We need to ease up on our planet
by 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.