Going for Green: Businesswoman and Mother Viv Kerr

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.”

Going for Green: Christina Gibb

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Christina Gibb now has a great-grandchild on the way, but says her children were not the primary motive for her environmental values. “I’ve always been green”.  She grew up in Malta and England and “my mother was very keen on all kinds of natural history, so we always looked for the birds and plants and tried to identify – that’s been part of me since I was very small.”

Again, like Pat Scott and Elizabeth Duke, Christina went to university in England, came to New Zealand with small children, and her spiritual values drive her social and environmental ones. “I’ve been a Quaker since 1984. Quaker values and Green values go together quite well – being non-hierarchical and having the belief in equality and the worth of every person. It’s about caring – for the planet and for people”.

Christina has worked for a variety of organisations such as Rape Crisis, the Howard League for Penal Reform, and the Just Housing group.  She’s lived in Ravensbourne for 30 years, and has been restoring her patch of bush with a QE2 covenant and her neighbours as part of the Ravensbourne Environment Trust.

Her involvement with the Greens started about ten years ago. “I hadn’t even joined a political party before but I was so angry with one of the mainstream parties I thought right I must join the Greens – the only one that stands for the things I stand for. It’s the whole social justice thing, the commitment to the Treaty and to Maori rights, and to creating a green economy and green jobs.”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

Going for Green: Eli Kerin

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Eli Kerin grew up on a small mixed farm in Australia and spent a lot of time observing nature.

It was a harsh climate with extremes of flood and drought. “I noticed the native plants and animals could cope but the introduced species needed more help to survive. Also I noticed the reduction of bird life after we started using DDT and other sprays in our orchard. This particularly reduced the number of small birds that ate insects hence we had to spray more.

I did not have a religious upbringing so I developed my own spiritual views/beliefs which are centred on respect for our environment and the view that humanity needs to stay in a symbiotic relationship with its environment rather than attempting to control and dominate.”

As a young adult, Eli turned his close observational skills to consumerism. “As an apprentice tradesman I thought a lot about how the standard of work we did determined the longevity of our products. I naively thought things should be made to last and then we would not have to work as long to have our needs met. As I got older I realised this is not how our economy worked but I could not imagine this approach being sustainable in the long term.”

While still in his twenties, he “became more aware of the unfairness and negative consequences of the way wealth is distributed and became a supporter of socialist views.”

Eli now supports the Green Party because it “respects our respects our environment and aims to protect it; does not believe we can have continual growth in wasteful consumerism without destroying our environment; and believes in social justice and democracy – and  practises those values in the way it is organised”.

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

Going for Green: Elizabeth Thompson

Going for Green: why older citizens also vote Green

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Elizabeth Thompson was born and grew up in New Zealand. “Both my parents had strong beliefs in honesty. My father was a public servant and we were not allowed to take public service pencils to school! My mother was Unitarian, and he was a pacifist, and we spent a lot of time tramping so the environment was important to me, and linked with my spirituality.” Like her partner, Elizabeth Duke, she is now a Quaker, and for her Green and Quaker values align. “Both respect equality and value the environment. My pacifism comes from recognising God in everyone – you can’t shoot anyone if God’s there.”

Elizabeth worked all around world in hospital dietetics but became disillusioned in the early 80s “by power games being put ahead of patient care”. She did women’s studies at university, linking her interests in feminism and Quakers – “the first wave of feminists in US were Quakers”.

From her studies she moved onto counselling and working at the Wellington Women’s Health Collective. The political became personal when she developed chronic fatigue syndrome, and herself experienced the difficulties of being a beneficiary. “The benefit system is disempowering and getting worse.”

In the early 80s she considered joining Labour, but “I was grateful that I hadn’t when I saw what they did. This made me apprehensive about joining the Greens, but I was very impressed with Jeanette Fitzsimons with her high intelligence and graciousness, and seeing this filter through the Green Party being true to its principles.”

What particularly upsets her is social inequality. “It is wicked that NZ kids are dying at 3rd world rates –I grew up with this idea of expectation of equality. It is to the detriment to all of our society when blessed with so much good climate, a small population and a beautiful country. We are giving it away to overseas money at the cost of our kids.”

Climate change is another huge issue. “So much of what is happening is avoidable, and the Greens can see that. They are trying to limit it, and to increase our awareness of climate change issues.”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

Going for Green: Elizabeth Duke

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Gratitude is not something we commonly associate with the politically passionate. Yet it’s my main emotion after talking to some of the older Greens living in Dunedin. They talk of gratitude for what they’ve received – and I feel grateful that their values and work have made all our lives richer.

Elizabeth Duke , like Pat, grew up in England during the post-war years and also benefited from free education, including a scholarship to Oxford. In 1976 she came to Otago University to lecture in Classics. Her parents only gave her two bits of advice: “Don’t go caving, and don’t join a political party”!  The political advice, she thinks, was about not compromising her values. It took her a long time to join any party because of those values, but “what got me committed to the Greens was the balance between care for the planet and the social justice”. She cites Sue Bradford as someone who shows how extremely important it is that both aspects are addressed in politics.

