Going Green: Watermelon Is Delicious, Desirable And An Embraceable State Of Being!


One of the most common ‘insults’ used to attack Greens, is actually one of their great strengths, writes Ben Pennings.

Now that the Labor Party is a great friend of big business, ‘red under the bed’ scare tactics have pivoted towards environmentalists. ‘Watermelon’ is the favourite term of attack – Green on the outside but Red on the inside. Ha! You Tories are so clever. And predictable.

Many recoil from the stereotype, some defend our exploitative economic system. Others embrace different terms, or even other fruit. A colleague in the Greens is a ‘Kiwi Fruit’; a brown-skinned feminist on the outside, green on the inside and filled with black anarchist pips!

Complex identities are important but shouldn’t stop us reclaiming the symbolic ‘watermelon’, embrace economic equality as a core of what it means to be ‘Green’. Allowing people to be filthy rich will inevitably lead to a filthy planet.

The 50 years of the modern environment movement have been the 50 most destructive years in human history. Despite increased environmental consciousness and regulation, hyper-consumerist economies have created a massive ecological debt. Resource depletion and climate change embody what is literally an existential crisis.

We need economies that aren’t abusive, allowing humans to comfortably reside within their supporting ecosystems like the rest of nature. This requires a cultural shift away from hyper consumerism, away from needless ‘economic growth’ that should never have become a measure of progress.

Reducing needless and destructive consumption requires massive cultural change but also a wholesale redistribution of wealth. Making the super-rich share their wealth can not only finance community building where everyone gets a fair go, it can change the parameters of what it means to be wealthy or comfortable.

What the average person in an advertising-soaked society aspires to is very important. People by nature compare themselves to others, the person next door but also on media and social media, including the outlandish and celebrated consumption of the super-rich.

A massive house, a luxury car or the latest fashions do not make people happier. Ironically, using that money to improve the lives of the poor, build a more equal society, makes everyone happier. Equality reduces violence, increases the perception and actuality of personal safety.

In this century at least, progressive politicians never accept discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity. A line has been drawn. Discrimination based on wealth is entirely different. Politicians rarely say we want income or wealth equality, even as a long-term goal. Seemingly, it’s just the way it is.

The time is ripe for this to change. Economic conditions and western political trends favour politicians embracing economic justice similar to Corbyn and Sanders. If we do not take on the real multi-national and multi-billionaire villains, the likes of Trump or Hanson get to create false villains like asylum seekers.

Labor in Australia taking on the super-rich is laughable. Despite braver union leadership, Labor rarely promotes serious policy on economic equality until it’s been Greens policy for 5 to 10 years. Rather than drag Labor slightly to the left, maybe it’s time for The Greens and the broader environment movement to ‘cut out the middle man’ and replace them, taking the ‘red’ from Labor and embracing their inner ‘Watermelons’?

Ben Pennings is currently organising Nonviolent Direct Action within the Stop Adani movement. Ben has previously worked for Greenpeace and been a lead candidate for the Queensland Greens.