web analytics

Retrograde NZ

Written By: - Date published: 3:46 pm, May 4th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , ,

I had the pleasure of meeting lauded climate activist and author Bill McKibben this morning. McKibben is in New Zealand as part of a tour encouraging action on climate change, in the lead up to the big UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

He’s a good guy tall, frank and realistic about the distinct possibility of us failing in the quest to save ourselves.

‘We are up to the edge (success is) a long shot, but we do have a very narrow window of opportunity. This is our final exam; so far we’re failing, but we don’t have to put our pencils down quite yet.’

He’s also very frank about how backwards New Zealand is on the issue.

‘New Zealand is retrograde; you’re just not getting it like other countries are. You’re kind of like the US was up until a few months ago. And you’re not like Europe, where the question is ‘how fast can we push this through?’ New Zealand needs to reboot. The conversation has to change .and quickly.’

It is such a delight when high-profile foreigners cotton on to the fact we’re luddites.

McKibben says without hesitation that the climate negotiations in December will be the most important in human history. He points out that the meeting will be too late to prevent global warming; rather what they’ll be talking about is whether we can avoid complete catastrophe.

But while acknowledging the geopolitical imperative for action, he also points out that the real negotiations are infact not between the countries of the world, but between humans and physics and chemistry ‘the problem being that physics and chemistry aren’t going to bargain.’

McKibben was one of the founding members of 350.org the significance of the name being that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the limit for humanity.

‘350 is the magic number; the red line. Any more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and it’s not compatible with life on earth.”

For the record, New Zealand’s proposed stabilisation goal is for greenhouse gasses is no more than 450ppm a level that would mean the annihilation of many low lying states, including most of our Pacific neighbours.


18 comments on “Retrograde NZ”

  1. George Darroch 1

    Head meets wall.

    I’ve been saying this for the last 7 years, and others for a lot longer than me. Guess how much we’ve been listened to by anyone with the power to make decisions? Not all that much, and by the looks of things not much more for a while to come.

    When are people going to start listening? We’ve hung off powerplants, met with MPs, protested on the streets, occupied valleys for years.

    Labour wanted to stay in a comfortable muddle-ground which didn’t actually involve doing much – the thermal ban, late in their term, was one of the few laudable actions they took.

  2. Terry 2

    George, you are right. I supported Labour and campaigned during the last election but now I’m really having my doubts. Climate change is by far the biggest and most dangerous challenge that we face. And yet when one tries to raise awareness with Labour supporters you often get this, silence.

    There have been well over 70 comments on the Mt Albert by-election. 6 comments came after this post, on Melissa Lee. And a dismal one comment on this post. A topic that eclipses the by-election, the supercity, student repayments, public service cuts altogether in importance and no one has got anything to say.

    One Labour supporter recently commented that I had defected to the Greens. I didn’t realise that I had to support one or the other. I have been supporting both but now I’m wondering if there is any point in supporting Labour at all. From the top to the bottom, Labour’s response to the climate change can only be described as weak.

    • George Darroch 2.1

      Well, during the last 6 years Labour couldn’t do what they wanted.

      After 2002 this was because they decided that the Greens were toxic, and chose Dunne instead, who vetoed effective action on climate change. After 2005 it was the same story, as a governing arrangement involving the Maori Party was “political suicide”, and Dunne and Peters had to be kept on side.

      So, you see, there was little that could be Dunne.

      • Terry 2.1.1

        I suppose leadership is more than just making policy and passing bills. Its raising awareness and trying to change things via other channels as well. I was really impressed when Grant Robertson went around New Zealand trying to raise peoples awareness of NZAID (for all the good it did unfortunately). Lianne Dalziel is going around with the issue of selling alcohol.

        I’ve been to forums on climate change organised by Victoria and Otago Universities, by secondary school groups, by Greens. Where are the Labour forums? Are Labour getting behind the 350 campaign?

        If they are going to be leaders they need to be CC literate, if they are CC literate why aren’t they trying to pass on this important information?

    • lprent 2.2

      You always would get a response from me, and I’m strongly labour because they even bother to think about it. There is widespread support for work towards climate change inside people in Labour.

      However they are also very aware that it has to be done bringing the rest of NZ at least part of the way there – otherwise it just get reversed*. To date that change of attitude hasn’t happened. Just look at what the Nats are doing after being voted in – saying that they were going to ‘review’ (ie stall) any action.

      Look at the kinds of dipshit science and comments about science that we see around here whenever the topic is raised. I always remember the thread where icebergs floating past Dunedin became conclusive proof that the world was getting colder. When in fact in a colder world there are bugger all icebergs – the stay attached to ice-sheets. This is an example of the Wishart/Hide school of earth sciences.

