climate change conservation biology ecology economics maori politics science

Wise Response (Part 1)


Previously on Sustainable Lens Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark (pod) described work towards the Wise Response campaign.  This call to face up to New Zealand’s critical risks, was launched in Dunedin recently with a series of speeches.  This week and next on Sustainable Lens we highlight those messages:

  • Hoani Langsbury What sustains life essence?
  • Professor Peter Barrett We’re creating an event of geological magnitude (greenhouse but with remnant ice sheets – so energy transfer)
  • Associate Professor Susan Krumdieck Beyond myths of market: we have no choice but to reduce demand, only whether this is graceful or not. Every professional needs to make changes to provide products and services in new reality.
  • Dr Mike Joy Impacts of massive increase of industrialised dairy farming.  Intensified cows have footprint of 84 million humans need to cost impacts.  25¢ Phosphate fertilizer cost $100 to remove.  Ecological debt $20 for 1kg milk fat.


democracy politics

Hordur Torfason

Hordur Torfason

Hordur Torfason describes himself as a reluctant activist. He would rather be writing lyrics than organising a revolution. But while the former make him famous in Iceland in the 70s, the latter has made him globally famous in the new millennium. Trained as an actor, he sees the role of the artist is to criticise, that criticism is a form of love. After the crash of the Icelandic financial system Hordur began what became the “cutlery revolution” that eventually saw the downfall of the government. We ask what the world can learn from the Icelandic experience, both in the revolution itself and the in establishment of a citizen-led government. While there have been some successes – a new citizen developed constitution and laws protecting freedom of expression, Hordur answers with a firm No when asked if Iceland is still citizen-led. There is still much to do.

Hordur is joined in the studio by his husband, Italian architect Massimo Santanicchia who is able to give his perspective on the extravagance that led to the financial crash.

Anger used violently to destroy is the easy way, but we talked together and used our anger as a positive force, peacefully.

government labour politics

Historic precedents for active government

Megan Woods is the Member for Wigram. She is the Labour Party spokesperson for Youth Affairs, Spokesperson for Christchurch Transport Issues, and Associate Spokesperson for Science & Innovation. Megan talks with Sustainable Lens about how the reinvention of progressive politics is based upon historic precedents for active government. She describes economy and the environment as a bundled loop you can’t pick apart. We talk about industrial farming and working smarter to combine the primary and IT sectors.

(Note: interview recorded on 3rd December 2012).

labour politics

Dr David Clark MP

When Sustainable Lens first talked with David Clark he was an aspiring politician. Now just over a year into his first term, the Labour MP for Dunedin North comes back to tell of his “interesting year”. We talk social justice, environment, debating, and values. We ask him for the best, the worst and the most difficult of 2012.

climate change politics

Positive enthusiasm and participation

Smart, young and the right mix of serious fun. Alec Dawson talks with us about Generation Zero‘s incredibly successful first year. He says that climate change is the challenge of the generation, and responding to it is a matter of inter-generational justice. Despite – or perhaps because of – the seriousness of the threat, Generation Zero is resolutely positive with enthusiasm and participation at the core.

Shane’s number of the week: 21 is the number of opportunities for Green Growth identified in the recent Pure Advantage report.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: It’s the end of the academic year and that means showcases of student work. Sam talks about three successful capstone projects from the Bachelor of Information Technology: ExoExplore – a citizen science app framework, FarmBase – an integrated system for agribusiness and environmental data, and Panda Island – a game to support the Peace Foundation’s Cool Schools programme.

green party politics

Steffan Browning MP

Steffan Browning holds the agriculture portfolio for the Greens in the New Zealand parliament. He tells us of his passion and experience of running an organic greenhouse business. Local food production, he argues, is vital to constructing a more resilient society. He tells us of his experiences on the Primary Production Select Committee -asking hard questions from people who previously wouldn’t have granted him an interview.

Shane’s number of the week: 3.5. That’s a 3.5% reduction on 1990 emissions in an inventory report on net C02 from Ministry of Environment. BUT the methodology has changed – primarily how forests are counted. Net emissions have increased and are continuing to increase.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Prompted by the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, Sam talks about imagery of sustainability. The Worldwatch report describes a path to sustainability that sees green growth in developing countries matched by degrowth in overdeveloped counties.

design education politics

Nicola Bould

Nicola Bould describes both design and sustainability as verbs – as processes. Design, she says is about finding creative ways to solve complex problems. Thinking bigger and wider she says is key to work at the start of the pipe – thinking in strategically and in systems – not to try to retrofit sustainability onto products at the end of the pipe. Sustainability must move beyond “can’ts” and scaring people, to looking for positives – doing the things we love in different ways. Key to this is building, and rebuilding our communities.

