The last organisation I met with before my return to the UK was on my final morning in Auckland – I went to visit Sustainable Coastlines who are doing a fantastic job of leading the way in looking after New Zealand’s coastlines:
This trip has taught me the importance of a person’s surroundings for determining how easy it is to live sustainably. The infrastructure of a place – the likes of access to public transport, or presence of recycling bins, or the half flush button on a toilet – can dramatically affect the size of a person’s environmental footprint. When features to aid sustainable lifestyles are part of the fabric of daily living, everyone can be more environmentally friendly, whether they think about it actively or not.
Inspiring Stories are an inspiration in their own right – this organisation might well change the direction of New Zealand towards a more sustainable future… I’d like to think so anyway.
There’s the annual NZ Youth Delegation that goes to each international climate change conference, but born out of one of those a few years back a new platform for youth campaigning on sustainability issues was born…read on here: www.seekthechange.org/profiles/generation-zero
Having heard about the Enviroschools Programme from a few people in the know here in New Zealand, and then going and meeting with one of the staff, it seems to me it is something every school should be a part of! More info here: http://www.seekthechange.org/profiles/enviroschools-foundation/
I have been in New Zealand for a month and a half now and spoken to many people here, those involved in sustainability efforts and not. From talking to everyone and seeing some of the country, I have made a few observations. They might be a bit oversimplified and perhaps overly idealistic/optimistic but I really feel that here the potential for truly sustainable living is stronger than anywhere else I have been:
So many initiatives and passionate people
Strong connection to and care for the natural environment amongst Kiwis, based on Maori traditions and outdoorsy past-times
Just over 4 million people in the whole country – half the size of London – which means…
Only two degrees of separation between everybody living here i.e. if I dont know that person, someone I know will
= huge potential for cultural change towards sustainable living
New Zealand has a reputation of being clean and green, but according to most people here involved in environmental work, this is a bit of a joke. However, the reference to this status continues, so as the cracks widen and become more apparent, something will have to be done to keep the clean green status in place.
The ‘number 8 wire’ ethos of Kiwis i.e. ingenuity, innovation and problem-solving abilities, is in full swing in the realm of sustainability as much as elsewhere – harnessing this to a greater extent could make New Zealand a leader in this field.
The Maori culture, promoted widely, has a tradition of reciprocity with and respect for nature – another aspect of New Zealanders’ cultural and social identity already here, alive and well.
There is talk of the increasing need to diversify into other industries besides agriculture and tourism, the main two money earners at the moment. Embracing a ‘green economy’ could be a great way to create more jobs.
As such a popular tourist destination, particularly amongst developed countries, the experiences and examples of sustainable living in New Zealand can spread to other countries to accelerate positive change elsewhere too.
It might not happen in the next couple of years with the current political party in power but I think that the strength of the efforts now and the forging of a pathway towards that vision will tip the balance towards that realm before the decade is out.
Reckoning on a positive picture for New Zealand’s future? I sure am!
I learnt all about the activities going on at Nelson Environment Centre the other day when I was staying in Nelson – it is the oldest environment centre in New Zealand, set up over 30 years ago. It is one of several environment or eco-centres that exist around the country.
More info here: www.seekthechange.org/profiles/nelson-environment-centre
A SEED Japan was one of the youth organisations I met in Tokyo, who brought along lots of other people from other youth orgs too for me to meet. Their profile is here: www.seekthechange.org/profiles/a-seed-japan
I am settled in Wellington for the next few days, currently staying with the cream of the crop of young people taking action on environmental issues. Paul Young, spokesperson for Generation Zero, a youth action group on climate change, is so knowledgeable about what’s going on here in NZ and gives great political commentary. Lots of interesting conversations already (in amongst board game playing and nacho eating)…