Why the Leftie Hate for Gen Zero?

Wow. I for one am pretty surprised at the level of left-wing anger that has been directed at zero-carbon future campaign group Generation Zero recently. John Minto laid into them recently as did, somewhat less concerningly, Penny Bright.

Personally I think Facebook statuses from Socialist Aotearoa claiming that Gen Zero can’t be taken seriously are pretty unhelpful. This stems from a rather obstructive trait that we rend to share on the left: that being the unique capability to alienate our allies.

Sure, depending on your particular political allegiances, you might legitimately think that Gen Zero were a little light on Len and a little hard on John Minto in their Auckland Mayoralty Election Guide. However, is this really a reason to question their motives, their philosophy, and their commitment to social justice? Nah bro.

Generation Zero are very open about what they stand for: a zero-carbon future for the sake of intergenerational social justice. They say that it simply isn’t justifiable to continue to build a world in any form that will be uninhabitable for future generations, or even for young generations who are alive today. I’m not involved with Gen Zero, but I happen to agree with them on this one. We might not agree on everything but on this issue they are an invaluable ally, and their organising skills are formidable.

I think it’s too easy to forget that Gen Zero aren’t a political party: they aren’t tied to ideology or even a set of policies. They are, in effect, a single-issue group who have a number of (very reasonable) ways of getting to their desired goal. There are reasons for and against free public transport. Despite supporting it myself, I can see how it might run contrary to some of Gen Zero’s transport and low-carbon future goals. That’s cool by me. At least they’re doing something. It’s rarer than you’d think…

Wouldn’t it be better to use their expertise to help us with our common goals, and let them go on their merry way in areas where we do not agree? They are NOT THE ENEMY and, who knows, we might pick up some organising capability while we’re at it. We sure as shit need some.

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9 thoughts on “Why the Leftie Hate for Gen Zero?

  1. Because, Kieran, they aren’t our allies.

    They’re certainly good at organizing, and could mobilize (if they chose) probably more people than any group of the left. The thing is though, is that they’re not on the left. Their refusal to take an ideological stance is in itself the taking of an ideological stance; one which refuses to break out of the mainstream (‘neoliberal’, if you like) consensus. No surprise then that they back Len Brown.

    Everyone knows something needs to done about climate change, and Gen Zero’s commitment to talking about it and backing small “reasonable” reforms can definitely win them a lot of support, but it’s not left wing and at the end of the day it’s not productive. Climate change cannot be solved under capitalism. It just can’t. As long as economic growth and current consumption/production patterns continue there is no hope. Even if it could be, though, why are Gen0 activists ok with the exploitation of people but not the planet? By not saying anything about, for example, the hundreds of houses Len Brown plans to demolish during the building of his motorways, they essentially give consent to it. This is not helpful. I’m sure it feels nice for the individuals involved in Gen0 to think they’re making a change, but they’re not, and they simply can’t if they hold to their current refusal to engage in a discourse that goes deeper than “Climate change is bad, let’s have a cycleway”.

    They might be doing something, but if that something is publicly backing centrist candidates over leftists and engaging in potentially counter productive campaigns like this one, they’re not doing something good.

  2. There are plenty of radicals who have chosen to work within existing structures in order to effect significant structural change: Generation Zero isn’t trying to usher in a complete new (better) world order, but they never promised to. Acting on climate change, volunteering hundreds and hundreds of hours, is caring about people AND the planet: it’s a statement that says “we love life, we want to prevent suffering”. So the auckland faction has been a bit schmoozed by Len Brown: will you hold it against the entire group of young hopefuls as a whole, who are doing their best to effect change in one specific sphere? Even the fact their regions are independantly operated seems to embody good left politics. As soon as a group gets moderately visible or successful, people go into ‘saviour’ mode, wanting them to fix everything, all at once. Surely the idea of allies is that we can focus, intently, passionately, on specific areas, while making sure the WAY we do things creates unity and is unopporessive. I don’t think they’re perfect, but I see climate change as the ultimate symptom of power and control, and they’re getting talk and action happening in the main stream, which the far left has failed to do.