Her university career gave way to more direct involvement with social issues. “I started getting involved with the Quakers, who became my extended family as I was a sole parent with two primary school daughters.” This led to further theological, and Maori, studies. “Race relations here were one reason why I wanted to come here”. Finding that all was not as good as she had believed, Maori studies therefore “became a matter of justice for me’ – and she followed study with action by becoming an urban marae secretary.

In 1997 she worked for the international Quaker movement, “trying to make sure people could make their voices heard, especially those without technology”. It was only on her return to New Zealand in 2004 that she brought her skills to work for the Greens during her “retirement” (as treasurer, campaign finance manager, office volunteer…)

Elizabeth knows that “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment” (Gaylord Nelson, US politician and Earth Day founder). For her, “the whole values of care and respect and valuing others seem to me to be indivisible. Humans can’t have a healthy life unless they are living in a healthy environment. My primary concern is for human equality. Having come to New Zealand because it valued a much greater sense of social equality, I am now horrified by how unequal we’re becoming, as is seen in our levels of child poverty.

“In a religious sense I feel we are part of the whole created universe. It doesn’t seem enough to not use chemical fertilisers and trying to live simply. The personal is political, but in order to make these things possible for other people then we need to be political.”

My two grandchildren are also a strong personal motivation for wanting a better future for all!”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

Going for Green: Pat Scott

Going for Green: why older citizens also vote Green

Nicky Chapman was privileged to speak to some of the Greens’ older supporters recently, and shares some of their insights.

Gratitude is not something we commonly associate with the politically passionate. Yet it’s my main emotion after talking to some of the older Greens living in Dunedin. They talk of gratitude for what they’ve received – and I feel grateful that their values and work have made all our lives richer.

Pat Scott grew up in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England, during and after the war. “We didn’t have a car so walked everywhere. Being outside in a beautiful environment was the key to my growing up and mapped the direction of my life, along with a very good biology teacher.” She was the first of her family to go to university, thanks to the 1944 Education Act reforms.

Another cause of gratitude and delight in her life was the local Anglican church. She explained that the life of the church, her small town and school were interwoven into the natural rhythm of the year. “There was a ‘sing the song of harvest’ attitude of gratitude for everything we could produce.”

When she emigrated to New Zealand with her husband and a small baby, she immersed herself into community life, and learned the value of “working collectively with a group of like-minded people”. Education remained a priority, both in her work as a parent and as a teacher. She especially loved running school biology trips and helping to set up the Otago Youth Adventure Trust at Tautuku Lodge. Over the years she was also involved with recycling on the Taieri, and took part in major campaigns such as Save Manapouri, stopping the Aramoana smelter and protesting against the Springbok Tour. “I’ve always been an activist wanting to go out there and make a statement.”

In 1992 she met Sukhi Turner (New Zealand’s first Green mayor) and Leah McBey when they were going to a Green conference. “They joined me up to the party at Dunedin airport!”

For Pat, “joining the Greens brought together the love of the environment, strong commitment to social justice through the church, the value I saw in community action and community consultation. The Green party embodied all of those and made total sense to me.”

When asked what the Greens have brought to Parliament, Pat replied, “I think the Green Party does more than bring social and environmental policy to Parliament, it brings respect. Green MPs don’t shout out rude things, and respect the parliamentary process.

“Also, I think what Jeanette Fitzsimons achieved was making the environment central to everyday New Zealand thinking, not a hobby or something academic. She helped people to understand why it was so important. The Greens’ work on energy conservation has been of critical importance and has become very mainstream – for example people see the housing insulation scheme brings economic and social benefits along with environmental ones.”

It all comes back to community. “Faith to me has to have community dimension. The crises that the world is facing – economic and environmental – are at heart a spiritual issue. I have a sense of belonging to a universe community which includes all living creatures.”

Authorised by Jon Field, 2/17 Garrett Street, Wellington

RNZ Bans for Bradbury for Daring to Criticise Key

Bomber Bradbury, who many of you will be familiar with as the Left’s strident voice of the people on the War on News, has been banned from RNZ for criticising John Key. The news came out on MediaWatch on Radio New Zealand (26.30 mins in to the show).

The announcement came from RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh, who did not elaborate other than to say that Bomber had breached RNZ’s requirements for “fairness and balance”. This is a disgrace – this is an attack on free speech. The link has been taken off the RNZ website so you cannot even listen to it now. I listened to it and it is just what Bomber said on his tv program.  Nothing exciting. The reaction is shocking.


Pike River Mine – More Deceit

The more I read about this the more shocked I am.

The families of the trapped miners were shown footage that was edited to show the initial explosion lasting for 32 seconds instead of the reality, which was was 52 seconds.

