Categories
climate change psychology

Head in the crowds

We talk with Prof Marc Wilson of Victoria University of Wellington. Why is there such a gap between science and people who don’t believe in climate change? Psychology. Marc says that what we believe, we believe for a reason, and in this case a lot of disbelief can be linked to views on hierarchy versus equality, and orientation to authority. And this leads to entrenched positions that can’t be overcome with more facts. He says that we’ve probably saturated the market of people who will be convinced by facts.

So how can we make a difference? Marc points to changing the way we communicate “what kind of world do you want to live in in 50 years?”.

Marc is encouraged by the crowds that turned out for School Strikes for Climate. He says the very act of coming together with like-minded people is an accomplishment. Despite criticism, marchers shouldn’t feel guilty because they are carrying a mobile phone, or wearing a plastic jacket – they are part of systems that will take a long time to change, and that calls for perfection are intended to be dis-empowering. So rather than aiming for perfection, it is OK to aim for good.

Definition: Language of sustainability has been misused. Need to describe in terms of passion and energy.

Success: Students

Superpower: Tenacity, thick skin (Brian Dixon says he should have said communicator).

Activist: Increasingly. Did think that soience had to be objective, but now realises that everything is value-laden and to pretend otherwise is to do science a disservice.

Motivation: Sense of obligation. But not hard as every day exciting and different. We (university) everything has to change because the students do.

Challenge: Ongoing research into adolescent self-harm

Miracle: Emotional skills curriculum

Advice: Aim for good.

Marc was in Dunedin to speak as part of NZ Psychology Week “Living Life Well”. His talk The Elusive Climate Consensus:If it’s so obvious, why doesn’t everyone believe (or not) in climate change?

Categories
computing energy water

Big data habits

Dr Ben Anderson is Principal Research Fellow in the Energy & Climate Change Division of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, UK . We ask what big data can tell us about habitual energy and water consumption.

Living beyond our means. We are currently living outside of our day-to-day means as a global population, because we are digging up the past and burning it. So I would define sustainability as living within our day-to-day energy means such that we can continue to continue living on the planet.

Ask yourself how can New Zealand be a shining light in terms of research, innovation and building capacity in a future way of living?

Try to burn less, try to consume less, have a think about what you are doing and when you are doing it.

Categories
community dunedin youngleader

Empowering for change

Connor Boyle of the Malcam Trust has a diverse range of interests stretching including climate science, growing and cooking food, writing and playing music, mindfulness and mental health, social enterprise development, and building interactive digital sculptures. His current work focusses on engaging young people in making a difference – to their own lives and the community.

I’m motivated by my love of people, the natural world and music.

We have to learn how to be human in an enviroment which we have a profound ability to effect.

You shouldn’t need permission to stand up for the things that you believe in.

Categories
geography history landscape urban

Environmentally engaged students and communities

Eric Pawson

An educational activist…encouraging other people to find out how they can best act in the world.


Eric Pawson is Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury. He has written several books on New Zealand’s environmental history and his recent work concerns biological economics. He is President of the Ako Aotearoa Academy of Tertiary Teaching Excellence – we discuss his approach to “classrooms without borders” and his experiences in community-based teaching and research in post-quake Christchurch.

Talking points

We saw the industrial revolution as a economic process, rather than a series of independent technological innovations.

Working with local schools…adopting the lake shore as a series of outdoor classrooms.

(Success?) Student projects in the residential red zone

How community aspirations might be accommodated around the landscape transformations

Flashpoints can unstick reputations…water quality may be such a flashpoint for us.

(Motivation?) Working with other people on things that are rewarding – that have intrinsic value and a wider purpose. Rather more that information transmission – I don’t believe in an information transmission model of education – I think that education is something that people create for themselves with a certain amount of assistance and guidance. A process of guided self-discovery.

(Activist?) It depends what you mean by activist. An environmental activist in the conventional sense of the word – no. Yes, an educational activist in the senses that I’ve been describing – perhaps less putting myself forward, and more encouraging other people to find out how they can best act in the world. If that’s an activist, then yes.

(Challenge?) I’m retiring – so many exciting things to do, so many exciting places to go. …I will carry on with the community based teaching.

(Miracle?) Not sure I believe in miracles. (the smallest thing that would make the biggest possible difference?) There are an awful lot of people in my home city (Christchurch) who are still in very difficult situations with insurance companies and unmended homes… it is a travesty that after five years we haven’t been able to take care of everybody. I would like us to wave a collective wand and fix this.

This conversation was recorded at the conference of the NZ Geographical Society.

Categories
economics transport

Reimagining our communities

Jean-Daniel Saphores

We have to re-imagine our communities…what we have built is unsustainable


Working at the crossroads of environmental systems, civil engineering, transport economics, resource economics and sustainability, Jean-Daniel Saphores is holds multiple roles at University of California Irvine. He is: Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering in the The Henry Samueli School of Engineering; Professor of Economics in the School of Social Sciences; and Professor of Planning, Policy and Design in The School of Social Ecology.