    • Andy, you make very good points regarding the blanket dismissal of an organization due to upper management decisions is dangerous and the one regarding ‘saviour effect’, but there are a few ideological assumptions you are making which pervade most student based activism. Gen0 operates at a political level that impacts votes to a small degree, which does not raise sufficient interest from lobby groups. There is this threshold where leftist policies are actually beneficial for conservatives because it creates a dual system. This dual system is then mirrored through public policy. For e.g Lens policies regarding motorway extension are mirrored with no motorway ( Minto). This creates an intersection where there is dead media air. Generation0 cannot fall in that dead air and side with the more populous choice, which I’m sad to admit, a large percentage of Auckland voted in people that have in the past employed expansive infrastructure and environmentally degrading policies. We just have to look in our backyard, democratic duality is a tool, and slowly the environment is being used as a public policy tool.
      I cannot comment on why Minto would get less score than Len but often the marking scheme itself is designed to reward unequally. That’s not the point. Regardless of cause, the future goal should be for organizations to display positive passive communication where critical statements are made with improvements. Minto should embrace this step towards because his policies are failing to attract even an organization. lets not take such an archaic view on ‘ allies’ because an ally is one that has something you can use, Gen0 has something the left want and the left has something Gen0 need( experience, contacts, public policy). To those that sit there and blame the neo-capitalist nature of our transactions, its difficult to encompass any movement without the complete destruction of the system in place. The argument cannot pin down to whether drastic steps are needed or gradual steps, as this renders the point of the argument to mathematical options. I just think this exact argument between Minto and Gen0 is typical of all oppositions to the popular ideal of the time. It has it roots and they stem from power and control.

      On the flipside, gen0 must not be representative of the ideals of the left, and their associations with people that have conservative natured environmental policies must be questioned and making own stance to them clear is not good enough, since voicing public opinion is not a crime. Regardless of viewpoint, it is good to see the passion and intelligent thoughts put forward so this dialogue surrounding environmental rights is heard more and more.

      Cynical realism is an intelligent persons response to an intolerable situation.
      -Huxley

  3. you’re all contestants in the division. Let’s just continue to focus on topics that divide us and forget what will change the world.

  4. Generation Zero are very open about what they stand for: a zero-carbon future for the sake of intergenerational social justice. They say that it simply isn’t justifiable to continue to build a world in any form that will be uninhabitable for future generations, or even for young generations who are alive today. I’m not involved with Gen Zero, but I happen to agree with them on this one. We might not agree on everything but on this issue they are an invaluable ally, and their organising skills are formidable.

    I hope that Auckland Generation Zero can see their way to apply their “formidable organising skills” to helping stop the Mangere motorway, and the open cast coal mine in Mangatangi. If Auckland GZ cannot see their way to adding support to these climate campaigns in the Auckland area, then unfortunately Generation Zero will always be seen as lightweights by Auckland climate change activists.

  5. Let’s not forget that Generation Zero are young, not only in terms of their age as individuals but also as an organisation. I’m sure that there is a long way to go for this organisation to grow and develop into a strong respected advocate for good climate policy in New Zealand. It looks like for now that they’re aiming at the demand-side of fossil fuels. It’s also important that groups are protesting mining and exploration for oil, and I support both sides. For me, it’s just exciting to see that they are gathering such main stream support from people across a range of political ideologies for commitment to a low carbon future for our cities. If you can get right wing voters on that bandwagon, then maybe they will see the light, or put pressure on their parties to change policies from within. We’re still in a democracy, and the more people we can get on board to support working towards a low carbon future, the more likely it is to happen.

  6. What the fuck do you mean zero carbon? It’s the single most important element on the fucking planet. Where so you think the new engineering solutions are going to come from without graphene, Carbon atoms. Unless of course you mean a zero ‘setting fire to carbon and producing hot gas’ economy, in which case you should say otherwise you look like morons.

    • Don’t be such an idiot. Of course it means ‘zero carbon’ in the commonly-used sense: zero man-made CO2 emissions from the burning of organic hydrocarbons for fuel and energy purposes. I’m a chemistry student, so don’t try to play clever with me. If you want to engage with the substantive issues in the post then that’s fine, but don’t be such a disingenuous fool: you just make yourself look like a tryhard.

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