GUEST BLOG: Donna Awatere Huata – ‘Greedy’ Boomers obliged to help fight climate change


16 year old Greta Thunberg – “If everyone is guilty then no one is to blame, and someone is to blame.”

Sean Plunket and Peter Williams had an on-air argument on Magic Talk last month over Peter being a ‘greedy boomer’ because he was taking superannuation when as Sean so eloquently put it, “You are, without batting an eyelid, going to suck on the public tit for the rest of your life when you’ve got enough money to live quite comfortably,”.

Now what Peter Williams does with a superannuation he deserves as a working taxpayer for his entire life is none of my business or Sean Plunket’s, but this argument crossed my mind at the same time as 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed political leaders at the World Economic Forum.

She poignantly argued, “We need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with. It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused. Everyone keeps saying that the young people should be more active, and they’re so lazy, but once we do something we get criticised.”

I believe it’s time for older generations to stop criticising and start listening.

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Baby Boomers were lucky enough to live under Governments who rebuilt their societies post World War Two with the lesson of what happened if citizens weren’t protected from the sharp boom and busts of capitalism foremost in their minds. Those Governments inoculated their citizens from Fascism and Communism with a Democratic Welfare State and investment into their hopes and aspirations.

Their subsidised life from cradle to grave helped build the wealth they enjoy. User pays Generations however have not been so lucky and have economically gone backwards.

So who should bear the brunt of the cost that we urgently need to prepare NZ for the economic, cultural and political adaptation climate change will demand?

I believe it is time for Boomers to stand and be part of the solution, not because of Sean’s perceived ‘greed’, but because as the original optimistic youth generation that rebelled and reset society, we have the resources again to become those change agents in our communities and step up to the challenge laid down by Greta Thunberg .

Boomers have an obligation to lead because we have lead.

Boomers have an obligation for change because we have caused wholesale change.

Boomers have an obligation to challenge climate change because it is morally and ethically wrong to leave our grandchildren and their mokopuna to the wraiths of oblivion.

The Māori belief of leaving the environment fit for future generations is a cultural value we must desperately recognise here and now because the latest research from the scientific coalface demands our immediate attention and leadership for action.

Two new research papers published in the journal Nature show melting ice sheets will trigger enormous climate change events and that to date the research had left this melting out because only the glaciers had been thought a problem.

Recent data from the World Meteorological office shows the last 4 years have been the hottest on record.

This on top of record fires, the polar vortex slipping because of a weakened jet stream caused by global warming and record breaking melts in Antarctica.

Every climate warning signal is now demanding attention, will we step up or won’t we because pretending climate change isn’t happening is no longer a delusion that can be tolerated.

Chose a side.

Be part of the solution or the problem.

16 year old Greta Thunberg said “If everyone is guilty then no one is to blame, and someone is to blame.” Sean Plunket’s Boomers aren’t greedy, but they have an obligation to lead now so we are not blamed.


Donna Awatere Huata is the Māori Climate Commissioner


  1. NZ society (like all ‘advanced’ western-style societies) is predicated on the continuous looting and polluting the commons.

    It is difficult to see how any transition away from such arrangements can be achieved at this late stage in the game when the noise of commercial activity drowns out discussion of reality.

  2. ” Choose a side.

    Be part of the solution or the problem.”

    Climate Change now exponential is an insoluble nightmare. Nothing we do now can make any difference* We simply do not understand that it’s now completely out of our ken. We made the Planet the victim of our rapacious greed now it’s our turn to be the victim along with the innocent biosphere that will die along with us already dying from the 6th mass extinction.

    * ” So who should bear the brunt of the cost that we urgently need to prepare NZ for the economic, cultural and political adaptation climate change will demand? ” This we can do: Prepare and Adapt. A start would be to chuck out neoliberalism and greed like property speculation for capital gain ( a draconian CGT except the family home ). The NZ public needs to be educated on this would be a start. Also let’s end destroying our own land for money and greed.

    All this evil is so deeply entrenched that personally I believe we’re finished. I don’t believe we’ll even do the adaptation, but that’s just me!