Talking points

I was always concerned with the environment, and the impact of the environment on our health…I thought we could do better at how we relate to the environment.

Building structures to take advantage of what nature has to offer to fulfil our needs

Uncertainty could come in many forms, it could be uncertainty in natural processes, uncertainty in prices…in the real world we face a lot of

Uncertainty, but in economics most models are deterministic – that assume we know everything, of course this has limitations, because, as you know, we don’t know everything.

Assuming we know everything may not be the best way to go

Using a deterministic framework can be the wrong thing to do

So many things we don’t know

Doing nothing is not the solution if we’re facing dire problems

(can values be represented in economic models?) They can be captured to some extent.

For your work to be useful, you want to try to apply models.

My main interest is the the link between transportation systems and environmental systems: so environment, transportation and health.

Many facets of the transportation system are important to welfare

More than just efficiency of transport, the idea is to try to change urban form

We have to reimagine our communities…what we have built is unsustainable

I like electric cars, but we still need to rethink our urban form

Shared services could really improve our situation

We get the society we deserve but it is important we understand the implications of our choices

(Are people generally good?) Values and norms drive peoples behaviour…norms are more important than incentives

Children good way to bring message home…school benefits programmes

Reluctance in the US to rely on economic instruments

Recycling isn’t a herculean task, it just requires you to be consistent…and once you have a habit you are set

Recycling…but these are just marginally changes, if we really want to make a bigger impact, we need to revisit our way of living

It’s pretty clear not everyone can enjoy the lifestyle we have in US…but even here it’s entirely unsatisfactory to have 15% poverty rate including one out of five children, if we look at that we should be very unsatisfied with our current economic system if we have any kind of
ethical values.

We need to have convergence – economic development in poor parts of the world, the type of economic development that avoids environmental degradation that was generated the way the US, Europe and Japan developed, then in our part of the world we need to really take into account the impacts of our decisions to consume. I believe that most people would take steps to change their lifestyle, and we also need to take a look at how we organise our lives on a daily basis in our cities and so on, change our codes so that over the next two decades we can have convergence. We can not deny reasonable affluence to other parts of the world…in any case if we carry on the current path we may be in for trouble.

We can do better to separate growth and resource consumption. I’m an optimist, I believe it is possible to decrease poverty and enhance
people’s lives without completely ruining the planet.

I do believe in economic instruments, so trade is important, better trade, trade that takes into account the environmental impact

I believe that over time convergence will happen…otherwise we’re in trouble

(Success) Adopting my son

(Activist) Not yet. I’m a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but I’ve only been moderately concerned so far. I’m going to become more concerned and more active. Poverty and environmental quality – together.

(Motivation) Future of planet and our legacy to our children.

(Challenges) Upgrade academic skills and do good.

(Miracle) We face the challenges

(Advice) Do good and enjoy yourselves

This Sustainable Lens is from a series of conversations at University California Irvine in June 2015. Sam’s visit was supported by the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, and coincided with Limits 2015.

Categories
climate change engineering

Engaging embodied energy

Craig Jones

The embodied energy in a disposable battery is fifty times more than the energy that can be extracted from the battery.


Dr Craig Jones of Circular Ecology is a leader in embodied energy and carbon footprinting of products, services and buildings, and in Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Is is the author of the Inventory of Carbon & Energy an embodied energy and carbon database, and wrote the first book on embodied carbon in the construction industry. Circular Ecology, he tells us, comes from mixing circular economics with industrial ecology.

Talking points

Many kids start out with an environmental passion, but he older they get it just sort of disappears from them – they just get used to how society works at the moment – buy things, dispose of things, not really thinking about them.

It is disappointing that they don’t teach more about the environment and sustainability in engineering.

Engineering, design, is responsible for the products we have. It is a great opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of all the products that we use.

They (engineering graduates) don’t know enough about how to reduce impacts of products, and they just don’t have training and education to know how to do that.

It’s not the culture of companies to reduce impacts unless embedded in policies – which is not yet mainstream.

If you don’t take the opportunity when you design a building to reduce the embodied carbon then that opportunity is lost forever.

The embodied carbon, in a very short time frame, you are using 15-20 years worth of operational emissions. If you don’t take the opportunity to reduce that carbon you can’t go back, that opportunity has been lost forever.

We have the technology today – it is not really a technical issue.

It takes more energy to make a kilogram of paper than a kilogram of steel

Even though I prefer to read reports and documents on paper, I print about nothing these days – you do get used it.

Even as someone who does this full time, what’s a kilogram of carbon really? It is a difficult unit to understand, so I try to consider it in terms of units that are a bit more meaningful…if you did things differently, what is the saving in terms of other things that you do: driving the car or watching TV?

I think water footprints could quickly get more attention.

Too many people confuse carbon footprint with sustainability, and too many people confuse environmental benefits with sustainability.

True sustainability balances environmental factors with social factors and with economic factors.

