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We’re All Penguins Now.

Written By: - Date published: 1:25 pm, November 19th, 2018 - 26 comments
Categories: activism, democratic participation, disaster, Environment, Ethics, global warming, International, political alternatives, quality of life, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

There seems to be an odd thing about adopting new ways of thinking or doing things. It seems that there is usually a small group of people who practice or advocate for a particular thing, while the majority of people carry on thinking and acting as before as though awaiting permission to adopt whatever the new thing is. I’m no psychology student, and so while I’m sure there will be studies and a name given to the phenomena, I’m just going to settle for suggesting there’s a herd mentality that makes people averse to sticking out. Of course, as something gains traction, it’s the old thoughts and habits that might come to seem increasingly peculiar or marginal. And then they become abandoned, bar for a wee few people who cling on to the old thoughts and the old ways and who might be seen as a mirror opposite of those who initially push for change or adoption of the new.

For those who need permission – who require that “the new” first be endorsed by authoritative or mainstream voices they’d  usually associate with “normal” and “acceptable”, then today’s letter signed off by 150 of society’s “great and good”, might have something to offer.

As reported on Scoop:

One hundred and fifty academics and researchers from around Aotearoa, including Dame Anne Salmond, Emeriti Professors and several Fellows of the Royal Society, have signed a strongly-worded open letter to the Government demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change.

This isn’t the first such letter to government claiming to represent a concern held by society in general. But given the timing of it and the standing enjoyed by many of the signatories, it just might have more impact than previous ones. According to the report at Scoop, most of us are on board already.

A survey from earlier this year showed that 79 percent of people believed climate action needs to start immediately. A large majority also said we need to meet or exceed our international commitments, and that we should act even if other countries don’t.

The letter itself (download from the Scoop link) calls capitalism and consumerism into question and draws the link between those things and global warming

Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.

It concludes –

New Zealand could lead the world by immediately developing a data-informed plan for rapid decarbonisation of the economy. We demand that the government meets its duty to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come.

Finally then, it might be that eminent people who have benefited hugely from our current socio/political/economic norms are calling those norms into question and advocating they be abandoned. They are calling out the stupidity of government for promoting an economic paradigm that isn’t viable. They are pointing to the consequences of continuing to do that. And they are demanding the government stops doing it and honours its duty to protect us and ours, both now and in the future.

It’s a message basically in line with what growing numbers of people have been saying in recent years. It’s a message not so different to the thrust of Extinction Rebellion – an idea that’s seemingly gathering a growing and representative cross section of society under its wing. It’s far more powerful than some of the noble but misguided appeals that have come from some NGOs in recent years.  Hell, these days there are even some elected representatives who look to be on board and who are engaging in useful if largely symbolic forms of direct action in their places of government.

On the basis that we’re all penguins then – the wave is ripe for jumping. Are you in? If not, then that’s okay, because someone has to help make up the numbers of  that minority who will hang back and waddle around otherwise abandoned ice.


26 comments on “We’re All Penguins Now. ”

  1. Dennis Frank 1

    I appreciate that the academics are taking a stand on the issue. I bet they think it’s a strong stand too – but is it really? Government is merely an administrative and legislative organisation. It only serves to implement policies adopted by the political parties that form governments.

    I suspect only the Greens have formulated a policy on climate change. Terror of alienating business has probably prevented the others heading down that road. So why haven’t the academics done their homework?? If lack of policy consensus is the problem, why not say so? They can’t complain that they’re too stupid to figure this out! Well okay, perhaps their failure suggests that they actually are.

    I encourage them to spit the dummy, do the research to establish which parties are causing the problem, and issue a public statement shaming those who are delinquent. That would at least serve to highlight the problem in the media, right?

    But the government has spent a year informing us that it is developing a consensus-based policy on climate change, hasn’t it? Are they just tired of waiting for the legislation to emerge like an egg from the bottom of the public service hen? I wasn’t able to access their statement via the Scoop link – it didn’t work – so I can only guess why they have no confidence in government policy formulation. Maybe academics view public servants with contempt??

    • Bill 1.1

      Government is merely an administrative and legislative organisation.


      Maybe academics view public servants with contempt?

      Also possibly, even evidently, true.

      And when academia – that home for stalwarts of conformity – states contempt, not just for government, but the miliue government operates within and urges “jump”?

