Doing it by the book

 On the occasion of a recent birthday I was given a copy of a newly published book. It's called 'Climate Aotearoa - What's happening & what can we do about it'. It's edited by Helen Clark who also wrote the introduction, and the contributors are a range of climate scientists and commentators. 

So I settled down in an armchair with a cup of tea and my new book.

It's full of great information and insights, and I am very pleased to report that a number of themes which I have covered in this column feature prominently. 

I confess I got a bit bogged down in the introduction so I skipped forwards to the first chapter from Haylee Koroi, an indigenous sovereignty activist and Māori public health advisor. Her words certainly come from the heart and one can't argue with the historical facts presented. 

One would expect a book such as this to kick off with a rallying cry, perhaps coralling all citizens of the country to come together and address the very serious challenges which we now face. Instead I found myself feeling decidedly shifty about the conduct of some of my ancestors in the early days. Not that I shouldn't feel that way of course, but is this the right arena? 

With a somewhat shaken sense of solidarity, I moved on to the contribution from Dr Jim Salinger, scientist and climate change researcher at Victoria University.  The information is presented clearly enough but it is necessarily complex, and dare I say it, some of the figures used and conclusions reached seem, rather oblique, and a bit too long term to be immediately threatening. I'm used to "Our house is on fire" and "There's no planet B".

There is quite a lot said (and I've written about this too) the Māori approach to the land and the environment both in terms of ownership and stewardship. I just don't feel quite at ease with the "We've always known better than you" and "Colonisation at the root of climate and health inequity" messages which seem to be seeping from the pages. I think it is a mistake to attach climate change to colonisation. I am in no way defending the concept or process of colonisation but let's keep things in the right boxes. Climate change is a result of industrialisation and consumerism, it is not predicated upon colonisation; you don't need to be colonised to be a consumer oriented society. Let's be honest - it's people who cause climate change; people want stuff and so other people will produce stuff to sell to the people who want it.

This is indeed a well researched book. I just couldn't read it for any length of time - not sequentially anyway. Since failing to finish it I have been dipping into it more or less at random and I'm pleased to say things are going much better. 

If you'd like a quick précis:

What's happening? The planet's getting warmer.

What can we do about it? Reduce, reuse, recycle.

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