The mother of the term so frequently evoked to represent care for the environment,
Petra Kelly, would find much of its use now to be simplistic and much shallower than what she had in mind as she forged the birth of the Green Party. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 1982 for " .for forging and implementing a new vision uniting ecological concerns with disarmament, social justice and human rights."
I became interested in the Green Party just before Kelly's sudden death in 1992. So much so, that I applied for a mini-research grant to visit the National Clearinghouse of the Greens, then located in Kansas, a few months after her death in March 1993. I honestly don't recall if I knew that she had died when I went to KC as I was only marginally aware of her work and the US press would not typically spend much news time acknowledging her passing.
I spent a week at the Clearinghouse combing through files looking to understand how the various local Green groups around the US functioned. How did they design decision-making? How was power shared? What were the concerns Greens had about group process? I knew that process was very important, and that no one size fits all approach driven from on high was going to ever determine how local Greens would work. I never fully completed any lengthy or formal research from that experience, although a summary of my research was submitted and it also forever awakened me to the role of process in developing a sustainable future. My involvement with the National Coalition on Dialogue and Development and recent work with the Kettering Foundation, "Building Civic Capacity" efforts are simply a continuation of the explorations begun two decades ago.
But back to Petra Kelly and the deeper meaning of Green that she helped give birth to and which is the fundamental basis of the Greens Ten Core Values. In her posthumously published book, Thinking Green!" that she was working on at the time of her death, she addresses not simply environmental concerns including climate change, hazardous chemicals, pollution, biodiversity, etc. but the role of women, of nonviolence, of economic equality, peace and the arms race. Her final essay is optimistically entitled, "If There is to Be a Future, It Will Be Green."
But not the bleached green that so many use the term for these days, but truly a deep green, or perhaps as noted sustainability thinker/friend has recently phrased it - a robust green. Petra Kelly's Green was no whiter shade of pale as you may sense from a few select excerpts from this 1994 collection of essays.
Peace studies should also touch the spirituality of politics, talking about the problems of poverty, oppression, and the nature of war, and offering alternatives to war, militarism, and deterrence...It should also discuss Third World development, ecological planning, human rights, social movements, and grassroots movements. (p.56)
There are many structures of domination - nation over nation, class over class, race over race, humans over nature. But domination of women by men is a constant feature within every other aspect of oppression. (p.14)
For environmental solutions to be effective, economic imbalances must be redressed. We need sustainable development in the Third World that supports an ecological economic system, a more just distribution of wealth within and among nations, political reforms, and greater access to the knowledge and resources of the North. (p.29)
The destruction of nature, the militarization of the world, and the exploitation of the disenfranchised all kill life and kill the spirit. We "shut down" and not only numb our fear and pain, we also lose touch with our own innate spiritual resources - compassion, imagination, and the power to respond. (p.61)
Petra Kelly has set the standard for the deep meaning of Green and it's successor, sustainability. Looking back to the Greens Ten Core Values
1. GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives
and not be subject to the will of another. Therefore, we will work to
increase public participation at every level of government and to ensure
that our public representatives are fully accountable to the people who
elect them. We will also work to create new types of political
organizations which expand the process of participatory democracy by
directly including citizens in the decision-making process.
2. SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from
the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must
consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at
large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and
homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and
equal justice under the law.
3. ECOLOGICAL WISDOM
Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of
nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological
balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our
communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which
utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and
not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must
practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy
efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural
It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s
current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate
weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of
other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the
defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent
methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will
guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic
injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. Therefore, we
support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions
away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful
few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as
much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring
that civil rights are protected for all citizens.
6. COMMUNITY-BASED ECONOMICS AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic
system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living
for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A
successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while
paying a “living wage” which reflects the real value of a person’s
Local communities must look to economic development
that assures protection of the environment and workers’ rights; broad
citizen participation in planning; and enhancement of our “quality of
life.” We support independently owned and operated companies which are
socially responsible, as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that
distribute resources and control to more people through democratic
7. FEMINISM AND GENDER EQUITY
We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and
economics. We call for the replacement of the cultural ethics of
domination and control with more cooperative ways of interacting that
respect differences of opinion and gender. Human values such as equity
between the sexes, interpersonal responsibility, and honesty must be
developed with moral conscience. We should remember that the process that
determines our decisions and actions is just as important as achieving the
outcome we want.
8. RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY
We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual,
religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of
respectful relationships across these lines.
We believe that the many diverse elements of society
should be reflected in our organizations and decision-making bodies, and
we support the leadership of people who have been traditionally closed out
of leadership roles. We acknowledge and encourage respect for other life
forms than our own and the preservation of biodiversity.
9. PERSONAL AND GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY
We encourage individuals to act to improve their personal well-being and,
at the same time, to enhance ecological balance and social harmony. We
seek to join with people and organizations around the world to foster
peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
10. FUTURE FOCUS AND SUSTAINABILITY
Our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek
to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or “unmaking”
all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does
not depend on continual expansion for survival. We must counterbalance the
drive for short-term profits by assuring that economic development, new
technologies, and fiscal policies are responsible to future generations
who will inherit the results of our actions.
Looks an awful lot like The Earth Charter perhaps the most important document of this century to date.