Post-Covid idealists may have to wait a while for the people to rise and fix the world

Obviously the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s wider effects on health and the economy are far from over, here in New Zealand and world wide. It seems unlikely our borders will reopen to Australia let alone the worlds will re-open this year.

We are yet to see the full economic impact here, with wage subsidies still propping up jobs for another few weeks but already there have been many lost jobs and business closures.

In Dunedin the Warehouse has announced the closure of their city store, department store H & J Smith have announced they will close permanently in January (when their mall lease expires), and K-Mart hasn’t opened since the lockdown. The latter two are the major tenants in Dunedin’s biggest mall.

But idealists still seem to think that Covid can be used as a catalyst to reforming and saving the world.

Anne Salmond: Life after the Pandemic

Around the world, millions of people are still in lockdown, trying to avoid the worst consequences of a global pandemic. It’s been a shocking, bizarre time, with people locked in their houses, unable to go to work (except online) or visit many of their nearest and dearest, even in the extremity of illness or death.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the suspension of life as usual has been short compared with many other countries, and the loss of life blessedly limited.

To be fair she may have written her column before this week’s debacle unfolded.

In our small, relatively close-knit island nation, over the past few months ‘the team of five million’ has been galvanised by the pandemic to work towards common goals. Fortunately, the idea that the lives of friends or family should be sacrificed for ‘the economy’ had very little traction in New Zealand, and the risks posed by self-serving individuals to others became stark.

There’s a sense that the ground beneath us is lurching. The global economy is fragile, with the climate crisis, mass extinctions and collapsing ecosystems looming like black clouds on the horizon. Around the world, leaders are being tested, perhaps as never before, and some are failing in spectacular style.

In New Zealand, we’ve been lucky. With the support of most people, our leaders took this small, remote country through months of isolation and sacrifice to eliminate Covid-19, at least for now.

As many commentators have observed, in many ways, Covid-19 is the least of our worries.

Many commentators? Or a few who keep repeating themselves?

After decades of fostering radical inequalities, and ravaging soils, rivers, forests and harbours in the name of profit, our life support systems are faltering, and the links that bind us together are being corroded. If our leaders fail to tackle these challenges head on, they will put the lives of their own children and grandchildren at risk.

Our leaders have failed to even do the basics in keeping Covid out.

It is my hope and belief that the same collective good sense and astute leadership that helped us get through the pandemic (so far) will shape our future in New Zealand. In the aftermath of Covid-19, its time for the team of five million (literally) to play the game of their lives.

But we are not anywhere near through the pandemic yet.

Rod Oram: Politicians still leaving it to us on climate

…But this Government, along with its predecessors over the past 20 years, has failed to deliver any meaningful complementary measures because the politics of them have been so dysfunctional.

Last July, for example, the Labour-led Government proposed a comprehensive policy to incentivise the purchase of lower emissions, more fuel efficient and electric vehicles. The policy would have also set fuel efficiency standards for New Zealand by 2025. We are the only developed country to lack them. But it dropped the plan in February because its coalition partner, NZ First, vetoed it.

Both NZ First and National attacked the policy, claiming it benefitted higher income and urban people while penalising lower income and rural people. Their argument was flat-out wrong, which was perfectly clear from the analysis on which the policy was based. Meanwhile, fuel hungry twin-cab utes retain their exemption from fringe benefit tax, which is an incentive to buy them.

Similarly, this Government’s Covid recovery stimulus spending is remarkably light on infrastructure projects that also deliver environmental and climate benefits. The ones announced this week were pitifully few and small.

The global revolution in food and farming is familiar to regular readers of this column, with my most recent update seven weeks ago.

I suspect that most people don’t care about global revolutions at the moment, just personal survival.

Politicians were just as disappointing this week, led by National voting against the ETS legislation. It said it supported the bill but Covid-hit households and business couldn’t afford the resulting increase in carbon costs.

They make a valid point.

If it wins the election and leads the next government, it says it will delay implementing the ETS reforms for a year. But if a dollar or two a week per household really is too much now, then it will always be and National will never agree to it. Yet with every year we delay, the cost of acting on the climate crisis, and repairing the damage it does, only escalates.

So, once again the only course for action for the public is to take personal responsibility and action on the climate, work with others, push politicians ever harder to act, and vote for the parties showing the least denial.

So Oram is basically campaigning against National here.

And he is probably out of touch with most of us who see some fairly big challenges right now. Taking “personal responsibility and action on the climate” is not likely to be high on most people’s priority lists.

Salmond and Oram may be financially secure enough to make token sacrifices, but many of us are more concerned about personal survival, health-wise and financially.