$4.27 per km – this is what a new walker saves the health system

And it’s $2.14 per km for cyclists, according to a new NZTA report.

Only half of this amount for established walkers and cyclists, but still, it’s had me totting up my dollars contributed to the economy as I walk to the supermarket or down the hill to town. And Arlo Guthrie keeps whispering in my ear, “Just imagine if fifty people a day in this suburb decided to walk instead of drive to walk each day. Fifty people a day! My friends, you may think it’s a movement, and it is, the get fit and healthy, destress, avoid parking hassle and save us all money walk everywhere movement.”

And how long until these figures of active transport as an economic benefit start working their way into the transport planning departments in our local and national organisations? It’s worth mentioning in your submission to your Long Term Community Council Plan. And it shows how daft is a GDP model that includes lack of fitness and its health burdens as an economic positive.

Efficiency before safety (and community, active transport, and commonsense)

This is really scary. According to yesterday’s Otago Daily Times, local road moguls have been so influenced by Stephen Joyce’s mantra about bigger roads creating more efficiency and economic growth, that they are considering pushing through the four lanes of the Caversham bypass before putting in the safety and connectivity engineering that is desperately needed at Lookout Point even before the flow of traffic is miraculously “improved” by the addition of the extra lanes.

New Zealand Transport Agency regional director Bruce Richards told the ODT this week there was a “quick fix” to the safety issues at Lookout Point: “Just take away the intersection.”

However, this would divide the city by doing away with the “connectivity” between adjacent suburbs.

Of the efficiency option, Mr Richards said, “We can do that pretty quick”.

“. . . we thought safety and connectivity would be more important but, if you look at it from an economic stimulus point of view, we’ve got money and we’ve got ability to do the four-laning sooner rather than later.”

And the head of the Otago Regional Transport Committee, regional councillor Stephen Woodhead acknowledged that their thinking was being directly influenced by Joyce’s priorities.

Asked why the committee had put the safety portion as stage one, Mr Woodhead said the committee’s thinking was based on the legislation and Labour government policy at the time.

However, new Transport Minister Steven Joyce was sending out “different signals”.

Last week, Mr Joyce referred to congestion, safety and economic growth as reasons why the Government was promoting upgrades of seven “roads of national significance”.

Dunedin has a history of making bad decisions for pedestrians. Their powers that be allowed the construction of a supermarket carpark (now just a carpark, such a bad commercial decision it was) in the middle of the busiest block on the oneway system north, which means that every time you try to cross that road without trudging the extra 200 plus metres to the lights at the end of the block, you run the gamut of a near continuous stream of traffic. They did something similar across the Highgate footpath at Roslyn Village with the new Big Fresh supermarket up there. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Dunedin has the highest rate of pedestrian accidents in the country, and we can’t just blame the students.

That a senior traffic engineer would suggest, even in jest (presuming he was joking, which I rather doubt), destroying the connectivity of a neighbourhood by removing an intersection strikes chills into my heart.

Buying localer

Can you make a New Year’s resolution after the event? Apparently you can, because I did so yesterday – when I run out of basic food necessities or need that single item, as I so often do, I’m going to buy them at the local dairy, instead of the supermarket. It’s only a brisk 20 minute walk to our smallish local supermarket, and that’s in a shopping centre where I can also (and do) visit the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, postal centre and hardware store, so we’re really very well provided, but in the meantime, the little corner shops even closer continue to close.

You can see their ghosts every few hundred metres along busy roads, converted into flats and houses with rather large picture windows. Our nearest dairy, just at the top of our drive and opposite our bus stop, closed for business about 18 months ago. Even though it was bought by a craftsperson who uses the large open shop space to practise his trade, he wasn’t able to stop the zoning reverting from commercial to residential, so cannot use it as a shop. However we are lucky to have another extant dairy within 400 metres, on a busier road, and it is this one I have resolved to help keep in business. Nor is it a hardship – my favourite loaf of bread is the same price as in the supermarket, milk and spread a bit more, but well within the margin of what I would spend in fuel or time if I drove or walked the extra kilometer to save those few cents.

The time might come when it’s a real struggle to walk that hilly trip to the shopping centre, and then I’ll really need that little shop, so I’ll use it now, as well as the supermarket, and the wholefoods shop, and the farmer’s market, to make sure it’s still there then.

