Wealth tax needed

The Editor,  The Dominion Post,  Wellington


The world’s billionaires have increased their total wealth by hundreds of billions ($) during the pandemic while many people and businesses are losing income. Read the rest of this entry »

Transmission Gully – version 5

The Editor,  The Dominion Post,  Wellington

Now it’s the possibility of a Plan B for Wellington’s Transmission Gully (TG) roading project, that of getting in different contractors for much of the remaining work. Read the rest of this entry »

The pandemic effect of coronavirus and the overheated reality of air travel – any connection?

The Editor,  The Dominion Post,  Wellington

The novel coronavirus seems to have spread around the globe about as fast as it takes a fleet of airplanes to travel around the globe. Some of those planes carried the virus to NZ. Is there any other connection between air travel and the virus, perhaps in the economic drivers which may have led to the extravagant growth of both? Read the rest of this entry »

Transmission Gully (again)

The Editor,  The Dominion Post,  Wellington

Wellington’s Transmission Gully (TG) roading project was apparently mooted as far back as the 70s when the question of sustainability of road building was ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayor Foster needs to get serious about stopping Conven-19


Hello Mayor Foster,

Dave Armstrong’s creation of the Conven-19 moniker for the proposed convention centre captures the threat of it to the future of the City of Wellington. Read the rest of this entry »

Environment Minister Parker must collect and publish CO2 emission reduction figures

16 March, 2020

Hon David Parker
Minister for the Environment
Parliament Buildings

Hello Mr. Parker,

The actions taken to restrict travel to combat spread of the Coronavirus is unprecedented in New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »

Travel bans and CO2 emissions savings

The Editor,  The Listener,  Auckland

Dear Editor:

While it’s understandable that health and safety has been at the fore in media coverage of the COVID-19 virus spread, it is curious that in discussing air travel bans no reports on the CO2 savings have appeared. Read the rest of this entry »

Australian government has become oppressors and tormenters

The Editor, The Dom Post,  Dom Post Weekender,  Wellington
05/03/ 2020

Dear Editor:

As annoying and unfair as the Australian deportation scheme is, there are issues more important of global importance which Australia cannot believably claim are only domestic issues and can and should be brought up in bilateral talks. Read the rest of this entry »

Any resilience discussion must be within climate change perspective

The Editor,  The Dom Post,  Wellington
05/12/ 2019

Dear Editor:

Resilience is in the discussion these days, thankfully, though the earthquake resilience report released this week (DomPost 03/12) has more the look of the past than the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Jason Hickel – Consumerism -> GDP growth

This from MSN entitled “The dark side of the Nordic model”.   The Sustainable Development Index (SDI) is explained in a paper by anthropologist Jason Hickel from the January 2020 issue of Ecological Economics.

  • Note this title is aggressive; it’s not the ‘Nordic Model’ which Hickel describes here, rather the global consumerist growth model.  ‘GDP growth’ has become a mantra.
  • Note the discussion defines ‘ecological breakdown’ in terms of consumption, not production.   “carbon-intensive imports” is offered as the measure most revealing.


The dark side of the Nordic model

Jason Hickel 

(MSN Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.)

Scandinavians have it all. Universal public healthcare and education that is the envy of the world. Reasonable working hours with plenty of paid vacation. They have some of the highest levels of happiness on the planet, and top virtually every ranking of human development.  The Nordic model stands as a clear and compelling contrast to the neoliberal ideology that has strafed the rest of the industrialised world with inequality, ill health and needless poverty. As an antidote to the most destructive aspects of free-market capitalism, the egalitarian social democracies of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland inspire progressive movements around the world.

These countries are worth celebrating for all they get right. But there is a problem. They are an ecological disaster.   You might not notice it at first glance. Their air is crisp and fresh. Their parks are free of litter. Waste collection works like a charm. Much of the region is covered in forests. And Scandinavians tend to be environmentally conscientious.  But the data tell a different story. The Nordic countries have some of the highest levels of resource use and CO2 emissions in the world, in consumption-based terms, drastically overshooting safe planetary boundaries.

Ecologists say that a sustainable level of resource use is about 7 tonnes of material stuff per person per year. Scandinavians consume on average more than 32 tonnes per year. That is four and a half times over the sustainable level, similar to the United States, driven by overconsumption of everything from meat to cars to plastic.   As for emissions, the Nordic countries perform worse than the rest of Europe, and only marginally better than the world’s most egregious offenders – the US, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia. Yes, they generate more renewable energy than most countries, but these gains are wiped out by carbon-intensive imports.

This is why the Nordic countries fall toward the very bottom of the Sustainable Development Index. We think of these nations as progressive, but in fact, their performance has worsened over time. Sweden, for example, has gone from 0.755 on the index in the 1990s down to 0.328 today, plunging from the top seven to number 143.  For decades we have been told that nations should aspire to develop towards the Nordic countries. But in an era of ecological breakdown, this no longer makes sense. If everyone in the world consumed like Scandinavians, we would need nearly five Earths to sustain us.  This kind of overconsumption is driving a global crisis of habitat destruction, species extinction and climate change. You will not see much evidence of this in Norway or Finland, but that is because, as with most rich nations, the bulk of their ecological impact has been outsourced to the global South. That is where most of the resource extraction happens, and where global warming bites hardest. The violence hits elsewhere.

Of course, Scandinavia is not alone in this. Many high-income countries pose just as much of a problem. But as we wake up to the realities of ecological breakdown, it becomes clear that the Nordic countries no longer offer the promise that we once thought they did.  It is time to update the Nordic model for the Anthropocene. Nordic countries have it right when it comes to public healthcare, education and progressive social democracy, but they need to dramatically reduce their consumption if they are to stand as a beacon for the rest of the world in the 21st century.

The good news is that the high levels of welfare for which Nordic countries are famous do not require high levels of consumption. Happiness in Costa Rica rivals Scandinavia with 60 percent less resource use. Italians live longer lives with half the resource use. Germany has higher education levels with 30 percent less resource use. Of course, wintry climates require slightly more materials, but there is still much room for improvement.  A recent study by a team of environmental scientists lays out a detailed plan for how Nordic countries could cut their material footprint by nearly 70 percent: scaling down fossil fuels, shifting to plant-based diets, retrofitting old buildings instead of constructing new ones, requiring consumer products to be longer-lasting and repairable, and improving public transportation. In Finland, scientists have rallied around similar measures as part of a call for “ecological reconstruction”.

The good news is that all of this can be accomplished while improving human welfare and advancing the cause of social democracy. But it ultimately requires shifting to a different kind of economy – one that is not organised around endless GDP growth.  According to new research findings, which I reviewed with a colleague in the journal New Political Economy, it is not feasible for high-income nations to reduce their resource use and emissions fast enough to get down to sustainable levels while at the same time pursuing economic growth. More growth means more resource use and more energy use, which makes ecological objectives ever-more difficult to achieve.

Politicians talk about making growth “green” – but scientists reject this strategy as inadequate. The evidence is clear: the only way to build a truly ecological economy is to stop chasing GDP growth.   The first step is to abandon GDP as a measure of progress – as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently pledged to do – and focus instead on human well-being and ecology. There is a strong scientific consensus forming around this approach. A new paper signed by more than 11,000 scientists argues that high-income nations must shift to post-growth economic models if we are going to have any chance of preventing climate breakdown.   Nordic countries can lead this transition, renewing the Nordic model for the 21st century, or they can continue to remain among the world’s worst ecological offenders. They have a choice to make.