If you are starting from nothing, then carbon and energy is a good place to start. But it shouldn’t be displayed or marketed as sustainability. Climate Change is one of the more pressing challenges we have at the moment, but there are other important issues out there: toxicity; eutrophication; inequality…

We need to look after our planet so we can hand it down to our children and our grandchildren. For them to have the same quality of life that we have had then we need to change – the planet needs to be healthy for that to happen.

There are so many environmental labels, it needs to be simplified and should be officially backed.
If all manufacturers of similar products had to adhere to the same label, the same assessment method, there would be nowhere to hide, you couldn’t hide behind creating your own label and doing it differently.

At the moment, most consumers don’t understand the impacts – their products are disconnected from the consequences – so the masses will just ignore those labels.

Recycling is not a benefit, it should be expected rather than congratulated.

If we are to live in a truly sustainable manner we need to stop congratulating ourselves for doing things that should be expected.

It needs to become an expectation, we should feel guilty for throwing away that plastic bottle or tin can.

If you recycle your tin can, that saves enough energy to power your TV for four hours.

The life span of a tin can is two months – from mining to discarding – so even with a 55% recycling rate, most of it is going to landfill.

A circular economy means New business models that are still profitable for companies

The embodied energy in a battery is fifty times more than the energy that can be extracted from the battery.

There are companies doing sustainability properly and they are making a profit. But it is not yet seen as mainstream. Those companies have the advantage of being ahead of the curve.

There is an opportunity for consumers, but there’s not really enough information in an easily digestible form.

(Activist) No. I do try achieve gains through my day-time job. And through giving out information freely.

(Motivation) Environmental gain.

(Challenges) There are more and more people in this area, it is becoming competitive. Reducing the costs of the assessments, especially on whole product lines.

(Miracle) Something in policy and legislation that mandated companies to measure and reduce the environmental footprints of their products, buildings and services.

(Advice) Everyone does have a choice when they buy things. You don’t have to always make that choice, other things come into it, but now and again just think about the environmental impacts of something when you purchase it. And even, think do I need that? Quite often you buy things and they end up at the bottom of the cupboard. Think about that, and it reduces the amount of things you buy and never use.

This conversation was recorded at the very pleasant Bordeaux Quay alongside Bristol’s historic Floating Harbour in September 2014.

Categories
government green party politics poverty

Activist-politician

Jan Logie

Can we afford policies to address child poverty? First, Yes. Second, Can we afford not to?


Jan Logie is a Green MP. Before becoming an MP Jan worked widely in New Zealand social and human rights organisations. She is Greens spokesperson for Income Support, Immigration, Women, Pacific Island Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Human Rights, Rainbow Issues, Overseas Development Aid and Associate for Housing. We begin by asking if there is a common thread running through all those areas.

Talking points:

A lot of what is going wrong in our society is around unbalanced power. That’s around people access to things and it’s also around treatment of the planet.

I’ve always been bemused by people making social justice separate from environmental issues – it seems to me that the people messing up our planet are the same people with the wealth and the resources. They are able to do both of those things because they have too much power – an uneven share of power.

Go out and listen to people, rather than tell.

I really want everyone to be able to live up to their potential and live free lives. Domestic and sexual violence are massive barriers to that in New Zealand…epidemic rates…1 in 3 women likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In terms of sexual violence, the figures for girls are around 1 in 4, and for boys between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 are likely to be sexually abused in this country… that’s horrific.

For some people the silence around these issues and the blame around these issues, will mean that they won’t get the help that they need…the consequences of that violence will be really compounded.

We need to make this a priority for us to deal with as a country.

We had a bit of a spate of taking it seriously politically, and then it went off the agenda, it’s almost like “oh we tried…there’s nothing more we can can do”. We’re starting to get another wave of a response, of people saying “this is ridiculous”. It doesn’t have to be like this, we need the systems responses, government departments to actually do what they need to do in response. And they’re not. The systems have been breaking down terribly.

It is absolutely a result of decisions made around the Cabinet table. Womens Refuges have had their baseline funding reduced over the last six years.

(On banknotes getting $80M but sexual violence advocates struggling) It’s just skewy values.

The women’s vote can swing an election.

What is primarily (but not exclusively) male violence against women is founded on a sense of entitlement…and that is founded on women having a lesser place in society.

Trickle down has been so thoroughly discredited, yet we hear it all the time….(To see how it doesn’t work)…you only have to look at how productivity has increased so much more than wages.

Child poverty is outrageous. A quarter of our children living in poverty. Numbers are disputed, but it was about 10% in the 1980s, and now it is around a quarter. And the levels of severe deprivation have increased.

They aren’t getting enough food, they don’t have warm houses, their houses are damp, they don’t have proper clothing, or shoes without holes.

Houses full of nothingness.

We’re taking out all of the things that help our children and young people grow and learn and thrive – they’ve just been sucked out of their lives by government policies.

Think about how important the first seven years are to someone’s entire life – and what we are doing to them, and as a consequence to all of us. It will require much more expensive interventions later, and it’ll never be an even playing.

To make inter-generational changes: start. Go beyond piecemeal.

