A few years ago now it was super cool to be eco-conscious. Al Gore was THE MAN thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, being involved in ‘Sustainability’ was an attractive prospect for graduates, and corporates used green messages in their marketing all the time. The government implemented the Emissions Trading Scheme – following on the heels on a similar system in the UK and Europe. To use a fashion analogy – Green was the new Black.
But, that was a few years ago. There has been a gradual sea change over the past few years which has turned the tide away from this agenda. Environment was a blip on the horizon of the American Presidential campaign. Corporates are paying lip service to Sustainability but don’t appear to be showing any real commitment. And the Kyoto Protocol has become a group of a few committed countries (including Australia but not NZ), rather than a world-wide governmental initiative. This blog on the Stuff website earlier this week illustrated how far our own government has been pulling back with regards to environmental commitments – with the media, and the public in general, showing little to no interest or concern.
People might argue that the world has had other things to focus on – the Global Financial Crisis meaning people are struggling to put food on the table let alone worry about whether that food is grown, transported or packaged sustainably. But, to quote the CEO of Barclays Bank (where I happened to work at the time the GFC shite hit the fan), there was no more important time than during a financial crisis for the world to focus on not just the short term way out of our current financial problems, but the long term way out (if there is one) of our wider global problems. To think the two – climate and finance – are not interlinked, is to be an ostrich of epic proportions.
And it is not like the Earth has stopped given us examples of what can happen when we ignore climate change and go ahead with our consumerist and polluting ways. Super Storm Sandy is just the most recent example of the carnage that extreme weather events can produce – both in terms of loss of life and massive financial impacts (shutting down Wall Street for a few days? Yeah, finance and climate aren’t connected at all!). Some (like my Dad I am sure) will agree with the Mitt Romney supporter I saw on the news who, when asked by a kiwi reporter about Super Storm Sandy and whether it would impact his views on the environment said, in a slow southern drawl ‘yunno, here…we just call that weather’. Um, yeah.
The thing that irks me the most is one of the arguments the government have used to justify scaling down our environmental commitments. Apparently other countries aren’t doing it either, so why should we? For a country that claims to be ‘100% Pure’, and that has taken a stand previously on world issues like the nuclear free zone, it amazes me that we are now afraid to lead by example. That we want to wait for the cool kids to get on the bus before we do. If we are waiting for America to take the lead before we do anything we will be waiting a VERY long time. And our kids and grandkids definitely won’t thank us for our sheep-like behaviour. So, sorry to be blunt but…our government needs to grow some balls. And quickly.
I don’t claim to be the greenest person on the planet. I know I consume more than I should. I know living on my own and having a whole unit heated and plumbed and furnished just for one person probably isn’t making the most of the resources available. I know that I could probably buy much more earth-friendly products in some cases. But I do try. I try and be conscious about power use. About travel. About what I buy and what I tip down the sink. About using public transport whenever I can (sorry Elmo…). Like most things, just thinking and making a conscious choice generally means we end up making better choices. So, by taking away the obligation on farmers to THINK about the ETS, as the National Government have just done, removes the obligation on them to make a conscious choice. They have signalled to farmers that they can go ahead and do what they want – climate change doesn’t really matter to us anymore. When, of all areas, surely agriculture is the one likely to be the MOST impacted by extreme weather?
So, I know it is a rant again for a Sunday, but I think it is a valid one. Don’t forget about the Earth people. It’s the only one we’ve got.