Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's the Environment, Stupid

Heh, yeah, forget it. Thirty seconds on Google told me where Quentin is now: on the Alliance list.

Okay. Issue one for me, this and every election, is the environment. Everything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Any sensible and responsible government should be planning right now for the consequences of global warming and peak oil, if only because those who are prepared have a head start economically. Denmark makes £45m a year from exporting wind technologies they bought from Britain.

When it comes to being green, New Zealand is rather like the US when it comes to democracy. We talk big, as a substitute for actually doing. Auckland has the same rate of public transport usage as Los Angeles. Trouble is, as a country, we've grown up in plenty as far as natural resources, so we're conditioned to waste. Because our population is low by international standards, we're only just starting to hit the real problems that stem from excessive consumption. We've had plenty of opportunity to learn from overseas experience, and we're not doing it.

And of course, I live in Christchurch, and sometimes I go outside at night in winter. In fact, these days you don't even have to go outside to chew the smog. Tackling air pollution has basically been left to local government, and here that means the council whining because the 'new' protocols mean they may have to shut down the coal-fired furnace they use to heat their own offices. Yes, coal fires are banned, but only for private individuals.

One thing Christchurch does have right is curbside recycling. But the thing is, strategies like that really have to be implemented nationally, not just patchwork by large urban areas than happen to currently have a lefty council. And there's no point in picking the stuff up if you don't encourage businesses that actually USE it.

In a way I'm kind of interested by the intellectual exercise of trying to work out what is going to happen to New Zealand as a result of global warming. I mean, ignoring the people still faffing around saying, We don't know enough, and what we want to do about that is not find out anything. We do know. We know what's happening, we know what causes it, the only surprise has been how fast it's happening. Trying to plan for the future by debating first principles of global warming is a bit like trying to plan a circumnavigation of the globe with the Flat Earth Society.

Wellington. Higher sea levels and increased precipitation, snow as well as rain. That means more days like we've had occasionally over the last couple of years, when you can't actually get into or out of Wellington because of the weather. It's time, right now, to start thinking about what happens if you can't actually use both the road and rail lines into Wellington that run right along the shore. Is it time for sea walls?

Energy efficiency. It's kind of interesting watching the debate on the 'energy crisis' in New Zealand, because it goes like this. Well, people should conserve energy. Oh, absolutely they should, now here's what we want to do when they don't. And that's it for conservation. Last year, it seemed to be awfully important to slow down the housing market. Surely that would have been the perfect time for the government to say okay, every new house built has to have solar hot water, and has to reach a certain standard of energy efficiency. Yes, that would make new houses more expensive. Wasn't that the point? This year's British White Paper on alternative energy said, among other things, that if you put solar panels on every roof in Britain (previously entirely wasted space), they'd become net producers of energy. It would satisfy all of Britain's energy needs and then some, entirely cleanly. Why yes, it would be expensive. All energy solutions are expensive. Yes, I'm aware solar panels have to be replaced every decade or so. I don't know how many solar panels you could make for the price of a hydro dam, but I'm thinking it's somewhere around 'fuckloads'.

There's only one way to change human behaviour when it comes to the environment. It's rather like smoking: we know what we do is bad, for us, for the people around us, just in general, but we like it, so we're not going to stop. What it takes is a combination of financial incentives and disincentives, (if you're going to increase the price of petrol, then you have to have public transport alternatives in place and subsidies for hybrid cars, for instance), and government regulation.

And we need to have centralised planning (Commies! Commies commies commies!) in place to deal with the forseeable consequences of environmental change. New Zealand, for instance, is going to be one of the countries hit with environmental refugees, as Pacific Islands start literally disappearing. When your whole country is half a mile wide and less than a metre above sea level and the tide comes two metres further up the beach than it did last year, global warming is more than an interesting theory.

This'll be followed at some stage by 'why I'm reluctant to vote for the Greens'.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Nearly there, I swear

Turns out I still have some house-keeping stuff to do before I really start.

I'm not trying to tell anyone how to vote. I don't do that. Well, okay, once I talked a guy into voting for MMP, in the car on the way to the polling booth. But I once dated him for two years, and he owed me. I'm just trying to work through my own indecision. See, what Idiot/Savant said today about voting for Jim makes a lot of sense. In fact, I couldn't have said it more identically. Tactically, voting for Jim actually kind of works. I just really, really don't want to do it. I want to be inspired to vote for something I want, without the nose-holding. That's what it's all about.

And in the 'why I care about what I do' post, I should have mentioned the health issues. After the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Disorder Syndrome, what used to be called Tapanui 'flu here. For six years, my partner stayed home and raised our kids because I was too ill to do so. Then we found our daughter was hearing impaired. So, this has meant solid years of dealing with waiting lists, idiotic medical "professionals", ORS funding, WINZ nazis, and the kind of 'concerned individuals' who call the cops every time they see a man in the park with a little girl. It's put us in the rather odd position of being well-educated but dirt-poor, and particularly aware of how full of crap that 'if you work hard you'll get ahead' line is.

span(ner in the works) has me intrigued. I seem to be rapidly acquiring a sort of refuge for ex-youth committee people. And if you had any idea what happened to Quentin Findlay I'd be really grateful to hear.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Who am I?

