Refugee situation demands change in life style in rich countries

On 25 May, the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven presented his refurnished government. In his speech he emphasized – as a matter of top priority for the government ­– that the Swedish version of a European welfare state shall be reinforced, not dismantled. His statement must be seen with Sweden’s more restrictive refugee laws, put in place half a year ago, as backdrop; Sweden will not allow a growing number of refuges jeopardize the welfare for its citizen.

At the very same day news also reported about riots in Southern India, due to a draught which experts said climate change most likely had worsened.

These two occasions captures in a nutshell the challenge that we in the rich world face, if we really mean what we say about working for a sustainable world for all; the consequences of our life style (e.g. more refugees due to climate change effects) eventually will hit back on us and challenge the way we live.

The political crossroad is between safe guarding, at any cost, the wealth we have accumulated – or being foresighted and realize that a future stable society rests on the fact that wealth is spread more evenly over the world than today. The former means amongst other things building higher and higher walls around our countries. The latter implies sharing what we have, and in doing so accept that some of the privileges we have grown accustomed to must go.

Transports for example. In a sustainable world The Holy Car cannot be every man’s and woman’s property. Instead sharing will be the norm; public transports as the standard transporting system and if absolutely necessary using a car through a car sharing organisation. Cycling to work and no more flying to Hong Kong for a shopping weekend.

Food is another example. If everyone on earth shall have a fair share of food, vegetarian food must become the norm, with fish and meat as rare complementary dishes.

This change is under way, but for a large group of people the change will be painful. I’m thinking primarily about blue collar workers with no higher education. This is the group within which right wing nationalistic parties have been recruiting support the last couple of years. In Sweden, but also in the rest of Europe and in the USA.

This group have fought hard within labour unions to achieve the wealth the enjoy today. They should rightfully be proud of their efforts. Many of the reforms they have participating in establishing, now forms the basis of the welfare state. When our prime minister emphasizes that the Swedish welfare state shall not be abandon, but developed, he signals to them that they are not forgotten.

That is a necessary step in order to pull this group back from the nationalists. But at the same time it puts us greens, not least, in a dilemma; much of the consumption culture that the working class today can be part of must be the very target for change if we want to build a more sustainable future.

To unlock this dilemma, I believe that greens in Europe need to work closely with social democratic parties and movements. Even when bearing in mind that a large part of union members views us as evil on earth. But if we don’t have the working class on board we will never achieve real change in our societies.

The way to go about it is through close alliances with other parts of the social democrats; the internationalists, the people that for century have fought for disarmament and sustainable development. Moreover, and in the same spirit as the Icelandic reforms after their big banking scandal, every reform should be designed so that it puts more burden on richer people than on low paid workers and unemployed.

Working together with social democrats will put us greens in many difficult situations, where our credibility as agents for sustainable change will be questioned. But waiting until we grow big enough to be the dominant party in government will simply take too long.

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