe.
The Green party first achieved electoral success in Germany in the early 1980s. German Green party candidates were elected to public office on platforms that stressed four basic values: ecology, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence. In the mid-1990s, the Green party was established in over 50 countries, and Green party politicians held seats in approximately nine European parliaments.
In the United States, Greens originally were reluctant to move into electoral politics. Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, they teamed with military and nuclear power protesters to promote their agendas from outside the formal political system. In 1984, the Greens began to discuss the organization of a political party and, in 1985, the organization fielded its first candidates for elective office in North Carolina and Connecticut. The U.S. Greens became known as the Association of State Green Parties.
In 1996, in response to the need for a national Green presence, the organization's name changed to the Green party of the United States. The U.S. Green party also expanded the European platform to forge its own identity. According to its Website, the party offers a proactive approach to government based on ten key values: ecological wisdom; grassroots democracy; social justice and equal opportunity; nonviolence; decentralization; small-scale, community-based economics and economic justice; feminism and gender equity; respect for diversity; personal and global responsibility; and future focus and sustainability. Each state and local chapter of the party adapts these goals to fit its needs.
The Green party of the United States also extended its reach in the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 1996, the party fielded candidates in 17 states and in the District of Columbia. It increased its national profile the same year by nominating ralph nader as its candidate for president. Nader accepted the nomination, but stipulated that he would not become a member of the Green party and that he did not feel
obliged to follow faithfully its political platform. Nader ran a no-frills campaign, eschewing advertising and usually traveling alone to speak at various locales. He accepted no taxpayer money and spent approximately $5,000 on the campaign. With political activist Winona LaDuke as his running mate, Nader appeared on the ballot in 21 states and in the District of Columbia. The ticket also received write-in votes in all but five states. Nader and LaDuke lost to the Democratic incumbents, President bill clinton and Vice President al gore.
Nader and LaDuke ran again in the 2000 presidential election, again on the Green party platform. Nader raised more than $8 million for the campaign, about $30 million less than reform party candidate pat buchanan. Nader received the third highest number of votes with 2,882,955, representing 2.74 percent of the total vote. By comparison, Buchanan received a total of 448,895.
On the local level, the Green party has realized electoral success. For example, in 1996, Arcata, California, became the first town in the United States to be controlled by the Green party when Green party candidates won three of the five seats on the city council. And during the 2000 elections, the Green party entered 284 candidates in 35 states. Forty-eight of these candidates won their elections, mostly for local offices. The number grew to 552 candidates in 40 states by 2002. Seventy-four of these candidates successfully ran for office.
Burchell, John. 2002. The Evolution of Green Politics. London: Earthscan Publications.
Green Party of the United States. Available online at <www.greenpartyus.org> (accessed July 22, 2003).
Herrnson, Paul S., and John C. Green, eds. 1998. Multiparty Politics in America. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.
Richard A. Smith