Erratum

The last issue of Green World featured a letter 'No hot air, please', which was wrongly attributed to John R. Batts of Banbury. The letter was sent by Richard Vernon of Oxford. We apologise for this error, which was rectified when the letters were published on the Green World website.

A balanced view


Dear editor
Your article on the gender rules for the leader and deputy leader raised some interesting issues. As many readers will know, our current rule that the posts need to be occupied by one man and one woman meant that, because Natalie Bennett was elected leader, the female deputy leader candidates had to have their votes discounted and they were removed from the contest. This seems a grossly unfair thing to happen to them: they made a big effort in the elections and then they were denied a chance to win because of the result in an election in which they did not compete!

Unfortunately, the solution favoured by some in the article - that at least one of the leader and deputy leader posts should be women - could potentially mean the same thing happening to male deputy leader candidates; if a male won the leader vote then male deputy leader candidates would be eliminated without their votes being counted. However, the other possible change mentioned in the article, that there should be two deputy leaders and that these should be a man and a woman, would not lead to any artificial elimination of candidates.

For the above reasons, and because I don't think it is a good idea to have a system that favours one gender more than the other, I like the idea of two deputy leaders: one man and one woman.

Cllr Jon Barry, Lancaster

Divisive policy

Dear editor,
I was dismayed to read in Green World Autumn 2012 that, out of 54 attendees at the Women by Name session at Conference in Bristol, whereas 44 thought we should change the rules to state "at least one woman should be in the Leader and Deputy Leader roles", and 7 thought we should keep the rules as they currently stand, only 3 people thought we should have no gender rules at all.
Personally, had I been a candidate, I would have felt patronised to think I might be elected because I was a woman rather than on my perceived ability to do the job well.

Moreover, why stop at distinguishing between men and women? Should the rules not also state that at least one of the holders of the 2 top officer posts should be a non-Christian as opposed to a Christian, a non-white as opposed to a white, or a disabled person as opposed to an able-bodied person? The list could be endless.

This sort of policy only serves to perpetuate divisions in society. The Green Party would do better to concentrate on emphasising that we are all human beings on this planet, and need to put maximum energy into protecting it for the benefit of all that live on it now and in the future, rather than get bogged down by issues like this.

Janet Cuff, Stockport

Let the people decide

The result of the leadership election has once again raised the issue of how we truly reflect the makeup of our nation within our party.

In the last issue of Green World Sarah Cope floated the idea of replacing the rules that require the Green Party leadership to be gender balanced with new ones that would mean that at least one of the leader and deputy be a woman.

That sounds eminently reasonable until you start to look at the idea more closely.
Instead of enshrining non-discrimination into our constitution we instead institutionalise discrimination on gender grounds. If a woman were to win the leadership women candidates would be counted in the race for deputy but if a man were chosen for the leader's role male deputy candidates would be barred.

This is not simple affirmative action to ensure that women are properly represented. It treats men fundamentally differently, and that is discriminatory. Not only do we hand our political opponents useful ammunition to hurl at us but it also doesn't solve the problem we need to address.

Had all four candidates for the 2012 deputy leadership contest had their votes counted in the contest Caroline Allen would have won with Alex Philips second, both very comfortably ahead of Will Duckworth who was effectively (but in very many ways fortuitously) picked for the role by default. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge this, but it is the plain truth. If we are unwilling to face up to it, and confused about how to defend it in public, then that clearly shows just how problematic our current rules are.

If we had had no gender rules then Green Party members, of their own free will, with no coercion, would have picked a female leader and deputy. It was extraordinary enough that we became the first British party to pass the leadership from one woman to another, but it would have been even more so had we had a one-two female leadership ticket. By our own free will, people! No gender engineering required. Instead well meaning rules robbed us of that result and new well meaning rules would steal much of the power from a decision that, given free choice, we would otherwise make anyway because I believe that Greens naturally lean towards good female candidates. Everything about the way votes were cast in the latest leadership contest supports that thought. Our fundamental values, for want of a better way of expressing it, are deeply female.

