Thursday, August 30, 2012

Caring for the earth one week at a time

Economist Gareth Morgan challenged New Zealanders this week on national radio to act to stop degrading our environment . 

Across the Tasman the Lock the Gate farmers and  activists have  blocked mining companies from accessing their land to extract gas from coal seams.  Although legally entitled to do so these companies have withdrawn in the face of concerted, widespread community opposition. 

Drew Hutton from the Lock the Gate movement spoke in Hamilton this week of the impact and risks of large scale coal seam gas extraction. The most observable impact is the loss of productive farmland to gas fields on a massive scale.  Less apparent but seriously concerning is the risk of contamination of water supplies, the dangers of acid waste water post extraction and the escape of methane to the atmosphere. 

A local group has now formed to monitor these technologies in the Waikato. 

At the Waikato Interfaith Forum on Tuesday night representatives of several faith communities linked their religious teachings to caring for the earth.  It is encouraging that a group from widely varying backgrounds should do so with such a degree of consensus.   This week the Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand  mark Islamic Awareness Week with a focus on the environment.  This Saturday  our Interfaith Forum will  demonstrate their practical commitment to the environment at a community planting at Lake Waiwhakareke to continue the restoration of this area. 



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Creating solutions - yes we can!

When the government cut the funding for community education most programmes in the country disappeared.  Not so in Golden Bay - a resilient, co-operative community with a tradition of alternative approaches.  Their Local Enterprise Trading Scheme, HANDS, uses 'local dollars' as currency in addition to New Zealand dollars.  The evening class teachers accepted a pay cut and were paid in a mixture of both currencies.  Evening classes in Golden Bay have continued and flourished.

Laurence Boomert from Golden Bay spoke in Hamilton recently.  He established the Environmental Business Network which became the Sustainable Business Network.  An engaging, generous and positive speaker, he spoke of creatively re-thinking how we get our needs met and making small changes which could lead to radical transformation.  He cited a number of such initiatives where people share and co-operate and in the process build stronger communities.  They include pooling savings through credit unions; local money systems such as 'green dollar'; local food projects and time banks.

Lyttleton's TimeBank proved invaluable after the earthquake in bringing help to people quickly.  It could do so because it already had a co-operative network of 400 people.

Hamilton is planning a TimeBank.  Members will earn hourly credits by helping another TimeBank member with something they need.  They can then draw on their credit for a service they need or they may donate their time.  This enables people to contribute to their community outside the cash economy: ' re-connecting communities, sharing resources and enhancing the quality of life one hour at a time.'

Elsewhere in New Zealand, Wellington City Council plants tomatoes and peas in Civic Square, councils plant fruit trees in parks and on streets, Palmerston North's Green Bikes recycles and gifts donated bikes, international travellers are hosted through Couch Surfers or Servas, Freecycle allows you to donate stuff you don't want but someone else could use; www.let'  enables you to share the costs of the ride to work.

In Hamilton community gardens across the city encourage more people to grow food, the Enderley tool library lends out motor mowers etc., the Milk and Honey cafe operates on a koha basis, Claude Street has a produce exchange table in the street and neighbours combine to restore gullies.

The global financial crisis has caused us to question the current financial system and to look for alternatives.  When times get really tough we could move to Golden Bay or we could build on what is already happening in Hamilton and create our own co-operative solutions.