Viv Kerr is a dentist with her own practice. As you might expect, she’s a gentle, thorough, practical and thoughtful person. What is unexpected is her passionate and informed concern for her children’s future. That is what fuels her many informed and persuasive letters to the paper and to politicians, to making submissions on environmental issues, and, recently, to joining the Green party.
“It was the climate change issue that actually got me motivated. In the run-up to the Copenhagen talks they were talking about a 2050 vision, and my son was seven at the time. I was 47. That made it matter to me. They were talking about his future, at my age. My serious worries crystallised and I realised I had to actually do something.”
Having a scientific background, Viv started reading and learning all she could. “My training as a dentist gave me a good grasp of evidence-based research, and of course to first ‘do no harm’. I started reading and listening to James Hansen and David Suzuki and George Monbiot – and always looking at their background research.”
What she learned made the political highly personal. “I would hate to sit there at the end of my life and see things really start to disintegrate. Now at least I know I did try to do something, and whether I have any effect or not I will go down fighting. Not that we will go down!
“I have also learned that a small group of people can have a big effect. Take the Dunedin Sound, which is internationally known, yet it was only a small group of people.”
Viv’s activism is best known ( so far) in Dunedin for her letters to the paper. She began these when the Otago Daily Times covered climate change projections for the city and oil drilling off the coast on the same front page. “There have been lots of reactions to the letters – some quite surprising, and almost all entirely positive. It surprises me so few do write letters, when so many of us are concerned.”
She also now uses her education and skills to make submissions on environmental issues, such as on mining in national parks. “It was the first time I’d ever put in a written submission on anything, so I treated it like a research project.”
Viv joined the Greens because “I think that’s the only sensible option. The things that they say make sense to me. What appeals most is their focus on environment. Although social justice is important to me, the environment is the main thing because without it nothing else will happen. Recognising the Treaty also matters because I’ve married into the iwi.
“And the Greens’ decision-making is transparent. I was a really new member when they developed a new policy on the Christchurch earthquake, and I thought it was cool that they asked for feedback from members on that. The Greens walk the walk.”