This year, the Auckland Writers Festival's 20th anniversary, features some of the planet's most influential people who will talk environment, gender politics, conformity, religious faith, international diplomacy, mental health, penal reform, indigenous rights, terrorism, technology and, of course, what it takes to produce great writing.
Canvas made a tough decision and picked six of the "power players" who will visit later this year and asked them for their thoughts on the pertinent issues of the day.
Joshua Wong, 23, is the Hong Kong democracy movement leader, author of Unfree Speech and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. The subject of a Chinese Government travel ban, Wong comes to the AWF via Skype to speak about power and protest in Hong Kong.
Q. How does the pro-Democracy movement keep fighting for freedom in the face of such strong and unrelenting resistance from China?
A. The administrators in our city are hand-picked by Beijing so they can further their own political agenda. Under the 'one country, two systems' arrangement that was made with Britain when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, we were granted a measure of autonomy and more rights than mainland Chinese. But these rights have been eroded and we demand complete universal suffrage.
Although China has so much power, both internationally and nationally, our movement is achieving change. Last September, the Government was forced to withdraw the proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed citizens of Hong Kong to be extradited to China for trial in a highly impartial legal system.
In November last year, the pro-Democracy movement achieved another victory. The local council elections (which I was banned from running in by the returning officer) saw 17 of the city's 18 districts won by pro-Democracy candidates in a landslide victory.
We will continue to protest on the streets. Our next target is the Legislative Council in September, which we intend to win.
The movement continues to grow. On New Year's Day, more than one million people took to the street for the pro-democracy march. The Chinese Government is becoming more oppressive (tear gas and live bullets have been used), but this just inspires us further.
Since last summer, more than 8000 people have been arrested; the youngest of these was 11. But in our great city of Hong Kong, people from across generations are joining together to demand change. We have proven that we can change things in our city and we will keep fighting. This started as a youth movement, but now it crosses generations." - As told to Joanna Mathers.
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Former journalist and the youngest-ever US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power traces her journey from war correspondent to presidential cabinet official who made the move into politics after being invited to work with Barack Obama, in her bestselling book, The Education of an Idealist.
Q. You spent years dealing with some of the most intractable and tricky problems facing the world. US President Donald Trump cancelled trade agreements, pulled out of the Paris Accord on climate change and the Iran deal. Imagine Trump was never elected. What would the world look like now?
A. It would be a more stable world. It would be a more truthful world in the sense you wouldn't have an American president having lied up to 17,000 times - and counting. You would have more progress being made on climate change but not nearly enough.
It's not like it would be a world in which the kinds of threats and challenges we need to forge collective action on were being sufficiently addressed. But there would be US leadership being exerted and a recognition our fates are connected to those of other people who live far afield.
Without that recognition but instead a sense that the world outside is an enemy and that a gain for another country is a loss for the US, the ramifications are a precipitous reduction in the strength of our alliances. There is an acute lack of trust on the part of even many of our closest allies.
It was a world that already had a lot of conflict in it and a warming planet. Now, that's only likely to accelerate as national leadership on those issues erodes further.
It is not just that the US is not doing its part. There was no panacea to climate change even under the Obama plan, and what would have been Hillary Clinton's plan. But do not underestimate the knock-on effects of the US being out of the "combatting climate change" business.
It means nobody is holding China accountable for building coal plants as part of the Belt and Road. Nobody is pressuring Japan to put back in the box its decision to resume the use of coal plants. Had it gone the other way, I'd hope that by now you'd have at least had a sequel to the Paris Accord, where countries were stretching themselves much more.
But had Hillary Clinton been elected, the one downside of that is that we probably would have continued to be complacent about the rage that was brewing beneath the surface in the United States and in a lot of Western democracies.
In that single sense, I would say the one constructive consequence is wake-up call when it comes to a perception by so many that Government was failing them, that elites were failing them. And that diversity and pluralism, these core features of American identity for so long, were being weaponized and alienating a large swathe of the American public.
I don't think that would have been appreciated even had Hillary won narrowly. There would have been a risk of Trump being seen as an aberration, whereas now we all have to grapple not only with the consequences of Trump but also Trumpism which goes well beyond one man, and well beyond our borders. - As told to Claire Trevett.
Yasmin Khan is a British author, broadcaster and human rights campaigner who uses food as a way into wider stories of people, place and culture. Her two books Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen and The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen follow a decade working for NGOs and grassroot groups in the Middle East.
Q. How does the world need to change the way it feeds people in order to create a more sustainable future?
A. I'm not going to sit here and say everyone needs to go vegan or plant-based to save the world. Rather than the concepts of sustainability or scarcity, I look towards the question of food sovereignty – how countries and communities can access the best quality, locally grown food. At the moment a lot of the debate around how to feed the world's growing population comes from the idea that we somehow don't have enough – when actually, we do.
We know that in the face of climate change, we all need to be eating more seasonal, locally grown food but because of the way trade deals are set up, that becomes more difficult and expensive. In a world where so much of the basic food and medicine we need is used to make huge profit, things are out of balance. Trade deals need to be set to be fairer. It's not as if you have to erode other key rights, like workers' rights, in order to feed the world. We need to protect local economies, farmers and to talk about seed sovereignty – multinational companies are forcing the same narrow number of seeds on farming communities; we've lost so much biodiversity and it's really affecting our soils negatively.
