For those with a penchant for such things, you may recall this column by the same pen but in The Tribune, a long-standing community paper now found only in archives.
Returning via a strengthening Manawatū Guardian, I'm pleased to accept the editor's invitation for a local contribution in our region's journey towards a healthier environment.
Today and in the months ahead, we'll go for variety and a bit of debate. Your feedback and ideas are welcome, keeping it local and real. From bicycles to biogas to biodiversity we'll cover the lot, connecting who we are in Manawatū with a more sustainable future.
My background in community and nature advocacy, and now perspective as a city councillor will colour some of what we discuss here. The central theme is that people have the power to change the future.
And change is what we need. Today we're burning far too much petrol, gas and coal. Our urban streams and lowland rivers are heavily polluted, our farms are being gobbled up by suburban sprawl, wildfires are getting wilder, and our oceans are filling up with plastic.
On the bright side, every day there are more options and choices to create change, inspired examples of success, and tangible local ways to help improve our environment. Often these opportunities have a political component, as real solutions require system-level changes.
Generous preamble complete, let's jump to the headlines. This month: climate crisis.
For decades, our climate crisis has boiled away in the background with too little progress or even attempted progress.
Then came 2019, a breakthrough year in Aotearoa New Zealand. Youth in Generation Zero and then School Strike 4 Climate students provided brilliant examples of people pressuring leaders to lead. And, hey presto, the Zero Carbon Act passed into law later that same year, enjoying support from 119 of our 120 MPs.
Now, we're charting a course towards improving our climate game, switching to clean energy and leaving the rotten dinosaurs in the ground where they belong.
How so, you might ask? A major player is the new Climate Change Commission. This month, the commission hatched a provisional roadmap towards improving our climate game, and asked every one of us, including you, for feedback.
If strengthened and implemented, this roadmap puts us on a path to draw down our emissions, helping us and our children make the best transition to enjoying the benefits of a stable climate and low emissions future.
This emissions roadmap has big local implications here in Palmy and the wider Manawatū. How and where we get our energy. How many more clean energy jobs we create. What and where we build. How we get from A to B. How families, workers and businesses are supported through transition. Changes in our urban design.
The commission's provisional recommendations are open for public comment until March 14. My take is that it makes a decent start, but we need to up the level of ambition, and go further faster. I urge you to check in and have your say.
With strong community support for bold leadership, we can enjoy success similar to the UK. There, they've sharply drawn down emissions while enjoying a thriving economy. We can enjoy the same here.
Locally, drawing down emissions will create home and lifestyle benefits for Manawatū, as well as local economic opportunity especially in the building, energy, food and transport sectors.
Eco Tip: Household rainwater tanks are a great way to keep the garden green, reduce impact on the environment, and help your city's stormwater drainage work better.
+Brent Barrett is an environmental advocate, city councillor and scientist. The views expressed here are his own.