    • Whether climate change is exponential is debatable. Mathematically, exponential means increasing by a fixed percentage, as brilliantly explained by Albert Bartlett in ‘Arithmetic Population and Energy’.

      There is much evidence that self-reinforcing and mutually-reinforcing feedbacks make climate change hyper-exponential.

      On the other hand, the hotter the Earth becomes, the more heat it will lose to space. No one knows how high the equilibrium point will be.

      We know that maintaining the current consumption-based economic arrangements is incompatible with preventing further overheating of the Earth, and is incompatible with preserving the biodiversity that has not already been destroyed by human activity. And we know governments will not even talk about abandoning current economic arrangements, let alone attempt to do so. So yes, it is ‘an insoluble nightmare’.

      By failing to take appropriate action long before now industrial societies have condemned the young to an ever worsening nightmare of environmental collapse, accompanied at some stage by collapse of all present mainstream living arrangements.

      I agree that the ‘evil’ is so deeply entrenched ‘were finished’. Yet we have not got to the end.

      • On the matter of feedbacks, just today I have seen:

        ‘Clouds currently cover about two-thirds of the planet at any moment. But computer simulations of clouds have begun to suggest that as the Earth warms, clouds become scarcer. With fewer white surfaces reflecting sunlight back to space, the Earth gets even warmer, leading to more cloud loss. This feedback loop causes warming to spiral out of control.’

        That isn’t so scary for me because I’ll be long dead before it happens, but today’s children are more than likely to witness a re-enactment of the PETM (and the astounding rise in temperature associated with it), especially if governments continue to do zilch to prevent runaway warming (which is the current plan).

        A World Without Clouds

        • Rising temperatures cause increased rate if surface water vaporisation, more water held in the atmosphere, more rain and snow dumped etc.
          But it does mean more water will be held in the atmosphere at any one time.
          Water vapour condensing into clouds is an outcome of difference in atmospheric air steam temperatures and pressure.
          While patterns will change, models will become more sophisticated as research brings more information and observations in real time enable a modification or confirmation of what is now still hypotheitcal.

          One factor not made plain in the article is the effect of reflection of heat back to earth from clouds. This reflection is an important component.

          Jim Kennett I respect immensely as an old time personal friend as well as one of NZ’s most imminent scientists.
          Jim evaluated craters in Cook Strait as being remnants of past methane bombs, well before such thinking was mainstream. Jim is a pioneer in many respects.

  3. Has this article been cut and pasted from elsewhere? The disconcerting font changes make it look like that.

    “Baby Boomers were lucky enough to live under Governments who rebuilt their societies post World War Two with the lesson of what happened if citizens weren’t protected from the sharp boom and busts of capitalism foremost in their minds. Those Governments inoculated their citizens from Fascism and Communism with a Democratic Welfare State and investment into their hopes and aspirations.”

    A bit of history would be useful. The move to a welfare state happened here well before the outbreak of WW2; the same is true elsewhere in the world (in Germany, the notion of the welfare state originated in the 16th century). That move was a consequence of the privations suffered by many citizens during the Great Depression.

    I’d point out further, that, until the Rogernomics bulldozer ran over the economy, NZ societal arrangements were communist in all but name. Many of the largest employers were government-owned; in that sense, the economy was redistributive. As for being protected from fascism, in many respects, this society prior to Rogernomics exhibited elements of fascism: authoritarian, conformist, not particularly tolerant of dissent (just ask the anti-Vietnam War protesters), with political leanings that were centrist to right-wing. Not so much ultranationalism, though, as far as I can recall.

    In NZ, the proponents of Rogernomics in the Lange government were neoliberals, but they weren’t baby boomers: they were the generation before the boomers. It wasn’t boomers who invented and foisted neoliberalism upon us, after all; it has a much deeper history than that.

