I – Francie – was interviewed on radio on 30 August, in response to the Government’s (actual) release of the New Zealand Energy Strategy. (You can read the CAN Aotearoa press release). Also on 30 August, the Earthquake Commission revised its liability costings for the Christchurch quakes to $7.1billion, In the interview, I said, as CAN Aotearoa always says, that we need to phase out coal mining in New Zealand and that this means no new or expanded coal mines.
The interviewer said ‘That’s not very realistic though, is it Frances, the Government has an operating deficit of billions of dollars.’
I think this is a question that our movement is increasingly going to face, with the ongoing global recession and the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes. Hopefully, we will have these discussions in community meetings, at Occupy, on the Bay of Plenty’s beaches, in Southland paddocks, so I have been mulling over a more indepth response and asking friends for their responses too.
Recently, I asked Climate Justice Aotearoa for their thoughts. Gary writes:
Maybe we need to reframe what is and isnt ‘realistic’. And maybe we need to reframe the whole growth thing – although this is very difficult for people to hear (at the moment anyway, but things are changing bloody fast).
Yes, it’s not at all realistic for people who think the economy should be run just for tomorrow, without thinking further into the future. But for realistic people, who can be honest with themselves about where the world’s economy and ecological state is at, it is neccesary. And for people who understand that economic growth itself is at the root of the ecological crisis, the crisis that will smash this economy to pieces if left unchecked, then further economic growth is not a realistic response to a crisis caused by it – especially further economic growth based on extracting resources that cause climate change, which according to the world’s most respected economists and scientists will cause global economic meltdown anyway.
Yes, it’s not realistic for those who financially benefit most from coal extraction, it’s rather inconvenient really isnt it. But for people who wont’ be able to insulate themselves from climate change by insuruing their giant coal money funded mansions, or by jetting off to another country when a weather related disaster is about to hit, it’s completely necessary and if we can bring about real democracy in this country it will also be realistic. This is MOST of Aotearoa’s population, and by far, it is the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, who will be the ones most horrifically impacted upon by climate change, whilst not benefiting from coal extraction at all. For them, it’s realistic, because they don’t benefit from more mining on the West Coast of New Zealand [or in Southland]. The only thing stopping this from coming about is the fact that these peoples’ welfare isn’t recognised by the people who make decisions about our economy, or about where is or isn’t going to be mined, and that’s what we are going to change.
The media might ask, ‘What about ‘Green’ Growth?’ But there have been only two examples of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a national level. Both were caused by economic degrowth. The collapse of the growth oriented Soviet Union economy and the collapse of the growth oriented economies of eastern europe. (Read ‘Green capitalism and the climate: It’s Economic Growth, Stupid! by T Mueller and A Passadakis). The only way to ‘save’ the economy they’re talking about, the one based on endless growth and endless resource exploitation, is to abandon that sort of economy in favour of one that has a chance in a world of runaway climate change and global resource depletion. This means we need a democratically controlled economy – not one run by coal barons like Don Elder sold to us on the back of lies about coal wealth trickling down to the rest of us. Digging up more coal isn’t compatible with a functioning world in the future; neither is economic growth because historically it always leads to more resource exploitation, which leads to more human suffering.
[We need to work for a] Just Transition; workers could transition to a more self reliant or localised state of employment, even outside of or away from the growth based / market based economy that is completely failing to meet the needs of people today and tomorrow anyway… [P]eople can transition away from jobs based on centralising profits to companies like Solid Energy and towards providing for people’s actual needs, like growing real food (not milk powder), which is going to be severely needed in the coming years as world food prices hit the roof and famines become more frequent.
…It wouldn’t be at all unrealistic if New Zealand was run democratically, by New Zealanders, because unlike people like John Key and Gerry Brownlee, we do actually give a damn about our future.