      There is a long way to go on educating our citizens. I’m afraid it will probably take some more atrocious weather, or a trade embargo against us. By then it will probably be too late anyway. Get used to bad weather and lots of refugees, plus many pious CCD’s saying it was all everyone else fault that they were so stupid.

      * reversed like Hide’s super-city bill passing under urgency will eventually.

  3. wibblewithoutapause 3

    rats! i didnt hear about this too until too late… Has anyone got a transcript or perhaps could point me towards some commentary of his tour in the press?
    Or are they all too busy planting fear and paranoia amongst us about the shorter term flu conditions?

  4. George Darroch 4

    I congratulate Demeter for bringing up these issues consistently on The Standard.

  5. gingercrush 5

    I see in Australia under a Labor government (why they don’t include a U is beyond me) that they have delayed their ETS till 2011, severely cut emission goals and priced carbon at $10. Of course the big factor is the recession. But why should New Zealand rush to take care of climate change? Particularly, when even if we severely cut emissions we’re so completely reliant on other countries to cut their emissions as they vastly contribute more emissions than we do.

    • George Darroch 5.1

      Why, because the ALP is in the pocket of coal. And is believing the lines of the coal and other mining industries.

    • James 5.2

      @gingercrush “Why should we rush do do anything?”

      You could say the same thing about abolishing slavery or giving women the vote … why rush and be the first to do the right thing when it could be such an inconvenience ?

  6. r0b 6

    But why should New Zealand rush to take care of climate change?

    Because it’s the right thing to do?

    • gingercrush 6.1

      Well I’m in some agreement in that we should do so before other countries economically disadvantage us. But even if we cut all our emissions. World emissions would still be so great that global warming would be a consequence. If emissions will either continue to rise or be high despite what New Zealand does. Meaning if you believe global warming, temperatures will rise and the world will be in trouble. Any cutting back of our emissions isn’t going to save the world.

      Edit: I can’t actually read. You said “Because it’s the right thing to do”, and all I did was provide some economic answer to it.

      • Terry 6.1.1

        So GC, if you realised you were speeding towards a brick wall would you hit the brakes in the last moments in order to mitigate the damage or just keep going?

        I suppose this analogy isn’t fair, it doesn’t take into account the self-interested nature of the driving and it doesn’t account for the people in poorer countries who are probably going to be affected first. Its more like a joyrider taking out a line of school kids on their way towards a brick wall, GTA styles.

        “if you believe global warming, temperatures will rise and the world will be in trouble.”

        Yep, including the tourism industry which is one of the backbones of our economy. Including our whole economy I would imagine.

        But hey, its a sweet ride so lets enjoy it now eh?

        • Tigger

          I keep seeing the current government as Nero, fiddling while we all burn…

          I was disappointed with Labour’s timidity over this issue but heck, I’ll take that over Key and Hide’s approach any day.

  7. Snook 7

    Thank you Demeter for raising this increasingly urgent topic probably for the umpteenth time. How anyone who cares about their own life, that of their children and grandchildren can vote in the promoters of environmental destruction, ie, Nact is beyond me. These guys think that the market will fix everything try that when the oceans are emptied of fish, the soil ruined, water and air fouled and people drop like flies from unbearable temperatures.

    Labour of course is not lily-white but acknowledged the need to reduce carbon emissions by buying back the rail network, at least it’s a start.

    I believe that any party in government in ten years from now will be unpopular on two fronts: one, for not having brought the issue to the attention of the public (who don’t want to hear anything that’s going to pull them out of the consensus trance that everything’s OK she’ll be right mate), and two, for having to impose severe limits on what people may do in every aspect of their lives.

    Any party that wants to have any measure of popularity in the future needs to get the message out. The Greens try but they really need to get right up in people’s minds with the kind of bleak future we can look forward to if we do nothing. I piss a lot of people off about peak oil but hopefully supplies will soon become short and thus expensive as a way to get people to get out of their cars and walking, biking and using public transport thereby mitigating some carbon emissions.

    I suspect that twenty years from now the Maldives and many of the Pacific islands will be uninhabitable and the Netherlands and Bangladesh will have started drowning.

    Dr Peter Lloyd says in his documentary that if the world had three Katrina-type events in one year it would spell the end for the insurance industry. This link is the first of seven:


    Kudos to Gareth Morgan on ‘Sunday’ for dipping into his own pocket, 500k, and sourcing the truth about our predicament re global warming.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts


