In September I was one of the presenters at a book launch in China, home to 1.3 billion people and one of the most rapidly urbanising countries in the world. It was held on the 28th floor of a new ultra-shiny high-tech building in the centre of the Beijing business district, rising above motorways amongst a forest of other sky-scrapers. Another presenter spoke before me; and there, on the screen was a photo from 1970’s Waitati, of my old mate Bill sitting in a bush bath surrounded by the light, space and beauty of the New Zealand landscape. The contrast couldn’t have been more extreme; and yet this back-to-the-land New Zealand experience was relevant and interesting to the Chinese people in attendance.
Greetings from the deep Tasman Sea, about 100 miles from land. I should’ve had 6 days back home before the deadline for this piece but weather, winds and multi-national oil drillers are not predictable. A perfect excuse for delaying writing, but I realised today it’s also an opportunity to do it now and add some context to the theme I was planning: the balance between opposition (and the negative) and working for the positive.
by Pete Hodgson
Japan is a model of modernity. An advanced democracy that happens to import nearly all its energy, Japan has been a world leader in the climate change debate for decades. It was an instigator and major funder of the Global Environment Facility. It lent the name of its holy city of Kyoto to the most promising global agreement on climate change yet. Corporates like Toyota and Honda have led the world in hybrid technology. It is the most energy-efficient nation in the world.
One of the aspects of Janet Stephenson’s July ‘Cuppa Tea’ blog stuck in my head. It was the fact that the existence of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust (BRCT) was largely brought about by the flooding that occurred in Waitati in 2006. As a result of that flood the community got together, discussed possibilities, initiated action and the BRCT was born. A specific threatening event brought about action and change
My first encounter with the Waitati community was in 2007, when I brought a small group of young planning students to meet with some Waitati residents. They were asked to find out first hand about the community’s perspectives on the future sustainability of the settlement. Climate change and energy security were top issues, as well as food and transport. The students were given free rein to develop creative ideas about how the community could respond to these challenges. Then we came along to the Waitati Hall one evening, where the students each gave a brief presentation. I was absolutely astonished at how many people turned up – around 60, I recall. The community members took a kindly interest in the (sometimes wacky) ideas that the students came up with, but underlying this was a strong sense of a collective purpose and urgency to take action on sustainability issues. I came away from the session with the feeling that this community could do something extraordinary.