Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks

A loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good will launch an appeal to parliament next week, asking for a dispassionate and non-partisan risk assessment of the “unprecedented threats to our collective security” facing the country as a result of climate change, fossil fuel extraction and economic uncertainty. The Wise Response group features poets, writers, All Blacks, academics, surgeons and scientists amongst its first 100 supporters1, and will launch its appeal at a public meeting in Dunedin on March 8th.

In its appeal the group identifies critical risks in five areas:

1. Economic security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to provide for the essentials, including local access to resources, reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure.

2. Energy and climate security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Progressively restricting their extraction, importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while creating better public transportation. Such responses would simultaneously lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

3. Business continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living arrangements.

4. Ecological security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.

5. Genuine well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP. An alternative is to measure progress by means of indicators of community sustainability, human well-being, more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.

The group is looking to build support both inside and outside parliament for a detailed risk assessment of how these issues might impact New Zealand, and is hoping this will lead to:

…robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity for all.

There’s much to like in the group’s appeal statement, but what I find most encouraging is that a diverse group of prominent New Zealanders is looking to make our politicians face up to the harsh realities of the modern world. I don’t imagine that John Key and his government will pay much attention — they’re too wedded to the all growth, all the time dogma for that — but with luck and persistence, the group may be able to start building a consensus around the things that we really need to do as a nation. That’s something I’m only too happy to support.

  1. The Otago Daily Times lists Brian Turner, Wayne Smith, Fiona Kidman, Glenn Turner, David Thom, Philip Temple, Anne Salmond, Julian Dean, Owen Marshall, Morgan Williams, Chris Trotter, Bruce Burns, Richard Langston and Anton Oliver amongst others. []

14 thoughts on “Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks”

  1. Their five points represent a comprehensive view of the directions governmental thinking should be going. Gets my vote.

    However, I read this keeping in mind John Key’s attempt to blame a speech by a minister during a former Labour government for solid energy’s current woes. Apparently he encouraged Solid energy to diversify their portfolio. If only GHGs could be reduced by such a simple strategy – make a speech.

    Of course this magical view could reflect self knowledge.

  2. Perhaps the demise of Solid Energy will focus the mind on getting rid of coal and starting to think of a fossil fuel free energy policy. We are not short of energy and of all the countries in the World it would be easy for us to make the switch.
    It would also help if journalists didn’t keep harping on about us being in a slump. This is normal. Live with it.

  3. I understand that a lot of people are feeling a lot of angst; rightfully so. But consider how this appeal is likely to be interpreted by the National government.

    1. Economic risks: will be interpreted as a call to cut government spending, i.e. unemployment and domestic purposes benefits (the real hogs, superannuation and health, are politically untouchable, as are meaningful policies such as a capital gains tax on domestic real estate, or alteration of the Reseve Bank policy targets agreement to focus on long-run economic stability instead of price stability.)

    2. Energy and climate security: will be interpreted (especially by Brownlee) as a request to redouble efforts to exploit NZ’s own mineral resources, few, poor, and costly though they be. It will also be interpreted as support for the “roads of National Significance” idiocy.

    3. Business continuity: will be interpreted as a call to reduce taxes on businesses and cut the top tax rate, while reducing protections for employees (for example, introducing fire-at-will).

    4. Ecological security: will be interpreted as a request to “reform” the Resource Management Act (i. e., eliminate it de facto).

    5. Genuine well-being: will be interpreted to mean that people don’t want higher wages as a priority (the rest of the words in there are just meaningless noises to national politicians), and therefore that the government has support for policies that set out to decrease wages.

    The Wise Response people need to understand their audience.

  4. Do I have to wait until after the 8th March before I can sign the Appeal?

    Interesting 100% possible is also having a week of action at this moment, and you can race over to this page and sign up. 🙂

    ps Wear a “100% possible” T- shirt and promote awareness to taking action on Climate Change – not only are these Organic cotton, and fair trade – they are a way to assist women in India caught in the sex trade to a new life.

  5. Good day in Thames Market today. 100% Possible made it’s first sortie this morning and St James’ tree is adorned with paper cranes written with alternative solutions to fossil fuel use created by the years 7 and 8 classes at Te Puru School. Several more signed up.
    A good 3 days at Waikato Uni as well earlier in the week.

  6. I bet some people on that list would be arguing against restrictions on immigration (Chris Laidlaw, Chris Trotter). In a recent post Chris Trotter called NZ’s population “tiny”. You hear that sort of argument from libertarian property developers.
    I read this in the ODT today. It sums up a lot of our blogging talent:
    ‘The humanities division helped develop ”informed and critical citizens”.

    ”The humanities reveal how people have tried to make sense of the world in the past and teach empathy for others.

    ”They foster social justice and equality. Humanities students are trained to assess complex information and to write clearly and succinctly.”

    There is a hint of bias there; we need people who can see both sides (good and bad) of migration and population issues.

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