Categories
economics innovation oil politics social-ecological transformation

Transforming industrial society

Staffan Laestadius

If you take climate change seriously, you also have to discuss how to transform society, not just industry but also
transforming life in society so that it will keep providing welfare.

Staffan Laestadius is Professor of Industrial Dynamics. He says his work starts where Climate Change research finishes. He tells us how industrial and societal transformation are inextricably linked. He also tells us that such transformation is possible – a path to emission reduction without miracles.

Talking points

Silent Spring, for me, and many of my generation…that was the first step into sustainability.

Limits to Growth…widely discussed, heavily criticised not least by economists, but also by people who thought this book was something that was telling the the rest of the world now the northern part of the world have got their lifestyle, there is no time, no space for the others to catch up. I think that was the wrong conclusion – I think the Limits to Growth book got too bad a reputation, but many of the forecasts have turned out to be relatively true now.

Industrial transformation…how analyse and understand processes of industrial change.

It isn’t enough to put new fuels in old cars.

The energy transformation required is huge…the elephant in the room, so huge, dramatic and challenging we don’t want to talk about it

We don’t want to talk about what do we have to do to take climate change seriously..but I try to do that.

I try to show it is possible to change

Industrial processes and social change

In Northern Europe we have developed a welfare state, a process modality, people believe that they have got all their welfare, their technology, their cars, and you will not convince people to leave all that to leave all that to go into a stone age economy just to preserve the climate.

You have to show that instead of man as master of nature…to a more circular system that provides a similar or comparable standard of living..that it is the challenge.

Show it is possible without decline in welfare….welfare based on a new sustainability based industrial system

The standard reaction…new technological solutions but from old thinking, linear thinking.

We could have fixed it with these old solutions 50 years ago, but now those solutions are not there any more, we have to be more humble and look to more sustainable solutions.

Now it needs a new way of thinking

There are limits to what we can do

Accepting the planetary boundaries work, my contribution is “What are the consequences for industrial and social transformation?”.

You can’t get people to accept transformation promising that everything will be worse – whether you continue on the same path or accept a sustainable path – so you must find a path of achieving transformation that can provide welfare for society – that is sustainable.

It is easy to fall back to “we’re too small, nothing I do matters”…but a message is the snowball effect – somebody has to go ahead.

We have to show that is possible to transform, increase competitiveness and welfare

To show it is possible we have to break down the enormous task…4 dimensions. 1 half of reductions…2. you should reduce activity levels first, then efficiency…3. it is possible to start, you don’t have to do everything now…4. 4% per year as long as we have growth, intensity is of no interest to nature…so absolute reductions.

We should focus first on doing less of carbon intensive processes

It is possible, but it is tough, because time is running out.

Reduce activity, increase efficiency, then substitution. This is the logical order, but of course they can be worked on together.

This is not a technology revolution…technology is there already…

For the coming years – at least until 2030 we have the technology, it is a political problem to calibrate the system so it becomes politically and socially attractive to join the solution.

Fossil fuels have been so successful, so cheap because externalities ignored

The basic training of economists, externalities so small we don’t have to worry about them. But now we see the basic problem is externalities.

We need to leave 2/3rd of fossil fuel in the ground

Sometimes when I go to sleep I think this is too tough but I think it is worth fighting for

We need to find a pricing model that makes it rational to transform

We need to transform the economy but also to keep the welfare model

(Will the transformation come anyhow?) Stakeholders in old regime…people know more, we have to get politicians to coordinate.
Political leadership is not just doing what they believe the electorate wants, they have to lead in the right direction…climate change a real challenge to traditional left wing/right wing…..we have to find political alliances

(a gentle revolution?) I think this may be necessary in a few years as the climate situation gets worse.

(New book Triple Challenges for Europe) Triple challenges…climate change, economic development, governance.

End austerity politics with investment in green solutions

(Success) not sucess or failure…returning to the synthesis of sustainability in my personal view and work… integrating industrial and social change…a coherent view

Instead of narrowing focus on details of technical transformation, widening scope go more into debate and how to get impact and work with transformation

(Activist) The third task for academics – societal influence – mine is impact on transforming our industrial society. Not an activist. Was when young, but basically I’m an academic.

I wouldn’t say that I’m an activist, but I would say I’m not scared to take a position that is solidly based.

If you take climate change seriously, then you have to work with a transformation…this is the magnitude of the challenge
(Motivation) – I still think I have a lot to do

I have a broader interest…too many things…I work with social, industrial and technology…it keeps me engaged in the debate

(Challenges) Swedish government could agree on transformation of our carbon dependence, way to achieve 4% per annum, and show the world that it is possible.

