Greening the Islands Foundation

The Road to Green is Paved With Good Intentions. But We Need To Be Prepared To Face Serious Resistance Along The Way.

Climate change skeptics? Perish the thought. Those of us who are engaged with Greening the Islands do so because we fervently believe in what we are doing and why. We also sense opportunities for sensible investments that benefit governments, civil society, business, local communities – and Planet Earth as a whole.


And yet… it is both important and timely for readers of the GTI Magazine to soberly debate the ‘anti-green’ backlash that is happening around us and in many countries across the world. Of course, we observe and laud the opportunities and broad momentum towards 100% renewable energy; but we also need to study and scrutinise the (not always positive) reactions to sustainability initiatives – including climate change deniers.


These reactions strike at the heart of the political system and are therefore poised to challenge, or recalibrate, at the very least, the drive towards decarbonisation. For example, obligations to remove oil and gas heating units in Germany, or added bureaucratic procedures for French farmers, have led to protests against green ideologies. ‘Climate change fatigue’ is blunting the media’s erstwhile enthusiasm to cover green initiatives.


Political parties, including green parties and other pro-environmental coalitions, have been forced to reconsider the ‘road map’ for any transition away from conventional oil and gas energy sources; while the latter, far from being on the verge of extinction, have instead seen their share prices soar.


History and politics teach us that change begets winners and losers. Those who are, or feel they are, being shortchanged by change – beneficial and sensible though it may be, or may sound to be – are likely to react and to adopt rearguard strategies to prevent, or even overturn, such measures.


(Small) islands may be instructive here because the way in which conflict pans out can be quite different from larger, more complex, jurisdictions. On small islands, the politico-economic elite is narrower, better known, more visible. Community champions, leaders and influencers are more easily identifiable. Various economic sectors are dominated by single enterprises and monopolies. Gossip is rife and the threshold of intimacy is low. All roads lead to politics (and politicians) at various scales.


The path to successful change may depend on swaying the opinion of one key person or small group. The path to the successful adoption of a medium-to-long-term decarbonisation plan may hinge on being able to convince the few who matter that such change will not jeopardise or risk their position, power, assets and investments. Rather, they may stand to gain by joining the bandwagon and doing so ahead of others.


All pro-green promoters need to understand the likely pockets of resistance to any current or future “100% RES” initiatives. It would be simply naive for any well-meaning organisation to proceed on the assumption that a green strategy will be simply ‘win-win’ and self-evidently benefit all. Such a stance would be, frankly, foolish; and doomed to fail because of unexpected resistance or indifference.


Here, the laws of physics are also the laws of politics: for any action, expect an equal and opposite reaction.



Recommended reading: G. Baldacchino & W. Veenendaal (2019). ‘Society and community’. In G. Baldacchino (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of island studies (pp. 339-352). London: Routledge.

Godfrey Baldacchino

Godfrey Baldacchino

On Key

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