  • A charge on plastic bags – debunking some myths
    The launch of my Members’ Bill last week, which would introduce a 15 cent charge on single-use plastic bags at the check-out, has generated a lot of comment on mainstream and social media. From The Paul Henry Show at the ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    1 day ago
  • National’s $1trillion property sandcastle
    The National government's failure to fix the housing crisis has seen the ballooning and unsustainable property market touch the $1 trillion mark, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. "Labour wants an economy that creates high wage work that is based ...
    2 days ago
  • Government failure on housing crisis drives Reserve Bank to add tools
    If the Government was delivering a comprehensive plan to fix the housing crisis, it is unlikely that the Reserve Bank would be continuing to pursue debt to income limits for lending for housing, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. ...
    2 days ago
  • International embarrassment for NZ likely over National’s failure to protect Maui dolphin
    New Zealanders who care about Maui dolphin should prepare to feel embarrassed: the Government is about to be put to shame on the international stage for its lack of action to protect Maui’s dolphin. The International Whaling Commissions’ 66th Biennial ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage
    5 days ago
  • Why don’t we spend $1b to keep people out of jail, rather than spending it on keeping them in?
    Earlier this week, Corrections Minister Judith Collins announced the government’s ‘solution’ to our burgeoning prison population. It seems that most, if not all, of Bill English’s hard-won surplus is going to disappear into another round of prison-building.  That must be ...
    GreensBy David Clendon
    6 days ago
  • PKE Ship Sent Packing – Not Too Soon
    It is appropriate that the palm kernel expeller (PKE) ship off Tauranga has been sent packing. For weeks I have been saying this ship needed to be sent away, but it seems as if MPI has been trying to find ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning
    6 days ago
  • Do you #LoveSnow?
    I was a lucky kid. When I was about five or six my mum and auntie took me up to Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu and taught me to ski. As a young kid I thought there was no bigger ...
    GreensBy James Shaw
    6 days ago
  • Awa Kairangi/Hutt River – Swimmable?
    On Thursday night I hosted a great swimmable rivers meeting organised by the local Greens in Heretaunga (Hutt Valley). It was great to see about 70 people attend and engage in the topic. We were welcomed by Te Atiawa representative ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    7 days ago
  • September benefit figures disappointing
    The Government is out of touch with the reality that fewer people are going off the benefit and into employment or study, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.  “The quarterly benefit numbers for September are concerning. They show that ...
    7 days ago
  • MFAT officials refuse to back Prime Minister on Saudi sheep claims
    An Ombudsman’s interim decision released about the existence or otherwise of legal advice on the multimillion dollar Saudi sheep deal shows MFAT has failed to back up the Prime Minister’s claims on the matter, says Labour MP David Parker. “The ...
    7 days ago
  • Barry Coates on his first weeks in Parliament
    Week one in Parliament has been quite an occasion. I would like to share the experience. I had given up on the prospect of getting into Parliament before the election and had been enjoying the diverse work I was doing ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    7 days ago
  • Nats still planning to take Housing NZ dividend
    Housing New Zealand’s Statement of Performance Expectations shows that the National Government intends to pocket $237m from Housing New Zealand this year including a $54m “surplus distribution”, despite promises that dividends would stop, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. “After ...
    1 week ago
  • Parliament must restore democracy for Ecan
    Parliament has a chance to return full democracy to Canterbury with the drawing of a member’s bill that would replace the Government’s appointed commissioners with democratically elected councillors, says Labour’s Canterbury Spokesperson Megan Woods. “In 2010, the Government stripped Cantabrians ...
    1 week ago
  • Police struggle to hold the line in Northland
    Labour’s promise of a thousand extra police will go a long way to calming the fears of people in the North, says the MP for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis.  “Police are talking about the Northland towns of Kaitaia and ...
    1 week ago
  • Vote Sooty Shearwater/Tītī for Bird of the Year
    Sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) are amazing and deserve your vote in Forest and Bird’s Bird of the Year competition.  They make one of the longest known bird migrations, flying an annual round trip of 64,000 kms across the entire Pacific ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage
    1 week ago
  • Urgent action on agriculture emissions needed
    Immediate action is required to curb agricultural emissions is the loud and clear message from Climate change & agriculture: Understanding the biological greenhouse gases report released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan ...
    1 week ago
  • Super Fund climate change approach a good start
    Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson and Climate Change Spokesperson Dr Megan Woods have welcomed the adoption of a climate change investment strategy by the New Zealand Super Fund. “This is a good start. It is a welcome development that the Super ...
    1 week ago
  • Energy use going in the wrong direction
    New data out this week from Statistics NZ paints a concerning picture of energy use across the economy under this National Government. You won’t be surprised to hear that there is some seriously worrying information here about how dirty our ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    1 week ago
  • Raising the age the right thing to do
    The announcement today that the Government will leave the door open for young people leaving state care still means there is a lot of work to do, says Labour's Spokesperson for Children, Jacinda Ardern "The Government indicated some time ago ...
    1 week ago
  • Junior Doctors go on Strike
    Thousands of junior doctors took strike action for 24 hours this week for better working conditions and safer working hours.  The Green Party supports their cause, and particularly their claims to reduce the number of days worked from up to ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    1 week ago
  • Coleman plays down the plight of junior doctors
