Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Better World For Everyone

Pacific Islanders are trying to raise greater global warming awareness in New Zealand through a “Climate Tour” to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Among those speaking out, is the general secretary of the Christian Church of Tuvalu and founder of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Rev Tafue Lusama. His homeland, Tuvalu, is projected to be underwater in less than 50 years. At its highest point, Tuvalu sits four metres above sea level and a 2012 Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) report predicted many negative impacts of climate change on Tuvalu over the coming years, including depletion of freshwater supplies, an increase in coastal flooding, erosion, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, ocean patterns and rising sea levels. The nation of 11,000 inhabitants has already watched at least three of its islands disappear, with no sign of slowing down unless significant climate action is taken globally.

He is calling for New Zealand – which he refers to as “Tuvalu’s big brother” – to take the lead in climate change action and help to save the sinking country. Suggestions of relocating Tuvalu’s population are plentiful, but Rev Lusama said evacuating Tuvalu isn’t an option in the short-term.
“Relocation to us carries a lot of risks. It means we have to throw in the towel. If we relocate, we put our identity in question, because you cannot create a country within another country. You cannot create a Tuvalu within New Zealand or Australia or anywhere else,” he said. But Rev Lusama is not oblivious to the reality of the situation. He said his people, when presented with no other option but to leave Tuvalu, will prefer to be called “forced climate migrants” rather than “climate refugees”. “It’s always good to migrate, to go somewhere else, as long as there is somewhere you can go back to and point at and say ‘I belong to that space’,” said Rev Lusama. “But what happens when you are relocated, and then you have no space to refer to? We will become roaming homeless people on the face of the planet. I don’t want my children, my grandchildren, to carry that identity with them.” Rev Tafue Lusama’s referred to climate change effects in the Pacific as an injustice. “We live very sustainable lifestyles, taking very good care of our environment and our surroundings. I always look at this as a punishment of the innocent, we are being punished for being innocent.”

WWF senior campaigner Alex Smith said that while Tuvalu looked to New Zealand for help, the nation was part of a “small gang” of developed countries which had yet to commit to climate targets and reduced emission schemes – in fact, he claimed New Zealand’s emissions were rising.
“We’re a regional leader and at the moment we’re blocking progress in international negotiations and letting down our neighbours,” said Smith. Alex Smith said that where possible, New Zealand needed to help make sure that Pacific communities could stay on the islands where they have lived for thousands of years. “Unfortunately in some cases that’s not possible, but we really need to start taking action where we can, to save some of the countries that can still be saved.”

The director of environmental studies at Victoria University, Ralph Chapman, said New Zealand had been running a “reactive” policy position on climate change and the Pacific rather than thinking of long-term solutions.
“It’s not unusual for this government. It has been really unwilling to take a forward-looking view on climate change. The net impact on vulnerable Pacific Islands like Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu – particularly the low-lying ones – is pretty clear. What’s not clear is that the government is doing enough to mitigate climate change, which would be my main concern, or to address the impacts of climate change.”

When the time comes, Rev Lusama said the country won’t go down without a fight, in an effort to stop other countries suffering the same fate.
“Even if Tuvalu goes down tomorrow, we will still keep fighting. We don’t want to go down for nothing, because if we do nothing now, then Tuvalu goes down, Kiribati the next day, and Bangladesh the following day. Then millions of people will be homeless, and that will create a big problem for our Earth.”

Trish Tupou, a postgraduate student in Auckland University’s Pacific Studies programme, spoke at the event about how easy it was to feel overwhelmed and powerless living in New Zealand.
“However, part of our privileges of living here in New Zealand is being able to be vocal on these issues of land erosion, rising sea levels and cyclones.” She believes part of the solution lies in New Zealanders rallying Australasian banks to pull out of fossil fuel investments. “Our banks are funding the fossil fuel projects that are sinking the Pacific. As customers, our banks care about what we have to say and we have the power to stop them,” said Tupou. Since 2008, four Australian banks that dominate New Zealand’s banking – Westpac, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and Australia New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) – have loaned over $20 billion to new coal and gas projects in Australia and New Zealand, said Tupou. “These investments threaten our climate and precious ecosystems. At the same time, these banks also have strong sustainability policies, but they are literally funding climate change and contributing to the impacts of climate change on our Pacific people.”

While the members of the World Socialist Movement and the World Socialist Party (New Zealand) can admire the commitment and the sincerity of environmental movement campaigners to do something about climate change and global warming, the solution is not through reforms and appeals to the “better nature” of the capitalist class and their banks. To aim for a better world, we first have to understand and explain how our present society is arranged. Political parties other than the WSP(NZ) support the basic way society is structured, or just assume it’s the only way things can be. They say that it can be improved from within, by changes to the law, or finding more funding from the public purse. Palliative policies and more government investment may help in the short-term but they only last as long as they fit in with the economic and political wishes of the ruling elite. The needs of the people aren’t important.

The WSP(NZ) would say that to solve society’s problems, we have to change the way society is structured. This means going from our world where the means to produce and distribute wealth are owned by a minority, to one where those resources and facilities are owned by everyone in common. Then, goods would be produced and services would be run directly for anyone who wants them, without the dictates of the economic market. Industries and services would be run just to satisfy people’s needs and wants. Our natural resources could be managed in a sustainable way, as the waste and short-term profitability which lead to environmental damage wouldn’t be there. This means voluntary, co-operative, creative work, with decisions and responsibilities agreed through everyone having an equal say. This would mean a much broader and more inclusive use of democracy than we’re used to. The World Socialist Party is using what limited democracy we have in our current society to advocate a better world for everyone.
WSP(NZ) website:

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