Tuesday 1 January 2008

ClimAction, free buses, and building a climate change movement - Rotorua activists talk to UNITYblog

Grant Rogers and Bernie Hornfeck are ClimAction and RAM activists in Rotorua. UNITYblog asked them some questions about what they’ve been doing locally and about the Rotorua District Council’s decision to run fare-free buses on 5 June, which is World Environment Day. What are the aims of ClimAction in Rotorua? Grant: We’ve been showing radical environmental films in schools and Marae to raise community consciousness. We’re now promoting ideas to encourage a critical conversation about how the social and environmental needs of people should be met by government. The provision of food, health, education and housing should be part of the sustainable development of human living. We are generating a great deal of collective support. We now have a profile in the community where we feel confident we can promote an educational campaign based on ecological socialism. In short, all generations must unite together to tackle higher costs of living and climate change, which is why we’re publicising land to be used for growing vegetables and fruit as community market gardens. Bernie: To inform and mobilise the people of Rotorua to take action around the issue of climate change and global warming, and leading up to the general election to put pressure on the corporates, government, local bodies and individuals to take urgent steps to reduce carbon emissions. What has ClimAction been doing lately? Bernie: ClimAction has been showing the Al Gore DVD to schools, Marae, community groups etc. And we’re now looking at worksites, so we’re trying to get unions and delegates to invite us to speak on the job. What needs to be done in NZ to help prevent climate change? Grant: Pollution taxes for green house gas emitters; cheap public transport, including building extensive electric rail system; dramatically cut livestock numbers on farms by encouraging farming practices based on vegetable production; wind and tidal power supply; freight containers turned into recycling transfer stations in all suburbs; venues and parks to cut waste to landfill; schools to be recycle all waste; create car schools for teaching people how to convert cars from petrol to be run by electric battery; and woody mass to be used also for fuels to run some transport, to name a few. Bernie: It’s imperative that we, along with other countries, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to 280 ppm or below. Our particular problem is the farming industry. We need to be talking to farmers about alternative farming methods before we reach crisis conditions, which would mean going on a war footing. Remember that during the World War II farmers were directed what to grow in the UK. World Environment Day is 5 June, what have you got planned in Rotorua? Bernie: Following a joint meeting with the Rotorua District Council it’s been agreed that in the morning City Focus will be the venue for a number of displays and events. In the afternoon there will be activities for children at the Lakefront and in the evening ClimAction will be showing a film to the public: “Who killed the electric car?” How come the Rotorua District Council is putting on free buses for the day? (see Rotorua’s World Environment Day celebrations) Grant: Because ClimAction has been active in the community organising meetings at schools and Marae. This has meant that the Rotorua District Council, through their environment planner, has been encouraged to act on the public’s concerns - though the council needs to be doing much more in practice. Should activists around the country be promoting a "free bus day" in their regions? Grant: Definitely yes, as public transport is sustainable and is available for everyone to use, especially people who are struggling to afford the heavily increasing price of petrol. Labour and National politicians are dragging their heels on climate change because they don't what to get off-side with big business. We obviously need a climate change movement in this country to get real solutions to this environmental crisis , how are we going to make that happen? Bernie: We need a high-powered campaign, along similar lines to the anti-smoking campaign. The campaign to focus on farming (more trees, less dairy and sheep farms); transport ( free environmentally friendly public transport, start converting cars to electricity, rebuild, electrify and extend the rail system); waste (a massive programme of recycling and a massive reduction in the creation of items that cause waste); domestic (subsidies to provide solar heating, solar panels, windmills, small water driven generators, house insulation etc.). What role do you think that RAM can play in tackling the climate change threat? Bernie: The first thing is for RAM to come out with a climate policy which is effective and realistic, something which no other party has yet done. After that we need to build a movement which will back it both inside and outside Parliament. The most important focus must be the working class.

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