Three and a half per cent is considered the magic number. If you can get three and a half per cent of your population to protest then you'll be successful in what you're protesting according to Harvard University. There was an estimated 170,000 people taking part in the climate strike in New Zealand last week. Three and a half per cent of New Zealand's population would be 167,000 people. Funny that.
If we take the Harvard study to be true, and that getting 170,000 people in New Zealand to mobilise means the marchers will be successful in their aims, then what? What were they actually wanting to happen?
Did they want Government action? They got Ministers out there making speeches about it. Climate Change Minister James Shaw took part in the march and gave a speech, Justice Minister Andrew Little gave a speech and shared his participation on Instagram.
"Proud to join the thousands today at @schoolstrike4climateNZ," he said in his social media post. "We hear you, we see you, and we will continue to fight for your future."
Does he realise he's a senior minister in the Government? That he's actually in a position to do something? The protest wasn't there to support him. The protest was there to get his Government to actually do something. James Shaw at least had the good grace to acknowledge this saying "we know we need to do more. Keep holding us to account."
At the moment this Government is trying to do things about climate change. Trying. It's attempting to introduce a Zero Carbon Bill which is at Select Committee, going through the consultation. Ninety-one per cent of submitters said we should aim for zero emissions across all gases by 2050, not just carbon dioxide. So there's an appetite for it.
The Government is also trying to bring agriculture into the ETS. Unsurprisingly a lot of farmers are displeased by this and are letting the Government know. National is trying to capitalise on this fact by sucking up to the farmers in a big way. A big climate change denying kind of way.
At the Climate Strike, a group of children held up some signs saying "HELP FARMERS PHASE OUT ANIMAL FARMING". I think the message there is pretty clear. The Government needs to help those who would be affected by stricter climate change laws transition to something else. Seems reasonable. Not to National's agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller. Not only was it not reasonable, but it was such a horrible thing to say that he felt that Government ministers James Shaw, David Parker, and Damien O'Connor should categorically "reject" this view. It wasn't clear why that particular sign, held up by private citizens, should be rejected by those ministers, while another sign that said "Eat my p****, not my planet" was not asked to be rejected.
But at least he engaged with the climate strike. Other National Party MPs to engage with the climate strike were Judith Collins who went on TV and said that children would grow out of this sort of activism when they saw that humans weren't becoming extinct in 12 years, making up some kind weird strawman to excuse her denialism. Northland MP Matt King couldn't believe that children would go on the climate strike then go and eat "McAngus Burgers at McDonalds". I can understand why he couldn't believe it since there's no such thing as a McAngus Burger. Nick Smith was actually at the climate strike, except that as he was passed the microphone to speak and introduced, boos rang out from the thousands gathered on parliament's lawns.
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While this Government isn't doing nearly enough to combat climate change, at least it's doing something. The Prime Minister announced a new trade agreement with five countries coming on board initially. This trade agreement would focus on climate change by removing tariffs on environmental goods, set up commitments to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and various other minutiae. It is a genuine achievement but it needs to get a wriggle on.
So while the Government was inching towards progress what was Opposition leader and Prime Minister in waiting, Simon Bridges worried about? He was concerned about National's right to make snarky videos of Labour MPs in Parliament and post them online after the Speaker enforced a rule which said they could not do that. It seemed a funny thing to focus on. After all, it was only a couple of weeks back that he told us "everyday New Zealanders" wouldn't care about the Christchurch Call and the Government should focus on what they care about. I'm not sure that "everyday New Zealanders" give the slightest damn about National's social media posts. But a hell of a lot of everyday New Zealanders care about climate change.
It's even weirder when you consider that the rule Simon Bridges and his National Party is staging their very important protest over was introduced and ratified by Simon Bridges and the National Party.
We live in strange times when one of our major political parties has decided to write off the future generations' votes. We live in stranger times when the party that prides itself on being tough on law and order decides that if it doesn't like a rule it just won't follow it.
For all of this Government's failings, and they have failed to do a lot of things, it is National's appalling attitude and wilful ignorance about climate change that makes it unfit to govern. Unless National's MPs grow up and reach the maturity of the children who marched, then it is crucial that there is a Labour-Greens component to the government after the next election.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.