Central Otago poet Brian Turner says it’s time for New Zealanders to decide “once and for all what is real and what is illusory, what is sustainable and what is not”.
He was speaking at a University of Otago graduation ceremony at which he was awarded a Doctor of Literature.
“That means working out how to manage the transition to a society based upon a different ethos, one that’s more ethical and imaginative.
“We need to be smarter, more caring in every sense, abandon the lust for instant materialistic gratification, and ignore the freakery of those who would have us believe in the possibility of perpetual euphoria.”
Decades ago, Aldo Leopold had implored people”to adopt a land ethic, to see all creatures and the very atmosphere we breathe, as a community to which we belonged” rather than mainly as “commodities to be used however we saw fit” . . .
. . . “I’m convinced that strengthening one’s localities, one’s regions, in the interests of our families and friends, and of the wider family of life on earth, is the best and most responsible thing we can do.
“Considerable resilience” was called for, everywhere, “if we are to make the transition to different ways of living and providing for ourselves”.
If he is arguing for more localism I’d take issue with it. Self sufficiency has its place but so too does interaction and trade between communities and countries.
However, I agree there is a need to seek continual improvements in the way we do things.
Such calls often taken to be anti-business and development but it doesn’t have to be that way. A reader emailed me this link to the obituary of Ray Anderson, the head of the world’s largest commercial carpet-tile manufacturer, who was a trail blazer in reducing his firm’s environmental impact:
While much of what Anderson instigated is now relatively common – including measures such as car pooling for employees, moving distribution of goods on to water and rail, switching to an element of fair trade for suppliers, and introducing sustainability training for employees – his company blazed a trail. It also showed, as Anderson was keen to point out, that most of the measures were beneficial to the bottom line – money. Waste-saving innovations alone over the past 13 years have saved the company $372m.
Some initiatives such as fair trade are often based more on feel-good factors than fact, but treading more lightly on the earth can have positive affects on both the environment and the economy.
In seeking to do that we should also strengthen our localities and regions in the interests of people. If I read what Turner is saying corretly, we’ll make the world a better place for people now and for those who follow us.