This is a tale of two parts. The first is about personal efforts to build and operate a more energy efficient home, as are members of the Blue Skin Bay community, and the second examines the massive changes that are beginning to occur in electricity production and supply systems worldwide. These changes are being driven by a combination of rapidly advancing technologies, consumer/citizen demands and society’s attitudes to electricity supply, marketing and business models. As has happened numerous times over the last 200 years, the rapid adoption of a new technology by some parts of society has been strongly resisted by others, often business interests, because of perceived threats to their goals. Government policies also play a key role, particularly if they entrench particular technologies and systems and hence limit needed changes. The threat of stranded capital is also a strong impediment to change in electricity generation and supply systems as in other capital-intensive industries.
Summer is the best time for thinking about firewood and firewood is something that takes time. The big advantage of wood as a fuel is that it is carbon neutral: burning it does produce CO2 but it is not fossil carbon and firewood is typically only a few decades old at most. How you burn it does matter: an open fireplace is very inefficient and you will need a lot more (and produce a lot more smoke) than in some kind of efficient wood burner. Using wood typically generates heat in other ways too: some of these are discussed below.
These days the ODT confronts us with a steady stream of stories about our warming planet. In just the last few weeks: “Dark snow hastens glacier melting” (July21-27 World Section); “Can we do without coal?” (July 14-20 World Section); “Permanent snow and ice just melting away” (July 30th); “Actions against sea level rise identified” (July 19th). I am someone who has been slow to appreciate what climate change is doing to the planet. I am a business school academic and have spent my professional career trying to understand more about how firms gain advantage over their competitors. A rising sea level just doesn’t come up much in my world.
I am flying home, back from Geneva where I have attended the 130th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I do not know whether this disqualifies me from accepting the invitation to contribute. Assuming it does not, I wish to pay a tribute to your Trust. It is people like you who will make the difference if we are to turn the climate thing around in time.
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.