Thursday 3 September 2020

The Lorax Amendment: Retro-fitting Green Authoritarianism to Parliaments


Thoughts on how to give the environment a decisive voice in currently human-dominated Parliamentary systems.


This is probably a bad idea. There are probably many better ways of achieving this goal. Implementing this could obstruct better solutions. Nevertheless…

In Dr Seuss' The Lorax, the environment is being chopped up and poisoned by a capitalist entrepreneur to make stuff nobody needs. I advise reading the book, not the rather redundant animated movie. Anyway, up pops a creature calling itself The Lorax, claiming to speak for the trees, and all the other living things that cannot protest at their mistreatment for themselves.

So the question is how can humans give non-humans an effective voice in the decisions humans make that affect all living things on the planet.

Simple Model of a Parliamentary System

Typically, a Parliamentary system has one or two Houses or Chambers where lawmakers debate and make laws and do related stuff. Let us take an example where the Lower House is filled with representatives of the People, and the Upper House is filled with representatives of Interests.

Lower House

Representatives in the Lower House might belong to political parties. Each party might have a more-or-less distinct programme of policies, usually slanted towards one or other groups of humans, or sometimes claim to serve a higher entity like God or The Economy. Even Green or Environmental parties tend to focus a lot on policies for humans, even if they claim to serve The Environment (who never seems to get invited to speak).

Red, yellow, blue blocs of a horseshoe, each with a cartoon argumentative person or two.
Coloured human political party blocks of seats in parliamentary chamber, divided three ways.
Upper House

The Upper House may be filled with similar party-people as the Lower, or just stocked with people who look like the Lorax but spend most of their time sleeping and are a lot less switched on. The Upper House may serve the interests of the Old Money in the country, perhaps landowners left over from feudal times, or church people who are there for reasons nobody can remember; or perhaps serve the interests of New Money, conventionally passed to them in brown envelopes with a traditional nod and wink.

Revised Model of a Parliamentary System with Lorax Amendment

So how do we change such a system to give the living world a decisive voice? I am glad you asked. And I will reverse the order of Houses to keep you awake.

Revised Upper House

Remember those Interests? Well let's make sure they don't outweigh the New Interests we will be adding, by a little judicious downsizing. Our New Interests will represent sections of the Environment, or Biosphere. Here is Atmosphere, here is Oceans, here is Land. Each can be broken into smaller interests, and joint committees can connect them, so there will be Shore Committee for Land and Oceans to talk to each other. Who is doing this talking? Well, just like humans were appointed to serve the previous Interests, our New Interests will need humans, or something better if available, to serve Atmosphere, Oceans, Land and whatever is decided would be a Good Thing To Do. Some countries without a seashore might not have a very big Oceans representation, but it should be there anyway, as we all know how plastics and other things end up in the sea.

Revised Lower House

A House that just represents humans, in this day and age? Not cool! We need representatives to speak for the Tree, the Tree of Life that is. And how much space on this Tree do humans take up? Very little! So squash up humans, here comes the rest of the family.

Red, yellow, blue and (bigger than these three put together) green blocs of a horseshoe, each with a cartoon argumentative person or two, except for the green which has cartoon shapes that might represent many different lifeforms, if you squinted.
Three human political parties shunted off and compacted down to make way for a majority of seats representing the non-human living environment

Who Will Speak for the Non-human World?

At the moment, we might as well appoint the people who have already been speaking out for Nature. These people (scientists, conservationists, environmentalists, ethicists and so on) do not necessarily agree, and sometimes have different priorities, but these can all be discussed in Parliament and its committees, and the public can follow and try to steer these debates and deliberations. Some will be expert in planet-sized problems, others will be expert in groups of living organisms, or ecosystems, or international law, and so on.

In the rest of this article, I will call this group of new representatives the Green Authority.

How Will it Work in Practice?

With the Green Authority's built-in majority for planetary care, and effective vetoes on government formation and policy, every decision affecting the environment will have to be passed (OK'd) by its representatives. Maybe the system won't work. But in some ways, the Civil Service already provide a kind of reality check, and this more transparent system might actually work better.

What Problems Might Arise from Fitting or Running Such a System?

There would be problems in acceptance, and in making the cultures of current party politics and planetary care work together. Lobbyists and agents for planet-damaging interests may try to control or sneak into the Green Authority side. The public might be unhappy about not getting a say (not that they do at the moment, really). Maybe politics will become boring, as Parliament starts to make all the obviously good decisions it somehow never managed to make before, amongst the scandals and mudslinging.


So, human Parliaments today mostly serve humans, and really only a few of those, and not particularly well, considering. This is pretty messed up, when you think about. Much damage is being done to the non-human world by humans. Therefore, one solution is to add majority-sized blocks of representatives for the non-human world, to make sure better decisions are made. For all of us.

And we need a new word for this combination of human democracy and green authority: call it, biocracy.

The Lorax Amendment: Retro-fitting Green Authoritarianism to Parliaments by Sleeping Dog is licensed under CC BY 4.0