Theater of Cruelty

Pragmatic utopianism

Green Manifesto
Forfatter: Svein Hammer
Forlag: Solum Bokvennen, (Norge)
ENVIRONMENT / Among those who recognize the climate and nature crisis, the narratives that tie the damage of the past and the solutions of the future together are very different. 'Hammer's little green' invites debate and discussion.


Sociologist Svein Hammer's little book Green Manifesto has, since its publication, shown that it can gather readers, and it is intended as a rallying point for a movement that is – and perhaps must be – diverse. The text succeeds by virtue of being inclusive rather than provocative. Being a manifesto, the book has a gentle tone that is far from the provocations and subcultural torches of the avant-garde. It is not a manifesto of the type that pushes against extreme formulations and extreme positions. It is rather a question of agreeing on the problem in order to work together towards credible social solutions and ensure that the green shift actually takes place, that it goes deep.

Hammer's primary intention seems to be to get the basics in place, and in this sober intention he is perhaps not too far from the basic form of the political manifesto: to show that all common sense dictates that radical change is needed. As in Marx's and Engels' Communist Manifesto, Hammer's text offers a world-historical introduction. In effective sub-chapters, we are presented with the ecological history of man and its continuation in the era of imperialism and globalization up to industrialization and the point we are at today.

So how should we deal with it all? Can the answer be made as short as the question? Is the solution given, so that the problem itself can be presented clearly and fairly uncontroversially? Not quite – or quite far from it. Herein lies the challenge of having to present environmental policy in a short format, because even among those who recognize the climate and nature crisis, the narratives that tie the damage of the past and the solutions of the future together are very different. Hammer's solution is initially to provide a map of nine different 'strategies'. Here we find 1) continued growth as a solution condition; 2) technological solutions as adequate; 3) changes in values ​​and a new pact with nature; 4) growth restriction; 5) anti-capitalism and radical system change; 6) sustainable green shift; 7) green transformation and simpler life; 8) green modernization and acceleration; and finally 9) gardening community, what in English is often referred to as stewardship.

Long-termism and reforms

Hammer rejects a mainstream environmental policy, where we find some 'smart solutions' to energy policy and nature conservation, while we follow a track that has already been determined. Among the path choices Hammer has outlined, he chooses two "strategies", a green transformation and a future community of gardeners. Without fear of paradoxes, Hammer advocates "a pessimistic optimism" – and interprets this as an attitude where "the problems are described as precarious and serious, but considered solvable". This is a sharpening and uplifting attitude. Nevertheless, a consequence of this is that intractable problems, such as the melting of the world's glaciers, become difficult to thematize. Problems that may be solvable, but not immediately and not completely, like CO2-level in the atmosphere or loss of biological diversity, comes in an intermediate position – and this is where many of the global environmental problems lie.

Hammer is naturally aware of this and himself criticizes the tendency of what he refers to as "the spokespersons of the green shift" who want quick, concrete measures with measurable results. Hammer points out that a long-term and profound transformation is just as important: it becomes urgent to think about slow and gradual changes in society and nature.

In the aforementioned map of strategies, Hammer mentions criticism of capitalism and highlights Naomi Klein's book in particular This changes everything (2017), in which she accuses any environmental critique that does not come to terms with capitalism as being inadequate. Hammer criticizes left-wing radicalism on a pragmatic basis: We cannot wait for the fall of capitalism and must instead find compromises. The same pragmatism shines through in some of the examples.

Inspired by Anne Sverdrup Thygeson, Hammer talks about how lawns are actually monocultures and can thus be described as nature-hostile 'deserts' as far as biological diversity is concerned. Here Hammer suggests that stopping planting lawns is too radical (revolutionary), while a (reform) with more types of grass and flowers, which are also cut less often, makes room for both insects and botanical diversity. At the same time, the proposal can be heard by the owner of the lawn without too much opposition. Perhaps the room for changes that are welcome and feasible without resistance is far greater than we think. In any case, the premise is a 'transformation' that goes deeper and is far more radical than a pure 'shift'.

Concrete political choices

Even complex systems that govern the world community (and oil policy) can to a certain extent be changed and controlled, Hammer points out. This is hopefully to a sufficient degree that it is possible to change course through what in Hammer's presentation appears as a radical reformism. The aim is – and this is important – not to master nature even more, but rather to "slow ourselves down".

The overall perspective must in all its main features be green, planetary and long-term.

Hammer does not pretend to have the answers ready at hand, but the main point of the manifesto is that the framework narrative, the overall perspective, must in all its main features be green, planetary and long-term, rather than remaining economic, national and oriented towards interest groups and short-term problem solving.

The planetary perspective, which comes into the book's last chapter, recasts accepted Norwegian and general political attitudes. As Hammer succeeds in showing, this new framework, which is in itself uncontroversial, can become very radical. The goal must be to get the green perspective changes latent consequences to manifest themselves in concrete political choices.


Anders Dunk
Anders Dunker
Philosopher. Regular literary critic in Ny Tid. Translator.

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