Joe Hendren

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Don't let climate change quibbles weaken the movement

I wish people would stop attempting to undermine the arguments of campaigners working on climate issues by continually demanding they justify their own carbon use, especially in the context of their own campaigns.

Quite frankly, for those of us who are concerned about encouraging real and lasting policy change, such talk is as destructive as it is counterproductive. Encouraging the world to change its ways is going to need an effective political movement, and building such a movement should be the ultimate aim.

A focus on personal responsibility can be taken too far, and it may be said this is more common on the right of politics. A chemical process worker should not be finger pointed at for his job if the society around him does not provide a true alternative source of income.

Collective action will be the most powerful force in dealing with climate change, not individual responsibility.

A few of my greenie friends have refused to fly to meetings, events, conferences etc that would have formed part of most other political campaigns. I think is great people do care, but I sometimes wonder if people get too hung up on it, especially when we are yet to see real alternatives to flying in New Zealand, such as high speed rail. Yes we do need to strongly advocate for such alternatives, but the point is that they do not exist now.

Of course we need to 'think before we fly', especially when there are alternatives available, but I think there is a more important question to ask first - will burning a few tons of carbon build the movement? If so, it may be a case of burning a bit now, to burn a lot less later.

So no, I don't begrudge Al Gore for flying around the world to do his climate change talks. I may think his proposed solutions rely too heavily on carbon trading, but he has been able to communicate the scale of the problem to many people who otherwise would not have heard it. This does not prevent anyone from criticising the oil baron from flying around in his corporate jet - that should be called exactly what it is - needless climate damage.

I hope my friends working on climate change issues don't take this as a criticism - what I am really saying here is Kia Kaha - stand strong! As a hypothetical, say the opportunity came to fly to London to meet up with other climate change campaigners and build international solidarity on the issue. I would want you to go - because of my faith in your ability as effective campaigners.

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