For five years, a great festival of green politics has been taking place in Poland every mid-July, the Green Summer University is organised by the Green Zone Foundation in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw and the Green European Foundation (GEF). Every year, activists, experts and politicians from Poland and abroad come together to discuss the most important challenges of green policy in the face of a multidimensional ecological crisis.
The "green wave" will come to Poland, it is certain – it has even crossed its western border. On July 11–13 we met under the slogan "Closer to Europe" at the 5th edition #GreenUniversity in Ośnie Lubuski, where candidates of the green list won over 20% in the last local elections. At the opening of the university, guests from Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Great Britain and Belgium discussed the two main threats from the global and our national perspective, i.e. climate change and the eroding of democracy.
Green hope in the complex reality of European policy
As emphasised by the newly elected German MEP Sergej Lagodinsky and the Czech youth activist Zuzanna Pavelkova, the growing strength of green groups in various European countries has two main sources: rising civic ecological movements, especially youth climate strikes, and a credible and holistic programme of various green parties, which includes all civilisational challenges, in contrast to the big mainstream parties, which, depending on needs, will apply an ecological “plaster”.
Sergey Lagodinsky, German MEP on the Green Summer University 2019 - Fundacja Heinricha BoellaWatch on YouTube
They now face the challenge of how to translate this immense hope and will that has been focused upon them into effective political action. Greens in the EP are trying to introduce so-called green mainstreaming in the form of specific legal solutions at the European level, e.g. in the areas of public transport and the common market, as well as in less obvious matters, such as the reform of accounting law, which should also take into account the Sustainable Development Goals, or proposing the introduction and harmonisation of European association law, which could give non-governmental organisations in the EU some guarantees of independence against political pressure.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine”
As the often tedious but much-needed work of MEPs shows, even the great revolutions of our everyday life sometimes begin in specialised disputes over good legal provisions. That is why it is so important to explain such discussions thoroughly and faithfully and to translate them into simple and convincing slogans that mobilise action.
It turns out that responsible green policy has another dangerous opponent, in the form of climate depression, the symptoms of which are already appearing even in Poland, which was until recently ecologically unaware. Given the scale of the challenges and threats, one might get the impression that it is too late for effective action and , following the example of the sinking Titanic, the only option is for the band to play until the bitter end. Activists and experts must be fluent in the scientific ins and outs and specialist discussions, but they must first and foremost formulate an attractive vision of a better world for society, because this is the thing that will determine the next rulers around the world. A positive narrative needs to be convincing and to include demands for concrete reform. Together these will pave the way for radical solutions in the future, such as environmental tax reform, including emissions charges and zero VAT on repairs to used goods.
The whole Green Summer University was therefore an attempt to go beyond ecological fatalism and to recognise the crisis as a new opportunity chance to overcome the need for constant expansion that has brought our planet to the edge of the abyss. Hundreds of participants debated, with guests from Poland and other European countries, topics such as the climate crisis and energy transformation, the rapidly disappearing biodiversity and the possibilities of producing ethical, quality food. The event was enriched by a whole range of activist workshops and nature trips.