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I’m Not Just an Ecologist, but Also a Liberal

„I don’t envision the result of the elections very optimistically. Perhaps we will be able to offer liberally-oriented and ecologically-sensitive people hope and an option to identify themselves with us.“

  Martin Bursík – After completing the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Charles University in Prague, he worked as a hydrologist between 1984–1991 in the state company Stavební geologie (Construction Geology). Between 1990-1992 he was the deputy of the Czech National Council. In 1994 he was elected representative of the City of Prague. In 1998 he became Minister of Environment in Tošovský’s government. In the 1990’s, Martin Bursík attained the leadership of several political parties (OH, SD-LSNS, KDU-ČSL). In 2005 he was elected chairman of the Green Party. In June 2006 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. In 2007-2009 he was Vice Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment in Mirek Topolánek’s government. In 2009 he resigned from the function of as chairman of the Green Party. In 2013 he co-founded LES, Liberálně ekologická strana (the Liberally Ecological Party) and became its chairman. 

Why did you leave the Green Party?

The decision to leave ripened when my family and I stayed in the Indian Himalayas. We went there as volunteers for a school supported by the Brontosaurus Movement. Suddenly I found myself away from the Internet, cell phone and facing problems people deal with in the poor Ladakh. I began to think about my values and what remains important to do in life. But also about which people I’d like to spend my time with and with whom less. I felt that for those eight years that I worked with the Green Party were too many and that I lacked the necessary distance to evaluate the situation objectively and realistically. I realized that the party had changed.

In what way?

The fundamentalist wing took over, pushing for a move toward the left. We repeatedly failed to come to a clear conclusion that would forbid collaboration with the communists. And this was an essential problem for me. Similarly, I didn’t understand why the Green Party supressed an ecological program and attempted to address voters with social subjects, which are the priorities of other left wing parties. When the early elections were announced, I realized I disagreed with the direction of the party and could not be a candidate for it. It wouldn’t be honorable and I would have to lie to the voters.

Is this why you co-founded LES (Liberally Ecological Party)?

I came to the conclusion that the greens wouldn’t effectively defend the ecological agenda for long. And then there is nobody else.

Why the word „liberal“ in the name?

I’m not just an ecologist, I’m also a liberal and I know very well that, in the long run, liberals have nobody to vote for. The center-right voter is confused. There is a party missing here that would support entrepreneurship, create a friendly environment for active citizens, allowinga Havel-style, responsible, sustainable policy.

What is the essential theme of the party?

My goal is to connect the liberally-economic model with the protection of the environment. Some people believe that the ecological subject belongs to the left, but I don’t think so. To the contrary, more and more thinking people need to escape corporate structures and began believing in other values and other criteria beside performance and seeing the world in a wider context. And among those is the ecological dimension of our existence. Back as a Minister, when I was negotiating for the EU in Washington, I met Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize laureate for technology and an advisor to President Obama. And he told me "Nobody understands, that in the next less than forty years, we must change the way we make and inefectivelly use enegy. The same is true of transportation, we must significantly change our transportation habits, otherwise there will be a climate catastrophy." He was talking about the fourth revolution and I had to agree with him. This year, President Obama presented a very inspirational plan (The President's Climate Action Plan). The best ways to motivate entrepreneurs to use modern effective technologies are economic methods. It’s more sensible than various restrictions, orders and fines. And then there is one more subject I would call the „Havelian“ theme.

Can you specify?

We are a very small country that went through the sad experience of a totalitarian regime. And precisely because of this, we should understand all those in the world, whose civic and human rights are being crushed. We have an obligation to them, but also to the legacy of Václav Havel, to whom we owe for the fact that people around the world know where Czech Republic is. The question of what kind of a role we want to play in the EU is related to this as well. Instead of constant blocking and vetoing, through which we mostly harm ourselves, we should be a constructive member of the EU and accept an appropriate part of the responsibility for the global state of the world.

Which environmental issues do your try to primarily push?

Four years ago, I pushed through the Green Light program to the Saving, which brought 21 billion CZK into home insulation and the ecological heating of houses with renewable resources. Its benefit to the local construction companies that renewed the economy was huge. It helped improve the conditionof the air and decrease energy costs. The program was so successful that even my successors continued it. I’d like to prepare and promote similar programs that improve the quality of life, both in the cities and villages. In many ways, we should return to the experiences of our ancestors and support local production of food and energy. I’d stick with the motto „small is beautiful." This way I’m also expressing my opinion of the various megalomaniac plans that are again becoming the subject of debates.

Which are they, for example?

We’re again confronted with plans to build a canal between the Danube-Oder-Elbe rivers . The mining companies are still trying to get permits for the devastating mining of gold. Other plans count on underground mining of shale gas, during which the supplies of underground water would be damaged. I don’t understand those who, in the century of modern technology, producing enegy from renewable resources, talk about further coal burning. I’m calling it the Jurrasic Park. We have a Minister of Environment who promotes a cableway in the the most precious Zone 1 of the Šumava National Park and is also the promoter of economically senseless plans to build more nuclear reactors in Temelín and Dukovany. We have a lot to catch up on. In many aspects, we’re still behind the advanced European countries. For as long as various mafia types continue to have more say than experts, nothing will change. The Ministry of the Environment has nearly no authority and, after the activity of Ministers who do not understand the subject, it’s in shambles. I’m concerned about all this.

Why doesn’t LES run a candidate in the early election?

We want to build a liberally stable and ecologically oriented party. And because, in these “too early” elections, there is a threat that we would merely become one of those contributing to the disintegration of the right-center votes, we decided not to run. We want to build the party on a solid basis and participate in European, Senatoria and other elections.

How do you perceive the current political situation and the state of democracy in the Czech Republic?

My colleagues from universities abroad often ask me why doesn’t the Czech Republic go forward more quickly? Why don’t we use the negative experience of advanced countries and skip their developmental stages? Why don’t we just go ahead and reach for the best there is in the world? I thought about it a lot and came to one conclusion – our problem is strong interest groups that don’t want change. They’re afraid of competition. And so these old dogs created suspicious ties with politicians. Politicians who should inspire and motivate entrepreneurs to use the most effective technologies, play the cards of the solidified business and the business happily supports their political campaigns. It’s very simple, but fatally damaging to the country.

So what are the current politics like? What’s missing?

For my taste, politics are too pragmatic and cynical, there are no ideals. Political parties plan from day to day and their most distant horizons are the next elections. Those who control the technology of power win, not those who are the best. Nobody is even trying to formulate an image of how the Czech Republic should look in the future. We don’t know which values we want to stand for in this complicated world. We don’t know by what we could and should become interesting to Europe and the world. We don’t even know where to look for future competitiveness. We’re only learning to be active as citizens.  I don’t envision the result of the elections very optimistically. Perhaps we will be able to offer the liberally-oriented and ecologically-sensitive people hope and an option to identify themselves with us.

Source: Leaders Magazine - 

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