Monthly Archives: October 2011

Guest post from Climate Justice Aotearoa: reframing ‘realistic’

I – Francie – was interviewed on radio on 30 August, in response to the Government’s (actual) release of the New Zealand Energy Strategy. (You can read the CAN Aotearoa press release). Also on 30 August, the Earthquake Commission revised its liability costings for the Christchurch quakes to $7.1billion, In the interview, I said, as CAN Aotearoa always says, that we need to phase out coal mining in New Zealand and that this means no new or expanded coal mines.

The interviewer said ‘That’s not very realistic though, is it Frances, the Government has an operating deficit of billions of dollars.’

I think this is a question that our movement is increasingly going to face, with the ongoing global recession and the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes. Hopefully, we will have these discussions in community meetings, at Occupy, on the Bay of Plenty’s beaches, in Southland paddocks, so I have been mulling over a more indepth response and asking friends for their responses too.

Recently, I asked Climate Justice Aotearoa for their thoughts. Gary writes:

Maybe we need to reframe what is and isnt ‘realistic’. And maybe we need to reframe the whole growth thing – although this is very difficult for people to hear (at the moment anyway, but things are changing bloody fast).

Yes, it’s not at all realistic for people who think the economy should be run just for tomorrow, without thinking further into the future. But for realistic people, who can be honest with themselves about where the world’s economy and ecological state is at, it is neccesary. And for people who understand that economic growth itself is at the root of the ecological crisis, the crisis that will smash this economy to pieces if left unchecked, then further economic growth is not a realistic response to a crisis caused by it – especially further economic growth based on extracting resources that cause climate change, which according to the world’s most respected economists and scientists will cause global economic meltdown anyway.

Yes, it’s not realistic for those who financially benefit most from coal extraction, it’s rather inconvenient really isnt it. But for people who wont’ be able to insulate themselves from climate change by insuruing their giant coal money funded mansions, or by jetting off to another country when a weather related disaster is about to hit, it’s completely necessary and if we can bring about real democracy in this country it will also be realistic. This is MOST of Aotearoa’s population, and by far, it is the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, who will be the ones most horrifically impacted upon by climate change, whilst not benefiting from coal extraction at all. For them, it’s realistic, because they don’t benefit from more mining on the West Coast of New Zealand [or in Southland]. The only thing stopping this from coming about is the fact that these peoples’ welfare isn’t recognised by the people who make decisions about our economy, or about where is or isn’t going to be mined, and that’s what we are going to change.

The media might ask, ‘What about ‘Green’ Growth?’ But there have been only two examples of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a national level. Both were caused by economic degrowth. The collapse of the growth oriented Soviet Union economy and the collapse of the growth oriented economies of eastern europe. (Read ‘Green capitalism and the climate: It’s Economic Growth, Stupid! by T Mueller and A Passadakis). The only way to ‘save’ the economy they’re talking about, the one based on endless growth and endless resource exploitation, is to abandon that sort of economy in favour of one that has a chance in a world of runaway climate change and global resource depletion. This means we need a democratically controlled economy – not one run by coal barons like Don Elder sold to us on the back of lies about coal wealth trickling down to the rest of us. Digging up more coal isn’t compatible with a functioning world in the future; neither is economic growth because historically it always leads to more resource exploitation, which leads to more human suffering.

[We need to work for a] Just Transition; workers could transition to a more self reliant or localised state of employment, even outside of or away from the growth based / market based economy that is completely failing to meet the needs of people today and tomorrow anyway… [P]eople can transition away from jobs based on centralising profits to companies like Solid Energy and towards providing for people’s actual needs, like growing real food (not milk powder), which is going to be severely needed in the coming years as world food prices hit the roof and famines become more frequent.

…It wouldn’t be at all unrealistic if New Zealand was run democratically, by New Zealanders, because unlike people like John Key and Gerry Brownlee, we do actually give a damn about our future.

Submission on Climate Change – George Preddey

George Preddey has kindly shared this Submission-5-A-Key-letter on climate change, which he wrote to the New Zealand Government. Please check it out. George is a retired upper atmospheric physicist and grandparent who lives in Wellington.

The Role of Strategic Planning in a Nonviolent Direct Action Campaign

This is a re-post from our June Newsletter.

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This article is by Lynne Dempsey, who is a member of our discussion list, and it’s a response to our announcement in the May newsletter that we are beginning preparations for nonviolent direct action as part of the anti-lignite-mining campaign. In this article, Lynne looks at one of the aspects that’s needed to make an NVDA campaign successful.

If we are to seriously engage in a nonviolent campaign to pressure the government to abandon its plans to further expand coal mining, particularly the plans for processing and exporting lignite, then we will be in for a long hard struggle. We have the moral high ground and the science on our side. As a democratically elected government, they have the majority of people on their side – what is regarded as ‘a mandate’. It will not be a pushover.

