#ClimateEmergency clash of ideals

I think we should all be considering what we can do to ease human effects on the environment. We can reduce waste, reduce use of polluting technologies, reduce buying things we don’t really need, eat healthier diets (personally and planety).

If everyone lives a bit better it will have a massive overall impact.

But some of those who think they are trying to encourage others to do things a bit better dirty their message with some extreme claims and threats. Like this:

It shouldn’t be a class war. This depiction of violent revolution is counter-productive to getting people to work towards a better, nicer planet.

Sensible use of plastic has environmental benefits

Plastic is getting thrashed as an ecological disaster. Supermarkets no longer pack groceries into ‘single use’ plastic bags, even though they were frequently used for multiple purposes.

But we have to be careful that the alternatives to plastic are not worse.

We now buy plastic rubbish bags to replace the ‘free’ supermarket bags we re-used.

Listener editorial:  Why anti-plastic zealotry could be harmful to the environment

Yes, single-use plastic bags have become an environmental menace, plastic packaging is often gratuitous and the reuse of plastic items is urgently to be championed.

But it’s essential to consider the counterfactuals, and to understand the ways in which some usage of plastic has helped and can increasingly help preserve the environment.

Before we ordain the wholesale elimination of plastic food packaging, for example, we need to assess the alternative carbon footprint of producing food that cannot be preserved and therefore gets wasted, or becomes uneconomic to produce.

We also need to remember that plastic components can make vehicles, including aircraft, lighter and more fuel efficient. And we should compare the environmental effects of producing such materials as steel and aluminium. In some places, plastic may be the new environmental hero.

Even the detested flimsy supermarket bag may do less overall environmental damage than a seemingly virtuous cotton tote bag. Britain’s Environment Agency has calculated that a cotton bag would have to be used between 131 and 173 times before its contribution to global warming fell below that of a single supermarket plastic bag. Even a paper bag would have to be reused three to four times before being greener than a plastic one. The figures were based on the agency’s finding that about 40% of the plastic bags were reused at least once.

We have already bought far more re-usable bags than we normally need. Some of them are in each car to avoid forgetting them, and some end up accumulating at home.

These calculations, from 2011, are likely to have changed since British supermarkets started charging five pence a bag in 2017 – but not necessarily for the better. Even as the Government trumpeted a reduction in supermarket bags from 1.3 billion a year to 1 billion in 2017-18, it emerged that the stores had sold an extra billion “bags for life” – sturdier totes that used three times more plastic than the old bags.

Confoundingly, many Britons are consuming the sturdier bags in the same way as the old bags – sometimes reusing them, but then throwing them away.

We may simply have replaced one problem with another.

In his recent series on plastic for BBC Discovery, professor of materials and society at University College London Mark Miodownik gave the example of Hippo Water Rollers: light tanks that are increasingly enabling the 46% of the world’s population without access to clean water to get a safe supply. The plastic tanks can be wheeled great distances by people on foot, and the water is then stored in hygienic – plastic – dispensers. They’re life-savers, he says.

Miodownik says it’s also worth remembering how the advent of plastic curtailed the slaughter of animals for their horns, drastically lowered the price of consumer goods and revolutionised hygiene in medicine.

Plastic has many uses and benefits for both people and the environment.

There’s a maze of hypocrisy to negotiate. Our supermarkets are trumpeting their phase-out of bags, and shoppers are basking in the virtue of jute totes, but the brisk trade in food needlessly cling-wrapped on plastic trays continues.

Providing tray-packed produce boosts supermarkets’ sales because people like the convenience of not waiting for meat or fish to be wrapped. Supermarket research shows people will often grab, say, three packaged courgettes rather than bother to put the two they really need into a bag. Prepackaging also speeds store throughput, reducing daunting congestion, so, again, supermarkets sell more.

And dish out more plastic.

The well-intentioned also champion the reduction of animal-based agriculture, and conversion to vegetarianism and veganism. Yet it’s not wool or leather clothing that sloughs microscopic synthetic pollutants into the oceans. Artificial fibres have become omnipresent and are entering the human food chain. And horticulture is hardly a low-impact activity on the environment.

Perhaps a lot more thought and research is required before jumping on the last environmental fad wagon.

As Miodownik says, our task is to rebalance our use of plastic, through a combination of behaviour change, government action and science. Plastic’s here to stay; it’s up to us to make it green.

Balance and sensible use seem to be lacking from the debates and the agendas of ‘green’ activists.

