In May of this year, something that just might impact on the course of history happened in my home town of Blenheim, New Zealand. At this stage, a small pebble tossed into the ocean might not be Earth shattering, but it could become a significant factor in sticking a fast shattering Earth together again. Bill McEwan, a seventy year old resident of our province of Marlborough (population approx. 45,000) supported by his wife, Lois, circulated a Karanga. Karanga is the Maori word for a call from the heart that is traditionally used in greeting visitors to a marae.
“Climate Change : A Karanga (call) to Marlborough.
On Sunday 10 May I am to set up in the rotunda in the centre of Blenheim for up to a week. I will be joined by my 32 year old son from Melbourne. We are intending not to eat. We won’t have banners or tents. The council will move us on if we do. We will be a quiet, awkward presence. It is to be a call, not a protest. We are unsure of the response of the council or police.
I was born in Marlborough and my great-great grandparents lie in the Omaka cemetery. I was also head boy of Marlborough Boys College and captain of the Ist XV but I will not clamour to say that. The point is to claim citizenship and speak to the 45,000 people of my province and do it as one who is embedded here. I am part of the problem. I resolve to be part of the solution out of love for Marlborough and its people.
Our purpose is to accelerate the conversation in Marlborough about the urgent challenge of climate change and suggest responses viz:
1. What the science is saying
2. Climate model scenarios for Marlborough this century
3. The devastating consequences for our children and their children
4. What is required of humankind
5. The failure of international consensus and the need of a people’s response
6. Being smart here: What we in Marlborough can do.
If you have the inclination…
1. Assess if my son Robbie and I are nutters and worthy of support. We hope we are both. Robbie is at www.robbiemcewan.com
2. Talk to friends about the action. Create something which will add to our voice.
3. Contact any media including social media re the action, or say something yourself if you are in a position to do so. We will set up a Facebook page.
4. Feed to me information specifically about Marlborough which might be relevant e.g. required strategies re forestry, the consequences of increasing temperatures and acidity on aquaculture, how to work with the concerns of Federated Farmers, your list of what citizens of Marlborough can do to decarbonise our province.
5. Offer to print and laminate graphs of greenhouse gas, sea and land temperature rises, with projections for the future. Also desertification patterns etc. A luxury would be having models of sea currents and the effect on them of temperature rise, and consequences for weather.
6. Be available to take a phone call from us when we are hungry, irritable, dispirited and tired, or text us. Bring flowers!
7. Draw attention to anything we should be aware of and offer any advice.
Bill McEwan (and Lois), 147 Redwood Street, BLENHEIM 7201 Ph. 5786667 and 0277108229 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
4 May 2015”
I subsequently introduced myself to Bill and asked what had inspired him to such activism. I was told that it was his frustration that the local newspaper (part of the Australian Fairfax media conglomerate, coincidently largely owned by mining interests) refused to publish his letter on climate change
Letter sent to the Marlborough Express 26 March 2015 and not published:
“Central Blenheim under 20 metres of water and the water lapping at the Wither Road-Redwood Street intersection, Villa Maria winery, Woodbourne, the meeting of Jacksons Road and Rapaura Road?
That was the sea level when the earth’s temperature last rose 2C above pre-global warming temperatures. We are now up 1C as a result of human activity. Halfway there. In fact more than halfway there because once we get to the tipping point ice melt and sea temperatures will be so advanced we will not be able to stop it.
Who else will study the science with me and act now?”
147 Redwood St, Blenheim Ph 035786667 Mob 0277108229
E: email@example.com. Also on Facebook.”
And there you have it. Bill and Robbie subsequently endured an uninterrupted winter’s week of public fasting (warm water excluded) open to the elements in a band-rotunda in the town square. Their vigil was adorned with neither posters nor banners nor noisy intrusions on the townships daily life.
At the end of their fast, after due pause to put a bit of meat back on their bones, they called a well-attended meeting of those who had expressed solidarity with their cause. At this meeting, it was decided to establish in Marlborough an apolitical movement that would concern itself with one matter only: that of persuading all governing bodies from the local council upwards, to take urgent action to stall the gathering momentum towards a climatic disaster. Though, at the time of writing, the group hasn’t yet got to the point of formally adopting a name, I will, for convenience, refer to it as the Karanga initiative.
The group, who will save humanity from ultimate climate extinction, are its political leaders. Except in those very rare absolute dictatorships, which are completely confident of their retention of power, these politicians are influenced by only one thing – achieving sufficient public satisfaction with their performance to ensure their retention of office. In the electoral democracies, the expression of public opinion is formalised in a transparent procedure that can eject a political leadership over-night.
“There are currently 123 democracies in the world of all 192 countries. The most basic measure of democracy is electoral efficacy. If a nation has free and fair elections, coupled by competing parties with varied representative interests, it can be classified as a democracy. Sep 29, 2013”How Many Democratic Nations Are There? – BORGEN Click: Democracies
As, for instance the Shah of Persia, or President Mubarak of Egypt, learnt, even absolute dictatorships can be overturned if they pay no attention to the opinions held by their supposedly muted subjects.
In most democracies, a political party’s access to funds is a key determinant of how many votes it will win in an election. But that is not necessarily always the case. If a popular mass-movement arises, it can dramatically change electoral outcomes, irrespective of the funds available to participating parties.
Karanga’s intent is to mobilise public determination to see effective political action on rapid climate change. Should it succeed in this on a sufficient scale, politicians of all persuasions will realise that to ignore the developing mass-mobilisation will ensure their loss of political power.
At ‘Action Stations’ Click: Action Stations New Zealand does have its own social media mass-movement organisation to match Australia’s ‘Get-Up.” Click: Get Up In a recent survey of its support base for its multiple causes, Action Stations found that only 8% of their active supporters were under 30 years old – whereas 60% were over 50 years old.
Karanga’s major challenge, looking at the statistics from Action Stations, will be to find ways of mobilising the vast mass of the population, who are under fifty years old. These are the people, who have longest to live and therefore, the most to lose from political inaction over climate change. They are also the people who have the most debt and the most immediate concerns with rearing children and struggling with day-to-day financial survival. Ways must be found to give them a feeling of empowerment over this issue without making too many demands on their time and their enforced focus on the practicalities of daily life.
There are many shades of political opinion within a society and different parties advocate quite widely divergent policies. Political parties in their manifestos, offer differing baskets of alternative policies from which voters can choose. Karanga, not being a political party, has only one focus. It is therefore able to be supported by everyone in the community, who is concerned about the potential ill-effects of climate change on the lives of their children and their grandchildren. They can do this, without impinging on their ability to simultaneously support the other policy programmes of their preferred party.
Karanga’s next step is to convince those in denial and those undecided, not only that rapid climate change is upon us, but that it has been, and is, largely triggered by economic activity, which is within human power to control. Most importantly, despair and consequent inertia, are not a reasonable reaction. Citizens, if they unite, have the power to force their political leaders into taking action.
Happily, Karanga will not be alone in this endeavour – but will be adding its voice to that of many others.
Click: Gareth Morgan Suggestions as to what the NZ government should be doing.