      • Dennis Frank 1.1.1

        It suggests they are sending the tacit signal that government is being too slow. At least it indicates they want to be part of the solution, which is commendable. I hope they take their initiative further, in a more organised way. A multi-disciplinary framing of climate change would help, particularly if governance is included in the mix. Get out of those academics silos, do it differently, be innovative, use lateral thinking…

  2. WeTheBleeple 2

    More ‘strongly worded statements’, golly.

    The so called academics, you know, our smartest minds…. where’s their plan?

    Another strongly worded letter?

    A terse e-mail?

    They need to directly engage and put their efforts into solutions, otherwise, could they just shut up while real thinkers take the lead.

    • Bill 2.1

      Take their condemnation. They constitute a part of society’s institutional core. Adopt their opprobrium. Run with it.

  3. WeTheBleeple 3

    Will pull myself up on previous post it was harsh. Many brilliant academics.

    At uni I told students something like the following:

    ‘Scientists are meant to be the smartest people but we are far from wise. We are working for the agendas of others with little regard for anything but the task at hand. We are myopic, and destroying the world through the work we’ve done for corporations.

    We need to be EVEN SMARTER. If someone wants a solution for something – don’t give them the unsustainable option. Burn the data and start again and do it till you get it right.

    Until you can see and work beyond the window of your lab you are not a good scientist, instead, you are just a tool.’

    That message is for all the scientists, not just the students I was lucky enough to have time with.

    Wrecker and hater that I am 😀

  4. RedLogix 4

    Another step in the correct direction.

    No-one should be scared of “business”, because these are the people who will implement the real change on the ground, when govt lines up the policies and regulations.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Business people are the ones mostly preventing us from changing as they seem scared of those changes.

      • SpaceMonkey 4.1.1

        BIG business people… whose business models are hopelessly dependent on the status quo and liberal economics.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I find most small business people are part of the problem. They like the way things work now and don’t want to change. And often can’t afford to change.

          Interestingly enough, the larger businesses are in a better position to weather the necessary changes as they’ve got the research capabilities that small businesses don’t have. They’re trying to protect their present investments, to get as much profit from sunk costs as possible.

          • gsays

            It’s not big business people nor small business people.
            It’s us.
            We continue to go to supermarkets.
            We continue to play on the money go round.
            We keep buying shit we don’t need for ourselves and others. Be it from trade me, $2 shop, bunnings or Briscoes (lady bunnings I heard it described as the other day).
            After all, big and small business would fail if we changed our habits.

            Eat local and seasonal, probably vegetarian.

            • Draco T Bastard

              We still need to:
              Have clothing
              A place to live with furniture
              A way to get from A to B
              A way to communicate with each other
              A few luxuries

              These aren’t optional. The communication needs to be global so as to bring about global democratic government.

              And, yes, if we got rid of the hyper consumerism many large and small businesses would collapse but it is, of course, what we need to do. Both large and small businesses keep telling us that we need to keep doing it.

              We need to simplify quite a lot starting with getting rid of the huge businesses that exist solely to own other businesses but produce nothing themselves and are nothing more than a vehicle for profit and tax dodging.

              • Bill

                We still need to:
                Have clothing
                A place to live with furniture
                A way to get from A to B
                A way to communicate with each other
                A few luxuries

                Do all that. Have all that. But without any input that generates carbon by product.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  There’s always going to be a carbon by product. We have to keep it within what the ecosystem can handle which is where we’ve gone wrong.

              • gsays

                Advice I got a few years back: ‘don’t look to Wellington for leadership.’

                This is true for business as well.
                That’s why the pollies are always polling, to pick up the vibe.
                Bloody weathervanes. Trying to say what they think is most popular.
                For them to lead where we need to go, they would not get re-elected.
                Once again the problem us us.

                • Molly

                  Weathervane democracy seems to be apt description, and considering how weather patterns are changing politicians are spinning accordingly.

                  “That’s why the pollies are always polling, to pick up the vibe.”
                  I always think of polling companies when listening to this song from Katell Keineg:

                • Draco T Bastard

                  ‘don’t look to Wellington for leadership.’

                  I’d agree with that. The problem is that Wellington doesn’t and they don’t look to the general populace for it either. Wellington looks to business and what they want which they then couch in terms that sounds good to the populace.

                  It’s the problem of living in an oligarchy.

  5. Ed 5

    Radical action the only solution
    #extinction rebellion

  6. Pat 6

    good to see this. The pressure needs to be piled onto our politicians at every opportunity including letting them know in no uncertain terms that any vote is contingent on meaningful and rapid action on CC.