Claims that you just need to be out working, shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of people’s lives and what we consider work. There’s also not enough jobs. And what about people with disabilities…are we saying that they’re not deserving to participate in society? And the value of parenting? And because levels of social harm haven’t been fully addressed…and not everyone is going to fit into our ultra-efficient high performing world. Some people fit into that and some people don’t – are we saying that they don’t deserve to be able to live a decent life?

There’s a really strong interaction between income support and work policies, we need to make people help make those links. It is in most of our interests to drive towards a high wage economy, where part of that economy is a decent social security system.

I’m getting a sense that there is a cultural shift away from individualism.

A meritocracy, deserving/undeserving poor concept rests on an individualistic approach. I’m sensing a cultural shift towards recognising our interdependence and the links between us.

The world, sadly, is proving our policies right. (would you like to be wrong on some of them?) Absolutely.

That’s the biggest question facing any movement for social change. How do we get there? The policies are clear, but it’s how do we bring people to the idea that those policies might actually work, that we all have something to gain from these policies.

There’s too big a gap between parliament and our social movements.

I see amazing people doing amazing things, and think this is really exciting, how do we create the tipping point of cultural understanding?

New Zealand has had a really vibrant civic society, that has characterised our society…the weakening of that it a huge lose to our society.

In my heart I’m an activist. But maybe I’m too deeply compromised as a politician…I like to think I’m an activist-politician.

The whole world feels a better place if you are active and trying to create the world you want.

(Miracle question) If everyone suddenly got that we’re all in this together.

Resources:
Bryan Bruce’s survey of political parties on child poverty.

Patricia Widener who discussed the role of activism and social movements.

Categories
government green party politics transport

Changing transport win:win

Julie Anne Genter

I realised that there’s not much you can do to improve things (in urban planning) if you don’t address transport…it affects many of the public spaces between the buildings, it impacts on the energy we have to use to get from place to place, and it also has a big impact on household expenses.


Julie Anne Genter is a Member of Parliament for the Green Party. Amongst other roles, she is spokesperson for Transport.

Talking points

Transport is the easy win:win the thing we can change that would have a positive economic impact, positive impacts for society, and very positive impacts for the environment

How can walking, cycling and public transport possibly be more expensive than every household being utterly dependent on two or more cars?

“No blood for oil”…I was 12,and that made perfect sense to me, we shouldn’t be going to war, and certainly not for oil.

It would be useful to have more critical training. In politics there’s a lot of logical fallacies being used and they’re repeated in the mainstream media. It’s not that hard to pick it apart with training in critical thinking, but if people haven’t had that training there’s no reason people should be able to innately do it.

(On the argumentative theory of reason) Most people are quite bad at abstract reasoning…reason isn’t something that people use individually, it’s something that functions in a collective, it works through argument.. .people are really good at arguing their case, they’ve already got a position and they’re really good at finding arguments to support their position – whether they are logical or not – so reason operates as part of a group, we argue and debate, it is the wisdom of the crowds that sorts out which argument is best and makes the right decision.

Maybe what we need is critical thinking, but on the other hand maybe what we need is to be less afraid of having open debates…maybe that’s what’s missing in our democracy is having more people engaging in debate.

(one of the four values of the Green Party charter) appropriate decision making…decisions will be made at the lowest level at which they affect people…it’s important for all of the different points of view to be represented in political debate and that we have to be willing and open minded about listening to each other in order for us to make good decisions as a society…that doesn’t happen in parliament, the political parties already have their positions decided and most of the debate is just for show.

We’re not really listening, it’s like one party gets in power and they do whatever they want, then another party gets in power and does something different, but aren’t collectively having a debate and making decisions based on the information that’s available to all the different citizens of New Zealand, and I think we’d make better decisions if we were able to do that.

Spending almost half the entire transport budget on 4% of vehicle trips is a huge opportunity cost – those projects aren’t going to substantially reduce transport costs for households or business, they’re not going to reduce congestion in the medium or even short term…dumping more cars onto congested local roads…and it’s so crazy…spending this much money on new highways when we know highways don’t reduce congestion, they don’t increase economic productivity…what we could buy with 12 billion dollars to invest in the rail network, in public transport, in walking and cycling in towns and cities…we could have a much more balanced transport system.

It’s very strange that the rail network is expected to be funded by the profit from a rail company while we’re dumping billions of dollars on the state highway network.

the government treats them as two separate things…despite there being obvious benefits for the road network from improvements in the rail network.

Very few people benefit from the status quo

Getting more people onto public transport, walking and cycling is great for freeing up the roads for people who need to drive, including the truck drivers.

It’s a huge opportunity, it’s going to be so easy to do things smarter because we’re doing them so stupidly at the moment. What a win:win, we could spend the same amount of money on transport from a government perspective but spend a lot less in terms of vehicles and fuel, get massive health benefits…

When you look at the benefits of reducing vehicle dependency, it can be justified on economic grounds alone on the money your save, but also there’s the health benefits, benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and water pollution, benefits in terms of using land more efficiently, safety benefits…

(do we have the population density?) We had high functioning rail network and public transport before when we had a smaller population, more spread out…being a long skinny (country) lends itself to rail

Our system is built now for the car, and that has spread things out.

