Environmental Defence Society conference ‘Navigating Our Future ‘

I attended the Environmental Defence Society conference Navigating Our Future in Auckland last year. My thanks to Ecan for a partial subsidy to make it possible.

The conference was a useful helicopter view of how the collaborative process is working and of the state of New Zealand’s biodiversity and environment.

International speakers focused on the 1950’s as the time when the Holocene, the era in which we have evolved, became the Anthropocene – the era which we effect.

In 1950 we consumed about three quarters of the planet’s resources, we now consume as if there were two planets at our disposal. Population took off, emissions took off and environmental decline increased markedly.

In New Zealand, despite our best efforts, biodiversity and the quality of the environment continue to decline.

If we are to successfully navigate the future policy settings need to alter.

Our scientists are being asked to communicate more and participate more but science is always subject to politics.

We need to pay more attention to GPI, the General  Prosperity Index, which takes into account social and environmental capital rather than GDP, which merely reflects economic performance.

We need to veer away from short term gain, manage in the long term and think holistically and inclusively.

As Rod Oram put it, Old Zealand has to become New Zealand.

Presentations covered a myriad of topics from climate change to housing, from legal and constitutional sleight of hand to the need for a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Future.

From managing our huge marine estate – almost 6 million square kilometres – 96% of New Zealand is under water, to the yawning lack of strategic leadership on all fronts.

There was a suggestion that The Environmental Protection Society could take a broader compliance role under the RMA. This followed concerns about regional councils becoming increasingly conflicted as both irrigation developers and water regulators.

I gained a huge amount of insight personally and even managed to get a handle on the relationship between the National Policy Statement on Fresh Water and the National Objectives Framework. Seven prominent politicians were present and spoke with varying degrees of conviction. Three of the major sponsors of the conference were Fonterra, Chatham Phosphates and Shell.

In many respects the information presented was disquieting but at the end four young people spoke with disarming clarity about their hopes for the future. In three quarters of an hour they made more sense than the previous two and a half days of presentations by cutting through to the essence of the issues which swirl around climate change, biodiversity and our environment.

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