7 August 2012

A green tidal wave

Environment or economy? Today I had a bit of a 'moment' when I realised that the mood is shifting about where the balance should lie. The name of my blog is a giveaway about where I stand on this subject.

My moment came when I was listening to National Radio's business commentator, Rod Oram. He is not renowned for being a greenie. This super-sharp chap wrote recently "To meet our economic, social and environmental needs, we need to double the size of the economy, sustainably, over the next 15 years. That's at almost 5% growth a year, more than double the past decade's rate. If we achieved it, we would close the 30% gap in GDP per capita between Australia and us."

But today he was essentially saying that the environment needs to be given MORE priority. He was extremely unimpressed about some pending new legislation governing how our oceans are used, which provides no environmental bottom line (e.g. areas with such and such characteristics are so precious that no one is allowed to do anything that will damage them). If it earns enough money, you'll probably be able to do it, and he thinks that's wrong.

On land, there currently is such a bottom line in the form of the resource management act. However, he said that the weight it lends to the environment is likely to be weakened also!

Even the oil companies want an environmental bottom line, he reckons. They can see that future governments will introduce one, which means that until that happens they have no certainty about the future or guarantees about what they'll be able to do. Plus they want to be seen to be acting responsibly by sticking to the environmental rules.

You can listen to Rod here.

It also happened with Sir Paul Callaghan, who died earlier this year. He used to talk a lot about boosting our economy with a high-tech manufacturing sector. But in his last public lecture, he outlined a vision for a predator-free New Zealand. Why? We might not have old buildings or artwork that can compete on the world stage, but we definitely have (still, just) incredible forests and wildlife.

He died, but the idea stayed alive. Here is a NZ Listener article about it.

I definitely think the tide is turning.

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