Mainstream [Bill Clinton] mainstream!

I’ve been collecting examples all this week of green ideas, still derided by such as John Key and Peter Dunne as extremist and growth-stifling, being promoted by people and institutions who are accepted as voices of informed conventional wisdom.

First was the edition of New Scientist that arrived in the letterbox on Monday, with its special section on “the folly of growth”.

We live on a planet with finite resources – that’s no surprise to anyone – so why do we have an economic system in which all that matters is growth

Frogblog has already got that one up. Then there was the UN research report showing that small scale organic type farming is a better bet for feeding impoverished areas of the world such as Africa than large scale machinery and fertiliser intensive farming. But Russel beat me to that one, if not the one where the Deutsche Bank economist seconded to the UN recommended turning the current financial crisis to good purpose to instigate a ‘Green New Deal’.

“Mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and ‘natural’ infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century.”

But this is my absolute favourite. Who is more mainstream and centrist that Bill Clinton? (Except for Peter Dunne, of course) Continue reading

Thank you Simon Upton

Thank you Simon Upton for a trip down memory lane, and a reminder of where my green roots came from. Simon Upton wrote a moving article about his recently deceased father, musing whether self-professed greens had a monopoly on green values, or whether there should be a place for representatives of the older generation on the billboards he admires. “Without even having heard of sustainable development, he lived on the basis that his choices should not foreclose those of his children’s generation. Doing that required prudence, thrift and a measure of self-denial. It seems a world removed from the debt-fuelled consumerism of our times”, he writes of his 87 year old father.

I think you would find, Simon, that many many greens were influenced by such examples of good living by our older family members. This one anyway owes a huge debt to her Auntie, too singular to ever need a qualifying name – she’s “plain Auntie”, my sister famously told a visitor. She and my parents were all products of the depression, and my parents were also frugal by necessity, but it was Auntie who best expressed that passion for frugality and making a game out of making do. I remember laughing at her in my callow youth for washing and reusing the gladwrap from round the supermarket celery. We were equally amused, embarrassed and excited by the steady stream of second hand clothes that she picked up for us kids, and later, our kids, from the op shops in Newtown decades before op-shopping became chic. Continue reading

We have a population policy, does anyone else?

Our population policy has been released at last. Having been involved with its development through the complicated Green policy-making process, I’m pretty proud of it.

The best thing about it, I think, is that it comes from an ecological footprint perspective, and it makes very clear that the most immediate threat to our planet is consumption in the “developed” world, rather than conception in the “under-developed” world. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to worry hugely about how many people there are and will be in the world, especially as regards food production and distribution, but from the point of view of climate change, almost all of that threatening carbon is being emitted either by, or for, us, the privileged.

Other things I really like about the policy – we have recognised the research that shows that education and choices for women are the key to a replacement or below replacement birthrate, and also that parents and would-be parents are the best people to make decisions about how many children they will have. Somehow, according to TV3 News, National has equated that to a China “one child” policy, but I really don’t know how. I look forward to reading their press release.

I like too that we are looking far enough ahead to recognize that there might be quite a few kiwis heading for home as times and climates get tougher, and that we need to save space for them, but also for wilderness, mountains, clean rivers and unpolluted oceans.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people from other parties that have put a population policy in the “too hard” basket, who will find plenty of nits to pick, but I challenge them to read the policy themselves, then come up with a better and more respectful one.

The best idea for a Leader’s Debate yet

From Gordon Campbell:

There is a compromise solution. Let Clark and Key have their one on one debates, but dispose of the journalists. Let the panel of interrogators be comprised of the six minor party leaders. They know the weak points of Labour and National, and they know what they want from their prospective post-election partners. Such an arrangement would have chemistry – hell hath no fury like a small party scorned. Such a line-up could even give us out in viewerland some inkling of how those secret post election dealings may be conducted. Its worth a shot.


ETS all the time

Well I was going to write my next post about why grannies are going to go green this election cycle, but seeing that it’s ETS all the time round here this weekend, I’ll chip in on that, instead.

As I implied in my first post, I’m more with stevedore’s reluctant support than Toad’s principled opposition . My email said among other things Continue reading

Won’t be fooled again

Inspired by Myflathasmould’s tale below of how he or she joined the Green Party during the last election, I thought I would make my own confession about the 2005 campaign, as a sort of cautionary tale.

