Economy,  Environment,  The Left

The common-sense gap between Green and Socialist

We’re apparently in the middle of a postal strike. To be honest, I’ve hardly noticed. In fact, had it not been for a few records I bought on eBay taking a little longer than usual to arrive, I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all.

Why? Well, because I’m living the paperless Green dream. All my bills are paid by direct debit, and most of my statements – phone, gas, etc – arrive by email or are available when I login to my account at the supplier’s website. I use Internet banking and PayPal. I invoice my clients electronically, and most pay me by electronic bank transfer. It is very rare these days that I have to post an invoice or write out a cheque or wait for that “cheque in the mail”.

This has, I’m pretty sure, reduced the amount of paper I use (or is used on my behalf) enormously and my carbon footprint is also now a size smaller.

I don’t send letters anymore. I honestly used to. But since I got my first email address in 1995, it’s been a steep decline. Yes, I spend a minor fortune on stamps, but that’s because foolishly I buy a book of first class stamps, use one, and by the time I need another one I’ve forgotten where I put it. Months have passed. With Facebook and Flickr, hardly anyone needs to send people photos of weddings and bar mitzvahs anymore either. Add to this mobile phones with txt, picture messaging and tweets, and we’re doing more communication now than ever – all without pen, paper… or postman.

I am pretty sure a significant number of people have had the same experience.

People are renting movies online, buying music for download online – even buying eBooks now, meaning vast quantities of plastic and paper don’t need to be shunted around the planet. Go Green team!

But good news for the Green Team is bad news for the Red Team, isn’t it? Postman Pat isn’t needed as much as he was before. There is no – if you’ll forgive a lapsing into Economics 101 – demand for his services. This is of course upsetting for his union.

Postman Pat’s union wants all postal worker jobs to be secured. They don’t want “slash and burn” cutbacks. But if we’re encouraged to stop ‘cutting down trees’ by shifting awayfrom paper-based communications and reducing our emissions by not ‘burning up carbon’ by shipping so many unnecessary goods around, doesn’t it stand to reason that the people employed to facilitate these bad and ‘ungreen’ habits are going to suffer?

The CWU complains that Royal Mail is:

“cutting jobs, cutting pay, cutting overtime, cutting hours and at the same time forcing people to change the way they are working”.

But why is this a surprise? That we don’t need as many postal workers running routes as frequently or staffing as many post offices in as many High Streets is a direct consequence of a change in social behaviour that any honest Green environmentalist would welcome.

And it isn’t just in this economic sector. A few weeks ago, there were strikes by workers at car factories. But Socialists have been campaigning against private transport for yonks. Both they and Greens have campaigned against improvements to the roads and motorways and against the congestion and pollution caused by cars. Surely a reduction in demand for cars – necessitating the closing of car-making factories and the consequent laying off of auto workers and mechanics – is precisely the sign of success they’re looking for?

If the way people communicate and travel is changing, then there will be a matching reduction in the demand for services from those people who work in those industries. Seeking to artificially preserve both jobs and levels of service where they’re not needed, not wanted and, to be blunt, anathema to the changes the Green movement has been demanding we make is unreasonable. There will be social change. This will impact on employment. Previously secure jobs will be in the balance. People will need to retrain. It will be painful. But it’s rather common sense, isn’t it?

Ironically, when Green interests and Socialist interests are on the same page, it’s the wrong page. Take the Vestas issue, for example. It’s a lovely Green-Left photo op: saving the jobs of a factory making wind-turbines. But that’s about all. The problem is, for strange historic (or histrionic) reasons, the ‘Left’ component of the Green movement favours these pie-in-the-sky contraptions over clean, modern, nuclear energy.

The meme scattered to the ether by the absurd Climate camp is that Capitalism is the problem. It seems that the trade unions can be just as much the problem – if not more so. If change is called for, all those resisting change are “the problem”.

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