What is more, when I look around the Green party I see a reservoir of talented women coming through the party. I struggle to see as many promising men. I'd suggest that we simply scrap gender balance rules for the leadership and let the members speak. If we cannot trust them then we have a far deeper problem than we can address through discriminatory rules - but as I have said I simply don't believe that is the case. Other Parties might still need positive discrimination for women in leadership roles. In the Green Party, we don't.

But there is a problem, as Sarah rightly points out, of getting more women candidates to stand in local and national elections.

To that end a positive campaign to encourage and recruit women would be an excellent idea, as would it be to provide both mentoring and support. Here in the Sussex Weald we have roughly equal numbers of men and women activists but the women are much stronger characters; I can, more or less, strong-arm the men into standing in local elections. The women just say no. Anything compatible with their human rights that might change that to a yes would be a great step forward.

But before we let ourselves stop at promoting women within the party might we not also extend any recruitment, mentoring and support programme to other groups?

We do have a complement of LBGTIQ activists, disabled members and Greens of South Asian heritage, though it would be good to encourage even more to take an active role. However people of African heritage are all but invisible within the party, while British East Asians (British Chinese/Japanese/Koreans/Thais/Vietnamese/Malay or Indonesians) are virtually absent from British public life altogether. Gok Wan, of himself, does not constitute proper representation. Let us do something about that.

So, lest there be any misunderstanding, I would be thrilled if the party which I first joined some twenty-five years ago picked women as both leader and deputy but I'd be all the more thrilled if we did so purely democratically. We can do that. We will do that. And in doing so we will demonstrate that change can come from within and not because it's imposed.

Jonathan Kent, Rother

Rational beliefs

Dear editor,
Andy Chyba's article (GW 78) on Creationism and Education was interesting but, for me, confusing. He began by suggesting that GP policy is founded on, "good science and rational thinking". He claimed that Creationism is a "patently ridiculous notion".

The test used to assert that Creationism is "ridiculous, harmful and dangerous" is the application of "the minds of rational human beings".

Andy then clearly differentiates Creationism from the "Christian viewpoint". This is problematic; surely the beliefs and doctrines of "mainstream Christianity" also fail the "rational mind" test.

There is obviously no problem in a free society with belief in the existence of "supernatural beings". But this belief is the product of faith, rather than the exercise of reason.

Andy praises Richard Dawkins in aid of his argument, but at the BBC's recent Rethink Conference Dawkins did not accept any bifurcation between Creationism and "mainstream Christianity". He said he had recently met an Anglican Bishop who actually believed that Christ had turned water into wine. Dawkins obviously thought that this as daft as believing that the universe is six-thousand years old.
As far as I understand the subject, the Abrahamic religions base their beliefs upon the word of holy books and revelation and not the use of reason. In any case Education Policy, ED176, prohibits all "religious organisations" from, "running" all "publicly funded schools". It is therefore unclear why Andy, in terms of GP policy, is trying to differentiate between "mainstream Christianity" and Creationism. GP policy would, as I understand it, prevent both groups from running public schools.

As a secularist and atheist, I support the complete removal of all religious (and all other political/ideological) organisations from all schools.

Peter Ward, Woodbridge

We don't need feminism
[An open letter to Natalie Bennett]

Dear Natalie,
It's good to read in Green World, Autumn 2012, that you are an egalitarian. Unless we in relatively prosperous countries accept the need to live simply and be generous, we cannot expect people in poor countries to accept the need to cut growth in population and consumption of natural resources.

Egalitarian transcends sexualist - be it feminist or macho man. Sad to say, macho man provokes feminist, but the converse is also true. If we accept the need to live simply in order that others may simply live, the material competition between the sexes comes to an end.

That leaves the role modelling. People need roles. In good relationships we alternate easily between parenting and "childing" and we bring out the best in each other as we do so. Egalitarians of either sex only need to domineer intermittently and they take their sense of humour to it.

If you accept this, it has implications for the way the Green Party is run.

We should be oblivious to the gender of our leaders and deputy leaders.

