Mining National Parks – Class and Conservation

Ever since Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson released a proposal to open up 7058ha of land presently in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act for mining, opposition to the plan has been building. The issue got attention around the world, including from North America’s largest conservation organisation the Sierra Club. “You have the responsibility to protect New Zealand’s wild heritage not only for the enjoyment of future generations but also for the protection and conservation of the Earth’s ever shrinking biodiversity,” wrote Richard Cellarius, the club’s international vice-president, in a letter sent to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Energy and Trade. “Long-term protection should not be sacrificed for immediate commercial gain.”.

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Water Metering: Letter to the Capital Times

This is a response to a Capital Times article, Hold Your Water (Vol  34  No 11) which argued for compulsory water metering as a conservation measure. Unfortunately the article is not online.

Your article Hold Your Water argued for water metering as a conservation measure. However, domestic water metering is symptomatic of an approach to conservation that shifts the costs of bad infrastructure onto consumers.

Like any user-pays system, water metering hits those on lower incomes hardest. There are alternatives. Fitting houses with rainwater tanks can conserve up to 40% of potable water, without significantly limiting real consumption. If you add greywater recycling and drycomposting toilets to the equation, households can conserve up to 70%. However, these measures don’t have the ongoing financial benefits that meters do.

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After committing to scrapping the ban on thermal generation and reviewing the ETS, John Key has discussed carbon tax as a market alternative. An adoption from the Greens, this policy would continue Key’s move to the centre. Overseas, it has been applied as a direct tax, affecting the pockets of road-users. The Workers Party opposes all measures that punish the consumer, as with GST, tax on cigarettes and the proposed levy on plastic bags.

More degradation occurs at production than consumption, and consumers have little influence over production. We must change the mode of production itself, so that it serves need rather than profit.

Go Wellington versus environmental justice


Ian Anderson

The conduct of Go Wellington demonstrates the struggle between capitalism and environmental justice.

 Environmental justice refers not only to environmental impact, but the full participation of those affected. ‘Sustainability’ is the current buzzword amongst politicians, generally meaning the capacity of capitalist practices to dodge points-of-no-return for environmental reproduction. However, working people are disproportionately affected both by environmental degradation and capitalist solutions; as phrased by Karl Marx, “Capitalist production [works] by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”

Public transport is often touted as a solution, with companies such as Go Wellington subsidised by local government. This approach is insufficient, primarily serving capitalist ends. Resources must be managed in service of human and environmental need, rather than profit.

 One line currently popular amongst politicians goes, ‘You don’t have to choose between sustainability and profit.’ In fact, green practices can increase profit; avoiding waste cuts costs, and there are enormous PR advantages to going green.

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Socialism key to sustainability says Workers Party candidate

Workers Party media release

They key to creating an environmentally sustainable society is to put production in the hands of workers, says the Workers Party’s Christchurch Central candidate Byron Clark.

“Right now production is done for private profit, rather than human need, which means environmental concerns are secondary for capitalism.”

Clark is an environmental sociology student but has little time for “modern Luddites and doomsayers.” He is advocating ecological modernisation as the way to deal with environmental problems.

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The environment: a class issue

– Byron Clark

When environmentalists talk of ecological doomsday (real or imagined) it’s unusual for working-class people, or groups fighting for the working class, to respond. As Alan Roberts pointed out in 1979, in words that are even more relevant today:

“The bulk of the population of the underdeveloped world live continuously with the threat of doomsdays over their heads; but even in the supposedly ‘affluent’ societies, the life of the majority is hardly so unflowed that they can indulge in the luxury of anxiety over some remote apocalypse. There are threats much closer at hand, promising an equally drastic demolition of the world as they themselves experience it – for example, those that affect their productive activities: whether their health will survive over fifty years of working life, whether they will have a job next week, and whether, if they have a job, they will be able to drag themselves out of bed when the alarm clock rings.” (The Self-Managing Environment, p7-8)

Both liberal environmentalists and “workerist” leftists can develop a mistaken view that workers have no concern with environmental issues. Liberals then orient themselves to groups like students and more affluent sections of society, while leftists focus their energy on issues like wages and job losses.

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The environment – what do Workers Party candidates say?

– Byron Clark, Workers Party candidate for Christchurch Central.

As a Workers Party candidate in this year’s election, I am often asked for my opinion on environmental issues. These are important to me as a socialist, as environmental issues are also class issues.

Those who are suffering (and will potentially suffer most) from environmental damage are the poor and oppressed, especially those in the third world. With the climate warming, you get tropical diseases like malaria spreading further north and south, and rising sea levels causing island nations to depopulate, creating refugees. Changes in ocean temperature mean changes in fish migration and breeding, affecting what is a food source for a lot of people; and people world-wide, including in the first world, are currently suffering from rising food prices and lack of decent drinking water caused by drought.

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