I have to confess, I'm not enthusiastic about protests. I remember years ago when I was a bright eyed and very bushy faced student back when Phil Goff was minister of education, and he decided that tertiary study should incur fees, taking part in a mass student protest in Christchurch against fees. It was pretty much a rite of passage, and it almost seems amusing now that we were so aggravated about paying something like $1,000 per year, when the level of current level of student loans typically amounts to many thousands of dollars that need to be repaid.
The whole reason I participated in those protests was because I was a student. I was studying sciences, with a bit of everything thrown in, chemistry, physics, computer science, but with a focus on biological sciences. Science teaches you to analyse and observe the world around you, make hypotheses and test them for validity.
One of my observations about the student protests was that quite a few participants didn't seem to be involved for the sake of presenting well reasoned arguments against student fees, but simply were looking for an excuse to take to the streets, often with copious quantities of alcohol in hand, which seemed a bit off to me, especially since we were all apparently pleading poverty.
Today, I dropped in briefly to observe the student 'Climate Strike' in Blenheim. I was responsible and cycled, as I've used the car more than intended this week due to my wife being incapacitated. I did notice not a few parents turning up in cars to drop their kids off, and there certainly were some who were perhaps there more for entertainment than serious action, but there were plenty who were deadly serious.
Much as past observations have left me a bit wary of protests, so has reading of scientific literature left me extremely alarmed about climate change. Carbon dioxide's effect as a greenhouse gas has been known since the 1960s, as observations of Earth's evil twin, Venus revealed a hellish place as a result of a runaway greenhouse effect caused by a mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere. No one seemed to question the science back then when it was another planet that had no impact on human lifestyle. Of course the levels of carbon dioxide in earth's atmosphere are far lower than Venus, but the thing about greenhouse gases is that a small amount has a large effect. A small amount of greenhouse gases is a good thing, otherwise earth would become a large snowball, but pumping unlimited quantities into the atmosphere without any attempt to recover them is downright dangerous and stupid.
It's mind boggling that a candidate for the mayor of Marlborough would suggest that climate change is a passing fad.
Marlborough has a lot to lose through climate change. With a large coastline, a wine industry that depends heavily on irrigation, and already fully allocated water resources, the prospects of rising sea levels and increased droughts are not good news. Ocean acidification is a potential disaster for our iconic green shell mussel industry. Droughts increase the risk of forest fires as well as lowering growth rates for our forest industry.
Taking action on climate change isn't some hippy, tree-hugger fringe fad, it's actually critical to ensuring the ongoing economic well being of Marlborough.
I felt it was most appropriate that the climate strikers met on the steps of the Blenheim war memorial. This is a memorial for those who fought for our freedom, and made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could enjoy peace and prosperity.
There will be sacrifices that need to be made to deal with climate change, but if people get serious now, hopefully paying the ultimate price of giving your life won't be necessary.
The war memorial also reminds me that Hitler already demonstrated his propensities as early as the 1920s, but because no one chose to act, he rose to power, and by the time there was no choice but to act, conflict was inevitable.
The children who lived through the Second World War are now old men and women. Hopefully those in power now, who have enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, don't by their own inaction, inflict on today's children what inaction inflicted on a past generation of children.
I'm glad that young people are making a noise. Some of their science might not quite be right, as I've seen some rather bizarre statements attributed to young people, in the media lumping different forms of pollution together as though their consequences are the same when they're not, but that's where adults with knowledge need to share it.
Councils, with their role in administration of the Resource Management Act, employ scientists to perform environmental monitoring, so local government has quite a big role to play publishing data that can lead to informed decisions.
I'm quite surprised that this local body election, so few candidates included any mention of the environment in their personal statements, although there are plenty stating they want the council to 'stick to its knitting'. To me, that is an indication they don't understand their responsibilities as prospective councillors, as the whole point of the Resource Management Act, which is a core council responsibility, is to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources to ensure thriving communities.
It's ironic if it takes a bunch of kids to demand that our would-be politicians grow up and take responsibility as should have been the case all along.
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