by Zala Tomašič
It is becoming increasingly clear that environmental protection and ecology are being exploited for political ideologies and political battles. Members of the left political bloc often criticise the right wing accusing them of not caring about the environment and members of the far-right, label people who care about the state of the environment as “communists” and “leftists”. This creates negative and dangerous rhetoric. Environmental protection is not, or at least it should not be, a political option.
Environmental protection should not be politicized and theoretically, it is not in the Slovenian political environment. According to party platforms, Slovenian parties (including the right-wing and center-right parties) are committed to environmental protection as well as to “a positive attitude towards the environment and the reduction of current pressures on the environment” (SDS program). In theory, everything sounds great, however, the problem arises when these facts are distorted for the sake of gaining political votes and demonization of political options in Slovenia.
Every person, regardless of political orientation, wants to live in a beautiful and clean environment. Similarly, every rational and compassionate man finds it hard to watch reports on tons of waste floating in our seas, deforestation and destruction of the world’s rainforests, coral bleaching, melting of ice and the overall destruction of the natural balance between organisms on Earth. At least we should be able to agree on this. By politicizing environmental protection and drawing divides between the left and the right regarding the environment, we will do more harm than good, especially in these critical times for the Earth.
The struggle for environmental protection is not a struggle between capitalism and socialism. It is not a struggle between the left and the right. It is the battle of all of us, who care about the environment, against certain actions of all – the right wing, the left wing as well as many of our past actions – that have been destroying the environment. We need to protect the world’s rainforests, we need to reduce our waste, we need to recycle more, etc. And by that I do not just mean to throw the garbage in the “right” bin, even though it is important. On average, in the European Union, only a third of plastic is recycled, and as much as half of this plastic is shipped and recycled outside the European Union. The market for recycled plastics accounts for only 6% of the plastics market and our waste accumulates and mostly ends up in the seas.
Slovenia is better at recycling than most of other European countries, but the success of one country is only a drop in the ocean when it comes to environmental protection. The success of the majority matters. Concern for the environment knows no borders or political ideologies. We like to blame India and China for environmental pollution, but the European Union needs to do much more before it can critique other countries.
We are on the right track, but we are still far from the goal. Even if some people refuse to believe that we have caused climate change through our unsustainable attitude towards the environment, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is impossible to deny how many tropical forests we have cut down and how many animals we have hunted (almost) to extinction. Our attitude towards the environment needs to change and this is not something we do need to debate or blame the left or the right political ideology for. Capitalism should not be blamed for everything. Besides the fact that socialist governments also thinned rainforests, produced tons of waste and not recycled, we as consumers crave abundance and cheap products. Only recently, have we started to realized what impact production and consumerism have on the environment.
It is easy to blame others and politicize environmental protection and ecology, which should not be happening. It is much harder to actually do something. But something must to be done and our attitude must change. I am not advocating for a return to the state before the discovery of plastics, but I am strongly advocating for sustainable development, environmental protection, cleaning up our environment, more recycling, less plastic in general, protection of tropical rainforests, and so on. This should not be a political issue, it should be a reality. We will have a hard time finding a person with whom we agree 100% on every single issue, but disagreements on certain topics are not a reason for not standing and working together on those things we do agree on.
Zala Tomašič is a postgraduate student of international relations at King’s College London.