Three more years (up shit creek and paddling hard)


“If the future is not green, there is no future. If the future is not you, there is no future”. Emma Thompson’s stirring words to the climate marchers in London last Sunday are worth considering in the aftermath of the National Party’s stroll to victory in the election.

What does the National Party’s victory mean for climate action? Barring some sort of third term sea change at the heart of the government, it means another three years of business as usual.

Three more years of emissions growing, three more years of expansion in emissions intensive agriculture, three more years of corporates rorting the emissions trading scheme, three more years of a failure to prepare for climate extremes, three more years of road building. Most importantly, it means three more years heading in the wrong direction, locking New Zealand into future costs it need not face.

John Key and his cabinet are apparently determined to carry on rowing the country up shit creek, and will no doubt attempt to ditch the paddle some time before the next election.

Key and Co may not recognise that they are up shit creek. In their world view, everything may still be wonderful. Their corporate sponsors are making money, and middle New Zealand is still voting for them.

But they are rowing against the tide. The laws of physics are not decided at the ballot box, and they are committing the country and the planet to future warming. As Thompson points out, we have no option but to live in a green future.

This is not a matter of politics, not a matter of left versus right. Just as the fight against apartheid was a moral imperative, we will need solutions for emissions reductions and climate adaptation whatever the ideologies of the politicians that make the policy.

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Climate change just is, and we need to get on with fixing it. What we do will be decided by a political process, but it won’t be long before every politician will have to accept the inevitability of being green, will have to face up to the certainty of climate change and the inevitability of managing the damage it brings.

This will be challenging for the National Party, which has long flirted with climate denial. But there will come a time when Key & Co have to adjust to the new reality. Time for the Bluegreens in the party to start lobbying the cabinet for action. They have been far too willing to cave in at the first sign of economic or ideological inconvenience, but they are as much a part of a climate solution for New Zealand as the Green Party or Labour.

As Nicholas Stern points out in a recent Guardian interview centred on his latest report on the economics of climate action:

“For me the two defining challenges of this century are overcoming poverty and managing climate change.

“We fail on one, we fail on the other. So I think to say that we should just switch off growth is to miss big aspects of what matters about poverty. And so it worries me. It’s also politically very naive. If you turn it into a pissing contest between growth on the one hand and climate and environment on the other and say you’ve got to choose, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

John Key is clearly setting NZ up for climate failure. Environmentally-aware people of all political persuasions are going to have to put that right, and make sure that climate policy is not something that can be ignored for the next three years.


  1. Keynesian government (note the pun here) will only take positive steps against climate change when it starts to hit theirs and their mates’ pockets. Of course when this happens it will likely be too f…..n late to stop it or even reduce its worst effects, but hey! who gives a continental? They sure don’t! Just live for the now! don’t worry about tomorrow!To put it into a biblical context – when judgement day comes St Peter will condemn the climate change deniers and exploiters to hell whilst admitting the people who tried to do something about it to heaven. I would love to be around to see it!

    • No one will get to choose Marcus. We are all condemned to hell on earth that is the reality of climate change. I reach the age of 60 years in 12 months. I have planted and conserved trees all my adult life. Because of global warming. I made the decision in 1973 to live that way. I am now ( have been for 6 years) counseling my offspring NOT to have children,it breaks my heart to do this. Adopt , definitely but do not create a child. I take climate change very seriously. I live in a stunningly beautiful valley full of ancient native and not so old exotic trees with it’s own clean water catchment system I believe in the value of bio diversity and I know the power of the earth to regenerate and heal itself. That is the hope that keeps me going. But the effects of acidic oceans,acidic rainfall and rivers and streams is something humanity cannot survive without complex infrastructure and desalinating plants everywhere. We are governed by greedy ignorant stupid fools who DO NOT care to understand the problem as they don’t have the intellect, vision or will to deal with it.

    • Trouble is, although the right crazies plus sheep-like followers – and some traitorous and-should-be-disgraced All Blacks too – will be suffering (while still in complete denial of what is occurring while their feet search for purchase amongst flooding salt water, oil spills, fireball gas eruptions of biblical-like hell) – while at the same time maybe, but probably doubtful, they will have fractional glimmerings that perhaps they DID screw up …. but the rest of us greenies etc are in the same polluted Dante’s hellhole too. What’s a truly patriotic lefty bloke and blokess to do?

