Hope for future sustainability of New Zealand

Yesterday I opined about what is and what is not New Zealand’s “nuclear free moment”. I noted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments from the 2017 election campaign that climate change is her generation’s “Nuclear Free moment”, and I built my counter argument. At the end of that argument I noted I still have hope for New Zealand, and I do.

Just because other nations do not want to unplug from the corrupted system that is capitalism, does not mean New Zealand should stay plugged in. Many of these are older nations that have deep rooted socio-economic problems that I am not sure even they understand the deep and complexity of.

The decline of the west is manifesting in several forms. In some countries it is socio-economic decline that is impacting. In others it is the unsustainable exploitation of the natural environment and mineral resources.

Japan is one such example. A very old civilization with traditions spanning thousands of years it has been very slow for a westernized nation in terms of gender equality and it is the expectation of large tracts of Japanese society that a woman will not return to work, once she has given birth. Many Japanese women are more career oriented than earlier generations and are either having fewer children or no children at all. This has shown in the population statistics: Japan’s population peaked in 2007 at 126 million, with a decline nearly 1 million people since then. Japan’s reputation for a love of things robotic is impressive, but the lack of humanity in the prospect of robots caring for people in rest homes and in hospitals, displacing some of the most humanitarian jobs there are is almost dystopian.

Australia is a sad example of a country that has been blessed with vast economic wealth, that it is slowly bleeding away. It’s economic growth, whilst spectacular and the envy for many years of New Zealanders, has come at huge cost to the environment. Just recently millions of dead fish were found in the Murray Darling River which makes up most of Australia’s natural drainage. The causes are unmistakably clear – the over allocation of water to irrigation, leading to very low flow conditions where shallow water supports cyanobacteria which is hugely lethal in dogs, very toxic to humans and fish. Unless radical action is taken to address this, the Murray Darling river will stop being a functional drainage system in this generation – some might say it is nearly there now.

New Zealand does not need to be like this. We are young as a nation and lack the deeply ingrained social constraints that Japan has. We are more in tune with our environment than Australia is likely to be with its own any time soon. Our problems whilst numerous and diverse can be better managed because we are starting to wake up from the neoliberal market economic experiment that National and A.C.T. continue to promote.

But we need to be bold. In environmental, transport, housing and biodiversity we need to lift our game substantially and do so soon. We have one of the larger ecological footprints of a first world nation and are one of the slackest when it comes to recycling rates. New Zealand needs to revisit how we issue consents to take water, to build properties and the planning framework that goes with it. This is not to say the Resource Management Act is out of date. Much more freight traffic needs to be going by rail, which is grossly under utilized and not

If the Malthusian decline continues in spite of this, then it would point to problems outside of New Zealand’s reasonable means to deal with. It would point to problems that are probably global in nature. But as long as we can address our own problems, New Zealand will be a beacon of light in an increasingly gloomy future.

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