There's complete corporate control of the global food market. If we could really see the impact this has on farmers, producers, and communities, it would create an impetus for things to change. It's the small stories – of how an olive farmer is surviving in Palestine, or a saffron producer in Iran – that can speak to us. In all my years working in NGOs and around human rights, I've discovered that the way I can affect the most change is by building relationships with the communities – and food does that; all cultures eat. Food offers a window into a place and culture that you might otherwise only hear about through negative headlines." - As told to Anna King Shahab.
Philippe Sands' new book, The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive, tells the story of a high-ranking Nazi's rise to power, post-war escape from Germany, eventual death, and the ongoing implications for his descendants. Sands' previous book, East West Street, dealt with Nazis, international justice and the dark fate of his own family.
Q. Do we need to look back to look forwards?
A. People feel something is going on in the world right now and they want to get a better handle on what has come before, to understand what is happening. These characters are all coming back. Nationalism, populism, the strongman: nasty characters; they're on their way back.
I want people to understand the lessons of history ... how you cross one line and get yourself into a space and then you cross another line and then inevitably you cross yet another line and then you're involved in terrible things. And I think that's deeply relevant to today - how you have to avoid crossing those early lines - because those early lines being crossed leads to horror later on.
I think it's for each person to work out for themselves how they engage with a difficult historical past and in part, the reason why I wanted to do it like that is that that's a way to help us understand why it is these stories evoke such different reactions in reasonable human beings: that two people can look at the same story, see the same film, read the same book, encounter the same man and take away from that experience a different reaction. I find that fascinating.
I find it necessary to go backwards to be able to help me understand where I am and where I'm heading. And the whole project - East West Street, The Ratline - was about knowing my own sense of identity: Who was my grandfather? Where did I come from? Where did he come from? And who am I? It's about identity, but it's also about understanding the world. - As told to Greg Bruce.
Tim Flannery is an Australian scientist and environmentalist who says people shouldn't be shocked about climate change, they should be angry. He has published more than 20 books, including his most recent Life: Selected Writings.
Q What extinct creature would you like to resurrect, and what kind of world would it find today?
A. For me, it would probably be the extinct chalicothere Anisodon, which was about the size of a horse and lived in Europe about 10 million years ago. Back then the fauna of Europe was pretty much like that of Kenya today — a wet and warm environment with a tremendous diversity of species not found there today. There were 15 species of rhinoceros living in Europe, six or seven in any one place, as well as elephants.
Anisodon had a horse-like head — in fact, if you just saw the head and shoulder you'd think it was a horse — but with an elongated neck like an okapi, then a sloping body. Its forelegs were longer than its hind legs and looked like gorilla arms but with enormous claws on each digit. No one knows what this thing did. It's so bizarre — there's nothing like it in the world today - and I'd like to know how it made a living.
We are currently in the next great age of extinction, which I believe started about 45,000 years ago, when humans arrived in Australia and we saw massive extinctions of the megafauna there. It has accelerated now due to human actions — a whole series of things we're doing are affecting a large number of species. We can see that climate change is already having an impact and causing some extinctions but how that plays out, nobody knows yet. In Australia, we've had the first mammal extinction in the world that can be directly linked to climate change: the Bramble Cay melomys, which has become extinct as a result of sea-level rise.
Writing for children is a way of galvanising the next generation but just having a whole cohort of young people who love nature is a great asset. It's about letting them fall in love with the natural world so they will want to protect it. However, the sad truth is that my generation has to act now — we're too short of time. I'm not sure where we go from here but we have to move forwards as best we can. Everything is hanging in the balance. I'm neither optimistic or pessimistic [about the future], just determined to give it the best shot I can." - As told to Sarah Ell.
In Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, former Irish president, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Envoy for Climate Change Mary Robinson argues that justice and equity must be at the heart of responses to the climate crisis if we are to succeed.
Q What does campaigning for human rights give you that politics never could and where do the greatest human rights battles now lie?
A. Campaigning for human rights is values and purpose-driven. As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, I met and was inspired by so many brave human rights defenders – often working in countries with terrible human rights records. Human rights can learn from feminism the importance of intersectionality – the link between poverty and human rights, race and human rights, being indigenous, marginalised, an adolescent girl, etc.
The greatest human rights battles now lie firmly in reversing the current backlash in many countries against women's rights and countering violence including sexual violence against women. Secondly, we need to fight against the five layers of injustice of the climate crisis.
It affects the poorest and least responsible most seriously and earlier.
There is a strong gender dimension because of the different social roles of women and men, and their different power balance; children, with their "Fridays for Future" have reminded us of the intergenerational imbalance.
The injustice of development pathways - industrialised countries built their economies on fossil fuel and are now switching to clean energy but they are not providing the investment, skills and training to developing countries to enable them to leapfrog and develop without emissions based on clean energy.
The injustice we are causing to the biodiversity and the eco-systems that sustain all life.
That is why the greatest battle will be for climate justice.
For all details of writers' appearances at the Auckland Writers Festival, http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/