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May 14, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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Who is the Greenest of Them All?

A guide to Vic’s varied environmental groups.

Affiliating with an environmental group is a declaration of your beliefs. Be it whaling, climate change, or the ecosystem, there are no shortages of environmental issues, and luckily, New Zealand has stepped up to the challenge of mobilising for action. Salient feature writer Fairooz Samy gives you the low-down.

Generation Zero:

GZ is an organization of young people that are concerned about the effects of climate change. They aim to raise awareness about our country’s lack of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the government’s current policies which encourage fossil fuel development. Unsatisfied with the emissions trading scheme, they call for a plan to achieve zero net emissions in NZ before 2050, a legislative timetable to achieve it. It differs from other groups in that it views climate change as not only an environmental issue but also a human rights, economic, resource supply, and moral issue. They frame it as an “inter-generational issue” that deserves “inter-generational justice”, and point out the unfairness of our current generation inheriting an ecologically damaged planet. GZ has a plan of attack that takes in to account the importance of legal change.

They’ve been having an impact on politicians and regional councils, seeking to work with the system to introduce viable policies that are both environmentally necessary and realistically applicable. This year, they’ve made submissions to local councils across the country, involving detailed recommendations on how they can re-prioritise transport spending to “combat climate change and oil dependency”. However, they know it won’t happen overnight, stressing the “incremental” nature of policy change.

Before the last election, GZ interviewed over 100 politicians about their political stances on climate change. They posted the resulting interviews on their website (which had thousands of hits) and created an accompanying viral video that parodied the popular board game ‘Guess Who?’. Additionally, they ran ‘Climate Conversations’ which are educational presentations that spread the message about the importance of making climate change a priority issue in political discourse. The conversations attracted over 1000 young New Zealanders. GZ also aims to introduce long-term cultural change. Says external relations coordinator Lance Cash, GZ is working to “shift assumptions about what is possible on tackling climate change and creating a zero carbon Aotearoa”. Last March, they organised a flash mob on Cuba Street to raise awareness about the impact of rising sea levels. Currently, they’re running a collaborative research project called ‘Zero Carbon Pathways’. Their management is efficient and dedicated, while their information is soundly-sourced, and presented in an easy-to-understand way. They regularly update their Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter accounts, which keeps their presence visible and broadcasts their many activities.

Verdict: A knowledgeable and competent group with a plan of action and political savvy. Join if you want to make a difference and spruce up your CV.

Greenpeace:

Thanks to the Rainbow Warrior tragedy and the Mutton Birds’ single ‘Anchor Me’, Greenpeace is a fairly well-known organisation in Aotearoa. However, the misconceptions about its radical environmentalism haven’t dissipated. While Greenpeace’s core issues continue to be opposition to whaling, genetic engineering, and nuclear energy, it has an active base in NZ. When the Government proposed plans to mine conservation land, Greenpeace, along with other watchdogs, launched a campaign to prevent it. Greenpeace also protested Fonterra’s model of industrialised dairying and its use of palm kernel for cattle feed. Furthermore, they lobbied the Government to support a plan to save Pacific tuna stocks when they were being rapidly overfished.

On their radar this year is the issue of NZ becoming a prospect for deep sea drilling and the government’s possible plans to invite large oil companies to drill off our coasts. As an established international organization, Greenpeace is a smoothly coordinated and serious about its aims. While they may come on strong for the casual environment lover, their website offers a plethora of advice about ways to help the environment, and information about the issues.

Verdict: Since it’s not a student-based organization, you’ll have to be clued up and ready to commit. But nothing says ‘Greenie’ like Greenpeace.

Greens@Vic:

The Green Party–and their youth wing at VUW–are a staple of the NZ environmental scene. Greens@Vic co-convenor Harriet Farquhar is eager to reassure interested students of the collaborative nature of the environmental community: “the best thing is you don’t need to pick between the wealth of groups! The Green Party are always working in collaboration with other environmental groups and you totally can too!”. She did mention that the Greens offer a holistic view. “We are part of a global political movement, and environmental concern informs all of our ideals. Our vision for New Zealand is one on which is underpinned by ecological wisdom”.

In the lead up to the election, Greens@Vic came out in force to support the Greens’ electoral campaign in Wellington, door-knocking, delivering pamphlets, and getting the Green message into the populace. And their efforts paid off—the Green Party has never been so popular. According to Farquhar, Greens@Vic’s driving goal is to “continue to foster a community of like-minded people passionate about Green issues”. This they achieve with plenty of social events like beach camps, quizzes, and drink nights.

Despite their environmental reputation, the Greens also emphasize the importance of social issues, and many of their policies feature leftist stances, with plans to end child poverty in NZ by 2014 and the rebuilding of Christchurch as major points of interest. Over the coming months, they’ll be collecting signatures for the nation-wide ‘Keep our Assets’ petition and striving for student fares on public transport. On the ecological side, the clean-up of rivers and lakes is a high priority, as is the conservation of NZ’s unique flora and fauna. Members have the added advantage of easily accessible MPs. Fan favourite Gareth Hughes has made appearances at student-led protests, alongside co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman. Despite lacking their own website and channels of communication, Greens@Vic work better as a grassroots unit, engaging with interested students through meetings, demonstrations, and social events.

Verdict: Friendly and passionate, Greens@Vic live and breathe all things environment. You’ll need to make the political commitment, but if you’re an ardent eco-lefty this is the group for you.

Society for Conservation Biology:

The SCB is an international organization dedicated to probing the issues around the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. The VUW chapter began on Salamanca Road in 2010 and is affiliated with Forest and Bird and the WCC. Their projects include Kumutoto restoration, where volunteers work in tandem with a WCC ranger to set up transect lines, bird and invertebrate counts, planting, and weed control. Since 2011, SCB has been operating alongside Forest and Bird to monitor a stretch of land on Island Bay. This also involves monitoring the penguins settled there and carrying out such duties as trapping, planting, and checking on the nests. Training is provided, and the SCB involves a dedicated team that take their responsibilities seriously. Recently, they completed a project with the Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust, feeding and caring for hundreds of fairy prions that washed ashore during a storm. The SCB is extremely hands-on, focusing less on political awareness and more on physically tending to the environment.

Verdict: A solid group, SCB is making positive changes in the Wellington area. Ideal for those willing to roll up their sleeves and get back to nature.

 

Generation Zero:
Website: generationzero.org.nz
Meetings: Tuesdays, 5.30pm in SU216 below the Hunter Lounge. 

Greenpeace:
Website: greenpeace.org/new-zealand

Greens@Vic:
Meetings: Tuesdays, 1pm in SU219 below the Hunter Lounge.
Email: greens.at.vic@gmail.com.

Society for Conservation Biology:
Website: vuwscb.com
Email: Mikey Willcox at mikey.willcox@gmail.com

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