Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Four months in a leaky boat

Is there one person in or associated with New Zealand’s
new National-led government with the imagination,
intelligence and strength of mind to grasp the full nature
of the challenges facing the world at the moment? On the
evidence so far, four months on from the election, no.
The emphasis is on business as usual, with a few minor
adjustments—most of which involve stopping or cutting
back moves towards a greener, more sustainable
economy. This is like pouring water into an already leaky
boat. Out of that wretched, virtually meaningless ‘job
summit’ in Auckland, there even came the idea of a
moratorium on air and water standards—ie, leave them
as they are and make no attempt to improve them for the
time being. The idea of a cycleway from one end of the
country to the other is an insulting sop to greenthink. The
‘summit’ was a foothill at best, a walk in the park, a light
picnic (lunchboxes supplied) for business leaders. What
one looks for in vain is any recognition that there is not
‘the economy’ on the one hand and ‘the environment’ on
the other; the two are inextricably interlinked. Try making
a habit of saying ‘the ecology’ every time you want to say
‘the economy’ and you’ll get the picture.

Einstein reputedly said, ‘We cannot solve our problems
with the same thinking we used when we created them.’
That, unfortunately, is precisely what John Key and his
colleagues are doing: wedded, or rather welded, to the gdp
growth model, they're unable to think outside the square.
Their idea of positive forward-thinking action is to repeat
the mistakes of the past in the vague belief that if you
keep banging your head against a wall you might break
through it somehow. What's needed is a totally new way
of thinking about the economy/ecology—or perhaps we
should call it the ecolomy. The first step is to reject the
conventional method of measuring economic activity,
so that a true picture emerges, not the false one that
governs all decision-making now.

Marilyn Waring's 1988 book Counting for Nothing says
it all, spelling out for the uninitiated the utter idiocy of
attributing economic value to activities that damage the
environment, as the gdp method does. As recently as last
November a (somewhat belated but better late than
never) review in the Atlantic magazine called Waring's
book 'truly groundbreaking.' It is. And it should be
required reading for all politicians.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gee, you analyse this stuff well. By which I mean that I (whose identity is not important: I am not influential or well known) agree with every word you say.

My only concern is that 'ecolomy' sounds like a cross between E. coli, calumny and an unpleasant surgical procedure.