Green theory is a critical theory in International relations which is gaining its relevance very much in recent times as the world couldn’t help itself in fostering climate change and in controlling global warming.
Green theory came into existence in the time of the late 20th century world where there was an increased need for addressing environmental issues. During the 1970s, environmentalism became a dominant concern in the society where people started to argue on the solutions to fight pollution.
The USA introduced NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and Clean Air Act which was one of the huge movements that brought awareness to include environmental problems as a major concern in the society. Before that, environmentalism and pollution control was overlooked by the majority of countries. Since then, there has always been a wide scope for green theory in this industrialized modern world; as pollution is increasing, the responsibility for controlling it is also increasing.
When ideologies such as liberalism and realism failed to save the environmental aspect of society, there came a need for a different way of thinking which led to the emergence of Green theory. Green theory discussed the green aspect in political, economic and social life.
Concepts of Green Theory
Green theory, green politics, green economy and green security are very similar concepts which are also intermingled in general. This Greens ideology doesn’t only focus on saving the environment but also aims in achieving ecological sustainability in three main areas: Environmentalism, social liberalism and democracy. The aspects of the political world are analyzed through a green perspective.
Green theory in international relations is known as green political theory – an ecological political theory that doesn’t come under environmentalism. The concept of Green political theory is often misunderstood with environmentalism. Green political thinkers are called Greens and environmentalism thinkers are called environmentalists. In a common view, one can find that environmentalism is often science based and green politics is the social perspective.
Green theory in IR focuses on climate justice, global justice, modern development and security. As the world faces many transnational environmental – related problems, there came a compulsive requirement for Green Theory in international relations
Understanding Green Political theory
The main difference between environmentalism and green political theory is that :-
Environmentalism focuses on issues such as acid rain, global warming, need for growing trees and on saving the environment within the man-made structure which is Anthropocentrism – human-centered perspective of the world. Whereas green political theory focuses on the same but in a social aspect between human and nature, arguing that the man-made structure itself is responsible for the destruction and considers human as a part of nature, which is ecocentrism – nature centered perspective of the world.
Environmentalists believe that humans should bring change in the world by taking certain measures to reduce pollution. Hence they depend on governments, institutions and international organizations, trying to bring stability within the existing structure of the world where they rely on the concept of sustainable development.
On the contrary, Greens believe that the world has already reached the limits of development and sustainable development will only make the condition worse, as there is no more possibility for it.
Greens do not depend on humans to bring a change, instead argue that the whole structure which is responsible for this condition should be changed. Thus Green political theory critically examines and attacks the current world structures that are responsible for the situation and suggests that the idea of sustainable development even makes it worse when there is an immediate need for a complete shift.
Understanding the reality through green theory
The nations are self-centered and while they thrive for meeting their self-interests, balance of power, and security, global change is not a possibility. Combined contributions and effective steps are not possible when countries seek only mutual benefits and struggle with insecurities. No nation can trust and rely on any nation. It can be seen that Industrialization is the core element that connects the structures which are responsible for global warming and pollution.
Considering the factors that environmentalists depend on:
The International organizations are not a sovereign entity. They are heavily funded by super powers and hence considered an agent or actor of those super powers, as they cannot voice against the countries which provide them to operate. So, the reality is that the powerful nations provide and help the developing nations in cutting their green gas emissions, reducing pollution, poverty, etc while the developed nations’ polluting index itself is much worse compared to other countries. In 2019, Agenda 2030 plan set by the UN in 2015 to achieve various sustainable goals by 2030 was declared impossible in a report published in the UNSG.
The United States uses oil and natural gasses more than any other countries which emits over fifteen tons of greenhouse gasses per person every year. The US was the largest polluter of the atmosphere till the emergence of China as a superpower. Now China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter which emits twice as much as the US!. China alone is responsible for around 31% of the world’s emissions. The other top countries which rank next to China and the USA are India, Russia, and Japan , which are responsible for 60% of the total global pollution. Instead of taking immediate steps to stop polluting the environment, these developed nations focus more on other interests and issues.
Thirdly, the Capitalist structure of the world as accused of being heavily selfish by the Marxists is a huge responsible factor standing as a constraint for an effective change. In this capitalist society, bringing a change, for example; cutting out potential harmful substances such as the plastics; stopping production and consuming of unnecessary products, switching to alternatives from fossil fuel based transportations (Transportation sectors are the largest contributors to global warming followed by other manufacturing industries) would affect the economy of the countries. Even if there’s a possibility of banning those polluting products posing no nexus in the economy of the country, those industries or the MNCs will easily influence not only the government but also the people of the country to maintain its richness.
Thus under this system, where development is still considered a possibility without destruction, no organization or individual can bring an actual change by following the goals set in global conferences (such as COP27, UNCC) in achieving net zero emissions or by using alternative energies for fossil fuels, etc. The first question itself is “Without changing the platform which runs on fossil fuel and without constructing a new platform for alternatives, how can any change be brought?”. The whole structure of the world must be changed to attain the goals of the future.
The feasibility and constraints in rapidly changing the system are the challenges posed on the green political thinkers. Meeting these challenges by innovative solutions and the growing need for a change in the world to safeguard our future is of great interest in today’s world. And as the countries keep on postponing and failing to achieve their sustainable goals set under this current system, green politics becomes very much relevant in the contemporary world.
Green theory in International relations provides unique ideas such as decentralization to bring real change, as state-centered hopes are not promising; consciousness on the limits of modern development; ecological modernization as an alternative to sustainable development; green security, green economy, etc which are evolving but always critical in nature. Green political theory is crucial for questioning the countries and the organizations to bring real solutions and changes.
Yogeshwaran S is student of MA Politics and International relations, Pondicherry Central University, India
Source: Modern Diplomacy