Smug Hermit Kingdom – why degrowth sponge cities that have resilience and sustainability are our Isolationist hyper-regional climate warming future


For a very long time, climate change has been some theoretical future threat.

The scientists have screamed at us.

The polluters have lied to us.

The politicians have failed to lead us.

Despite our denial and refusal to acknowledge what was coming, the speed of the changing climate means the climate warming future is upon us now whether we like it or not.

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For too long the climate change debate has had little to do with the overwhelming science and more to do with the culture war.

Those who enjoy the lifestyle generating the pollution that is killing us don’t want to hear they are part of the problem and they don’t want to believe environmentalists they despise are right.

We are beyond the culture wars now because the reality of the extremes that were warned are upon us and denial can no longer blanket the truth.

Vast investment into adaptation is the only game in town and a vast upgrade of our reliance infrastructure alongside an enormous upgrade of State capacity is the only political solution to the future we now face.

The 30 year neoliberal experiment cut the NZ State to the bone and the political project for each National and ACT Government is to strangle off revenue to the State so the State can’t redistribute it. That way citizens don’t become ‘reliant’ on providing subsidy to every day living, because once people get used to having services that work, they demand it politically.

This story about Hospital capacity spells out we don’t just need more drs and more nurses, we need more hospitals!

We need more Nurses, more Drs, more hospitals, more police, more Army, more Teachers, more schools, more corrections officers, better public transport, better prisons, our own pharmaceutical industry, and we can only fund that by taxing the fucking rich!

This investment into increased State Capacity must coincide with the resilience infrastructure upgrade  alongside the adaptation capital required.

We must look at more sustainable degrowth concepts because there is no more business as usual.

These weather events will simply get more intense.

The warnings are over, this is the age of consequences now.

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  1. Independence, self-sufficiency, rapid economic modernisation — yes!

    Degrowth? Well, all those other things are not possible if you go down that Malthusian rabbit hole.

    Scientific advancement will solve the challenges of pollution, which ultimately are technical challenges requiring advanced engineering.

    However, this requires an exponential increase in the mining supply (the inputs for mass electrification), which in turn requires large amounts of cheap energy (from all sources).

    Those raw materials will need to be processed in new refineries and mills. They will then have to be sent to new factories to be turned into machinery.

    All of this is a process of economic growth — an industrial boom, as the country escapes from the misery of being a poor agricultural backwater.

    As the country returns to being an advanced industrialised economy, it will progress towards being on-par with the large European economies. Eradicating unemployment can also be achieved again.

    Once the high-wage jobs return, even the population will start to boom — just like in the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Eastern and Southern Europeans will be queuing up to come work in the vast number of new factories (once local labour is exhausted, and unemployment returns to zero).

    • We will never return to being an advanced industrial economy, because there’s only so much advanced industrial products we can consume. You have advocated that we export them, but who would buy such products that are already produced in their countries at a cheaper cost than ourselves. Therefore the economics of building factories, etc would be out of kilter with the amount of production that can be consumed (i.e. economies of scale)….

      • it’s called niche thomas..wingnut wings a now defunct part of jacksonland produced the best plastic models ever (admittedly moulded in china) bar none no contest….research and design work all done in NZ

  2. Just how much water buzzwords can absorb depends entirely on the paper they are written on.
    Living on floodplains or reclaimed swamp or slip prone hills in tens of thousands, with asphalt and concrete for paddocks, there is no way planting a few trees will future proof cities from floods.
    Degrowth? I don’t think a giant leap backwards is going to be a popular move, however far down that road we might be headed planting pine trees on productive farm land.

  3. ‘Hey Martyn, 1977 called and wants its copy of The Listener back’
    Ah 1977 – when people had jobs.
    When if you were injured or sick the Emergency Department of a hospital could see you right away and you could expect expert medical care.
    When if you could not find a home the state had warm comfortable houses you could rent for below market rates. In fact the state would even loan you money at cheap rates of interest to build your own homes.
    When people marched in the streets and demanded that governments stop being the lackeys of foreign imperialists.
    When everyone was well fed with affordable, untaxed, food.
    When people did not lock their doors and left their windows open.
    1977 when we believed we could have an egalitarian society without extremes of wealth or poverty.