We should minimise hierarchy. Appointments should be for short, defined terms of office.

As many functions as possible should be performed on a rota of those accepted as having the competence to fill the role. We may need an institution to tutor and approve and monitor Green Party members who aspire to fill the roles.

Alick Munro, Richmond upon Thames

Narrow views

Dear editor,
I refer to the article in the Autumn 2012 Green World by Andy Chyba entitled The Thin End of the Wedge (evolution v creationism).

Whereas I agree with much of the detail of the article, I strongly disagree with the premise that it is based upon. A political party, such as the Green Party, has of course to remain secular and not get involved in religious or spiritual controversy. That does not mean, however, that everyone in the Green movement is a 'scientific rationalist' i.e. atheist. Many people I have spoken to in the green movement do hold some form of spiritual belief, albeit usually of an 'alternative' New Age spirituality rather than mainstream religion. Some of these follow mystical or esoteric schools such as theosophy, anthroposophy, or Rosicrucianism. There is an increasing tendency to see a spiritual dimension in our planet; even that Gaia has a consciousness (read the last two years' editions of Resurgence).
I agree with the (updated) evolutionary theories of Darwin, but these only explain one side of life. Spiritual Man has followed a different evolutionary path than physical Man, although the two do merge in a symbiotic way.

I cannot think of anyone who is more unscientific in their approach to the mysteries of life than Professor Richard Dawkins, who displays narrow-minded bigotry.

Roy Snelling, Bishops Lydeard

Nihilistic theories

Dear editor,
Andy Chyba's characterisation of evolutionary theory ['The Thin End of the Wedge', GW78] as true and his implied attacks on metaphysical insights as absurd are misleading.

The late E. F. Schumacher, one of the green movement's early leading lights, notes in his profound book, A Guide for the Perplexed that the "...inability of twentieth century thought to rid itself of this imposture (evolutionary dogma) is a failure that may cause the collapse of Western civilisation," and that "descriptive science becomes unscientific and illegitimate when it indulges in comprehensive explanatory theories which can be neither verified nor falsified by experiment. Such theories are not 'science' but 'faith'." Theories that Andy Chyba described as fact.

Evolutionary theory must be one of the most nihilistic ideas ever to arise. It inescapably tends to the eradication of meaning and purpose by making chance and chaos the origin of life and its levels of being. It attempts to reduce the inner person to a complex implacable chemical/electro function with no more inner life or volition than a computer program with no qualitative dimension that cannot be somehow quantified. To attempt to reduce life to such reductive elements is monstrous and absurd and plain wrong when falsely presented in scientific terms that don't bear scrutiny.

I can understand many who balk at those who preach the literal meaning of the bible while often betraying its spirit, but to suggest replacing the most profound meanings of the world's great religions upon which some of the most enlightened individuals such as Tolstoy and Gandhi lived by, with what Schumacher described as a "kind of hoax" is not to be applauded.

As a contrast to Andy Chyba's suggested reading list I would add to Schumacher's work already alluded to, Richard Milton's The Facts of Life and James Le Fanu's Why Us?. Or if you want a concrete example of the understanding that comes from a Creator, or God, or Mother, or Father, of us all look into the words of some of the wisest societies who have walked the earth. I would suggest Black Elk Speaks, the story of Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Sioux, as told to John G. Neihardt.

Derek Robertson, Gateshead

Simplistic debate

Dear editor,
Andy Chyba's analysis of the creationism vs evolution debate ('The thin end of the wedge' GW79) is far too simplistic.

Until the middle of the twentieth century the standard scientific view, standard from at least from the time of Aristotle, was that the universe was timeless and that things were born and died within that timeless universe.

Georges Lemaitre's 'big bang' theory changed all that and now virtually all scientists agree that the universe is not timeless but had a starting point, something which Martin Rees, not a believer, acknowledges opens up the possibility of a creator.

Most creationists differ from secular scientists in denying that there was an evolutionary process but asserting that there was a creator.

But, for Christian evolutionists, the question that secular scientists need to answer, in the light of Ockham's razor, is why they reject the simplest explanation: that there was a creator, whoever she was.