This is beginning to look like the whole thing was being media managed from very near the start of the disaster. It would explain why there was a delay in showing the families the footage of the explosion.

Richard Valli (brother of Keith Valli who died in the mine) said that he found the Pike River memorial service “hurtful” because of the focus placed on the politicians and dignitaries, instead of the Pike families. You may remember that the memorial service was originally planned to be held in Christchurch, presumably because the politicians would find that more convenient than Greymouth.

Pike River: Image of Body Taken Before 2nd Explosion is Suppressed – who by and for what reason?

Something has been bothering me; when I read Kevin Hague’s  blog post about how an image of a body and the open self-rescuer taken before the second explosion was suppressed I thought that there would be an uproar when the press and the public found out that the authorities knew that some of the 29 miners had survived the initial explosion and had attempted to get at the self-rescuers and that one of the miners lay injured or dying in view of the camera, and that this information had been kept from the families and the public.

But no. No reaction. No outrage. Nothing.

So I have put together a very brief and highly incomplete timeline of the events – to have it clear in my mind as much as anything – so please read the following with that caveat in mind.

3:44 pm 19 November 2010   Mine explosion: Delay in calling the emergency services by 50 mins

8.04pm: Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said he intends to travel to the West Coast tonight with Kate Wilkinson, the Minister of Labour and Conservation. He said the Prime Minister is being kept informed about events as they unfold.

Brownlee said: “Details of the incident are sketchy at this stage. The Government stands ready to offer whatever help and resources are required. Various agencies, including Police, Fire, Ambulance and hospitals, are already involved. The West Coast mine rescue team has been activated.”  (Source: TVNZ)

20th Nov: Rescuers do not go into mine due to bad weather and uncertainty about the state of the atmosphere.

Rescuers are having trouble determining how dangerous the gas in the Piker River Coal mine is.

Rain and overcast weather today prevented a helicopter flying to a ventilation shaft to get an air sample so rescuers can decide if it is safe to into the mine.  (Source: TVNZ)

21st Nov: Toxic gas levels detected, and fluctuating, preventing rescue. Family members allowed to see mine and express growing frustration. Rescue team start to drill air sample hole into mine.

22nd Nov:  Names of the 29 miners are released. In the afternoon the police admit for the first time that there may be fatalities but remain optimistic. Tests show heating underground and it is deemed too dangerous to mount rescue.

23rd Nov: Army robot sent into mine but fails after 2 hours. Toxic gases still detected preventing rescuers entering mine. Pike River Coal chairman John Dow dismisses reports they were using risky mining techniques. Police say that the outlook is starting to look bleak.

24th Nov : Picture showing body and open box was recorded and suppressed – before the second explosion. This picture only came to light by unoffical means. The question here is who saw that image and why was it suppressed.

You may remember that at the time of the disaster, Mr. Brownlee and Mr. Key were apparently very closely involved. It is inconceivable that they were not told about the opened self-rescuer box, which means that they were almost certainly party to covering this up, and deceiving the families and the public. – Kevin Hague

2:37 PM 24th Nov: The second explosion. This corresponded roughly with the time that all the authorities started assuring the public that everybody had died in the first explosion. Who knew this was not true?

December:  Mr White (Pike River general manager) indicated that … he was instructed to refer to a ‘stabilisation’ operation at the mine and not to use the word ‘recovery’. Talking about recovery of the human remains was “politically unacceptable” he had been told. It would raise expectations and cost too much. He had budgeted that recovery could occur with a budget of $10 million. He had been given a budget of $5 million.

“When this evidence was given the talk both inside the Courtoom and then outside during the break was of the many occasions on which Mr. Key gave the families a sweeping assurance that no effort would be spared to recover the dead men. ” – Kevin Hague

March:  This is a question to the PM in the House – remember that Mr. White had been told in December to stop talking about the recovery as it would “cost too much”;

NZ Parliament: [Volume:670;Page:17124]

7. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Can he assure the families of those killed in the Pike River mine disaster that Government funding will be available for the recovery of bodies, given the mine is now in the receivers’ hands?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: As the Government has said many times, the key issue in deciding whether the recovery of the bodies could take place is the safety and stability of the mine. Money has not been an issue.

What is going on here? Who is telling the truth? I would like to know.

Take a Leaf out of this Tree’s Book… Solar Tree Invented by 13 yr-old Schoolboy

Okay – I couldn’t help that title – my fiancee suggested it as a laugh.

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

Leonardo da Vinci

A 13 yr old school boy looked at trees and wondered if the pattern they formed from the Fibonacci sequence was an accident or whether it was a pattern that maximised the amount of sunlight that fell on the leaves.

He was right. It does and he has built a solar tree using photo-voltaic panels which has massively improved the effectiveness of the solar panels;

The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!

Pretty impressive! I think that young Aidan has a big future ahead of him.