JUNE 2019

“Stealing Their Future” 

Fiona Gordon

On her whistle stop “Rewind the Future” tour of New Zealand, internationally renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall tells me that she has met many young people who have lost hope in the future and have become apathetic.  Dr. Goodall then makes a poignant point “we haven’t been borrowing our childrens’ future, we have been stealing it, and we are still stealing it today.”

Indeed, it’s impossible to ignore the science and yes, it’s depressing.  Climate change and biodiversity loss has placed us all smack-bang in the middle of a planetary emergency.

The recent report on global biodiversity from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has made it clear that nature is humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’ and that ‘safety net’ is stretched almost to breaking point.

Unfortunately the messages in the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report from the Ministry for the Environment largely mirror this international assessment.

Our own ecosystems are in crisis.  Almost 4,000 of our native species are at risk or threatened with extinction.

Horizons Regional Council’s State of Environment Report 2019 released on 28 May, notes that almost all the river water monitoring sites in our region fail water quality criteria for phosphorus, bacteria and clarity.  Only 500 of the 1,109 biodiversity remnants have been ‘visited and evaluated’.  We can also expect changes to annual average rainfall, reduced summer river flows in the Manawatu and a faster programme of work to offset changes to river sedimentation due to climate change.

We can slice and dice the information any which way we choose but we get the same result:  a paradigm shift is required.  Remaining deniers need to step aside.

For far too long so called ‘greenie’ issues have been relegated to the ‘tree huggers’ and the ‘sock-and-sandal-wearers’.

This convenient deflection has no doubt provided short term economic benefits, but the reality is that this approach hasn’t worked for any of us.  Mainstreaming environmental priorities into our everyday decision making is now a necessity, for people and planet.

Enter, hope.  Our kids have found their voice and apathy is turning into action.  Youth have the smarts – they ‘get’ what the majority of previous generations chose to ignore – without nature we are all doomed.  So, how can we support this generation so ready and willing to right this ship?

It clear that central and local government actions alone will not be enough to reverse environmental decline.  Collaboration and partnership across all sectors of society will be key to addressing biodiversity loss and climate change.

Fortunately, new coalitions are emerging.  I was heartened to watch as Dr. Goodall endorsed and signed the Aotearoa Deal for Nature on 23 May, an unprecedented agreement across six of Aotearoa’s non-governmental organisations, the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand, Forest & Bird, WWF NZ, Greenpeace NZ, the Environmental Defence Society, Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa (ECO).

It’s an ambitious plan setting out minimum priorities and actions for protecting and restoring New Zealand’s imperilled wildlife and environment.  Such agreements provide a much needed sliver of hope amongst all the doom and gloom of recent environmental reporting.

Op-Ed Published in Manawatu Guardian 6 June 2019

Guardian 6 June 2019

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