Nicola has just finished her PhD, and has just taken a new job as an Issues Assistant working for the Greens, based in Auckland.

Shane’s number of the week: 1.8. 1.8 billion pounds is the estimated cost to the UK of replicating the ecosystem service provided by bees (Friends of the Earth campaign).

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Sam is off to CHI again this year where he hopes to focus on people working in areas beyond single resource consumption. He is involved in running a workshop that explores the seeming mismatch of using technology to promote more simple ways of living.

Trainspotting: Someone’s notes during during Shane’s number of the week may not have been comprehensive. They might have just said 1.8 billion. No matter, I’ll just look it up:

1.8 billion people are between the age of 10 and 24 (
1.8 billion people live on less than $1 a day, 70 percent of them are women (TIAW)
1.8 billion people are in informal work, and 700 million of those are in extreme poverty (formal work is 1.2 billion, OECD stats).
1.8 billion people still drinking unsafe water, UNICEF and WHO
1.8 billion young people will not reach their economic potential due to poor education, infrastructure and jobs (UN Population Fund UNFPA).
1.8 billion muslims in the world.
1.8 billion international tourists expected in 2030 (up from 1B in 2012, UNWTO)
1.8 billion US dollars worth of good shoplifted in a month in US (
1.8 billion tonnes of CO2 released in Amazonian drought in 2009-10 (ERL via treehugger)
1.8 billion speakers of English (about 380 million native, wikipedia – good luck finding a valid source).
1.8 billion NOK (300M US$) being spent per year by Norway to find sustainable ways of powering the developing world

green party politics

Holly Walker MP

Holly Walker is a new Green MP, or perhaps it should be “an MP for the Green Party”.  She is spokesperson for Housing, Electoral Reform, Children, Open Government, Arts Culture & Heritage, Youth & Students. Befitting these wide ranging areas we have a wide ranging discussion:

  • Is it easy being green?
  • Does being in parliament change being an activist?
  • Who does not agree that “inequality is good for no-one”?
  • Who has she enjoyed meeting from across the house?
  • Why does parliament play up its combative image?
  • How are future generations represented in decision making
  • Will we ever get past a growth paradigm when the very idea of constraints are an anathema to many?
  • Will we ever see progress on alternative progress indicators?
  • How can we better engage young people in parliament?
  • What could parties be doing better in social media?
  • Why are we encouraged to digest the “pull yourself up” meme?

Shane’s number of the week: 51. That is 51% – we have had 51% increase in hospital admissions from infectious diseases in the past 20 years which is out of line with developed countries and one which is incidentally costing New Zealand millions of dollars a year. (more from NZ Herald).

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: “Realising value proposition” is the catchphrase of the capstone projects in Information Technology Sam runs at Otago Polytechnic. We talk about successes in the sustainable space of previous years: myGreenFeat; Arai te Uru; Housing Stars;; SmartAid; PestWeb; Farmwise, and eHeritage. Several new projects include citizen science; peace foundation; farm environmental accreditation, and plant identification. To these projects we can variously add smartphone, processing, participation, gamification and entrepreneurial.  Going be a busy year – will keep you posted.

Trainspotting:  Anton describes David Clark as so old-fashioned he’s fashionable.  Sam says the words “tear down paradise put up a parking lot”.


Vote sustainably

Over the past four weeks the Sustainable Lens team has hosted four political forums. Fifteen candidates have spent eight hours exploring the issues of the election through the lens of sustainability. While most get it, some are a very long way from understanding a holistic view of sustainability.

We have distilled the four shows down to this one-hour super special. Even after the election we believe it will be useful as a resource. It clearly reflects differing understandings across the political spectrum, both the issues we face, and the approaches to solving them.

Dunedin South: Joanne Hayes (National), Warren Voight (Democrats for Social Credit), Clare Curran (Labour), Shane Gallagher (Greens).

Dunedin List: Alex Kruize, Victor Billot.

Te Tai Tonga: Rāhui Kātene (Maori), Dora Roimata Langsbury (Greens), Rino Tirikatene (Labour), James Gluck (representing Clinton Dearlove – Mana).

Dunedin North: Metiria Turei (Greens), Pete George (United Future), Guy McCallum (ACT), Michael Woodhouse (National), David Clark (Labour).

The election specials were produced by Samuel Mann and Otago Access Radio’s Lesley Paris. We extend our heartfelt thanks to sound engineer Geoff Barkman, and our hosts and sponsors Otago Polytechnic.


