The Theory of Green Democracy


Greta Gaard, Ecological Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University
Press, 1998, pp.230-1.

The Theory of Green Democracy
From the beginning of the Green movement, the concept of
democracy has been defined in conjunction with the term "grassroots"
and with the key values of decentralization and community-based
economics or radical municipalism. For the Greens, democracy has been
defined as a participatory process whereby people have direct control
in making the decisions that affect their lives; for this process to
be effective and inclusive, it must occur at the local level, and
thus Greens envision a restructured society that returns
decision-making power to the base (grassroots). In every discussion
of Green democracy, Greens refer to both political processes and
economic structures: that is, the Greens recognize that power is both
political and economic and that simply addressing the processes of
government will not suffice in reconstituting grassroots democracy.
Greens advocate building local economies and technologies that work
with (rather than against) the local ecology, and businesses that are
worker-owned and worker-managed. Finally, Greens imagine a
restructuring of society in terms of housing, business, and industry
which reduces the ecological impact of human transportation needs at
the same time that it brings people together, creating a sense of
community, in which democracy is most likely to be practiced.
Cohousing, intentional communities, eco-villages, and neighborhood
organizations are all potential vehicles for the practice of Green
political and economic democracy, the latter through local economies,
local currencies, and barter.
In the organization of Green groups, from the local level to
the networks and associations, Greens have been careful to emphasize
that "the means embody the ends" and that the structure of the Green
organization must prefigure the society Greens hope to create. Even
in the state platforms and local campaigns of Green candidates,
Greens have emphasized various components of democracy that have
remained consistent during the first decade of the Green movement in
the United States. For example, linking the key values of social
justice and democracy, Greens have insisted on parity whenever
possible: in their elected representatives to state or national
organizations, in their candidates for local or statewide office,
Greens have sought gender balance and, where possible, racial balance
as well. In choosing their leaders, Greens have been concerned with
issues of accountability and representation; they have emphasized the
important of sharing leadership and training new members to lead;
they have considered, and in many groups practiced, the process of
rotating leaders so that no single individual is continually the
spokesperson for the group. In decision making, Greens have tended to
seek consensus first, with a fall back to supermajority (60 or 75
percent), and groups have only reluctantly resorted to majority rule
when decision making seemed otherwise impossible. From a Green
perspective, simple majority rule is unacceptable, since too many
voices are excluded and majority votes can lead to undemocratic policies.