Envirotorial

by / May 14, 2012

We don’t even need to set the scene for this one. There’s no point re-litigating the facts. It’s thoroughly established that the situation is rather bleak. The time for denial has long since drifted past, and up into the atmosphere.

People are agitating for action. One need only look to the myriad environmental groups doing admirable things across campus as evidence of this. But it’s clear from our environmental record that it’s not working.

When anybody makes a murmuring, they are told one of two things. Dogma one: New Zealand is but a lonely cluster of islands populated by a lonely cluster of people situated in a vast ocean at the periphery of all human activity. We’re insignificant to be of concern; we shouldn’t be leaders with regard to global problems. Dogma two: agriculture is the ‘backbone’ of our economy; any infringement upon this will jeopardise our national wealth and our national pride. Both of these answers miss the point. Let’s keep it simple.

On dogma one: Yes, we are small. But our greenhouse gas emissions are amongst the highest in the world per capita. We are not clean and we are not green. If we are causing harm to others, we mustn’t wait for someone else to move first.

On dogma two: It’s not about wealth versus subsistence, and it never has been. X per cent of New Zealand’s green house gas emissions are due to agriculture. The change that is necessary need not come at the price of prosperity. We’re too innovative to accept that.

So what maintains these barriers?

Old people. The baby-boomer generation’s insatiable thirst for wealth and excess polluted this fair world, and it’s their obstinacy that obstructs implementation of a comprehensive emissions trading scheme, sustainable transport plans, and political innovations like the recently-scrapped concept of a High Commissioner for Future Generations. They’d rather have the wealth and freedoms now, than a healthy world in the future. Because they won’t be here in the future.

Our politicians are mostly of that generation, and as the youth vote languishes in a delicious liquor-induced coma, it is that same generation that’s left to elect governments reticent to do anything about the world we have to deal with tomorrow. You’ve been robbed. You’re being robbed. Your children are being robbed. The robbers are our parents.

We lie to ourselves, and exhaust our energies by pretending change is just a re-usable shopping bag and a few eco-bulbs. Political change is what is necessary to give substance to these priorities. Let’s return to those action groups. Gen Zero, 350–there’s heaps of them, and they agitate for substantial change. Though the fact remains that most of us stay inert. We all ‘care’, but do little. This includes us two. Neither of us–despite our boisterous rhetoric–are members of any such group. Embarrassing. So it’s time to change that.

We have to because we have few options. We have infinite ambitions and infinite desires but live on a finite hunk of dirt-clad molten rock in the middle of space. We owe all that we have to that rocky ball, and, regardless of our remarkable ingenuity and finesse, our continued existence depends still upon that tiny rock. It’s time to tell those in power that we’re not happy.

About the Author ()

Ollie served dutifully alongside Asher Emanuel as Co-editor of Salient throughout the tumult of 2012. He has contributed to Salient since 2011 and intends to do so for the rest of his waking life.

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