Green budget leans towards the environment

The Green parts of the budget lean heavily towards environmental causes, with less addressing the social issues that Metiria Turei would have championed, and who her successor Marama Davidson is passionate about.

Perhaps this is at least in part due to James Shaw being sole Green leader through the coalition/confidence & supply negotiations as well as for most of the their term in Government to date, and now being the only-co-leader with Ministerial clout.

In Greens defend share of wins after NZ First gets triple the cash NZH lists the Green ‘wins’, which I separate out.

Environmental $454.5m:

  • Conservation funding – $181m
  • Home insulation – $142.5 million
  • Green Investment Fund – $100m
  • Sustainable Farming Fund – $15m
  • Climate Commission – $11m
  • Overseer farm management tool – $5m

Social $155.1m:

  • Midwifery services – $103.6m
  • Expansion of Household Economic Survey – $20m
  • Te reo teaching – $12.5m
  • Youth mental health services – $10m
  • Sexual abuse services – $7.5m
  • Welfare system review – $1.5m

Total: $610m

Greens say that they also support policy wins for Labour and NZ First – but National broadly supports many of them as well.

Shaw’s main focus is on environmental issues, and ik think the same can be said of the other Green ministers, Julie Anne Genter and Eugenie Sage. I think that is reflected in the environmental balance here.

The social wins are important enough midwifery appears to be facing a crisis, and while relatively very modest the boost for youth mental health and for sexual abuse services are very worthwhile.

The welfare system review, something Turei championed, gets a kick the can down the road sort of pittance.

I think that Labour will have no problems with Greens getting credit for addressing the environment, but Jacinda Ardern has designs on things like being a ‘child poverty’ warrior herself.

The strong leaning towards environmental funding is a good thing for the Greens – I think many voters will support a lot of this.

How much Shaw can accentuate this versus Davidson’s strong preference for promoting social and socialist issues may play a big part in the Green’s next campaign and in their chances of surviving the threshold cut next election.

Q&A – David Parker on farming and the environment

This morning David Parker was questioned about environmental issues, the science involved in addressing problems, and possible effects on farming.

It’s worth checking out on +1 or when it becomes available online. Parker was informative at times, but looked sheepish when talking about tenure reviews.

The panel includes Chris Allen of Federated Farmers, who says that he and farmers share many of the same environmental aims that Parker is talking about. How and how quickly are key questions.

Flaws in land management report need to be rectified quickly

A report on management of New Zealand land was released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, with admissions it lacked data and the data used was six years old. It is important to have a good plan for land use and environmental protection.

ODT editorial: Insights into the environment

The “Our land 2018” report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand this week, confirms the need for more action to improve land management.

Environment Minister David Parker says he is particularly troubled by how much  urban growth is occurring in irreplaceable highly productive land. Even in a country as lucky as New Zealand there are only limited qualities of these high-class soils.

The report identifies New Zealand is losing some of its most productive land to houses. Agriculture is under pressure from the loss of highly productive and versatile land due to urbanisation.

There has been a 7% reduction in land used for agriculture, meaning land and soil is lost to urban subdivisions, forestry and lifestyle blocks. Mr Parker is taking steps to address issues such as the loss of prime market gardening land around Pukekohe, as Auckland expands, as well as the impact of lifestyle blocks on the most productive land.

He recognises the need to ensure there is enough land to build the houses people need while noting the need for protecting the most productive areas of the country.

It was natural for towns and cities to be established and grow near productive land, but as the population grows it puts pressure on the best land. This is a major issue in Auckland, and it has been a problem in Dunedin where marginal land on the fringes of the city has been zoned against housing but productive flat land on the Taieri plain has been increasingly subdivided.

Federated Farmers is disappointed with much of the report, saying the data is six years out of date. The report lacks significant data and admits this multiple times. One of the factors highlighted by scientists is the shocking lack of rural waste data. Better records and tracking of waste disposal is a key to understanding the risks waterways, soil, air and towns face — especially in an expanding industry known for generating important volumes of non-natural waste.

Parker needs to ensure that more research is done and more data is collated.

The report finds New Zealand loses about 192 million tonnes of soil each year to erosion, of which 84 million is from pasture land. The high volume of soil being swept into the waterways is choking aquatic life.

The Government, farmers and others with an interest in land have a role to play in better managing erosion-prone land. Much of the response to the report comes from environmental agencies firmly opposed to farming. However, farmers are not the only ones with a stake in the environment.

If, as predicted, we get more and heavier rain events erosion will be an ongoing challenge. There are many hilly areas prone to erosion. A lot of land has been cleared of erosion protective forest.