    Oh – but they did not have facebook, twitter or cellphones – or the mindless wankers that use them.

    So right Ada – who would want to return to 1977?

    • They will not believe us Steve….who would of thought we would now be drinking chateau de plonk…And Bolger said we do not want to go back the old ways and compared New Zealand to Albania, and said Ruth Richardson is the future…

    • Hmm, 1977, a pretty bleak country as I recall. And much poorer than today.

      Life expectancy about 10 years less than today, dawn raids, one car families, no insulation, two TV channels, six months salary to buy a ticket to the UK, 10% of the population getting a tertiary ed, Muldoon at his peak. Just to list a random number of things. There would be many, many more than you could add in.

      Basically a country where living standards were about 50% lower than they are today. Some might say it was pretty basic for most of us and that was good enough. Pain being shared around.

      1984 happened for a reason. NZ could not go on the way it had. In fact the IMF was about to be called in to sort out our economy, it was that dire.

      • Hold on Wayne….let’s just check your memory….Life expectancy, improved medical advancements have come along way since then…Dawn raids, well they were overstaying their visas…One car family’s, that was the 1950’s and 1960’s, I can remember several cars per family…we had insulation by then and councils were starting to include these into building rugs…Two tv channels, we have so many tv channels now, but most are crap, personally tv1 was far better than anything we have now and tv2 was for the kids…Flight was expensive but technology would reduce the prices…10% of population getting higher education….we had a far better trades training system then and an excellent cheaper higher education system and many an accountant obtained their qualifications by working in a government department such as Inland revenue…easy peasy…..but keep telling yourself things are better now and it might come true…

  4. Hey Kristoff R,
    Your vision of NZ as an endless Capitalist growth hamster wheel sounds absolutely fucked. My bit of agricultural backwater is just fine thanks.

    • @Monkra:
      Just like a capitalist economy, a socialist economy also must turn raw materials into finished goods. That still means energy generation, mining, refining and manufacturing — which become more productive over time (i.e. growth).

      You might be happy with collapsing living standards and a backward economy, but anyone with any sense is simply leaving the country!

      • Kristoff, you are almost there with…..”Scientific advancement will solve the challenges of pollution, which ultimately are technical challenges requiring advanced engineering”
        …..but you are wrong about ” economy must turn raw materials into finished goods”.
        If you have a look around the business and corporate world many are looking at capturing the existing resources already out there by designing Circularity and closed loops into production systems.
        This isn’t about socialism or capitalism, it’s about restructuring economy to be sustainable and regenerative rather than extractive, depletive and wasteful.
        That’s where the innovation and opportunity is to be found

  5. The weather is going to do what it is going to do. We have to adapt and not keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We must future proof our policies and processes so that we can function like other emerging third world countries whose infrastructure is not destroyed after one day of rain. Local and central government has to shoulder most of the blame for the latest devastation. They signed off on the building consents in slip zones and drove forestry and farm practices which took out the bridges. They didn’t future proof key infrastructure like water, roading and electricity. Tens of millions were spent by government on criminal gangs and weapons for nazis but public charity is now being pushed as the funding mechanism for ‘building back better’ in these disaster zones (are we also going to ask East Coasters if they are ‘happy now they own nothing’). The billions that were spent on roads were either spent on vanity highway projects out of Auckland or on rural roads built on silt which just got washed out to sea. The government looked at every possible configuration to do with three waters recently, except what would happen if the rivers suddenly rose and flooded their cities. The government was too busy fussing over who took their injections or who was a terrorist for expressing a view online. When the basics of food, water and communications can’t even be secured for populations in emergency then we don’t have resilience or even a civilised society, we just have a type of mediaeval survival instinct.

    • Seems that the cashless society the ruling elites want for us is also a joke. People in these flood zones could only purchase food and essentials using cash, the alternative apparently was starvation or waiting for emergency services. Not really a sustainable model. Might be time for the government to issue emergency packs to the whole country in case of disaster, include something like coupons which can be traded once an emergency is triggered.

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