Thursday, July 03, 2008

From the archives: The State of Green Blogging

This was the text of the article I wrote for Iain Dale's "Guide to political blogging" last year, which was a very good read as it goes (not my bit obviously). Blogs being the transitory wisps of smoke that they are those sites I mention may or may not have been the sites I'd highlight today.

For a medium that so regularly expels so much hot air blogging is possibly the most carbon friendly of all means of communication. Despite this the green movement had been slow to catch on to its potential. For some time the preserve of a tiny minority of green minded people there has been a significant shift in the last year or so, a shift that will hopefully continue.

Once green blogs used to be few and far between, and often verging on the embarrassing when they did appear. Recently however they have really begun to mature and expand their range. The green movement is a broad and pluralist one, and therefore extremely well suited to the anarchic chaos of blogging. It’s also one reason why compiling a “top twenty” is so difficult and feels like comparing apples with steam rollers, but this difficulty is more a reflection that the green blogosphere is beginning to catch up with the full range of green political currents.

Showing how rounded and eclectic the green side of the fence is not just the job of the straight political bloggers but also those who are attempting to live a greener life and are good enough to record these attempts for all to see. Of course big names like George Monbiot and Peter Tatchell both blog but they can never achieve the intimacy of those quieter more modest voices, like Kitchen Witch or Green Mummy - my personal favourites in this field – but there is also a flowering industry in ecoliving sites, especially for some reason allotment blogs.

The green blogosphere can go from the extra-respectable Christian Greens of the Evangelical Ecologist or Pie and Coffee to the anarchist horror box that is The Void whose irresponsible and vituperative rants are often a joy to behold.

We have leftists, like my blog The Daily (Maybe), and Greenman’s Occasional Organ who perhaps represent a more radical tradition that would have once found themselves in the dark halls of the Labour Party straight over to paid up Tories like Ellee Seymour whose genuinely excellent blog might be seen by some as representing the fresher, more modern and compassionate face of Cameron’s Conservatives.

Some blogs explore new areas such as Sonia’s Diary or Philobiblon who ask where women’s issues fit into the green movement, or Gaian Economics who sets her enormous economist brain to the fundamentals of modern capitalism.

Where green blogs have really made an impact though is in campaigning. This can be seen most clearly in those environmental campaigns that have used blogging as a vital and accessible part of their work. Top of the list has to be Save the Ribble and the Mersey Basin Campaign both of whom produce extremely readable blogs put to practical use.

Whilst these two blogs represent long running campaigns we shouldn’t forget that often blogs have a consciously short life span, like the now infamous Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow who used new media to their full advantage including their own short lived blog.

Likewise green initiatives often find a sound expression in the blogosphere. Green Girls Global consistently post on a whole variety of useful hints and tips on living a greener lifestyle and the bizarre Magnificent Cycle Cinema have been able to combine their revolutionary vision for the everyday, widespread use of renewable technologies with an invaluable method to mobilise their supporters.

Of course, these kinds of blogs always have to keep the humour and innovation coming if they are to maintain a readership in what are, to some extent, cunningly disguised press release blogs. Fair play to them if they are able to pull it off.

It’s rare for an organisational blog to be able to build those personal relationships and intimacy that is blogging at its best. However, it can be done. GreenPeace UK have been able to square the circle with their group blog by keeping it young and funky, never straying into any dry “party line” whilst also ably expressing the aims of the group.

To a lesser extent Reading Green Party’s group diary of their councillors and activists still manages to be a refreshing read. Other elected Greens have their own blogs like Lewisham’s Cllr Sue Luxton, York’s Cllr Andy D’Agorn, or Oxford’s Cllr Matt Sellwood all of whom are grappling with how to best use blogging to both advance green politics and serve their constituencies – sometimes to modest but good effect.

Other Green Party bloggers include the two principal speakers Derek Wall and London Mayoral candidate Sian Berry who use their blogs in very different, but complimentary ways. Whilst Derek tends towards traditional leftist preoccupations, like Latin American radicalism and theoretical concerns, Sian looks to direct action and street campaigning.

In fact it’s where the green movement is not of one mind that green blogging can become really interesting. The role of leadership in a political movement or whether you need to be an anti-capitalist to be truly green often generate both heat and light, making for the most interesting discussions that actually do impact on the direction of the green political sphere.

Green blogs have often been good sources for the dissemination of scientific arguments and discoveries, mobilisation for protest and showing the human and more nuanced side of a political tendency that can tend to be rather caricatured in the media as one dimensional and censorious. Whilst there is a long way to go for green bloggers to fulfil their maximum potential the story so far shows that they are beginning to make their mark and provoke interesting debate in times when green issues are consistently moving up the political agenda.


Ellee Seymour said...

Jim Jay, thanks for the very kind mention. You have included many other names I am not familiar with and I know I would enjoy them too.

I helped organise a debate in Cambridge today on how to feed the world's growing population for NIAB and we had a spokesman from the Soil Association. It was held for schoolchildren, the future decision makers on this, and it was really excellent. I made an mp3 recording and will add that to my blog next week. I'm very, very busy at the moment.

Have a good weekend. And thanks for the birthday wishes.

Adrian Windisch said...

Thanks for the mention of Readinggreenparty Jim. One correction, we dont have any Cllrs yet, missed out our first one by 20 votes in May 08. Next chance is 2010.

camper said...

The blog you attributed to the Camp For Climate Action was not theirs at all. Like most blogs, it was a blog of an individual, in this case attending the camp on behalf of the World Development Movement.

The Camp for Climate Action have a website which you can find at which unfortunately replaces previous years climate camp pages.

A better archive of coverage about the camp by participants can be found on which is of course effectively a collective blog.