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10 April 2024updated 11 Apr 2024 10:24am

The book that shaped my green politics

I hadn’t connected the women’s and environmental movements until I found Jonathan Porritt’s Seeing Green. A lightbulb moment followed.

By Caroline Lucas

Seeing Green by Jonathon Porritt is the book that, quite literally, changed my life. As I pull my copy off the bookshelf, I see that I inscribed my name and the date on the inside cover – a reminder that I bought it in 1986, nearly 40 years ago. And I have the terrifying thought that the environmental crisis which the book warned about is even deeper today than it was back then, and that the lack of action to address it constitutes the greatest political failure of our time.

I read it shortly after I’d moved to London to research my PhD in English literature. I’d become involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and was active in the women’s and environmental movements, but somehow hadn’t made the connections between them – nor fully recognised the need for a party-political expression of them – until I came across Seeing Green in the peace section of a bookshop on Charing Cross Road. A lightbulb moment of revelation followed. Immediately on finishing the book, I set off to find the Green Party HQ, joined up as a member, and asked what I could do to help.

Thirty-eight years later, rereading it as the Green Party’s first Member of Parliament, there are certainly parts that I continue to disagree with, particularly the analysis on population and immigration, but overall the book maintains a surprising force and relevance. Porritt’s insistence on the interdependence of social and environmental justice is more timely than ever, with the current government seeking to weaponise environmental policy as part of its culture wars. But what I’m struck by most, on this latest rereading, is his prescient recognition that human health and the health of the planet are inextricably linked, and that if we persist with what he calls “a system without a soul”, alienation and unhappiness will inevitably result.

“Another England” by Caroline Lucas is published by Hutchinson Heinemann on 18 April; she appears at Cambridge Literary Festival on 19 April

[See also: Lessons from The World of Yesterday]

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This article appears in the 10 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Trauma Ward