We don’t have to keep doing it…if we invest in the alternatives, people will still be able to drive but some people will have the option to walk, cycle or take public transport, and move their goods by rail or coastal shipping, and that will make the roads function better and people will make different location decisions.

We’re not talking about replacing the car, about replacing every car trip people make now with a public transport trip or a bicycle trip, it’s about getting it from 8 or 9 out of 10 to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10 – an incremental process. But that incremental change of getting back in balance requires a total revolution in funding and policy because otherwise we’re going to keep going in the car dependent direction.

People everywhere systematically overestimate the importance of car parking and car access to their businesses

It’s either a vicious or virtuous cycle and we can quite easily break the vicious cycle of car dependence because we’re the ones who started it….transport and planning bureaucrats who made the decision to do everything around cars

Electric vehicles solves the fuel problem but not everything else

(about the response to banners on the beach protesters being dismissed because they drove their car there) their argument is that you can’t argue for things to be different inf you are living in the world as it currently is – I don’t think that is a good argument, it says ‘if you want things to be different then you should somehow make the different’, but that’s what people are trying to do. I don’t blame people from using a car because we’ve created an environment where it is pretty difficult to do anything but use a car. That’s why I’m advocating for government to change its funding and policies to make it easier for more people not to rely on a car.

People are saying they want other choices, but they can’t go and live in a cave somewhere and change the world.

The only place where people call the Greens crazy is the National Party in parliament..they repeat this point over and over again in order not to have to engage in a proper debate with us, it somewhat works but it’s starting to make them look bad – for example over the climate plan…they called us “off the planet crazy” but they haven’t got a real argument.

I’m not anti-car and there’s nothing anti-car about our policies, this is going to be good for people that need to drive… we plan to increase road maintenance, increase the programme of road safety works, have a more ambitious road safety target…

Resources
Green Charter
Green’s Climate protection plan

Categories
government labour politics

Regional development

GrantRobertson-01

Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.


Grant Robertson is the MP for Wellington Central. He is Shadow Leader of the House, he is Labour Spokesperson for Economic Development, Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training and Associate spokesperson for tertiary education, the SIS and Arts, Culture and Heritage. He grew up in Dunedin and was student president at University of Otago. He was visiting Dunedin wearing his Regional Development cap.

Talking points:

I think the legacy of this government will end up being around cronyism

No politician should ever feel that they are above the law

Willful blindness is not acceptable

I think I’ve got a good sense of right and wrong, and when I see something that is wrong I don’t like sitting by

(on Labour introducing student fees in the late 1980s as part of neo-liberal reforms) I wasn’t a member of the 4th Labour Party then and I wouldn’t have voted for them either – those things took New Zealand in the wrong direction…The Labour Party of today – and indeed the Labour Party of the Helen Clark government – is very very different. I recognise that we do have to re-earn the trust of those people, but I’m from a different generation. I opposed those things, I marched against them and I’ve done my best to undo them.

(Why don’t students protest so much now?) I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, education has become very commodified, the people that can afford to be there are there and the people that can’t afford to be there aren’t. Students are trying to get through in the shortest amount of time possible to incur the least amount of debt.

(As a staffer in Helen Clark’s government) Interest free student loans made a huge difference…
I felt a real emotional sense of having wound something back, we were able to bring it back to something better.

(On student allowances) We’re moving to everyone getting an allowance.

20 cuts to loans and allowances in this government, the most insidious cut is the cutting of post-graduate allowances… New Zealand needs more people doing post-grad study not less…mad!

We’ve created a situation where 37% of our population lives in Auckland, projected to get as high as 45%, there is no capital city or large city in the developed world that has that level of the country’s population. It’s not good for country, we’re seeing the problems today and they’ll just get worse.

we desperately need regional economic development…we need a spread across New Zealand in the way in which jobs are created.

Dunedin is an example of a city with huge potential and opportunity, it just needs some support to catalyse that.

The strategic advantages for Dunedin are education, ICT and health.

When you’ve got a regional development policy with a government as an active partner, then you’ll start to solve some of the problems.

(Coal on the West Coast) The Labour Party knows that we have to transition off fossil fuels…we have to go there, the world’s gone there already, its about timing and about phasing, it’s about saying how do we use the resources that we have available to us…we have to have a plan for transition, while the resources are there the Labour Party believes that we should use them but is has to be part of a planned transition.

(On differences with Greens) Resolvable tensions

I’m both cautious and doubtful about oil and gas…it’s being promoted as an amazing silver bullet…but they haven’t found anything. That’s because now they are having to desperately drill in places they never would have thought of drilling, depths they never would have thought of drilling because we’ve reached peak oil.

