Riding the righteous wave that was the climate strikes last friday, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick burns in this searing critique at the Spinoff of politicians’ responses to climate change. Starting with a description of what the strike was: Pacifika youth leading, Tangata Whenua making visible the connections between indigenous rights and climate justice, young kids in pushchairs, older kids with megaphones, older adults with placards, this is a riot of fighting-not-drowning voices bearing down on the powerholders of New Zealand politics.
Swarbrick contrasts this with the patronising responses from NZ politicians and tells them if they won’t listen to climate action voices, then listen to the science: people created this mess.
Politicians across the world have their hands on the wheel of a car that they are driving directly into a forest fire. They can see the fire. They have been, and are being, constantly warned about it as they drive. The heat and smoke is starting to make some of the car passengers uncomfortable, sick and coughing.
Politicians have their hands on the wheel and their feet at the pedals. They can slow the car. They can stop it. They can choose a different path: one that doesn’t lead to destruction of the car, its passengers – ultimately of civilisation as a whole.
For those trying to write this off as radical greenie rhetoric, get this analysis of political polarisation,
New Zealand has been privy to its fair share of attempted polarisation recently. An unignorable 48% of our country’s emissions coming from agriculture, which evidently must reduce if we are to do our bit to help keep global warming within 1.5 degrees. That is a fact. It is also a fact that thousands of New Zealanders work on the farms and in the industry that, unfortunately, produces these emissions. These people are important, and they – like all of us – deserve a warm, dry home, meaningful work, a sense of identity and strong community ties.
Some politicians have sought to sever those two crucial components for their own gain. They don’t talk about helping our farmers transition, but speak in divisive, binary, fanciful rhetoric. You can only have one, they assert: a liveable climate or regional development. They ignore the reality that farmers are already being hit with climate breakdown in ever-less predictable seasonality and increasing international standards on carbon transparency.
This is green politics at its finest, and it demonstrates why many have long resisted the pressure to separate out environmental issues from social justice. It says we, people, are part of the natural world, and we all deserve a warm home, food on the table, and connection, so let’s look at how we can make sure we are all ok, people and the land. We need to be closing the loops, ensuring that how we run society takes into account the need to protect the land as well as the need to make sure the people on the land are good, and that these two things are the same.
People who think the Greens are anti-farmer are really not paying attention, and the hour is getting late.
Having named NZ’s emerging Trumpian politics, Swarbrick then points to the real world implications,
… with two and a half weeks until the Zero Carbon Bill is reported back to parliament, it remains unclear if the National Party will support it. That cross-party support is seen as critical to the long term stability of the legislation and the independent Climate Commission. That cross-party support helped in the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008, on which the Zero Carbon Bill is based.
To spell it out, in practice this means that our defining piece of climate action legislation – one which 170,000 Kiwis just this last Friday demanded be made stronger and delivered faster – risks passing with only the government majority of 64 votes to 56 votes. That vote is less than three weeks out.
I can’t stress it enough: this is a law that – at present – a massive number of New Zealanders do not see as bold or progressive enough to the extent that they were willing to put their bodies, their education and in some places their jobs on the line.
Swarbrick’s final point is that the old political hegemony that is keeping us locked into the climate crisis needs to be broken and that can happen by increasing the number of MPs in the party leading on tackling climate change.
New Zealanders are incredibly fortunate to have such a party to vote for at all. Listening to people in the US or the UK I try and imagine living in a place where the choice was between Trump and the Democrats. Hold the Greens to account where needed, but let’s also count our blessings.
Swarbrick’s message seems aimed more at young people and the non-vote, but I think it applies equally to lefties who are still shy about trusting the Greens.
This then, and I’m bolding it because it’s the break-through-all-the-bullshit message,
Take the fight to election 2020. I agree climate action should not be partisan. But the reality is stark: a number of political parties do not as it stands want to make the sufficient steps to deal with it. If you marched on Friday, you already know that.