    Junior doctors are crucial to our health services and the industrial action that continues tomorrow shows how desperately the Government has underfunded health, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.  “Jonathan Coleman’s claim that he has not seen objective evidence of ...
    1 week ago
  • Inflation piles pressure on National and Reserve Bank
    While many households will welcome the low inflation figures announced today, they highlight serious questions for both the National government and the Reserve Bank, Labour’s  Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson said.  "While low inflation will be welcomed by many, the ...
    1 week ago
  • Officials warned Nat’s $1b infrastructure fund ineffective and rushed
    Treasury papers show the Government rushed out an infrastructure announcement officials told them risked making no significant difference to housing supply, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Like so much of National’s housing policy, this was another poll-driven PR initiative ...
    1 week ago
  • More cops needed to tackle P
    New Police statistics obtained in Written Questions show John Key is losing his War on P, highlighting the need for more Police, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “New Zealanders expect serious action on P but today’s hodgepodge of half-measures won’t ...
    1 week ago
  • Strengthening our relationship with the Rātana movement
    It was a privilege to visit Rātana Pā last week with fellow Greens’ Co-leader James Shaw, our Māori Caucus and senior staff to meet with the leaders of te iwi mōrehu, to strengthen the ties between the Green Party and ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei
    2 weeks ago
  • MBIE docs show country needs KiwiBuild, not Key’s pretend “building boom”
    John Key’s spin that New Zealand is in a building boom does not change the massive shortfall in building construction as new MBIE papers reveal, says Labour Party housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “We can fix the housing crisis, by the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 1 in 7 Akl houses now going to big property speculators
    Speculators are running riot in the Auckland housing market making life tougher for first home buyers, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  Newly released data from Core Logic shows a 40 per cent increase in the share of house sales ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Disconnected thinking dirties the water
    Iain Rabbitts’ belief that drinking water quality, charging for water use and the land use that leads to water quality degradation should be treated separately is part of the problem we have right now in this country. The connection is ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    2 weeks ago
  • Report back from Hands Off Our Tamariki hui
    This week I attended a hui in Otaki organised by Hands Off Our Tamariki about the proposed reforms to the Child Young Persons and their Families Act. Moana Jackson and Paora Moyle spoke.  They expressed deep, profound concern about the proposed ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour mourns passing of Helen Kelly
    Helen Kelly was a passionate advocate for working New Zealanders and for a safe and decent working life, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says.  “Helen Kelly spent her adult life fighting for the right of every working person to ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s visionless immigration policy
    National’s recent immigration announcement is a continuation of the visionless approach to government that it has displayed in the last three terms. Rather than using the levers of government to implement a sustainable immigration policy that benefits new and current ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche
    2 weeks ago
  • Andrew Little: Speech to the Police Association Conference 2016
    Police Association delegates, Association life members and staff, representatives from overseas jurisdictions. Thank you for inviting me here today. The Police Association has become a strong and respected voice for Police officers and for policing in New Zealand. There is ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 1,000 more police for safer communities
    Labour will fund an extra 1,000 Police in its first term to tackle the rising rate of crime, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Labour will put more cops on the beat to keep our communities safe. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Call for all-party round table on homelessness
    Labour is calling on the Government to take part in a roundtable meeting to hammer out a cross-party agreement on ending homelessness.  Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said the country wanted positive solutions to homelessness, and wanted the political parties ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Seclusion rooms in schools
    Schools are undoubtedly stretched and underfunded to cope with students with high learning support needs. But this cannot justify the use of rooms (or cupboards) as spaces to forcibly isolate children. It has emerged via media that this practice continues ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    2 weeks ago
  • Public should get a say on new Waikato power station
    I had an opinion piece published in the Waikato Times about a controversial proposal to build a new gas-fired power station. It’s not on their website yet, so here it is: If you think the public would get a say ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago
  • MSD and their investment approach
    The Government talks about investment but there is no investment. It is not investment if it isn’t over the whole of life and if there is no new money  — Shamubeel Eaqub   Investment sounds like adequate resourcing but this ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Certainty needed for community services
    A couple of months ago I was at a seminar where three community organisations were presenting. Two of the three presenters were waiting to find out if their organisation would get a contract renewed with MSD. Not knowing if their ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Domestic Violence – some advice for the media
    For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to use Domestic Violence (DV) as a proxy for intimate partner violence. DV is not isolated to physical abuse in a relationship between people with the same power. DV is a pattern of ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    3 weeks ago
  • Leroy’s New Paw Prints
    Leroy, an Auckland great dane recently received a new 3D printed bionic leg after cancer was discovered. I think this is a fantastic story and highlights the real potential of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing Leroy’s prosthetic was printed in titanium and was ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    3 weeks ago