Why Green is for [almost] everyone – Part III – social and economic justice

A reminder – these are my impressions of the Israel Green Movement, culled from my reading of the vision and ongoing discussions:

The Israel Green Movement of Israel is committed to social economic justice and equality.  These are not empty words – these are fundamental necessities in the green worldview of creating a truly sustainable society.  There are a few reasons why environmental movements around the world have come to understand that a merging of environmentalism and social justice is necessary.

The Israel Green Movement - more than an environmental group

The IGM - Concerned with urban environment, social and economic justice and equality, and more

For one, think practically.  Environmentalists look rather silly advocating the benefits of cloth versus plastic bags to someone who barely has enough money to feed his/her family.  Someone is worrying perpetually about ending the month not in debt cannot reasonably be expected to attend demonstrations on behalf of the Gilboa Iris.  No one has expressed this sentiment more humorously, yet seriously, than Oakland-based social/environmental activist Van Jones – interviewed by Thomas Friedman here and who blogs here.  Human well being must be and the center of a successful and just environmental movement, just as it is at the center of Jewish tradition.

Working for a sustainable society is about creating a good place to live (I nicked this statement from the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, whose thinking influences the IGM), not only about clean air and water and access to open spaces.  It is about living amongst your fellow citizens in a society devoid of discrimination, crime, racism and poverty.  A society that functions well is also a society that can confront the environmental challenges of the 21st century in an intelligent and effective way.  A society that is divided and at war with itself cannot (I’m tempted, but avoiding paraphrasing Abe Lincoln…).

Environmentalists share a normative vision that all citizens have right to work, fair and equal compensation for that work, the right to rest from work – that latter doubly affirmed in the book of Genesis.  Further all people have right to education, health care and the social services they require.  These services cannot be left to the free market, which cannot guarantee them to those who cannot afford them.

Another quote from the Israel Green Movement vision – whose writers are several times more eloquent than I am – is due:

“Israel’s economy does not exist in a vacuum, disconnected from the human and environmental resources on which it relies. Building a thriving, stable economy must be based on a strong, united society, on a healthy environment, and on functioning ecosystems.

During the past decades, Israeli society has gone from one of the world’s most economically egalitarian to one with some of the widest gaps of any country. Increasingly, the economy is driven solely by market forces and rapid globalization, with no interventions designed to serve the citizens. While our economy has experienced considerable growth― a very good thing― growth has tended to concentrated in a narrow geographic zone and along narrow demographic lines, remaining in too few hands ― leaving too many behind

The public services paid for by the taxpayers ― schools, health care, and human services ― are overburdened, setting the stage of rapid growth of private services. Thus a two-tiered system is created: one for the rich, the other for the poor. Those with means “buy themselves” upgraded human services such as private schooling and costly pension plans, while the state welfare system deteriorates daily…

… It is every citizen’s right to earn an honorable livelihood; it is the state’s job to determine and enforce a fair minimum wage. It is also the state’s job to provide basic living conditions for senior citizens, single mothers, the unemployed, migrants, and other weak populations ― rather than send them “down the street” to be aided by charitable organizations.”

This is not an isolated realization by the Israel Green Movement – this is a basic transformation within the environmental movement throughout the world.  The Israel Green Movement will work towards these ends in Israel, and indeed they’ve already begun.


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