Flying again by Susan Grimsdell
When Covid first hit in NZ, our Prime Minister took a leadership role right away. “Stay home,” she said, and explained why. We believed the science and we believed her and it seems it’s a good thing we did because our death rate was miniscule. The key to us all complying was her strong leadership. She didn’t say “We’d appreciate it if you stayed home as much as possible.” She said loud and clear, “Stay Home!”
World wars bring out that kind of leadership – people all over Europe put up with rationing, and with blackout curtains, because our leaders told us how vital those things were for our survival. Nothing was wishy-washy, there was no, “We’d really like you to make sure you don’t show any light at night time. Please be careful.” No, it was, “Do not show the slightest glimmer of light. The wardens will be knocking on your door if you do.” The leadership was so powerful and the threat so real that we became our own wardens, with neighbours knocking on doors if someone’s curtains weren’t pulled properly. Noncompliance threatened all of us, not just the offender.
On the eve of destruction
What’s needed now is that level of leadership, and this time the enemy is even more frightening than soldiers and bombs. It’s completely relentless, couldn’t care less about us, and is poised to destroy our way of life forever. It’s not Covid, it’s climate change. It’s coming, it’s here now. Unfortunately, leadership is not what we’re getting. Instead we’re getting mixed messages, weakness, lack of penalties and nothing to inspire or convince us. For example, we hear government spokespeople telling us how great it is that planes are full again, people are coming to NZ in droves, people are taking overseas holidays. We hear cruise ships are about to sail into our ports again. This is all presented as good news, excellent news.
It’s not good news. Science tells us that the climate effect of emissions from aviation is much greater than the equivalent from other modes of transport, as greenhouse gases formed at higher altitudes persist for longer than at the surface and also have a stronger warming potential. As for cruise ships: “Cruise ships are a catastrophe for the environment — and that’s not an overstatement. They dump toxic waste into our waters, fill the planet with carbon dioxide, and kill marine wildlife. Cruise ships worldwide emit the same particulate matter as a million cars.”
During lockdown in 2020 emissions worldwide dropped by about 17% compared to 2019. A drop of almost two and a half billion tons of CO2 in 2020 is like taking 500 million cars off the world’s roads for the year.
That’s the news we should be celebrating, not news that it’s party time again, hop on that plane, take that cruise.
Where’s our Prime Minister when we need her – “Stay Home!”