Dunedin North

SustainableLens Dunedin North

What is a sustainable economy? Candidates for Dunedin North discussed the basis of their party’s positions, as well as their personal thoughts on economics, growth and the environment. The Sustainable Lens on Radio forum format allowed the candidates space to be able to expound their philosophies as well as give specific policy examples on fishing, transport, climate change and extractive industries in the South. The evening was a great opportunity to see where the differences between the parties lie.

Candidates (from left) Metiria Turei (Greens), Pete George (United Future), Guy McCallum (ACT), Michael Woodhouse (National), David Clark (Labour), (Greens Dunedin South candidate Shane Gallagher was back-up for Metiria).

Hosts: Anton Angelo and Samuel Mann

Sound: Geoff Barkman and Louise Gizzie.

Producers: Samuel Mann and Lesley Paris


Dunedin list

The Alliance (Victor Billot) the Greens (Alex Kruize) represent the the hard end of the spectrum with their own policies. A rare chance to hear some supporters of the minor parties discuss politics – these are the non-spin doctored party faithful: those who really believe. This discussion was a fascinating insight to what makes their policies tick: what underlies their policies for economic and environmental sustainability.

Candidates (from left) Alex Kruize, Victor Billot. (Labour apologised at the last minute, ACT promised but didn’t show. National were invited but chose not to be represented).

Hosts: Anton Angelo and Samuel Mann

Producers: Samuel Mann and Lesley Paris

Sound: Geoff Barkman

maori politics

Te Tai Tonga

Sustainable Lens Te Tai Tonga forum.  From left: Rāhui Kātene (Maori), Dora Roimata Langsbury (Greens), Rino Tirikatene (Labour), James Gluck (representing Clinton Dearlove - Mana)

The Sustainable Lens Dunedin South Election Forum, 3rd November 2011

The Sustainable Lens team hosted a discussion with candidates for New Zealand’s largest electorate, Te Tai Tonga. Topics covered included jobs, education, Te Reo, Maori management of Maori resources, and of course, the environment, with robust criticism and defense of the performance of the incumbent Maori Party over the last three years. The atmosphere was congenial, but that didn’t stop people from disagreeing with each other!

Candidates (from left in image above): Rāhui Kātene (Maori), Dora Roimata Langsbury (Greens), Rino Tirikatene (Labour), James Gluck (representing Clinton Dearlove – Mana)

Hosts: Anton Angelo, Khyla Russell, Samuel Mann

Producer: Samuel Mann and Lesley Paris

Sound: Geoff Barkman


Dunedin South


In what panellists, audience and candidates described as a successful and enlightening discussion, Sustainable Lens on Radio’s first Election Forum ranged from the global to the very local. Dunedin South’s challenges are of course unique, but the electorate straddles urban poor, suburban wealthy and rural populations. This gave the candidates scope to discuss sustainability and growth, from their own personal perspectives.

The Sustainable Lens Dunedin South Election Forum, 27th October 2011


Candidates (from right in image above):  Joanne Hayes (National), Warren Voight (Democrats for Social Credit), Clare Curran (Labour), Shane Gallagher (Greens).

Hosts: Anton Angelo and Samuel Mann

Producer: Samuel Mann and Lesley Paris

Sound: Geoff Barkman

green party politics

Gareth Hughes MP

Gareth Hughes is the Green Party’s spokesperson on climate change, housing, ICT, libraries and archives, oceans, transport, and youth. After growing up in Gisborne, Gareth studied religious studies, history and politics at Victoria University of Wellington. He worked for Greenpeace in Australia and New Zealand from 2000–2005, and then worked for the Green Party on climate change issues.

Instead of a summary, imagine this is a wordcloud of our discussion: (that would be cool, I should make one)…
roads, driving, mainstream choices, farebox ratio, subsidy of roading transport, telecommuting.
non-violent direct action, social media, activism, poverty, not living in a stratified society,
compromising positions, politics not being a dirty world but integral to making a real change,
richer New Zealand, biological politics, open transparent politics, rational debate, open government, farming, RMA reforms, ETS, community decision making, ecologically concious decision making, aquaculture, rivers, mmp, oil drilling, charter principles, not being the annoying guy, maturing, transformation, connect construct contribute, quality accommodation, capital gains, economic growth, steady state.

Shane’s number of the week: 2 million kilometre square hole in the ozone over the Arctic.