The report also confirms the continued loss of New Zealand’s limited wetlands which contain some of the most precious biodiversity and filter contaminants from the land. More must be done to protect these.

A lot of wetlands have been drained and converted into pasture – and housing, like the flood prone South Dunedin flat – since European immigration began.

Mr Parker has taken note of the report, and its shortcomings. He understands the need to have balance in the environment and has asked officials to start work on a National Policy Statement for versatile land and high-class soils. His contribution is important.

The effort of the Government in publishing this report, and the strong self-criticism implied in its findings, should be applauded. Further reports of this character will be needed to get better insights into how New Zealand manages its land and resources.

It is a bit alarming that the report has such poor data to work with. That’s the fault of past governments. Parker now has the opportunity to put this right – but with the rush to built a lot more houses he may have to act quickly.

How ‘intrinsically linked’ is the environment and social justice?

Greens have been re-expressing how they think that environmental issues can’t be separated from social justice.

Green list candidate from last election:

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick‏:

Hawkins is a Green Party Dunedin city counsellor.

Alternate views:

 

Obviously there is crossover between environmental and social issues, as there are with many other issues, but Greens seem somewhat obsessed with promoting an unarguable and inextricable connection between the environment and social issues.

They can, to an extent at least, easily be dealt with separately. Better farming practices and cleaning up waterways can be addressed, as they should, without having to give benefits to anyone who wants them without question.

What the Greens seem to be angling at is if the State gives everyone nice warm dry houses for life, and bicycle lanes and electric trains, and health food, and all the health care they need, then the environment will work itself out.

But I have never seen them explain how this transition will actually work, and how it can be paid for without the country going broke (in which case both the environment and society will suffer).

They are really just trying to justify their choice, a party with a dual purpose, saving the environment and instituting socialism. They have chosen to intrinsically link them in their policies, but are a bit shaky on another essential – economic sustainability.

Is there any example of a sustainable socialist country without social or environmental problems? Or is it a grand idealistic state that can never be reached?

It appears to me that Green Party members may be brainwashed into believing that they can’t champion environmental issues without also buying fully into a socialist system of government.

Not prepared for the effects of climate change

Don’t worry, be happy?

If the Dunedin climate changes to have more of what we have had over the last month many won’t complain. But they will of we get more storms, floods, coastal erosion and droughts.

A report from the Ministry for the Environment has warned that New Zealand lacks a coordinated plan to deal with future climate change and sea level rise.

Belinda Storey, the Principal Investigator, Deep South National Science Challenge says Council’s have to deal with it.

She says it means either increasing rates to fund it or look to central government for support, but there has been no commitment from Government.

“Adapting to sea level rise is going to be expensive and at the moment, that responsibility is primarily falling on local government. They simply don’t have the resources to adapt to it fully.

“The few options that are available to them are to increase rates across the board to help fund adaptations that happens at the coast, or to look to central government for support.”

On the report (from Minister for the Environment, James Shaw): Climate Change Risks and Adaptation

New reports released today show a clearer picture of the scale and urgency we face over climate change, along with guidance on managing and adapting to the results of global warming, Climate Change Minister James Shaw says.

“It’s important that New Zealanders have a clear picture of the potential impacts of climate change so that communities, local and central government, business and other sectors of our economy can make well-informed decisions about how we build resilience and adapt,” says Mr Shaw.

The Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group’s Stocktake report shows the size of the task to build New Zealand’s resilience to rising sea levels, a warmer climate, extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. The Working Group’s panel of experts includes representatives from central and local government, finance and insurance sectors, science and communities.

The Stocktake report shows that New Zealand has significant information about what is happening to our climate and the impacts of change. However, not all of this information is in forms that support decision-making and there are some key gaps in our knowledge.

The report also notes that New Zealand is in the early stages of planning and currently lacks a coordinated plan on how to adapt to climate change. While some sectors and areas are proactive, in general we react to events rather than preparing for them. The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change guidance, also released today, supports this work by providing clear guidance to councils and communities on how to manage and adapt to the increased coastal hazard risks posed by climate change and sea level rise.

The Guidance, produced by NIWA, will encourage good decision-making so that New Zealand faces fewer risks from climate change in coastal areas, in a way that is fair to residents and consistent around the country. Further work on adaptation is underway.

The Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group is working on a report which will make recommendations for how New Zealand can effectively adapt to the impacts of climate change. The report is due in March next year.

From the Ministry – Adapting to climate change in New Zealand: Stocktake report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group

This report is the first report prepared by the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group. It summarises the expected impacts of climate change on New Zealand over the medium and long term, takes stock of existing work on adaptation, and identifies gaps in New Zealand’s current approach.