New Zealand needs to think very carefully about (oil and gas), we don’t have the response capability, and while accidents are uncommon, they are catastrophic. I’m not comfortable unless we have stronger regulation…a regime more similar to the RMA…improve the response capability…health and safety…with all of those changes it it possible for it to be done, but it’s by no means a blanket agreement that it should be. Seismically, areas around the east coast of New Zealand are not appropriate, maybe it is OK over in the Taranaki Basin. But I’m very cautious and very doubtful and it’s certainly not where I think the future of New Zealand lies.

Growth is possible but we have to rethink what growth means

Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.

It is growth, but it’s not unfettered growth.

We can’t grow the economy on dairy alone. Paul Callaghan calculated that to keep out standard of living now based on growth in dairy alone, we would have to quadruple our dairy output – well we’re not going to do that we’d destroy our country if we did that. Primary industries have got a place, they’re very important to us, but he future well-being of New Zealanders is in other sorts of industries that are added value, that are lighter on the planet.

We can do so much better to capture value.

There’s a core to me, fairness, opportunity and spreading the benefits of economic development more fairly, more evenly in society…giving all people opportunity regardless of their financial or family background.

At the UN the principle of fairness was key…with the caveat of the Security Council…it is one country one vote, on the floor of the General Assembly Swaziland is as important as the United States – I like that.

It’s quite clear to me that Labour and the Greens will be able to work well together. The Greens have taken a different attitude this time around, they want to be in government…a big call for them but we know there is scope for negotition.

75% of voters who gave their electorate vote to the Maori Party gave their party vote to Labour. I have no idea what the Maori Party is doing on the right – they haven’t got much out of it, I think they’re part of a government that has potentially damaged Maori and Maori aspirations.

(on the Green’s Carbon tax versus Labour’s support for the ETS) I don’t think they are major differences, both of them are aimed at reducing emissions, both set a price on carbon, one’s a market based mechanism, the other is a tax…in end we can talk that through. we both want to do something, we both know that we urgently need to do something.

The current government has utterly undermined the ETS – failed to include the sectors that we needed to include to make it a real scheme…done terrible things to the forestry sector. we need a proper functioning ETS, but we can work on a climate tax.

Other differences (Labour and Greens) resource extraction issues – manageable but quite different policies, minor differences around taxation, but the spirit is OK, and I think the values of the party are ones that the Greens can look at, and say ‘we can work with these’, we are different parties…we work work with the people, more often than not we’re working closely with them, every day.

It’s coopertition, we are cooperating, but we’re also putting our own platforms forward and asking people to vote for them.

(On people not voting) We have to make politics relevant and making our campaign positive, our biggest problem in 2011 was we told people what we were against, not what we were for…we’re talking about the kind of country we want to be.

Non-voting is a global trend and it comes back to the nature of how we do politics…

Social media…is a conversation…it’s hard for politicians to make the time…but I’m keen for it to be me, not someone pretending to be me

The younger generation are interested in issues as opposed to parties (political!)…if you give young people issues that they care about, they’ll get involved.

Activist: Yes.

Challenges: child poverty, economic challenges around sustainable growth and jobs in the regions

Advice: Vote. It does matter.

Resources
Labour’s Policy Platform

Categories
climate change communication policy politics

Shifting the paradigm

Nathan Argent


Nathan Argent is the Chief Policy Advisor for Greenpeace New Zealand. He says we need to challenge the current narrative, that fossil fuels are the future: “New Zealand can get back it’s Mojo, putting us back on the world stage for being the innovators of a smarter greener society, that’s the challenge for us”.

Talking points:

(Am I an activist) An activist largely depends on peoples’ definition an perception of what an activist does. The young me was definitely an activist, I’ve been with Greenpeace now for nearly 12 years. Am I active in trying to change the way we do business, the way we power our homes – that we do in in a much smarter cleaner way, that we reduce pollution? then yes, I’m an activist in that sense, But I think as I’m becoming older and my experience and knowledge has grown, I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense.

I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense. Thinking about the landscape, thinking what are the pragmatic ways that we can reach our goals, but ensuring that those goals are always pushing the boundaries of change. Trying to disrupt the ways we do things, trying to shift the paradigm.

One side to Greenpeace, we need to be out there agitating, and we are reliant on the vast number of people who come to us to volunteer to be part of the grassroots activist movement, but we are also an organisation that has to through necessity sit at the boardroom table and engage with business, and push business in the right direction – and sometimes hold their hand if need be.

Sometimes once we’ve put someone on the front pages if need be – if they’ve done something wrong, my job is to go in there to work them to get it right – to embed more sustainable ways of doing business.

We are an activist organisation, but there’s also a degree of pragmatism as well.

The lions share, 90% of our work is solutions focussed – thinking about he science, working with experts, academia to think about the best and quickest way that we can deliver those solutions to our environmental challenges, the greatest of all being climate change. A lot of our solution side work never gets any pick up. The media perception of us and that’s largely the lens through which people see us is all about us breaking the law or climbing onto ships to stop them coming into port, so we need to think about how we tell our story better, but sometimes the substance of that solutions is seen as not really newsworthy when I would like to see that it should be.

