“The concept of growth is outdated,” says Winfried Kretschmann, the new governor of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Kretschman’s Green Party received the most votes in the March 28 state parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government with the SPD, the Social Democrats, tossing the conservative Christian Democrats out of office. Kretschman became the first-ever member of the environmentalist Green Party to hold a state governorship in German history.
We pay attention to the Greens because they represent the environmentalist movement as an elected political force. The policies they promote in Germany have parallels in the United States, although it’s obviously easier to gain representation in a parliamentary system than in a mostly two-party system like the U.S. has.
In an interview with the news magazine Der Spiegel, Kretschman gave a stark description of what his coalition wishes to achieve. From “I Want a Quiet Revolution“:
SPIEGEL: The economy of the state of Baden-Württemberg grew by 5.5 percent last year. Is that good or bad?
Kretschmann: This concept of growth is outdated because it doesn’t distinguish between negative and positive effects. If you crash your car into a tree and total it, you’re helping to promote economic growth. We therefore need a new yardstick that provides information about whether growth also increases well-being.
SPIEGEL: What sort of a new measure do you have in mind?
Kretschmann: I don’t know yet. The traditional definition of growth, which measures prosperity solely in terms of the increase in the gross domestic product, is a dead-end solution. We can see where it’s taking us. This global economic model is hurting our planet.
Why not redefine “prosperity” and “jobs” while we’re at it?
Baden-Württemberg is home to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, but the first instinct of the Greens is to undermine the state’s major industries. Immediately after his election, Kretschmann told the newspaper, Bild am Sonntag:
Fewer cars are, of course, better than more… We have to sell mobility concepts in the future, not just cars. That means walking, bike riding, driving and train riding. We have to link these things together cleverly, so that we continue to make progress and prevent environmental damage.
The Greens also support a speed limit on the Autobahn, always a controversial topic in Germany.
While local issues played a major factor in the Greens’ victory — for example, their opposition to a new train station in Stuttgart — the political fuel that powered their electoral success was the reaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The Greens grew out of the anti-nuke movement of the ’70s and ’80s and supports the shuttering of Germany’s nuclear power plants. Kretschmann told Der Spiegel, “The last nuclear power plant has to be shut down irrevocably.”
Opposition to nuclear power has become mainstream. The CDU-led federal government of Angela Merkel calls for phasing out nuclear power by 2022, and on Tuesday, the largest German industry group signed on.
BERLIN — Germany’s most powerful industrial sectors said Tuesday they are backing government plans to abolish nuclear power within about a decade, but warn that blackouts and other risks could arise from the decision.
“We believe that it is possible to replace nuclear power by 2022 or a date in that range,” said Christopher Gruenewald, head of energy and climate policy for the Federation of German Industry group that represents the nation’s manufacturers.
The accommodation may bring no political relief. In the state parliamentary elections in Bremen on Sunday, the Greens came in second behind the traditional ruling party, the SPD, and for the first time polled better than the CDU. Merkel blamed her party’s poor showing on the nuclear power issue.
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