‘I want you to panic’

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    It’s hard to get our heads around what a superheated future will look like, but climate experts agree the effects of turbulent climate change will touch every aspect of our lives – if indeed they haven’t already. It’s pretty hard not to give in; to be completely overwhelmed by the impending sense of doom that comes with it. And we can perhaps be forgiven for a few moments of hopeless contemplation of the magnitude of the challenge before us.

    Yet despite the recent record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires across Europe and Hawaii that saw islanders like ourselves driven from their homes and, in some cases, literally into the sea to escape the flames, and our close neighbours in Sydney sweltering in a 34 degree spring heatwave, it’s very tempting to want to kick the problem further down the road, particularly at a time when just getting through to the next pay cheque is a struggle for most. 

    But we’re fast running out of road to make a meaningful difference to what the future will look like for ourselves, let alone our children and grandchildren.

    Remember back in 2019, when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders with her impassioned plea: “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.”

    “Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t,” she told her audience at Davos.

    With some of our major political parties promising to restart drilling for fossil minerals in our oceans, repeal the Zero Carbon Act and ditch the Climate Commission, too, even the most conservative of political commentators and experts are begging for a cross party approach and co-operation.

    We are being asked to believe we have to choose either cash in our wallets now or food in our children’s fridges tomorrow. It seems an impossible choice. Yet is it a choice? 

    Things that seem no brainers to rebalance an increasingly unequal society, like fair taxes across all incomes, companies and corporates, taxes that will offer our public sectors a better income, to offer better services to our most vulnerable seems like a practical necessity rather than the doe-eyed hippie idealism it is often packaged as. And tax cuts become meaningless if the food we grow (enough to feed 40 million of us a year apparently) is shipped offshore to enrich overseas owners and the global financial machine. The inconvenient truth is personal wealth won’t protect us in a future with not enough food to go round. 

    We need to take everyone with us to a better tomorrow.

    We mustn’t put off addressing the elephant in the room yet again and leave our children a horrendous hot mess instead of the marvellous, magical world they deserve to inherit.

    If you take just one action on addressing climate change and helping preserve our precious and fragile world for the next generation, let it be a mindful review of every party’s policies. RNZ has an excellent policy comparison at www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/news-extras/story/2018902030/election-2023-rnz-s-guide-to-party-policy 

    Surely it’s time to meaningfully protect this tiny, precious green satellite planet floating in the wide lifeless abyss of space. 

    The life support systems are failing. Let’s not be the engineers asleep at the wheel.

    • Merrie Hewetson and Bryony Cole

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