It will get worse before it gets better.

Maybe we have to face some more disasters and then we can mobilise a transformation

I think it is possible for all of us on an individual level to make the first half…it is possible…the rest will be dificult

I have reduced my car travel to less than half without any problem at all.

I have to do more, and we all have to do more in future, but it is possible to reduce by half with no suffering.

Categories
energy engineering oil politics

Fracking good science

Richard Davies

Fracking…hydraulic fracturing… but the term now encompasses the whole debate about the use of fossil fuels in the modern world.

Professor Richard Davies on how fracking has been such a game changer for the petroleum industry, what are its costs and benefits, and why it has become such a flashpoint for sustainability.

Professor Davies took up the post of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Engagement & Internationalisation) at Newcastle University. He is a petroleum geologist, with a particular focus on hydraulic fracturing used to exploit shale gas and oil. Richard is an advisor to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas. He tells us that he is agnostic about the issue of shale gas and oil exploitation but very outspoken about his commitment to expanding the evidence base in the European fracking debate. He is Project Lead of ReFINE.

We ask Prof Davies if fracking is inherently damaging – either in its own right or for its implications for climate change, and why it has become a poster child for unsustainability. But first, we ask him about his own voyage of discovery, and what led him to train as a petroleum geologist.

Talking points

My job in the petroleum industry was where to put the next well…but I found I was more interested in fundamental questions about geoscience

Fracking is an example of how technology has improved and allowed us to access oil and gas that no one thought we could get

The reason we stop getting oil and gas will because it is so damaging or because it becomes so expensive to get hold of it that no one would pay for it.

It may be that oil becomes a precious substance – no one would dream of burning it – that would be crazy…it would just be used for a select group of products or processes for which there is no alternative.

Technology may unlock more oil reserves in the future, but the key question is do we really need to burn it? Perhaps we shouldn’t be burning it and using it for something else.

Peak oil was turned upside down by fracking

Oil and gas companies are answerable to shareholders, and their shareholders are you and I.

A cup of oil contains a huge amount of energy, and it is difficult to replicate that and produce the same amount of profit from renewable energy…so unfortunately it’s an unequal battle

(Comparison of coal to renewable energy) I don’t believe a Russian man…in Russia mining some coal, putting it on a train to a boat, the boat coming to the UK, putting the coal on another train, to a power station, and thus burning it and then capturing the C02 at that point – because we haven’t captured all the C02 along the way

In a cradle to grave carbon footprint, that coal has come a long way…

Energy storage is so important for renewables

If we put the R&D spend in the oil and gas industry into other things such as energy storage…wow.

Fracking…hydraulic fracturing… but the term now encompasses the whole debate about the use of fossil fuels in the modern world.

The whole fracking process has a lot more intensity to it than drilling a normal well because of the need for fracking fluid, and the chemicals required, and the disposal of that

We come from an agnostic, neutral perspective – we’re not for or against fracking – and therefore we’re unpopular with both sides of the debate…we’ve positioned ourselves just right, we’re neutral, we’re academics.

The long term impact will be in looking after the bore holes…in 50 years time.

Every extractive industry has downsides…this isn’t rocket science, we need to understand the risks and manage them

This is a fossil fuel, that won’t do climate change any good. You can reduce it…but we haven’t got a replacement right now

Some of the reasons people don’t like fracking is because it is an extractive industry, it won’t help climate change and there is a level of risk

There’s a huge debate about renewables versus fossil fuels and fracking is right in the centre of that debate.

There’s the technical stuff and the social stuff, the two are very linked and it ain’t all about the science

We have a handle on the science…but not enough…lots of good questions we don’t have the answers to

In a way, industry has made this all happen, but the questions haven’t been solved at the same rate the industry has been deployed.

The questions have reached a bit of a crescendo, coming from all quarters, we have a handle on it, but we don’t know everything.

I’ve learned a lot in the last four years…firstly admitting we don’t have all the answers, listening to people, I’ve never thought “that’s not a good question”. Of course its a good question, I’ve huge respect for people who get involved and ask questions. That’s forced us scientists to look at things, it’s forced industry to look as well, and I don’t think industry knew the answers to some of the questions members of the public were asking.

Companies have got better at taking the public questions seriously, to research them and to provide good answers.

We’re often training someone to be highly specialised, but we also need more cross disciplinary people who can see energy from across the spectrum

We need a new breed of technical people who can see the world in a slightly different way.

We need people to be open and frank and aware of more than their own little postage stamp piece of the puzzle.

(Superpower) Think of the long term, not just the next five years.

