Derek Wall, The No-nonsense Guide to Green politics; Derek Wall, The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement

IssueSeptember 2011
Review by Ian Sinclair

As the last “male principal speaker” for the Green Party for England and Wales, the author of numerous books on environmentalism and a lecturer in political economy, Derek Wall is well placed to write on Green politics.

Due to the quickening climate crisis, it is a politics he describes, in the No-nonsense Guide, as one “of survival”. Wall manages to pack a lot of interesting information and ideas into a short book, including summaries of what he sees as the four pillars of Green political thought: ecology, social justice, grassroots democracy and nonviolence. Who knew, for example, that laws against air pollution were introduced in 13th century Britain or that there is a Saudi Arabian Green Party? Wall is a natural optimist but notes that, while awareness of green issues has increased over the last couple of decades, effect-ive action to promote solutions to climate change still seems a distant prospect. “The political system has been better at changing radicals than radicals have been at changing the political system”, he believes, highlighting the compromises that Green parties, such as those in Ireland and Germany, have made to gain power.

Wall’s preferred brand of green politics is Ecosocialism – “an emerging political alternative that links socialism and ecology” arguing that “ecological problems cannot be solved without challenging capitalism, and that a socialism which does not respect the environment is worthless” (an issue explored in PN 2527). Mainstream political parties may be incapable of addressing the issue but Wall sees the ecological crisis as prim-arily the product of economic growth on a planet with finite resources.

Karl Marx, Edward Carpenter and William Morris were early pioneers of Ecosocialism, he maintains, with the most exciting developments today happening in Latin America under Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and in Cuba.

While The Rise of the Green Left, with its comprehensive biblio-graphy and substantial referencing, is the more serious and indepth text, both books are excellent introductions to Green politics. Like other activists Wall is concerned with practical politics and sees his books as “an explicit call to nonviolent arms”. Fittingly then, the last chapter of The Rise is a guide to becoming educated and involved in Ecosocialist activism, with lists of related books, films and grassroots organisations. Passionate, concise and lively, these two books are proof that Wall is one of the most important Green deep-thinkers in the world today.