Sam’s joined up thinking: Deep Ecology: The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent worth). These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes. (read more).

labour politics

Audacious goal to close gaps

Dr David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North. He tells us his main driver is to address the gap between rich and poor. David says the Government’s energy strategy is a “huge leap backwards”, linite mining is “a rubbish idea”, and that vested interests “pretend” the energy market actually works. He has an audacious goal for Dunedin North – thriving on a weightless economy, and for the country to have a society we all want to live in. We explore his pathway to being a candidate: a socially active family; German degree; theology degree; Presbyterian minister; PhD (Christian existentialism of Helmut Rex); Treasury (really); and Head of College at Selwyn.

Shane’s number of the week: 100 – that is the number of Maui dolphins that are left in New Zealand waters – Maui dolphins are a sub-species of Hectors dolphins of which there are only 7000 left and they are at risk of extinction unless we take urgent action.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Sam was attending to the security alarm that inexplicably went off. We played some music instead.

green party politics

Dr Russel Norman MP

Dr Russel Norman is the Green Party’s male Co-leader. In this interview we talk about the potential for a green economy. Russel says the green economy is good for business, but maybe not all business – there are sectors of our economy that are deeply unsustainable. We need to find ways to overcome barriers to a cultural transformation.

We ask if he feel like he is pushing uphill? Do other parties in parliament get it? Russel has great insights on why things happen that seem to fly in the face of rational thought. The obsession with motorways comes from a perception that we have to catch up with the rest of the world – even if everyone else has moved onto rail. Structural changes are needed – rail and ports have to make a profit but roads are a loss making service – in effect a massive subsidy for trucking companies.

Note: this interview was recorded earlier in the week before the Government released the New Zealand Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. The Greens describe the strategies as a “missed opportunity“.

labour politics

Clare Curran MP

Clare Curran is the MP for Dunedin South. She tells us that Labour has a core set of values that sees the people and the planet as intertwined.

An important part of her value set is the role of strong communities – geographical and communities of interest. How a country relates to communities determines what sort of country it is – looking at us as a set of businesses is a very dehumanising approach as it looks at work only in terms of how much profit it makes rather than the value of the interaction in your whole life. This whole life approach isn’t about business, it’s about how we live.

In addition to food, shelter, education and health she includes access to the internet as an essential service. The internet is seen as an enormous leveller but she points to 100,000 homes in NZ where kids don’t have access to a computer – their ability to participate in society as children is already compromised. She fears an entrenching of the digital divide – “digital apartheid” in its effect – determining access by wealth could be one of the worst decisions of the next 50 years. If the kids without computers get to high school without reliable access then their futures are seriously compromised. She describes collective responses to this challenge.

The role and responsibilities of big business, both state owned and commercial sector – and the different implications of monopolies within them. The state owned monopolies are there for a purpose because as a society we’ve decided that either the sector isn’t big enough to support competing interests or it has an essential nature. She says TVNZ isn’t a public broadcaster any more.

In a wide ranging interview we talk about: weightless exports; the prospects for open transparent government; investing in rail and increasing emphasis on public transport; procurement policies that account for long term effects, labour cost and environmental effects; open source. We discuss the digital copyright act. In an advance on a policy annoucement Clare tells us that Labour will not only repeal the termination clause, but review the whole fraught are of intellectual property with a view to enable access rather than prevent it.

Clare is the Labour Party spokesperson for Broadcasting, Communications and Information Technology. She trained as a journalist and has worked for companies such as Social Change Media, and Essential Media Communications. She has served on the board of Greenpeace.

Shane’s number of the week: 9.1% is the rise in the cost of living for a solo parent according the Salvation Army’s low income CPI.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: 550 mostly students filled the St David’s St lecture theatre for Generation Zero‘s “Cheer Up Bob” event. Professor Bob Lloyd gave a depressing lecture (peak oil has happened; it is linked with climate change which is already having impacts; coal is rampant but it too will peak; the underlying problem is an irrational obsession with growth). Jeanette Fitzsimons responded via Skype with an inspiring message of hope and positive action.

climate change politics

Bridget O’Leary and Louis Chambers

Bridget O’Leary and Louis Chambers tell us how Generation Zero will be the generation to oversee the transformation to a zero carbon world. This positively focussed youth movement aims to see zero net carbon emissions by 2050. With their positive and informed approach they have us convinced – politicians take note of this spirited youth voice – they’re coming to an election near you.

Shane’s number of the week:130,000 tonnes of palm oil imported into Australia every year.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Dr John C. Thomas is a senior researcher at IBM where he helps lead the people side of the Smarter Cities programme. Sam talked with John about the potential for pattern languages in sustainability (entire interview with John>>).

We liked the term “youth washing” which Anton stumbled upon in this interview. While it is not new (see here), we think it has legs.