In taking stock of the work already underway the Group identified three characteristics that need to be in place for effective adaptation to develop in New Zealand:

  • being informed about how our climate is changing and what this means for us
  • being organised, with a common goal, a planned approach, the right tools, and clear roles and responsibilities
  • taking dynamic action to proactively reduce exposure to the social, cultural, environmental and economic consequences of climate change.

The report concludes that New Zealand is in the early stages of planning for climate change with many positive initial steps being taken across a number of sectors – it is in the informed phase, with some areas having advanced to the organised phase.

The information in the report is current as at May 2017, when it was first delivered to the Minister for Climate Change Issues.

The report provides the evidence for the Group’s second report which will report on options for adapting to climate change and recommend how New Zealand can build resilience to the effects of climate change.

The report (PDF): Adapting to Climate Change in New Zealand

Q+A – environment debate

All of Q+A this morning will be a debate on the environment.

The way we care for our environment has emerged as a key election issue – especially the state of some of our polluted waterways. Q+A has an hour long environment debate with 7 candidates on Sunday. Which party wins your environment vote?

Scheduled to take part:

  • David Parker (Labour Party) – Spokesperson for Environment, Water
  • Scott Simpson (National Party) – Minister for the Environment
  • James Shaw (Green Party) – Spokesperson for Climate Change
  • Marama Fox (Maori Party)
  • David Seymour (ACT Party)
  • Damian Light (United Future Party)
  • Winston Peters (NZ First Party) – Spokesperson for everything

Denis O’Rourke is the NZ First spokesperson for climate change and also for the Environment but has been shunted down to 13 on their party list. Peters has chosen to take part in a debate for a change.

Greens: ‘not popular, but important’

It may not be popular in green circles but it is important to include the economy when tying social and environmental issues together.

Greens have always promoted both environmental and social reform. This is ingrained in their constitution:

GreenConstitutionObjects

Their policy headlines:

GreenPolicyheadlines

Marama Davidson is the MP in a new caucus leadership team who is ‘leading the charge’ on poverty. She has just sent out this email:

Not popular, but important

I’m most proud of being a Green MP because we’re not afraid to have important conversations, even if they are not popular. If we are serious about looking after our people and taking real action on climate change we cannot be afraid to talk about these issues.

Unless our communities feel capable and confident we can’t protect our environment. For sustainable communities our people need to be strong and have what they need. For our environment to be protected we need our people to be living good lives.

We know we need urgent action on climate change. We know our success requires not just individual actions, but bold commitments backed by real actions and plans from our politicians. Our success requires all our people to work together. By working together we will succeed. When communities on the front line feel well supported they are better able to come up with long term action on climate change. Climate action that protects the the places we love, the people we love.

It seems odd that Davidson states the Green mission as not popular.

People haven’t been ‘afraid’ to talk about social and environmental issues, there has just not been enough action on them for the Greens (and for many others).

Davidson seems to think that if people are somehow given good lives they will devote themselves to action on climate change.

She says “For our environment to be protected we need our people to be living good lives”.

To an extent she is wrong – environmental policies can be promoted and implemented without the need for social equality.

To an extent she may be right right – many of the the poorest people may be too busy just trying to survive to care about the environment.

Many of the richer people consume far more resources than they need to. They have more material possessions that they don’t really need, they use cars more, they travel by air more.

So I can sort of understand how some may think that lifting living standards for the poor and reducing them for the rich may somehow result in a society in equilibrium, and an environment in equilibrium.

But while Davidson integrates social and environmental as if they are co-dependant, she has omitted the third of the Green policy headlines – economic.

People have long advocated for social and economic equality. Some countries have tried to achieve it, like the USSR, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Venezuela. They have all been economic disasters, and have also failed on social equality and environmental purity.

The Greens get the need for better social parity. I’ve seen claims that New Zealand governments deliberately oppress people and keep them poor , but this is ridiculous. Our governments and our major political parties want to improve things for their people, they just have different ideas on how best to achieve that.

But some of the Greens, like Marama Davidson and Metiria Turei, don’t seem to grasp the necessity for an economy that will allow and enable better qualities of life for those at the bottom.

Taking more and more money off those at the top has never really succeeded anywhere. Neither has giving more and more to those at the bottom with no incentive to be productive.

It may not be popular in Green circles to talk about economic realities, but that is important if they are going to succeed in achieving better social and environmental outcomes.