(Success) changing the law in the UK so companies not allowed to frack with 1km or the surface, therefore protecting people’s water supplies.

(Activist) No. For me that is a personal question, personally about me living on my farm with solar panels, my two kids and my wife. I’m a scientist I come in to do this as neutral person. I don’t want to mix my personal views – my personal setting, my personal history, my background, with the science that I do – I thinks that’s an incorrect mixture

(Motivation) Discovery

(Challenge) Make the project more international, we’ve been a bit Europe-centric…continue the job we’ve done successfully but on an international stage

(Miracle) Long term independent funding, we’ve fought hard to be independent,

(Advice) Keep asking good questions.

Keeping the light shone on the fossil fuel industry will make for a better world.

This was conversation was recorded at Newcastle University in September 2015. The Framing Fracking paper mentioned is here.

Categories
communication local government

Nature’s tales

Neville Peat

Wake up each day and salute the sun if it’s out, appreciate the natural processes around you, We’re here for a short time on this beautiful planet and we’re here in a caretaker role.


Neville Peat is a writer and photographer, and a Dunedin City Councillor.

Talking points

I’ve always enjoyed conveying stories about our landscape, and issues of the day.

Growing up we weren’t really conscious of the wildlife on our doorstep.

You’re telling a story, trying to convey ideas.

It’s about finding an angle, describing what you see in as few words as possible, my most recent effort (in the ODT) described the Milford Track as “mountains of water”.

The environmental movement was continually banging its head up against applications for resource consent for this that and the next thing…so we set up an organisation that could carry the message of sustainability or doing things good for the environment through the Green Business Challenge, that became the Dunedin Environmental Business Network. The idea was to get alongside people in business.

This was a new way of working, we weren’t just banging on doors and writing submissions, we were working proactively to get our message across.

This led to the Otago Regional Council – I knew I could make a difference. We set up a Biodiversity Committee, the first in NZ, I was chair of that.

But in my nine years in the Regional Council, I can only think of two good examples of sustainable management of natural resources based on a scientific tool. (Tussock burning based on 3 tests: coverage density, dry weight matter and height). Here at last, I thought, we can actually measure whether this classic snow tussock grassland would actually be sustained. (Secondly, irrigation allocation in the Kakanui catchment).

The Regional Councils are primarily responsible for the sustainable management of natural resources, you would think a whole range of tools to help them, but really they haven’t. They continue to monitor decline in a whole lot of areas, without giving us a way forward, a tool, something we can grasp.

Shrinking baseline is such an important concept. It’s so easy for each generation to come along and say “that’s the normal” (not even new normal), “that’s how much quality we can expect out of this river, wetland or whatever” and not realise that it has shrunk in their parents’ time. With each generation you get a steady decline in quality, which can only be countered by action of some sort – and this is starting to require a behaviour change in people. And as we know…changing people’s behaviour…whether its giving up on driving to work or doing something to enhance the environment they live in, plant more food in the backyard, or whatever, that’s hard, the easiest way is just to do nothing, a laissez-faire attitude, just hope we can ride it out, “why should it be my responsibility?”

(Is there a formal way of considering future generations in decision making?) Only if you keep waking up in the morning thinking “what’s the definition of sustainability? – it does include “without compromising the needs of future generations”. If you wake up with that you get a clear sense of your role. You are here not as a user, but a caretaker. It’s up to you to do your best.

We are just here temporarily on a planet that is supremely beautiful.

Often you get a moment of inspiration, a moment where it all seems right, its almost a mystical effect.

It’s more effective to convey an idea than to say it…that’s what my work is all about conveying an appreciation of nature.

The Dunedin draft Environmental Strategy is setting the scene for future generations.

How do we relate to this planet – because we’ve only got one.

The Dunedin natural environment is unbelievably special.

(Success in last couple of years?) New edition of Wild Dunedin. Environment Strategy.

(Activist?) Not as much as I was. I’m still active. I’m working pretty hard really, but I’m not a foot soldier any more – I’m trying to be a bit more of a leader.

(Motivation?) Nature has to be given full expression, the moment we have conquered nature in any form we lose the plot. The mysteries and mystique of nature have to be retained. When my ancestors came here in the 1850s they saw nature as something to be conquered. Now five generations later, I’m saying let’s embrace nature for what it is and not as something to be beaten down.

(Challenges?) More writing.

(Miracle? or smallest thing that would make the biggest impact?) The stoat in the Orakanui ecosanctuary

(Advice for listeners?) Wake up each day and salute the sun if it’s out, appreciate the natural processes around you, We’re here for a short time on the planet and we’re here in a caretaker role.