    The large scale changes to the economy forced upon us by Rogernomics did, I’d argue, disproportionate and longterm damage to boomers, who at that time comprised a significant chunk of the workforce. Many boomers (including, of course, many Maori) lost their livelihoods and never fully recovered what they’d lost. The ’87 stockmarket crash wiped out share portfolios for everyone, not just the boomers. In fact, it’s likely that relatively few boomers were shareholders: it was the employment changes of Rogernomics that affected boomers the most.

    Remember that the baby boom was an artefact of post-WW2: a consequence of all those men going back home from active service. None of us asked to be born, but we were the beneficiaries of considerable improvements in public health, and the arrival of vaccination programmes, so infant and child mortality rates were lower among us than in previous generations.

    “Their subsidised life from cradle to grave helped build the wealth they enjoy. ”

    Right. Like Rogernomics never happened. Subsidised, my foot! If only… We got belted about the ears by Rogernomics, remember? I sure do.

    “User pays Generations…”

    That includes boomers. As we’re all too painfully aware.

    Yes, we in NZ have the Universal Super. It is the epitome of the redistributive state: given to all, regardless of their income. It is something that we can – and should – hang on to, not just for us, but for all the generations following us. And there is no reason why that cannot be the case.

    “Boomers have an obligation for change because we have caused wholesale change.”

    OK. Like all those previous generations lived lightly on the land and caused no damage at all, at all. It has taken a long time and a lot of effort by the human species to get to where we are. Don’t put this trip solely on boomers.

    I’ve had a longstanding interest in climate science; the changes we’re witnessing now have their origins deep in the past. Some are human-induced, others a part of climate cycles over which we humans have little influence. I’m not certain that we know the difference.

    Climate change is upon us, whether we like it or not. And nothing we do right now will make a blind bit of difference to what’ll happen over the next lot of years. Ask any scientist: it’s the unpalatable fact that they don’t want to say outright. But that’s the truth of it.

    • Exactly.

      To sneer at the well off receiving universal superannuation when they ‘don’t need’ it, is to imply that the socialism we (so called baby boomers) grew up under is something you don’t want. Am I understanding you right Donna?

    • I am possibly a bit older than you D’Esterre but still regards myself as a boomer gen surrounding the WWII population increase by births.

      We looked forward to retiring at 60 and had that snatched away by neo liberal mindwash. The boomer generation paid high rates of taxation which built much of NZ’s infrastructure still used today.

      rogernomincs was a result of crass willfulness of corrupt politicians responding to their shadowy associations with big money from offshore sources.

      NZ was never communist.

      Some folk for their own reasons use that “C” word to denigrate others to the ears of some who don’t understand what the word means.

      Certainly the boomers did critical changes to a way of life, changes that accelerated both climate change, Non Renewable Natural Resource harvesting and destruction.

      That responsibility is generally denied out of willful minded convenience.

      The damage cannot be undone but the rate of damage continues to increase today.

      Business NZ continues to deny need for change so deserves a boycott and other actions to break their patronage of destruction.

      They are run largely by boomers or their “business as usual” apprentices.

  4. From official information requests received by media it seems James Shaw has the biggest carbon footprint in government.

    Is this him leading by example or is it just that pigs more equal than other animals?

    • Orwell’s critique of communism applies just as well to capitalism.

      The reason we are in the mess were are in is failure of politicians to act appropriately. James Shaw is just on of many ‘pigs’ with a snout in the public feeding trough. Indeed, when we add up all the snouts in the trough there are thousands across NZ: mayors, councilors, bureaucrats, opportunists with connections…all driving NZ society in completely the wrong direction, towards energy starvation and environmental collapse. Politics is all about avoidance, deception and mass appeal rather than leading by example; surely you know that. Leading by example is a very rare thing indeed.

      Not that there is anything unique about NZ when it comes to counter-productive policies and hypocritical leaders: it’s much the same throughout most of the world, with Australia being an obvious example of a nation where counter-productive policies are pursued now at substantial cost in the now and enormous cost in the future.

      I see that according to forecasters we are in for yet more hot and dry. So I guess we had better pray they are as wrong as the politicians are, otherwise we are in for big trouble, not in the years ahead but in the weeks ahead.

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