If I were a politician, I’d campaign on four social, economic, and environmental issues — not necessarily in that order

Were I a politician, I’d campaign on the cost of living: a social issue.

I would do this because it’s top of voters’ minds. It is making them miserable, every time they open their wallets to buy food, or fuel, or pay the power bill, no billboards required.

I’d tell them: this is a campaign about raising your standard of living. We know what the answers are. We showed you an example already, when we Warmed Up New Zealand; we have a track record on this, and you liked it. Thanks to us, the government can give some account of themselves on energy efficiency, but their road transport story is rubbish, in several parts.

I’d focus on the latter, then, and a food policy enquiry.

Were I a politician, I’d campaign on growth: an economic issue. Growth is a myth, I’d say. You know this already: we’re not having it, which is less of a catastrophe than you’ve been taught to believe. We can rebuild the economy, to make New Zealand stronger, in times like this.

Catching Australia is a myth, too, but last election the Prime Minister promised to do it; he won’t want to talk about it, now (we’re competing with Australia, in a race to the bottom on wages), but Dr Brash will. So: GDP is the wrong measure, I’d say; we need a different one. Dr Brash likes GDP, because that’s how it was, post-war, but this is the new century, and it needs a new idea.

Here’s one for starters: the proudest moments in our history are the ones where we stood against bullies, and won. Instead of copying Australia, maybe we could try doing that again: standing up for something economically brave and smart, kind (to the environment), fair (to all), and strong, in any weather.

We can grow jobs, I would say — real jobs, with mana, not just 'make work'. Retrofitting is one example; there are others, but let’s talk about pest control. We’ve been working with the government on this, but there is so much more we can do, and so much good it could do, for carbon storage, and conservation. A third of our land is a natural carbon farm, introduced pests our worst biodiversity threat.

Since we owe a lot of money, we’d better talk about how to raise some, and how not to spend it. I’d contrast the emissions trading scheme with a ‘fee and dividend’. One stands for pollution subsidy and corporate bludging; the other for rewarding social responsibility, and supporting the less well-off.

Were I a politician, I’d campaign on resource limits: the environmental issue. For example, land: people want to buy ours, because the world doesn‘t have enough. Water: people want to use yours, privatise it, dump in it, without paying for the privilege. Oil: the reason for the rising fuel prices. Carbon capacity.

This is a government that knows no limits: for them, no water seems too deep, no coal too dirty, no conservation park too sacred.

Actually, I’d be campaigning on resource limits, even if you never knew, because all of the other policies are about that, too.

But if you wanted to — if you wanted to be depressed — we could talk about how three of Earth’s nine life-support systems are sick. Or do the math on global consumption and growth, and collapse. Or, here on the ground in New Zealand, the state of our freshwater, biodiversity, bees. Bees? Well, you can laugh; no end to the hilarity, really. “The economy is sick,” you might say, “and she’s talking about bees …”

Bees make food, by pollinating crops, which we export, which … are you with me, now? Bees are our primary producers.

Were I a politician, I’d campaign on Christchurch. Christchurch, like the cost of living, is on people’s minds and in their hearts. We could take something broken in Christchurch, and fix it; it would be a metaphor, and a symbol of hope. It would be the right sort of growth, and jobs.

And I’d talk about Christchurch, to remind you how things have been, these last three years: in particular, the government’s cavalier idea of democracy and due process.

All of these, in the end, are environment policies, because if I were a politician, that’s the kind I would be. And I'd fancy myself a clever one, because all of them are social and economic policies, too.

Comments (17)

by Claire Browning on May 09, 2011
Claire Browning

Thanks to us, the government can give some account of themselves on energy efficiency ...

Or not, as the case may be.

by Jackson James Wood on May 09, 2011
Jackson James Wood

"If I were a politician..."

If only, Claire. But to paraphrase Gore Vidal:
Anyone who is prepared to run for parliament should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.

by Claire Browning on May 09, 2011
Claire Browning

Now, you and I both know that you don't mean that ... which makes you as insincere as all of the rest of them, and excellently qualified.

by Simon on May 10, 2011
Simon

Ah Claire, where do I sign up for this!

by Claire Browning on May 10, 2011
Claire Browning

I'd like to be able to say, at the ballot box on 26 November. I would like to be able to say that, very much.

by Antoine on May 10, 2011
Antoine

That's a pretty good sort of a manifesto.