I was a member, but I gave my party vote to Labour!  Horror! At this stage I’m glad I’m anonymous, but I’m going to try and excuse myself by explaining how it happened, and why it won’t happen again.

My main excuse is that I hadn’t been a member very long. My husband had joined a while before, but though I was a Values Party member way back, I had most of my life considered myself a Labour supporter. I voted for the Progressive Party in 2002 with the express purpose of getting Matt Robson back into Parliament, and it worked, so I was in the habit of voting strategically.  I started going to a few Green meetings and policy talks in 2005, and was impressed by the policy, the process, and especially the people.  But it wasn’t till I heard Jeanette speaking  at the university on climate change and peak oil that I was completely blown away. I was well aware and desperately worried about climate change, but the notion of impending peak oil was new to me. Jeanette explained, oh so clearly, the extra strain that a declining oil supply was going to put on the preparations for planning for a low carbon future, and how crucial it was to move urgently on infrastructure during the coming decade before reducing oil and other raw materials were priced out of our range.

That was when I tipped from light green to bright green! I was scared, and inspired, and thought the Green Party had the best answers for the dangers I was most concerned about, and I joined soon after, so why didn’t I vote Green? Put it down to that excruciatingly tight “race” between Labour and National, and my concern that if National formed a government, it would be led by a leader and team who seemed lukewarm to hostile about the issue of climate change. Labour at least made the right noises. I made a cold-blooded decision that a Parliament with Labour in government, even if it did not have any Greens in it would be better than a Parliament led by a free market radical and apparent climate change denier.

Labour got the majority of votes to form a government and the Greens squeaked in over the 5% threshold, so I’ll never know for sure, but I think I was wrong. We needed the Greens in there. They were shut out of coalition by the two fossilized parties that Labour chose to go into coalition with instead of the Greens and the Maori Party, and their policy gains fought out as part of their abstention agreement have gone largely unheralded (or claimed as successes by Labour) but those gains add up to a significant proportion of the environmental and social achievements of this government. Just as importantly, the Green MPs’ dedication to the party principles of Appropriate Decision Making and Non-violence has made them the shining examples of the type of unfailingly polite and ego-free behaviour that we expect, but so rarely see, in the nation’s MPs.

But what has really convinced me that I was wrong to give Labour my vote last time, is their cowardice in failing to push through a serious programme for New Zealand to tackle climate change. Instead of going for broke with a bold vision in what was almost certain to be their last term, they have settled for conservatism and incrementalism. I have heard David Parker speak as Minister of Climate Change several times, and there is no doubting his awareness of the seriousness of the challenges we face, but his cabinet colleagues and coalition partners do not appear to share his concern. A Green private member’s Bill on children’s rights, the Repeal of Section 59 Bill, was promoted assiduously by the Government at some political cost to them (and thank you for that, I do support that Act), but Jeanette’s essential Bill to re-require the RMA to  consider the carbon implications of proposals, has languished and was eventually dumped. Labour have not been able to speak convincingly enough about the need for action on climate change to overwhelm the miasma created by lobbyists and  dedicated “sceptic” communicators, to inspire the country, and to shame their fellow parliamentarians into crafting a solid proposal that will begin change this decade. And National are even more worthy of criticism at this stage. They have chosen to dilute then sink an Emissions Trading Scheme that would have at least got things started, either because of petty politicking or a conviction that the problem wasn’t that important. Either way, I have no faith in them to come up with strong environmental answers on their own.

The Green MPs alone have stood up and spoken loud and clear for the planet, even though this has left them in the difficult position of having to decide whether a gutted and pandering ETS is better than no scheme at all. I’m hoping myself they support it, for the reasons that  Idiot/Savant keeps hammering (an imperfect scheme can be strengthened later, and please google No Right Turn, because I haven’t got the hang of linking yet!). And I know now, having observed, met and worked with Green party members at all levels for the last three years, their message on climate change must be heard, and they must be in Parliament to make that happen.

So this year I’m voting Green, no matter how close the polls are. And if climate change is your main concern, I hope you do the same. Tim Flannery, in his overflowing lecture at Otago University last year, said the same thing – the most important thing you can do about climate change personally is to consider it when you vote. He didn’t quite say “Party Vote Green”, but I will. Party Vote Green!!!