There is also the question of what theory of evolution. Most of those who argue from an evolutionary perspective assume that Darwinism is the last word. But Margulis and Sagan have offered an alternative view of evolution (What is life?1995) based on more recent scientific discoveries which, in my humble opinion, is also much more in tune with Green principles than Darwin's.

Yes there needs to be a debate but polarising it around creationism ignores the much more enlightened debate that needs to go on about the implications, for believers and non-believers, of a universe that had a beginning and about whether Darwin's theory is really the one around which we should be building Green policies.


John R. Hudson, Calderdale

Capitalism not to blame

Dear editor,
I'm sure Sheila Malone is right ['The whole Earth' letters, GW78] that an important part of the solution for holding back population growth lies in giving women choice and certainly affordable contraception must be available if women are to act on their choices. But: it is unlikely to be the main factor governing the choice whether to have a child in the first place. Whilst that is undoubtedly true in the 'developed world' I doubt whether it features so prominently in the decisions women make in the so-called 'developing' world. To attribute this choice 'to have another baby' to the nefarious influence of capitalism is wide of the mark. The people in the countries where population growth is highest are not wanted by 'capitalism' either as producers or consumers. It is in societies with high infant mortality, in which your children are the only security you have in old age, that the choice is always likely to be to have another child - because you can't be sure the ones you already have will survive to look after you.

I've been examining World Health Organisation statistics and there seems to be a strong correlation between birth rate and the percentage of children dying between the ages of 6 months and 2 years - that 'window' when a woman might well decide whether or not to have another child (if she had a choice, that is). The chance of a newborn not making it past 2 years is consistently proportional to the chance of her having another.

In Niger, where access to sanitation was until recently less than 33%, the ratio of [childhood deaths - number, not percentage - per 1000 population in this 6 to 24 month 'window'] to [birth rate per 1000 population per annum] was 120 : 54. The corresponding figures for Mozambique were 67 : 39, India 23 : 24, Mexico 1·5 : 24 and Japan 0·5 : 8.

I'm sure this has been demonstrated rigorously elsewhere: that the key factors inhibiting exponential growth rates in population are access to clean water, good sanitation, childhood disease eradication (so that if you have a baby you can be confident it will survive into adulthood) on the one hand, and good community provision for the elderly (so that you aren't going to be totally dependent on your children) on the other.

However, I would also expect rapid population expansion in countries that are increasingly providing these things but where rural cultural expectations of birthrate are proving slower to catch up with improving conditions. Niger has one of the highest population growth rates at 3·6% per annum but in the last few years has made enormous strides in health security such that infant mortality is dropping and average life expectancy is now 57 (compared with Mozambique at 39). So in the first couple of decades, tackling the causes of dangerous population increase might make matters worse, until people generally have sufficient confidence in their children's prospects that prevailing culture adapts to the new conditions (as it has in the developed world, where population is decreasing).

Cllr Dick Wolff, Oxford

Missing data

Dear editor,
John Batts ['No hot air, please', Richard Vernon, letters GW78] recommends David MacKay's Sustainable energy without the hot air. By all means read it - but with a critical eye.

I've heard Prof. MacKay present his thesis, the core of which is that he calculates that we use c.195 kWh per day and person, and argues that renewables can't supply all of that, therefore we need nuclear. There is, however, a tiny flaw: his 195 kWh/day include, as a major component, the energy cost of long haul flights...he simply converts every element into kWh.

Unless Prof. MacKay has invented a nuclear powered aircraft, his argument regarding energy sources and claimed inadequacy of renewables is spurious.

Steve Plater (PhD in solar PV), Sevenoaks

Police effects

On the very first comments I heard this morning about Keith Vaz's ideas for the police, it seems good to me. I just wonder if this is the time to put pressure on the police to make joining secret groups like the Masons illegal? I wonder how much effect this group have on policing. It will always be of concern.
I wonder why the police make using a bicycle so difficult for our MPs?

Barbara Mark, Herefordshire
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