P.S. When you say "food policy" I feel nervous. Also when you start talking about road transport you may lose more people than you win. And well and good to talk about Christchurch, but do Aucklanders care?

by Claire Browning on May 10, 2011
Claire Browning

Heh. I knew I'd talk you round, eventually. Others disagreed. I think it was the part where you described yourself as "economically dry", that might have made them nervous ...

When you say "food policy" I feel nervous ...

Yeah. It was shorthand for a policy about security and information and choice - and reducing food's footprint - as opposed to, just for the sake of a random example, let's make everyone have folic acid in their bread.

I bet you'd feel more "nervous", if you were hungry.

... well and good to talk about Christchurch, but do Aucklanders care?

Are you an Aucklander? Just checking, before I offer the response that most immediately springs to mind ...

by Antoine on May 10, 2011
Antoine

> It was shorthand for a policy about security and information and choice

I read 'shorthand' as 'shortbread'. Need morning tea! Maybe there is a better shorthand to use here.

> I bet you'd feel more "nervous", if you were hungry.

I am hungry! (See above)

> Are you an Aucklander?

No, Wellingtonian. If you were a politician I suppose you'd want a whole bunch of Aucklanders to vote for you. Don't know how that could be achieved.

A.

by Claire Browning on May 10, 2011
Claire Browning

If you were a politician I suppose you'd want a whole bunch of Aucklanders to vote for you. Don't know how that could be achieved.

Which shows what sensible people Aucklanders are. I could try to be more like Jackson, as indeed I wish I was - sweet, and nice to people, and stuff. Nine of them voted for him (not including him).

Actually, I think you're the one doing Aucklanders a disservice. Any reason to suppose they feel less sympathy and solidarity with Christchurch than anyone else, in what I believe is now called (by Aucklanders) the RONZ? Or any less interest in how a green city might be built?

by Tim Watkin on May 10, 2011
Tim Watkin

Hell, yes Aucklanders care. We have hearts, actually. But if you decided we were only itnerested in our pockets, you could make the points that 20,000+ Cantabrians are in Auckland now, clogging our roads and taking our jobs.

But really, we're not that mean. We can do compassion.

How's that standing in New Plymouth going for you Jackson? Gunning for more than nine votes?

by Save Happy Valley on May 10, 2011
Save Happy Valley

clogging tour road Tim? You are clogging my air, and claire's post. Of course the answer is not: Auckland or Christchurch - but rather the gardencity, Christchurch needs to be rebuilt, built better, and as New Zealand's biggest city Auckland should become an eco city. That means Joyce need to get the checkbook out and put some numbers on paper, so rail can get happening, and the city can get moving again, mind the pun.

food policy... sounds very exciting. community gardens, rooftop gardens, verticle gardens... hmmm maybe Maggie Barrie should be minister of food. on an off topic Canada just elected a 19 year old student in their elections. He will focus on youth issues suprise suprise.

 

 

by Save Happy Valley on May 10, 2011
Save Happy Valley

The question is not so much does Auckland care, so much as what does it care about...

by Claire Browning on May 11, 2011
Claire Browning

We can do compassion ... How's that standing in New Plymouth going for you Jackson? Gunning for more than nine votes?

Compassion Auckland-style. You leave Jackson alone. He's got Captain Planet on his side, this time; also, in New Plymouth, the fact that only nine Aucklanders voted for him is probably some kind of endorsement.

by Claire Browning on May 11, 2011
Claire Browning

Sad news, New Plymouth: none of you will have the luck of two ticks JJ in 2011. Jackson has withdrawn.

He assures me this is not because I ruined his self-esteem.

by Save Happy Valley on May 12, 2011
Save Happy Valley

It would be good if you came to the ECO conference Claire: http://eco.org.nz ECO CONFERENCE - Auckland 1-3 JULY Resilient Environment, Resilient Communities -------- There really is a need to shake things up, for so long NZ has been complacent and wondering around with little real concern about its direction. Key's shocking BBC stumble of an interview was yet another wake up call. It rather embarrassing one to have the Prime Minister (and tourism minister) tripping up over straight questions. It said something about the state of the NZ media (the patsy media) as much as anything. I wonder what a response speech to Al Morrison's big conservation speech would look like. There is of course only so much talking that can be done. But a good speech can be a great way to get people fired up. Key wanted the election to be about a narrow set of issues, his recent action (and non actions) guarantee many others will take center stage.

by Claire Browning on May 12, 2011
Claire Browning

Thanks, SHV. I didn't know about the conference, which sounds like a good 'un; I'll keep an eye on it. I agree with your other comments.

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