    • Please do not blaspheme by associating that wonderful socially democratic economic theory with JohnXKEYSCORE .

      Please use the correct vile term used for traitors and societal dismantlers .

      Neo liberals.

      • Should have used an even more potent image … Hieronymus Bosch-like for the neo-liberals comes to mind. But we’re all in the same floundering boat. There’s no fun in that.

  2. Correct,

    This shows how hopelessly we as a country have fallen off the environmental stewardship ladder to become a cess pool of filth akin to a sewer, all because we are now ruled firmly by global forces and corporations that rule the Government’s of this country.

    Market forces is this current Government’s battle cry and we are now entering a dangerous stage of peril being run by greed and profit driven motives.

    If God does exist he will exact revenge on those who set about to destroy our planet and are now almost succeeding.

    Little time is left for us all, as we blindly go forward following the carnage these criminals of our planet are making.

  3. If you had heard the contempt with which Nick Smith (so-called leader of the Bluegreens) spoke to Prof. Liz Slooten regarding marine science that did not fit with National’s agenda you would, and should, abandon all hope of the Bluegreens having any positive influence on this government.

    If you have been listening carefully since Sunday you will know they are about to drive holes so big through the RMA legislation that it may as well not exist. They will drive forward their extraction agenda and rentier, mercantilist economic agenda with no regard for society or environment.

    We are in for a very difficult three years.

  4. I read that just this week the government has decided to give Solid Energy another $103 million, that’s on top of the $150 million they have already given them, not a great start to a clean, green future.

  5. The Stern quote is his expression of the line that has emanated from on high in this climate debate since I have became involved with it in 1988. At that time it was the Brundtland Commission declaring that ten billion people could all live at roughly the standard then existing in North America, the EU and Japan. 80% of Earths resources then were being used by 1 billion people, 20% by the other 4 billion. No problem, it was proclaimed. Ten billion will live on 800% of Earths resources! (They didn’t put it this way). A massive expansion of the size of the developed world was to be sanctioned as the only possible response to the damage that was already evident caused by the massive expansion of the size of the developed world.

    Then it was said that policy makers needed to somehow direct growth so that the poor 4 billion people then would be able to increase their living standard and hence reduce their rate of population increase by the time the entire world population reached that 10 billion figure, all living at a very high living standard, as said before, on what, 800% of what the Earth can provide. Throw in all the technology you want: there would have to be a unified global population seeing a direct threat to their existence cooperating to do this. Does anyone see anything like this developing?

    Stern says if you’ve got to choose between growth on the one hand and environment on the other you’ll fail. His plan, to achieve something just about like the Brundtland plan, has the same flaw in it as Sustainable Development did. How are 9 -15 billion people to live at EU standards on Earth? It isn’t going to happen.

    Unless a lot of rabbits are pulled out of a lot of hats…. Let there be magic. Headline: “Lord Stern says magic will save us”

  6. But there will come a time when Key & Co have to adjust to the new reality.

    No there won’t. Or, to be more precise, even if that time did come they won’t change.

    • “But there will come a time when Key & Co have to adjust to the new reality.”
      “No there won’t. Or, to be more precise, even if that time did come they won’t change.”

      Key & Co will adjust to Climate change in Hawaii as when it causes real havoc here.

      Public anger will rise so significantly that they will need to flee NZ from prosecution and public condemnation, and He had already factored this you can bet.

  7. My way of dealing with our Great Step Backwards ( The Sept 20 elections) ..I’m pretending i’m back in the 1960’s when NZ was full of Vietnam War supporters , Springbok Tour supporters and NZers believed everything the media told them .

    Of course now everyone is happy, John will show them all how to own homes in Paratai Drive and there is no such thing as Climate Change but there are terrorists under every bed .
    I’m pretending that any gains we made in the intervening years were just a dream and that we have to work to educate .

    I just read the comments section in Stuff under a story on a $3million house that Brendan McCallum just sold . It’s not at all difficult to believe we’ve just jumped backwards 50 years or so .

    We’re lacking a Joan Baez and Miley Cyrus just doesn’t cut it .

  8. A good relevant recent book is “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein. This details the basic conflict between the current ideology of largely deregulated capitalism, and the need to force down emissions. This is the basic roadblock in the whole issue.

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