Categories
community democracy development

Empowering communities

SteveClare_N-01

If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.

Steve Clare is Deputy Chief Executive of Locality. Locality is the UK’s leading network of development trusts, community enterprises, settlements and social action centres. Steve describes how community asset ownership is a route to sustainability.

Talking points

Community organisations making a difference

Board drawn exclusively from an area of social housing runs successfully with a turn-over of £8-10M, assets of £30-40M.

Really entrepreneurial and yet they are community owned, community run, open to everybody within the community. It’s about having more say, more control about what happens, in their community.

Enterprise and community asset ownership is a route to transforming communities, and a route to sustainability.

We would argue that transferring assets to community ownership is a better long term bet in terms of the future prosperity of the community – rather than just selling them off for a quick buck.

The world is moving to a sharing economy.

The very local and the global are more than ever, two sides of the same coin.

The next door community doesn’t have to be physically next door.

We’re seeing a fundamental change in the economic paradigm

…based on a model of an ever growing economy, an ever expanding tax income, and an ever increasing spend on public services…that’s changed, the economic crisis has led Europe to austerity policies…some people think ‘oh well, eventually it will get back, get better, the economy will grow and we’ll get back to the way it was’, I think that’s a mistake – it’s never going back to the way it was.

The post-war model of ever increasing economy, ever increasing tax income, ever increasing spend on public services – it’s broken, much as we might regret it, it’s broken. That has led to fundamental questions being asked about the relationship between state and citizen, state and communities, and who does what, and who is responsible for what.

People taking control of their lives.

Local people understand local problems, local challenges and local opportunities better than some faceless bureaucrat no matter how well meaning they may be.

Dis-economies of scale

People aren’t widgets.

Local solutions are best driven, best decided upon at a local level.

A cross in a box every five years in an election is not democracy. Local ownership, local control starts to ask questions about whether there are other things we should be making decisions about locally.

The options and opportunities that digital technology brings, I think there is scope for a different sort of politics.

We have a 21st Century society, we have a 21st Century population, we have a 21st Century economy, but we still have a 19th Century political system which is no longer fit for purpose.

People will mobilise in response to closing a hospital or library, the challenge is to then get people to start asking deeper questions.

Libraries are being decimated by public spending cuts…that’s caused a lot of controversy. Some people have responded ‘we”l take over the library and run it as a volunteer service’, well meaning but personally I would query how sustainable that is. The other approach…is saying many libraries as they are at the moment, are 19th Century institutions that are no longer fit for purpose. What we need to do is reinvent the library as a 21st Century – it isn’t about a place where you store large lumps of paper ie books, it isn’t a place where you deal with ebooks either that’s a dead end… what you can make a library into is a real community hub, a store of local knowledge, a place of empowerment, a place where people can learn, share, swap ideas and skills, linking to technology, linking to the maker-hacker movement for example. The 21st Century library for me can, and should be a vibrant essential part of any community.

If nothing else changes, changing ownership is not going to work.

A service or building that isn’t working, is still not going to work if all you change is who owns it.

Getting local people involved

Government policy tends to be focussed on deprivation – what’s wrong with a community – a deficit gap model. I think we need to turn that around to asset based community development (ABCD). The starting point has got to be what are the assets within the community – the people, the skills, the networks.

In my experience, every community, no matter how challenged or deprived, always has a huge rich seam of potential and creativity. If you keep telling people that they’re a waste of space, if you keep telling people that they have nothing to offer, if you keep telling people that they’re a failure it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once people start recognising that they can do something about their lives, that they do have choices, that you always have choices, sometimes the transformation is remarkable, you can almost see someone growing like a flower bursting into bloom. I think the same thing applies to communities.

If people think don’t think can do something then they won’t try. If people think they can do something then they will.

Many of our members are extraordinary people, but they were ordinary people until they became extraordinary by doing something, by taking action. By refusing to accept no as an answer.

It’s about working together, genuine partnerships…I don’t think any one sector has the answer. But what I do think is that the paternalistic, top down, system drive, scale approach that the public sector has is no longer fit for purpose.

Creating situations where people can do things for themselves, then stepping back and letting people get on with it.

People don’t want to live in a place that’s the same as everywhere else.

(Motivation) I hate with a vengeance oppression, inequality, seeing human lives wasted. I love with a passion seeing what people can become, the changes that they can make to their own lives, their children’s lives, to their communities.

The perception that people are fundamentally selfish is completely wrong. Anyone who understands history understands the role of the commons, of sharing, the fact that as a species we’ve moved forward through cooperation.

