Minister of Finance
Did you see David Slack’s article this week? I would recommend it to you as he speaks metaphorically about you and your long (to be, retrospectively as it was) career as finance minister. It may seem unrealistic to extrapolate a continuous 25 year rein as Finance Minister in the context of New Zealand politics. But the metaphor is applicable in the sense that the surrealistic denial which is characteristic of our present time, within your Labour government’s time, is bringing us to a time of critical decision making now. Now! Now will determine whether there can be much of a future, much of a real (non-surreal) future politics in New Zealand and the world.
Slack’s reference to the $30B (yes, ‘B’) which your government has yet to commit shows you have at least a chance to make decisions which can put us in the right direction. Rod Oram has today mentioned three positive recent developments, not least of which is the closure of the Tiwai Aluminium smelter in the South. Other opportunities exist and are necessary, such as….
.Funding transport options which trash the total domination of the personal motor car.
.funding a local recycling capability (which, because everyone has to put out the trash and recycling every week -every week!- would bring home the importance of personal national responsibility).
.developing restorative agriculture which would eliminate dairy farming based on feed lots, and encourage plant based diets as well.
There will be others.
The Wind Band Composer in the 21st Century Read the rest of this entry »
‘Winners and Losers’ is a lot more common than one Donald Trump would expose. Read the rest of this entry »
From the very beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Aotearoa/New Zealand the government had focused on getting all 5 million of us to commit to Level 4 lockdown. They did not tell us they were not going to do enough testing to be sure they knew the extent of community transmission. It worked through Level 4. But then the quick movement through the other Levels engendered some complacency and a lot of impatience amongst many of the 5 million.
Things were happening so quickly at the start that there was some inevitable looseness (“self isolation” is loose) but we managed to prevent devastating spread which other countries have had no chance with. But this was also because we are a small outlying island which had fewer borders for the virus to be brought in over. The lack of dedication to protocols evident in the current case of the two over from the UK and not tested is a sign of this impatience within a traditional feeling of moat-like isolation. This may not be surprizing but the government could have told us early on they would not be testing enough to have confidence in knowledge of community transmission. Likely there would be less impatience now.
In looking past the move to Level 1 response to the novel coronavirus, I was expecting New Zealand to reach the next dangerous moment when incoming international travel resumed, probably from Australia first. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
New Zealand Rail Plan – Draft
Ministry of Transport (GPS)
Rail planning will be included in the Transport Plan (GPS) which must be seen as part of our life lived within the global ecosphere, especially our land. Read the rest of this entry »
The Editor, The Dom Post, Wellington
Paul Moon of AUT has insightfully argued (DomPost , 05/02) that Treaty Settlements are only monitary and a second phase of reconciliation is now required to address the continuing and underappreciated suffering and shame which followed the confiscation losses. Read the rest of this entry »
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
(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.