Eco- dilettantes

Green is the color of this political season. Green T-shirts, hats, and green paint for writing graffiti and messages on banners for demonstrations are bought. Trend followers are learning eco-acceptable speech, so as people would not notice that they are new to it, and they are learning expressions they did not know about the environment and how to save it. Ecology is a new political fashion in the circles of the Serbian opposition, which has already tried all previous fashion collections, but without success.

The success of several small civic environmental actions was the trigger for the opposition “strategists” to ignite a lifesaving idea – to stick to eco-activists, take over their action as their own, push them out of what they do as soon as possible and hundreds of thousands of votes will fall from the sky. When authentic “eco-warriors” remind them that their protests succeeded precisely because they did not allow opposition politicians to join them, they immediately get slapped on the wrist for “working for Vučić”. What else.

Ecological enthusiasm is a noble thing. Throughout history, green devotees have gone above and beyond, created an entire international movement, and even an ideology, whose followers govern some of the most developed countries. The “green” movements and policies are taught at the world’s largest universities, and are studied by the world’s first league of sociologists and political scientists. One of the most respected international magazines for global issues, International Affairs, published by the British Chatham House, has dedicated its latest issue to one of the environmental topics – how environmental protection can be a means to achieve peace in crisis regions. The most famous scientists write about it from the experiences of crisis areas around the world – South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Colombia.

Can the new Serbian eco-politicians, in green T-shirts, catch up with their comrades from around the world and their ideas? It would be very difficult, because they are at least 200 years late. That is the level of their knowledge of the area from which they want to earn votes, thinking that it is enough just to dress in green and start talking against Kolubara and Kostolac, against Rio Tinto and the mini-hydro power plants and landfill in Vinča.

The level of their struggle for a healthier environment is at the level of romantic eco-pioneers from early 19th century America, who asked the state to “conserve” some natural areas inhabited by bison, for example, or lakes threatened by growing industry. As a responsible state, America closed that chapter of eco-history, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a decree in 1916 on the protection of certain natural areas. They are still called national parks, and they have become a good model that has been taken over by the entire world, and we have five of them in Serbia. Along with another 450 areas that enjoy some degree of nature protection.

So where did they get the idea that they can do something in the 21st century with tools from the 19th century? If they are already putting ecology at the forefront of their struggle to come to power, do they have an idea how to reconcile their commitment to “state capitalism” and nationalization of all large companies in the country with the fact that by far the biggest polluters in the world are state-owned and not privately-owned companies. Out of the ten largest air pollutants, i.e., greenhouse effect producers, as many as eight are state-owned companies and only two are privately-owned companies. There are serious studies about that as well, but reading and understanding them requires much more knowledge and time than buying a green hat. Where did the local politician get the idea that he would get votes right now on the protection of nature in Western Serbia, and he enjoyed the political and every other support of tycoons whose companies were by far the biggest polluters in Western Serbia?

And finally, do they have an idea where to procure 500 million euros every year to adjust to European environmental standards, and more importantly – do they have projects or at least ideas where to spend those billions in the coming years, in order to make Serbia cleaner and healthier? Of course, there are no statements from the “little green men” about that. Their deception is double. At first, like a coward, they took over someone else’s nest, instead of making their own, and what is worse, with their amateurism and politics, they severely damage the idea of eco-activism, and even the political struggle for green goals. They have nothing to do with it, nor are they interested in it. They will allegedly deal with ecology until the first collision with reality, when it will be shown that, in their case, even that noble idea does not bring political profit. Then, they will search for another one, to deal with in an equally superficial and unsuccessful manner.

If eco-activism, in terms of demonstrations in front of oil plants and mines, was in itself politically profitable, and that is the level it is being dealt with by the Serbian opposition, Greenpeace would be in power around the world today, not conservatives, liberals or even the Greens. If it were enough for the protection of the environment to post pictures of green fields from Jadar with the messages “Should we give this up?”, world public opinion would be managed by National Geographic, and not by the BBC, CNN and the Financial Times. Ecology is one of the most important parts of any state policy. It is inseparable from economic and social development. It is expensive, but necessary, because the plans about its costs, make a person dizzy. One small Serbia will spend 15 billion euros for a cleaner environment in the next two decades, of which only EPS will invest close to five billion in ecology in the next five or six years. It is a serious business for a serious country, and T-shirts, hats and trinkets can go on Instagram, among friends, not in serious politics.