Holy kudos, Batman, two days and I've already been noticed by the Blogosphere, at no less of a level than No Right Turn. This will definitely mean some hours blowing off both housework and real work getting something credible up today.

In order to talk about what's important to me politically, I have to talk about some personal stuff. See, I don't see any division between the personal and the political. The things that are important to me are important because of stuff that's happened to me and the environment I was brought up in. Yes, I am concerned about global issues that don't immediately touch me personally, but I believe given time things like poverty reduction and peak oil will shape the world my kids and I live in, so even the big issues are personal.

I'm in my thirties, female, liberal, well-educated, Pakeha, bisexual, and a Wiccan. I'm mostly a stay-at-home Mum, though I work part-time over the net. I'm an environmentalist, a pacifist, and a socialist. I was raised pretty poor, by a solo mum who was a member of the Values party, in a very white conservative town. My earliest political experiences were Hiroshima Day marches and Aromoana smelter protests.

I joined the Labour Party when I was fifteen. That was 1987. We drank in pubs with photos of Michael Joseph Savage hanging over the bar. At sixteen, I was the Aorangi regional rep on the Labour Youth Council. I got a lot more out of that than they got out of me. Hanging out with uni students listening to Billy Bragg and discussing Nicaragua; it was heady stuff. I also got an insight at a very early age into how the parliamentary process actually worked, the kind of hoops MPs have to jump through with the beaurocracy to actually get anything done. At the time, it was quite disillusioning. The Council was, unlike the parliamentary Labour Party at that time, very left-wing. And our personal hero through the Rogernomics years?

Jim Anderton.

In 1989, Jim quit the Labour Party to form New Labour. We called an emergency meeting, flew everyone to Auckland, and there was a bitter and partially drunken debate. Were we best fighting for change from the outside, or the inside? In the end, about half the council quit, and that was the half I was with. Unlike most of the others, though, I didn't join New Labour. I needed a break, I needed to sit back and watch and think for a while. Even then, there were things that made me uneasy.

Ever since, while I'm still a political person and someone who enjoys the debate, the issues, and trying to work out, for instance, WTF John Tamihere's plan is, I've stayed away from parties, campaigning, formal politics. I did some informal campaigning for the change to MMP, on the basis of a stage one POL SCI paper, and I've never regretted that, I think it's been enormously beneficial. I've never voted for the party I used to belong to. It may be nearly twenty years later, but I just don't trust Labour. And these days, I don't trust Jim any more either. What does he stand for? Tax cuts and supporting the war in Iraq? What the hell happened?

What I am, is a natural Alliance voter who now finds themselves without a home. I'm an idealist, yes, but I'm not naive. It's a rather odd and almost frightening situation for me, to feel that I don't know who to vote for, for the decision to not be a total no-brainer.

What next? A brief run-down, I think, on the issues that really matter to me, and where the parties are on those.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Why am I here?

Okay, my purpose here should be fairly obvious: reflecting the run-up to the election from my little place in the world. Why does it matter? Well, it doesn't, not really, that's the joy of blogging.

But the thing about living in Wigram is that, much like living in Tauranga, you get completely taken for granted. Everyone, politicians, media, the blogosphere, just assume that the electorate is one massive amorphous blob that only exists to ensure that That Bastard the sitting MP will never, ever get turfed out of Parliament no matter what. In many ways, campaigning rather passes us by, and I'm willing to bet that by September, there'll be a few people in Wellington Central to whom that'd sound like heaven. If it weren't for MMP, my vote would be completely pointless.

Ironically, I should be perfect Anderton-vote territory. I'll look at why in the next post. But I don't WANT to vote for him, and what I really want is for someone to give me a really good reason to vote for them instead. Last time round I voted for the Alliance candidate who stood against Jim because, man, you gotta reward balls, right? What am I going to do this time? I don't know yet. Watch and see. The only thing I do know is, I'm not voting for Jim.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Fresh Fields

After much dithering, I've gone and done it, as you can tell. Until the election, I'm moving my political posting off Xanga and over here. Those of you looking for the gossip, child-related blathering and role-playing waffle should be here. Those of you who just appreciate the blend of cogent, impassioned, and bitchy are in the right place.

While this is going to be very much about New Zealand in general, Christchurch in particular, and Wigram even more particularly than that, I'm really hoping that some of my English, Canadian, American etc readers will make the jump over. I got personal about your elections: now it's payback time. The kicker being that, of course, no-one really cares what happens here. But one of the things I'm hoping to provide is a window into a peculiar little country with lots of political options, that holds its elections on Saturdays, and doesn't allow campaigning on election day, let alone people ramming 'how to vote' pamphlets in your face as you try to fight your way to the polling booth.