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We need to ease up on our planet

Opinion Piece

by Bob Hughes

Bob Hughes

The sixth mass extinction of wildlife on Earth is accelerating as irresponsible human behaviour hurries it along.

One big factor is our use of fossil fuels causing global warming.

It is time to face up to the fact that we must go easier on Mother Earth, the provider of all our worldly needs.

After more than 12 years of pushing this theme, climate change is now obvious — there is no need to convince my critics that it’s real.

Yet I still cop shoot-the-messenger insults, lifestyle attacks, even accusations that I offer no answers — but I do, and always have.

In December 2011 The Gisborne Herald ran a Weekender profile on my efforts. Heading: Ease up on our planet . . . . Bob Hughes talks about his crusade to save the planet and how every individual can make a difference . . . “It’s our only home. And any damage we do to it now, we’re doing to our kids and grandkids.” Caption: “We’re never satisfied with what we’ve got — sufficient is never enough, and I have remained staunch to that theme to this very day.”

I link this to Gavin Maclean’s recent (July 27) letter, Most vital: live with less.

Gavin also told me of Jason Hickel’s new book, Less is More, on how degrowth will save the world. Hickel says the world has finally awoken to the reality of climate breakdown and ecological collapse, and we must face up to its primary cause . . . perpetual expansion devastates the living world. The only solution that will lead to meaningful and immediate change is degrowth.

To me this is so obviously true.

I am old enough to remember life in the post-Great Depression years and the WW2 years.

Living on less can be done, has been done and must be done. I have done it and only a change of mindset is needed for today’s society to do so. “Make do and mend” was the common slogan during my youth. Back then people knew sufficient was enough.

Conditioned by post-Depression unaffordability, followed by war-time shortages, wistful extravagance was unacceptable then.

For example, beginning in 1940 we had ration books to ensure a fair distribution of limited resources — first petrol, then meat, butter, tea, sugar, clothing, etc. Shortages continued until the mid-1950s.

I remember learning to patch sleeves and bind perished bike tyres, help dad paint cloth patches over leaky, rusting roof iron, and much more. Everyone had vege gardens, and sharing with others was the way of life.

The declaration of peace led to a post-war boom which was disrupted by the 1970s oil shocks, severely denting our newly-acquired have-anything-we-want expectations.

Former main oil producer the United States, no longer able to supply its own needs, had become reliant on imported supply.

In 1973 OPEC, mostly oil-rich Middle Eastern countries, proclaimed an embargo on shipments of oil to America and its allies.

Here in New Zealand, restrictions on motor travel and car-less days were imposed. The realisation fossil fuels were finite led to talk of making a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

Eventually, fuel supply normalised and true to human nature, all that was forgotten; even more vigorous exploitation of the finite resources ensued.

Nearly half a century on, despite alternatives, our world’s use of fossil fuel increases as our climate crisis accelerates to a calamity of our own making. Also, the extinction of earthly wildlife accelerates. Eventually humanity will join the queue.

Meantime, let’s give our grandkids a chance for the future and collectively ease up on our planet.

  1. Richard Whitley says:

    Greetings Bob,

    Do you think, if at all possible, you could somehow get this crucial message to James Shaw, AKA Co-Leader of the (apparently in name only) Green Party? as he seems hell bent on flying around the globe to Glasgow come November to, rather ironically, attend a climate conference.

    Much is spoken by yourself, James Shaw and other merchants of climate doom about the need to invent and adopt measures to combat the issue. I’m not sure if James is aware of Zoom and how this technology negates the need to travel in person for what can successfully be carried out from half a world away?

    1. Bob Hughes says:

      Government Climate Minister James Shaw has indeed got the message.
      He is duty-bound to fly to Glasgow to represent NZ at this year’s COP climate conference, and air travel is the only option
      On Thursday last week Mr Shaw himself said they didn’t have the option of a virtual COP multinational conference – “It has not been made available to us.” Minister Shaw is attending so NZ can play its part fully.
      Where is the fault in that?

      1. Ken Ovenden says:

        Hi Bob, just why does Shaw himself have to attend? Surely there are embassy staff in England who can go on his behalf, and quite possibly do a better job. As Richard has so rightly put it, you merchants of climate doom love the limelight if someone else is paying for it – yes, us poor taxpayers.

      2. Richard Whitley says:

        “It has not been made available to us.”

        And therein lies the problem Bob.
        Despite having available to them the technology (literally at their fingertips) that would negate the need for international travel, this coterie of hypocrites refuse to implement it.

        The double standard on display here is nothing short of astounding. It proves that what they are really only interested in, is stroking egos. They must be seen to publicly signal their virtue on an international stage, carbon footprints be damned.

        One could at least have some respect for James Shaw if he made a stand not to attend until these available technologies are implemented.

        James has painted himself into a corner by advocating for NZ Parliament to be conducted by Zoom during lockdown level 4.

  2. Bob Hughes says:

    Denial when first faced with a crisis is a coping mechanism for dealing wit such.
    But refusing to accept and react as a crisis threatens well-being is not.
    Both Richard and Ken, in accusing Climate Minister James Shaw and myself who admit the crisis as being merchants of climate doom, have got it the wrong way round and show they are climate doom merchants themselves.

  3. Doug Smith says:

    Excellent message, Bob. Thank you for continuing to speak out and share sensible advice. We will need much more of this, and eventually when the majority is on board, coordinated national action, along the historical lines you mention, will deepen and expand the impact of individual choices we can make now.

    The sooner we turn from the entropic/destructive power of industrial capitalusm toward a sustainable and healthy civilization based on the syntropic/creative power of living things, the better.