People on the phone think “oh no, Greenpeace is on the phone what have I done wrong”, when that’s not the case at all, I see them as an important stakeholder in the problem and want to work with them to try and find that solution.

Our role is to keep pushing the envelope. There is a real sense of urgency about the work we need to do. Not just as an organisation, but there’s a sense of urgency that we’re not doing enough as a society to deal with the problems we have. And that’s when we go back to being the activist organisation, we need to keep pushing the envelope, we need to keep spiking interest in those issues, so that we create the space for that conversations to be had and for those solutions to be found.

At the moment we (NZ) has got a government tat is very pre-occupied in investing all its political capital in resource extraction, typically oil and gas, and that’s largely overlooking that fact that New Zealand as a country has become very good at through several generations at generating clean green energy. We are also very good at pioneering innovation…(yet we’re investing in inviting oil and gas companies to come here).

Given that there’s a growing sense of urgency globally about climate change, and countries and businesses around the world are investing the types of technology that New Zealand is very good at…we would rather see the NZ government put its emphasis on supporting our own engineers and innovators now before it becomes too late.

We don’t endorse any party…we will work with anybody who is prepared to have a conversation about delivering those progressive policies that we need to embed. But, by the same token, as a lobby group we are politically active, and we will criticise a government for not doing the right thing.

The current government in NZ has been woeful on its efforts to tackle climate change, their rolling back of environmental safeguards across the board, our emissions profile is going up instead of down, and we’re not growing our clean energy potential in the way that we should be, so we will be critical of that.

We need to fundamentally challenge the paradigm, we can’t continue to grow and grow and grow infinitely and and just tweak it to a cleaner smarter way. Perhaps growth is too often used to talk about the economy. As part of a transition – this is the practical side of Greenpeace – the radical side of us would say we need to fundamentally address growth, and really think about how we sustain ourselves and embed the environment and understand that the environment is core to everything that we do and we are dependent on our environment. But I think that as part of the transition we need to position ourselves in the debate.

Climate change is the greatest challenge we face, if you look an environmental, or developmental challenges – even if you can separate the two and I don’t think you can – climate change will lead to displaced populations, lack of water resources, more extreme weather events – the impacts are very broad, very widespread and will have severe consequences for many regions or the world.

The way we see it is, all roads lead to dealing with this overwhelming challenge that is climate change.

Climate change is the symptom of everything we do.

The scientific community needs to become better at communicating what they do.

There should no longer be any oxygen for the climate denial debate.

Conversation is dictated by me trying to reason with them about the scientific certainty about climate change, when I’d much rather be talking about what we could all do to deal with the problem. Accept that there is a problem we need to get on and do something collectively, and dealing with the problem doesn’t need to be that painful.

In the longer term it makes sense to do things in a cleaner, smarter cheaper way. If we get locked into a high carbon economy, that’s going to cots you and I a lot of money – there’s going to be a lot of stranded assets. So why not start now.

It’s about putting in place those safe-guards so our kids have got a future to look forward to- that we don’t have oil washing up on our beaches, that we’re no longer inhaling pollutants in the cities we live in, it all makes sense, why would we disagree with it when the outcomes are better for everybody, and most importantly the planet.

Is it the neo-liberal ideology that the markets will come up with a solution? Markets are the problem. Climate change is an absolute market failure. And the market hasn’t come up with a solution.

Plans to feed the world from NZ with dairy product… completely fails to recognise the limits of our country. We can’t multiply our dairy industry by a factor of two or three to meet these needs. It would ruin New Zealand.

Until there’s a price on activity, and you can continue to externalise costs so that the rest of the taxpayers have to pay because we suffer because we can’t swim in the rivers of the taxpayer has to pay for clean-up programmes, until you start making the farmers pay for the resource use, then there’s no incentive for them to do things in a cleaner way.

(On carbon pricing increasing the cost to families) It’s a politically paralysing story to tell when it’s an incomplete story. There’s always a lack of political will to do something if it’s going to hit the taxpayer in the pocket and this is often a reason for not doing stuff. The cost needs to be kept with the producer, but the whole premise of increasing cost is to make them change their behaviour, but the system seems to be incomplete.

Our actions are often bourne of frustration – it’s the final tool we’ve got in our toolbox when dialogue has broken down.

We do have to put things in the public eye. Sometimes the most effective thing in moving a company is consumer pressure. Unless consumers know that there’s a problem with the products, and that through their buying power they can change the company’s policy, so sometimes that’s the most effective thing.

Companies are acutely sensitive to their brand. We use that a lot and we’re not shy about saying so. Sometimes putting a company on the front page of a paper is the most effective way you can get them to move – and move really quickly.

This can transform an industry, as a major player doing the right thing, and telling their customers they’re doing the right thing they get an advantage, and that can be the gravity or the catalyst for others to be doing the right thing so it has a positive knock-on effect.

