Monday, July 13, 2009

Climate Change Forum Queenstown

On Friday night in Queenstown I went to a climate change forum arranged by the government. Dr. Nick Smith, the Minister for the Environment was giving a talk and afterwards the attendees were encouraged to make comments, ask questions and more importantly offer solutions on how we, the people of New Zealand can help tackle climate change issues.

The meeting was, in my opinion, very well attended. Around a 100 people, which for 7:30 on a Friday night in partyville, I reckon that’s almost as good as you’re ever going to get for a government meeting in the school holidays with pretty much no notice.

For obvious reasons, my comments, solutions and question were focused around EfS. Nick asked if we could provide solutions on how, us the community, could help them [the government] out, and how they could help us help them.

I told of how the children of our district are really getting behind sustainability in their schools as well as taking these new found skills and knowledge home with them. From what I’m seeing in this district we really want to tackle this problem head on and do what it takes to get there. I tried to impress upon him that if government decides to set a target of 40% reduction by 2020 they will have our backing, it’s not something they are going to have to tackle on their own.

We had pretty good results for the ‘every one stand up if.....’ thanks for leading that Sophie, perhaps not as good support as other more urban centers. We did have a lot of farmers and very conservative looking peeps in the room, on a rough estimate I’d say there were about 95% standing for 10% or more which whittled down to about 50% of people standing for the 40% reduction and a few others stood back up for the I’m prepared to commit to change question. The majority of people seemed to start sitting around the 30% mark.

The first thing I told him the government could do to help us get to 40% was to increase the funding for EfS, rather than cutting it completely. If we have the support in the education system AND the government sets these reasonably high aims of 40% as a target then we will feel like we have real leadership and support. Something I personally think we could do with if we are to reach these targets. Of course Government support isn’t 100% necessary; however I’m sure you will all agree, it would be so much easier if the government backed this figure rather than it just being community pushing for it. If we can all create legislation & mandate to help us all travel better, grow more of our own food, see less packaging in the shops, become more energy efficient..... it’s going to be so much easier to get to 350!

I’d already heard a couple of people mention Enviroschools and the ridiculous funding cuts, which personally I found very comforting and reassuring. Nick himself had even mentioned it in his propaganda, stating that the revised NZ curriculum had sustainability within it, so, extra programs and support weren’t needed. Grrrrrrrrr. Anyways, frustrations aside, this did give me a fantastic springboard for my question.

I explained that to the best of my knowledge if we are to carry on with life on planet earth as we know it, then we need to get to 350ppm of Co2 in the atmosphere. Anything else will result in a temperature change and therefore in my opinion is unacceptable. So....bearing in mind that he supports the NZ curriculum, I decided to point out the values that are stated in there. Now my question..... The number one value in the NZ curriculum is Excellence. I want to know, if the government goes to Copenhagen in December with a target of anything less than a 40% reduction on emissions by 2020, do they honestly believe that this will model true excellence to our youth?

When answering the questions, Nick didn’t quite manage to remember who it was that asked the ‘excellence question’. His answer, in my opinion, was indeed rather flaky. He seems to think that excellence can only be gained if we can achieve what we set out for. So....since he will not be climate minister in 10 years time it is unfair to place unrealistic targets on the future minister. Apparently excellence will be shown if we only have targets that we can guarantee that we will achieve. What he did say though, which was much more encouraging and this confirms that we have been noticed, he will be investigating ways in which he can find some money from his budgets to support Enviroschools. Apparently, he has been rather moved by the support for this programme, although, obviously he can’t make any promises.

The star of the evening was 11 year old Noel Bisson. He has been a pupil at a silver Enviroschool, Hawea Flat, and is now very involved in teamGreen at Mount Aspiring College. Noel stood up and spoke about how good Envischools was, how it enriched his life and couldn’t understand why the funding has been cut. He didn’t have anything prepared, he stuck his hand up, stood up in front of 100 adults and said his piece. That alone should be enough to continue funding for EfS and Enviroschools. Imagine a nation with youth all behaving like Noel? That’s the kind of nation I want to be a part of.

This report is based upon what I remember from the evening, Mal was videoing the meeting and hopefully that will be available online soon. I’d especially like to see Nicks comments about the Enviroschools funding again.


Lucy said...

Hey Si, I'm well impressed with your commitment to the cause, nice work! The question of whether we give our youth a model of true excellence is a really good one. Nick Smith's response seems to imply that we should be teaching our kids that lowering the bar is compatible with striving for excellence.

Jinty said...

Hi Si!

AWESOME! You guys rock!! SOOO neat to hear the story about Noel...what a star! Dunedin went amazingly well too - massive calls for E/S to be supported, so really fantastic news that Minister Smith is thinking about finding some money for it from his budget.

Si, have you though about an abbreviated version of this for the website? It would be awesome to put it up :). I can do that if you send it through to me?

xo :)

Unknown said...

yeeeah bro! mean to hear how it went down there, good question and good to have in mind when we get in there tonight!

Pam said...

Beautiful blog to start the day... Simon. Thanks for your commitment and carrying the kaupapa of Enviroschools with a FULL embrace. Enjoyed hearing about the stand up activity, likewise Noel - mihi nui to Sophie, Neil and those around you taking up the challenge?
Kia kaha mate