I spent the past few days at the Young Greens Winter Camp, a veritable hotbed of aspiration and inspiration. Young people like myself are a strong proportion of the party vote; under 35, highly educated and quite convinced that the status quo is simply not good enough. The time away galvanised my views (I have voted Green since I could) as to why I tick where I do, and I explain them below. I don’t explain them because I need to justify them, but to reflect that it is more than an ideological choice. That it is a choice made because, on balance, it is the only one that makes sense.
1. Conduct – it matters…
It has always struck me as odd that politicians (particularly those in Parliament) are expected to behave like cretins. It occurs to me that a society devalues itself by expecting the behaviour of elected representatives to be shocking, and to dismiss it with a roll of their eyes or a shake of their head. I expect leaders to behave with dignity, to treat others with courtesy, and to have a strong understanding of where their decisions will drive us. The reality is that most people don’t expect this and I want that to change.
We had the dubious honour of attending question time in Parliament on Thursday. Having only seen it on TV before, the crescendo of cat-calls and hooting was quite a lot louder than I had expected. The shouting between our two major parties was a total cringe-fest. The relentless babble from Trevor Mallard and Annette King reminded me of two impatient monkeys, who would perhaps better spend their time rescuing their ailing party than blockading intelligent debate. Paula Bennett’s bolshy and unhelpful squawking makes me think she ought perhaps to hang from the roof in a cage. Most of the zoo-like behaviour was confined to Labour and the Nats, Roger Douglas was much too busy grappling with a crossword to engage too much. Messers Hide, Goff and Key were absent – but it is fair to say that I’d not expect them to impress me any further. Through the whole ‘shooting match’, the behaviour of our Green MPs was impeccable by contrast – and that’s why I vote Green.
2. Agents for change
Making decisions that protect our ecosystems, build societal resilience and galvanise our economy against the shocks that are just around the corner is not a pathway to popularity. The short term economic vision of most people and the commentators on the New Zealand economy mean that any attempt to take in the short term so that we may have in the long term is scoffed at. People continue to buy large, fuel-hungry vehicles because economists tell them a great surge in prosperity is moments away. People continue to buy houses in peri-urban and rural areas, steeling themselves for outrageous commutes that will be possible for only a few more years at most. People continue to buy low-quality housing with no insulation, no effective heating or cooling, no space for a garden and poor community connectivity, and saddle themselves with horrendous mortgage debt in the process.
The economic orchestrators of NZ Inc sit back on their heels and relax for another day every time someone does this too. It is plainly and absolutely not in their interests to warm kiwis off such lunacy…because the neo-liberal economic house of cards would fall much faster if NZ wised up. The Greens have comprehensive policies on all of this and more (we have long progressed from the ‘dope and light bulbs’ rhetoric our opponents trumpet) – and that’s why I vote for them. Because we have the blueprint for change and no other party has the least bit of interest in stealing it.
3. Fundamentals of fragility
New Zealand is beset by those that see no problem with destroying natural systems to derive short term profit. The costs to our country (the real ones) are significant from farming, forestry, mining and the like. Destructive short term industries with minimal regulation and a desire to strip what they want and leave the rest as intergenerational ecological and social debt. Am I of the view that such industries ought to be stopped in their tracks? Absolutely not. I have a lot of farming heritage in my family (like most of us) and I love the scenes of rolling hills, of skipping baby lambs in spring and am proud of the fact that New Zealand makes some of the finest quality dairy and meat exports on Earth. That’s fantastic. Our native timbers are incredibly for woodturning, and our climate for exotic timbers make forestry a tempting venture in New Zealand. Our landscape is full of pointy little homages to 25 year rotations, with many a retirement travel plan resting on a cloaked green hillside. New Zealand has rich seams of coal and minerals, including gold that have been drawing people to our shores since colonial time began.
However – this does not mean that I would support farming that chokes our rivers, accelerates anthropogenically-forced climate change, and strips the land of any scerrrick of indigenous presence. Neither does it mean that forestry nor the processing industry around it has any right to destroy our soils, turn our rivers black and so decimate our hillsides that they be rendered useless for generations to come. And finally, neither do I support irresponsible mining (and hell no on Schedule 4 lands thanks), the kind that turns waterways anoxic, removes whole mountains or leaves toxic tailings for future generations to look back at us and regard us with disdain for. I expect our farmers, our foresters, our miners and their customers (i.e. us) to understand that we can only move forward when we encapsulate the true cost of activities and base our cost-benefit analyses on those numbers. The Greens have (some individual members since time immemorial!) have fought for this and still do…and we still will. And that’s why I vote Green.
I will vote Green in the 2011 Election and I hope that you will too.