The idea that we act as rational economic beings is demonstrably nonsense, that we’re driven by indviduals needs is demonstrably nonsense, that you get jobs growth through increased productivity is demonstrably nonsense, – much of the current science of economics belongs in Harry Potter.

The established political system is the problem not the solution.

(Activist?) Yes. My work is my life. I don’t go on demos as much nowadays, but I hope I work in different ways.

I’m much more cynical nowadays days about gesture politics. If you’re going to do something, as far as I’m concerned, you damn well do it properly, you do not give up. I’m less keen about people who say “we want this, we’ll go out and fight for this, oh, it’s hard, we’ll give up”.

The collaborative economy is a game changer.

I saw a great quote the other day: “Social entrepreneurship used to be an oxymoron, now it’s a tautology”.

(Advice) I like Ford’s quote: “If you believe you can, or you believe you can, you’re probably right”, I think that’s such a powerful thing

If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.

Opening people’s eyes to the possible, to the wonderful things happening out there by people just like them.

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
agriculture geography

Cultural sustainability on the farm

Rob Burton

There’s a real problem for sustainability when you start using all of the resources – you have no capacity if something goes wrong – because then if it goes wrong it goes very wrong.

Dr Rob Burton is a senior researcher from the Centre for Rural Research (Bygdeforskning) in Trondhiem, Norway. Rob’s work has focused on exploring the role culture and identity play in determining farming behaviours – particularly as they relate to agri-environmental activity.

Rob is part of an EU COST programme looking at the concept of cultural sustainability with a focus on the influence of farming culture on the adoption of agri-environmental schemes.

We talk about policy and sustainability frameworks as related to agricultural areas in Europe and New Zealand (spoiler: NZ is not outstanding in the field).

Talking pointing

As I was sitting there watching the glacier melt, I suddenly realised I didn’t want to spend my life sitting watching glaciers melt when the real cause of the problem is actually people

(In terms of policies for agriculture that look beyond production) NZ not just has a long way to go, but is going rapidly in the wrong direction.

Norway does the opposite of population-based funding, if an area doesn’t have enough population, they fund it better…to try to keep a regional distribution of population.

(In regards to environmental policies around farming, have we got something fundamentally wrong?) Yes, I think you have. While many farmers are really good, you don’t need too many to ruin it for the rest. I think there needs to be more of an element of compulsion for breaching environmental standards. The industry is trying, and many farmers are trying, but there’s the bad ones that somewhere along the lines you’re going to have to pull up.

Also the fast tracking of development for dairy is probably wrong. Particularly its expansion into regions that are dry and depend increasingly on irrigation – that creates difficulties, farmers have to borrow a hell of a lot of money to set up a dairy farm and really the environment is the last thing they want to worry about when they just have to make the business profitable. This will resolve itself in the future once the investment and growth development stops and farmers spend a bit of time getting the capital back and they can invest in things like the environment. But if you want it now, this is a problem I can’t see being resolved.

There’s a real problem for sustainability when you start using all of the resources – you have no capacity if something goes wrong – because then if it goes wrong it goes very wrong. And this effectively what we do by relying on economics to drive the development of agriculture – which of course is going to maximise the use of every drop of water that’s out there which is fine except…you’re losing sheep and beef farms and if we have a period extreme drought through climate change then we’re in trouble.

(Beyond post-productive farmer self-identity) When people do studies of farmers, they generally find that farmers are very pro-environment and then when they look at the farmer behaviours they don’t seem to match up. A lot of researchers in the past have concluded that the farmers are just liars – they don’t think this about the environment at all. Our point is about multiple identities, it’s about hierarchies of identities. You have an identity as an environmentalist that you can apply sometimes, and you can care greatly about the environment – but it is like going into a supermarket, you want to do the right thing in terms of purchasing organics and so on, but your first priority is feeding your family with the money you have in your pocket. In general, production remains the first priority for farmers – it doesn’t mean that when they talk about the environment and don’t act that way that it is hypocritical , it is just that they don’t prioritise it very often or as often as they should in some cases.

(Are you an activist?) No, I’m not an activist. I’m a cynic, sometimes I’m a realist which is a cynic with a better cause than just being cynical. But in my work I always try to do things that are important rather than unimportant. There is unimportant work being done out there that is pretty irrelevant – I don’t like doing that. It’s not something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. But I’ve never protested anything…no I don’t think I’m an activist but I do what I can… but like to be able to put a perspective across that may make people think a bit differently- or make a difference in the end, but I don’t really believe that going out there and protesting is necessarily the best way of doing it because people have been doing that for too long and governments are really too savvy on that. They’ve got the spin doctors who are quite able to nullify any legitimate protest anyway.