This is where the insights of Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution, distilled from 40 years of research, experience and analysis of resistance movements, would be invaluable. Much of his work is concerned with opposition to oppressive regimes, but the key principles are applicable to campaigns within democracies. Gene Sharp stresses repeatedly that without good strategic planning most resistance struggles will fail to achieve their objective. Here is what he says about the role of strategy in non-violent action:

Historically, nonviolent action has often been an improvised type of action—sometimes even a spontaneous occurrence—with little or no advanced strategic planning to guide it. However, just as strategic planning is used in military conflicts and other types of activities, strategic planning can also be used in nonviolent action to increase its effectiveness. Strategic planning involves choosing clear objectives, devising a grand strategy (or master plan), more limited strategies for specific objectives that fit within the grand strategy, tactical (or short-term) planning, and the choice of specific methods to achieve tactical and strategic objectives.

As campaigners we will need to consider our own strength and that of the opposition before planning the tactics and methods to be used. Gene Sharp lists 198 possible methods – categorised as eg formal statements, symbolic public acts, drama and music, processions, social noncooperation, strikes, social, psychological and political intervention and so on. We need to come to grips with why people submit to rulers – even when it is against their own interests. Sharp identifies, for example, habit, self-interest, moral obligation to the state, psychological identification with rulers, indifference, lack of self-confidence. This awareness is crucial because the insight on which strategies for non-violence are based is that “a ruler cannot rule if the people do not obey” or in our situation, consent. Winning over the people is critical for the success of any campaign.

We need to identify the primary pillars of support for society – and which ones can be won over to support our objectives – civil servants, media, youth, workers, religious institutions, the business community, NGOs, clubs and social interest groups eg the Ahi Ka Action group (Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui) is directing a strongly worded brochure about deep sea drilling to hunters, fishermen, campers and divers concerned about oil spills on the East Coast.

Most of the Albert Einstein Institution’s publications can be downloaded from their website at A good introduction to Gene Sharp’s approach can be found in “There Are Realistic Alternatives”. Speed read through to chapter two if you are short of time. Read this along with the WWF Strategies for Change, or, as this is quite long, read Jeanette’s article based on the report, in Issue 60 of EnergyWatch (available from There is mounting evidence that facts play only a partial role in shaping people’s judgement. Emotion is often far more important. Awareness of this will influence how we ‘frame’ our communication strategies.

Finally, take a look at Rebecca Priestley in the June 25 Listener (Why is it taking us so long to do something serious about carbon emissions). She quotes Victoria University’s Martin Manning and environmental psychologist Taciano Milfont saying that NZ is waiting to see what other countries do – a ‘wait and see’ attitude by individuals and government – also “we don’t want to be different, we don’t want to go against the norm and if the norm is that everyone is waiting and seeing we want to wait and see too”. To turn this around, they say, we need to tell people that others are already acting eg governments in Europe are introducing really strong carbon reduction policies.

– Lynne Dempsey

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno Speaks Out Against Lignite Mining

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno has lent her voice to the campaign to keep Southland lignite in the ground, in a recent opinion piece in the Southland Times: Keeping resources for future generations

Southland Times – Lignite mining opponents unite

The Southland Times recently ran this article about CAN Aotearoa’s Summer Festival, to be held near Mataura in January 2012:


Lignite mining opponents unite

Opponents of large-scale lignite mining in Southland will converge on a farm near Mataura early next year for this country’s first Keep the Coal in the Hole summer festival.

Mike Dumbar’s farm, just up the road from Solid Energy’s $25 million pilot briquetting plant, will host the four-day event which is aimed at showing solidarity for Southlanders opposed to lignite mining and to build a movement around climate justice.

Coal Action Network spokeswoman Frances Mountier said yesterday it was hoped between 100 and 300 people from throughout New Zealand would attend the event.

“It’s a chance to stand beside those people who say this is not the future we want in Southland and say `you are not alone’.”

The group has always seen the briquetting plant as the thin end of the wedge, Ms Mountier said.

Given the huge lignite conversion projects Solid Energy has planned, coupled with the Government’s push for increased fossil fuel extraction in its energy strategy, there needed to be a united voice of opposition, she said.

“We need to build a strong campaign in the vein of the mass campaigns of years past.”

The festival would include workshops on strategy, information from various groups actively campaigning against coal and training in non-violent direct action, Ms Mountier said.

While most of the activities would be centred on Mr Dumbar’s property, there would be an open day in Mataura.

There would be speakers and discussion groups on issues relating to lignite, as well as people who have been involved in campaigning over the years, she said. Former Green Party co-leader Jeannette Fitzsimons was involved in bringing together some high profile speakers for the day, Ms Mountier said.

Registrations for the festival do not open until later this month but there has been a lot of interest already from people wanting to help. Assistance either beforehand or during the festival, in such areas as transport, catering, childcare and promotions was welcome, Ms Mountier said.

The festival will be held on Mr Dumbar’s Craig Rd farm, just south of Mataura, from January 20 to 24.