  7. One Two 7

    Demanding an investigation into weather modification programs would be ‘radical’…

    Government should become vocal on the public stage and demand investigation with full exposure…the reaction would speak volumes…

    It simply is not possible to formulate appropriate solutions unless all variables are known of…

    And that is not the current state of play!

    • SHG 7.1

      Yes geoengineering is a crisis we must all face

      that and the mole men

    • Bill 7.2

      It simply is not possible to formulate appropriate solutions…

      The “solution” is dump fossil. Fast. Pretty straight forward.

  8. WeTheBleeple 8

    “It simply is not possible to formulate appropriate solutions unless all variables are known of…”

    That is pure horseshit. We could do with more of that to fuel bio-digestors providing fuels, chemicals and composts.

  9. Dennis Frank 9

    I found another report on this here: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/108700655/150-academics-researchers-urge-robust-and-emergency-climate-action

    “Robust, emergency action is needed in response to the “deepening ecological crisis” of climate change, says a letter to the Government signed by 150 academics and researchers. It does not say what that action should be”. Of course not! Nobody expects university lecturers to be able to solve problems. Best, therefore, to defer to paternalism. Tell the govt loudly that a problem exists.

    “I just wanted to send a really strong message to Government that we need strong action and it needs to be urgent” said Cordelia Lockett, who initiated the letter. I welcome her initiative. “In order to reduce emissions drastically in 12 years is going to take radical action,” Lockett said. “I’m not getting that sense or urgency from our Government.”

    I just question her assumption that any govt can solve the problem. Governments are administrators of the status quo. Legislation traditionally tweaks the status quo. So what we expect from govts is normalcy. In abnormal times, govts are part of the problem. Expecting them to morph into part of the solution is irrational.

    That said, James Shaw may pull a rabbit out of his hat soon. Will it be a sufficient act of magic, to solve the problem? He’s currently heading for Antarctica. Must be feeling the need to get a closer look at the problem.

    “Many of those who signed the letter do not appear to be working directly in the area of climate science. Those who are include Prof James Renwick from the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University, Prof Martin Manning from the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria, Canterbury University environmental physics lecturer Dr Laura Revell, Emeritus Professor Andrew Sturman from the geography department at Canterbury, Prof Cliff Law from the chemistry department at Otago University, and Associate Professor Anita Wreford from the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Massey University.”

  10. mikesh 10

    I suggest we can the import of ICE cars.

  11. WeTheBleeple 11

    I’ll give it a brief sweep:

    Today’s vast monocultures of plants are susceptible to the first pathogen or pest that can overcome their defences. These industries thus typically also rely on herbicides, pesticides and fungicides; plus fertilisers, heavy machinery and irrigation water. And the scale is tremendous.

    Three quarters of the worlds food supply now comes from a mere dozen crops and five livestock species. Meanwhile close to 1000 other food species are under threat.

    The tool organisms have to adapt through change is genetic diversity. Within a single species variation can be huge, e.g. Taro that grow as dozens of strains: one salt tolerant, one freshwater, one wind tolerant, one dryland, one early harvest, one late… Without genetic diversity we can’t adapt. Global warming is bringing rapid change. We need to help evolution as much as we can, not hinder it any longer. GE will not save us. GE reduces diversity even more.

    Adapting for climate change we must reinstate genetically diverse and regenerative agriculture. There is plenty of appropriate technology e.g. wind, solar, bio-digestors, etc to help create resilient productive landscapes far less reliant on and even independent of oil; yet with food and fuel security. Corporate interests may have to take a back seat as largely oil based agriculture has become untenable to our survival.

    Functional or support plant species will also be required: for nitrogen fixation, pollination, pest control, habitat, shelter, mulch and more. These coupled with crop husbandry and water harvesting techniques can increase soil fertility and organic matter; thus sequestering carbon as systems mature.

    With these systems developing over time, and with shared experience, will come expertise. Success can be replicated, and lessons recorded. Soon excesses will be created that can be assigned to industry creating value added products for trade. And so we may continue on this grand journey, hopefully with our heads pulled in a bit.

    We can reinstate local manufacturing. We can rethink industry to utilise plant based materials for building, textiles, medicines and more. Much of the tech is already there to provide much of our needs through plants. Let’s get cracking.

    And never reinstate corporate control of agriculture.

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