A healthy society and a healthy environment needs a healthy economy.

Greens need to understand that alongside social and environmental priorities a conversation about the economy is important, no matter how unpopular.

Ex-Green Tava on Turei

Vernon Tava stood for Green co-leadership in 2015 when Russel Norman stood down from Green co-leadership and resigned from Parliament. The position was won by James Shaw.

In February this year Tava resigned from the Green Party – Top Green resigns and says party has become socialist:

A former top Green official .and leadership contender in 2015 has resigned from the party because he believes it has lost its way and  he is now working with National.

As for the Greens, he said he began to part ways with them because he began to doubt whether the environment was seriously at the top of their agenda.

He also began to doubt that there was any genuine will on the part of the party to work with the Government whoever they were.

That was a central theme of his campaign for the party co-leadership in 2015.

He said the charter’s values of ecological wisdom and social responsibility were neither left nor right.

And he went on to suggest he would be happy in Government with National.

Metiria Turei strongly opposes supporting a National led government returning.

“The Green Party should be the sustainable axis around which every government turns, he said.

But he didn’t win the leadership, and he watched as the party signed its Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, and that was enough.

“When I stood for co-leader one of the great things about that was that we travelled around the country and I was contacted by a lot of the older, founder members who thought it was no longer the party of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald.

Greens tend to claim that the environment and social issues are inextricably linked and you can’t promote one without the other.

Tava disagrees, and has come out and said Metiria Turei’s attitude proves the Greens aren’t 100 percent pure:

We are now entering the third week of Metiria Turei’s welfare fraud scandal with less than eight weeks until the election, and it is still a story.

Labour have distanced themselves, understandably concerned that her stance is anathema to the political centre; her welfare policy announcement has been eclipsed, and it seems that she has done irreparable damage to both her personal integrity and the Green brand.

Turei’s lack of contrition is irksome. Her evasion of any sense of personal responsibility in saying that the Government “made me poor and it made me lie” have infuriated both law-abiding beneficiaries and those of us who get up and go to work each day.

While there is probably wide sympathy for the difficulties faced by beneficiaries who struggle financially, there are probably many people who are troubled by Turei’s no fault, no blame attitude to rorting the system.

Saying, as Turei does, that the solution to poverty is “simply to give them more money”, without conditions or obligations to seek work, and that fraud is an acceptable means of obtaining whatever money one feels they need, makes a very poor case for redistributive justice through taxation and does little to end dependency.

More money and less punitive conditions for beneficiaries is a very worthy issue to campaign for, but Turei and her supporters seem to fail to see that there are potential with a no questions asked taxpayer handouts alongside approving of fraud if you think your need warrants it, on a moral basis, and on a state dependency basis.

The cost is another factor not thought through – if being a beneficiary provided a comfortable income and a comfortable home with no requirement to work or to be honest then the number of people wanting a free lunch as well as a free breakfast, tea and everything else they felt they ‘deserved’ could surge.

Lawmakers cannot credibly advocate breaking the law. Turei has been in Parliament since 2002 and seeks the position of Minister of Social Development, but has been unable to answer questions about how she could pursue prosecutions against those who would defraud even the more generous entitlements she advocates.

Politicians from other parties, including Andrew little and Jacinda Ardern, have said that MPs cannot condone breaking the law.

Turei’s defenders wax lyrical about the “privilege” of her critics. Ironically, she is indulging in another, more insidious, form of privilege in inciting fraud and attempting to argue some kind of moral justification. Others who follow her example will not be able to evade the consequences that someone on her considerable taxpayer-funded income is able to.

This is deeply irresponsible. Benefit fraud is not civil disobedience, nor is it a noble protest against a supposedly unjust system. It is cheating.

There is another privilege being pushed – the privilege of being something other than white and male. It has become common to see the opinions of white males being rubbished and discounted on Twitter.

It seems that benefit fraud is acceptable to Turei and her supporters as long as you are female, brown and have children.

The tension between being a protesters’ collective or a parliamentary party has always been an issue for the Greens, but Turei has gone a lot further than merely admitting legal wrong-doing – she has condoned it.

Metiria Turei may have secured a hard-left segment of the Green base and appealed to demographics who tend not to turn out on election day, but it will be at the cost of a far larger group of voters disappointed to discover the party that earlier this year claimed that “honest politics is what we stand for” is not 100 percent pure after all.

What Turei seems to want looks like 100% pure socialism. I’m not sure whether all her supporters see that.

But Tava looks male and looks white-ish so his views may mean 0% to the Green Party he has left. Same as mine.