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How do we make sustainability democratic? Get a vision



To manage our resources effectively we need a plan. A vision. Our political parties don’t have one, but should we be leaving it up to them anyway?

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Democracy 2014.

I believe we have the knowledge now to solve all of our problems. To find that knowledge, however, we need to start asking the people with relevant skills and experience. Right now, the people with credible experience – our teachers, academics, social workers, sociologists, scientists, psychologists, doctors, economists and social entrepreneurs – are not sufficiently involved in dialogue with our politicians or with each other for society to harvest the true value of their experience.

To really learn from each other, we need to be able to engage in better conversations – conversations where our own preconceptions and insecurities can be challenged, and where we can arrive at new understandings. This isn’t about agreeing with each other, it’s about accepting the uncertainty of what we know and evolving our understanding.

Meanwhile, to be really free to pursue a vision we need to recognise that our political culture isn’t geared towards delivering long-term goals. Pressure from the media and inter-party bickering increases the need to release headline friendly results and has created a culture of short-term thinking. We need to allow space for bigger thinking about longer term solutions, and we almost certainly need to give our politicians a break – especially if we want them to be a part of the solution.

While these are big, cultural challenges to address, there is a simpler way to start. That way is through greater transparency in the policies of each party, and by making policies the basis upon which we choose which party to vote for.

Through a focus on policies, we can create a more meaningful, rational and unbiased debate around politics that can engage a broader cross-section of society in politics. In doing so, we will create a natural platform for starting the discussion about vision – the kind of society we need to create to survive the resource challenges we face. But crucially, we will engage the broader cross-section of society whose experience we need to find solutions to these challenges – including the culture and the longer term outlook necessary to see them through.

Matt Chocqueel-Mangan is the founder of Vote for Policies.

Photo – Petr Kovar via

Further reading:

Voting with your voice: why elections should be shaped by policies, not parties

If we voted for policies at elections, and not parties, the results might surprise us all

Sustainability could hold the key to 2015 general election result

Green policies beat Brown’s (reds, blues and yellows)

The Guide to Sustainable Democracy 2014


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