(On criticism of anti-oil protesters driving cars) It is demotivating , because people think “Well, yeah, actually I did drive my car here. Does that make me a hypocrite?”, well no I don’t think it does. We all pay taxes, do we not have a right to say where our taxes should be spent, whether it’s on education or arms. The system is not working, it’s failing, pollution is an absolute failure of the current system we live in, does that mean we’re not allowed to ask questions and challenge that and ask that it be done in a better smarter way. Ideally we’d all drive electric cars to those protests, but currently we can’t because the system doesn’t allow that. But surely we’re entitled as individuals to ask that we do change the system. Then we won’t need to drive to protests, or banners on the beach, because there won’t be a need to do so.

Other Sustainable Lens conversations mentioned in this podcast:

Mike Sammons
Naomi Oreskes
Rob Burton.

Categories
museum

Engaging to change lives

Ian Griffin


Our job is to inspire people to take in interest in the world around them.

We talk with Otago Museum’s Dr Ian Griffin on mixing authentic story, interactivity, collection and quality into an engaging treasure house to be proud of.

Dr Ian Griffin, the eighth Director of the Otago Museum. With a PhD in astronomy and the discovery of 27 asteroids among his accomplishments, Ian brings a strong scientific background to the Museum. Ian’s last role before joining the Museum was as Chief Executive of the Oxford Trust in Oxford, England – a charitable foundation encouraging the pursuit of science. His other previous roles have included Director of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England; Head of Office of Public Outreach and Director NASA Origins Education Forum Space Telescope Science Institute; and CEO of the Auckland Observatory and Planetarium Trust. Ian has also been appointed an honorary fellow in the University of Otago Physics Department.

Talking points:

I want to work in a museum because museums have the potential to change lives.

Museums are places where you come to help make sense of the world.

The museums job is to help you connect.

Do you need to believe it to be real?

The role of the collection is critical in understanding your part of the world.

A key part of what the museum must do is not so much is this important now, but asking could it be important in the future?

A key thing scientists need to do better is communicate the process of science – that’s a role for the museum. It’s almost impossible to come to a final understanding.

We have to communicate to our visitors that science is changing yet tell a simple story.

We need to figure out to convey change, yet have visitors come away with a good understanding.

Where appropriate, interactive exhibits beside artefacts can help you make sense of those artefacts.

It’s a reflection of our society that people like to see things as black or white, or right or wrong but as we all know, in climate science in particular, it’s a very nuanced story.

I wouldn’t want funding that came with conditions about the science.

You can’t present a complicated subject in a simplistic way – and that’s the challenge.

It (climate science) is not a simple subject so perhaps shouldn’t be reduced to simple interactives.

It’s very difficult in the amount of time (visitors) spend in the museum gallery to convey all the information you need to make a knowledge based decision. And, we add to this that, some visitors are 5 years old, and some are 80, and some will be able to read at particular levels. The challenge is explaining that in a way that all those folks can go away (understanding)….it’s difficult.

We’re not leading the science, we’re communicators of what others are doing.

The fundamental challenge is to make sure the museum is relevant to our community….so we can be here in another 150 years.

Anything that inspires an interest, that fires up your imagination is good…and has a place in the museum.

Categories
innovation systems

Complex systems

Henk Roodt


Rocket science is simple compared to the complex systems that involve modelling people and the environment.

Dr Henk Roodt knows about the development of technology. And about making that real. A Scientist/Engineer with 25+ years experience in high technology environments, he is currently Research Programmes Manager at Waikato Institute of Technology. We asked Henk to talk about his background (it’s rocket science), whether 3D printing will really change the world, and innovation processes as applied to Green-Tech. Henk is associated with Audacious – Dunedin’s student business incubator, where he is Entrepreneur in Residence.

Talking points:

It’s only when it is really big, and audacious that you go for it. Big things in the history of science were driven by real world problems.

Need to model the environment and the people at the same time. Not the physical model then slap in the people as an add-on. Start with people, the complexity of the people and their culture.

So how do you pitch the right level of modelling? (for complex problems such as hunger in Africa)…one of the things I’ve discovered is that doing mathematical models at that level is stupid. non-quantitative models, morphologies that show how things fit together, that opens up the discussion rather than bringing it into a fixed framework. A model like that gives you an instant picture at a moment in time. This sets the scene for the next level, and the next, the whole model is a work in progress.

Modelling systems is not like modelling airflow over the wing of an aircraft – sure that’s super-mathematics…but to model complex systems and people you often only need a piece of paper and a computer to help you look at all the options.

You have to make certain choices, and that comes down to ‘what are those guiding principles you have in your life that you are willing to live by?’. You have to set those up in your mind and listen carefully to that voice.

Opening up a social good category in Audacious meant they could put their emotions and their hearts into their businesses. They are mixing the social responsibility and the business – this is the edge that will deliver the social good.

I ask myself: can I change things by applying my skills?

Shane’s number of the week: 2.07&#176C is how much hotter the >Australian Spring was above average, producing the warmest spring on record.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Sam is working up a survey into the values and educational expectations of incoming IT students.

Henk described Ken Erwin’s book Communicating the New.