‘We’re funny creatures, human beings,’ says Mandy Hager.
‘We laud those who innovate and constantly push in new directions, yet when we’re looking in the eye at the need for immediate change, we turn away, deny it, complain, or hang onto the past with a stubborn nostalgia that halts much-needed progress in its tracks.
For decades now we’ve been warned that climate change will have catastrophic consequences if we do nothing, but instead of ‘going fast and early’ we’ve collectively closed our eyes and blocked our ears, our complacency allowing greed to continue to drive decision-making.
‘Surely it’s time’
However, with ‘100 year events’ like flooding, heatwaves, pandemics and wildfires (and their resulting chaos and loss) now occurring daily somewhere in the world, surely it’s time to stop procrastinating and accept that urgent changes are needed if our children and grandchildren have any hope at all of surviving?
The floods down south in recent times are a real-time reminder that we can’t keep going as we have been.
Not only do we need to accept that those farming on flood plains must shift their operations to higher ground and that any government money provided in support should be used to enable this shift — but the same goes for those poor folk whose houses have yet again been hit by flooding.
Why are we rebuilding homes that are clearly at long term risk?
Even Fiji, with its many inequities, has begun the process of shifting whole villages from climate change affected areas to safer ground, so why not here?
Must we wait?
Must we wait until thousands more lives are devastated before we act? A managed retreat, with social and financial supports in place, would make us so much more resilient in the future. We should be world-leaders in this, just as we have been in our Covid response.
Yet coastal subdivisions are still being approved in our own backyard, local real estate agents are still telling prospective buyers concerns about climate change are ‘silly’ (yes, I’ve heard this first hand), and we’re still demanding more and more roads, rather than shifting to clean transport solutions.
And, at government level, too, change is grinding slow, allowing the worst emitters to continue, skirting around the hard decisions that are desperately needed.
Leadership includes making unpopular decisions
Sometimes leadership means making unpopular decisions for the public good and holding firm until the rest of society catches up, just as we did with our stance on the nuclear debate or the Springbok Tour.
‘I wish our Government would show such leadership’
I wish our government would show such leadership, putting aside their short-term election prospects in order to actively protect us all.
Change, too, comes in the form of finally acknowledging the inequity that Māori, Pacific people and migrants have faced in our nation.
We’ve had more than enough time to understand the issues, especially around the damaging effects of colonisation, yet we still see push-back at the highest levels (and widely within some sections of our society) at talk of any change to level the playing field.
Asset rich boomers, particularly, seem to be leading the resistance to change in this area, their latent racism and obvious privilege coming to the fore in discussions, enabled by cynical opposition parties who would rather score cheap points for votes than work towards proper unity.
And, yes, change to enable Māori and migrants is about unity, despite the separatist rhetoric thrown around by the National and Act leaders. When you enable a section of a society to thrive, and be seen and heard, valuing their difference, the whole society is richer for it.
Scaremongering and marginalising will only ever create further hurt and divisions.
‘The point of crisis’
I hear some say the change is coming too fast — that people aren’t ready for it.
But, honestly, it’s not only well overdue, it’s now at the point of crisis.
If we can’t pull together as a country, valuing everyone’s needs, and stopping our so-called leaders from driving wedges between us, we’re doomed, both as a democratic society and a species.
Be the change!‘