Distinguished Professor, noted historian and author, and New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond had a powerful piece in The Herald yesterday. Here are some extracts, but you should go and read the full article.
Over the past thirty years, there has been an erosion of democratic rights and freedoms in New Zealand. At the same time our collective life has been re-imagined as a market, driven by the pursuit of short-term profit. These two trends have placed us in danger.
Last week, Sir Richard Branson launched an alliance of world leaders called the B Team, whose founding CEO is a proud Kiwi, Derek Handley. The risks that confront humanity at present have been compared with “the Titanic heading for the iceberg, except the captains of planet earth actually know the iceberg is there; cracking, melting, disappearing. It’s going to take a very powerful force for good to steer us out of troubled waters”.
At the launch, Sir Richard and his colleagues urged business leaders across the planet to safeguard the future by moving beyond short-term thinking, a focus on limitless growth and profit at all costs, and to “find their moral backbone”. …
These leaders are echoing a chorus of warnings from the scientific community, who report that humanity is on a pathway to disaster. The world’s oceans are warming and becoming acidic, threatening many marine life forms and the food chains that depend on them, including our own.
The plants and animals that lived in these islands for millennia before human arrival are dying, with New Zealand having one of the highest proportions of species at risk of extinction in the world, threatening the viability of many ecosystems.
Although fresh water is fundamental to life, waterways across New Zealand are being degraded, depleted and polluted. Our small society is increasingly unequal and uncaring, with children dying of third world diseases in the midst of prosperity, while almost daily, democratic freedoms are threatened. We are in the process of turning off our own life support systems.
And in the face of these challenges, what are our captains doing? With the iceberg in full sight, they are pushing the throttle to full steam ahead, racing our small country to the point of collision as fast as possible.
In the process, many of the things that have made me very proud to be a New Zealander are being eroded.
It has been difficult, for instance, to watch New Zealand earn international opprobrium for refusing to ratify the Kyoto protocol, and a ‘Colossal Fossil Award’ – first equal among 194 countries for the worst performance on climate change.
Add to that the cancellation of State of the Environment reporting; proposed amendments to the Resource Management Act to weaken protection for the ecosystems that sustain us; and a rush towards fossil fuel exploitation, and we are on a trajectory that is contrary to where New Zealand should be heading.
There have also been attacks on scientists who report on the state of our streams and rivers; moves to legalise and strengthen surveillance over New Zealand citizens, and a punitive ban on peaceful environmental protests at sea rushed through Parliament, in breach of the Bill of Rights and international conventions. These assaults on democratic freedoms are disturbing.
As a scientist who attends many conferences in which the relevant science is discussed, I see our environmental strategies as irrational. As a mother and grandmother, I consider them a betrayal of future generations.
… we need to find innovative ways of doing business; new kinds of science; new sorts of communities; and better ways of caring for members of our society. A small, inventive, intimate country like ours should be helping to build a bright future – the kind of New Zealand of which we can all be proud. The time is now. The choice is ours.