Planet Earth and its inhabitants are facing a ''perfect
storm'' of extreme climatic and environmental challenges and
the future will have ''no precedent in the past'', Dunedin
Mayor Dave Cull has warned.
The pace of change was now so great that University of Otago
graduates should not wait to become what was ''sometimes
patronisingly'' termed ''the leaders of tomorrow'', but
should start leading now.
That was Mr Cull's message in an address to about 350
graduates, in a wide range of disciplines, during the
university's latest graduation ceremony, at the Dunedin Town
Hall at 3pm on Saturday.
Earth was ''an interdependent system whose human population
exploded exponentially because of the enormous input of cheap
fossil energy, starting less than 200 years ago''.
''We are now faced not only with the drastic cutting down of
that energy supply, but also the negative effects of its
''It's a composite but interconnected storm of energy
depletion and rising costs, climate change, sea level rise
and food shortages,'' he said.
He also warned of ''secondary conflicts'', and said humans
had not faced this combination of changes, or even one of
them, at any stage in the past.
''So, to a very large extent, experience of the past is of
little use in confronting our future.
''We can be absolutely certain that our future won't unfold
like our past, and that totally new forces will reshape our
communities, how we interact with other communities, how we
get around, how we feed ourselves.
''Inevitably, we will need to change much about our lives and
how we interact with our world.''
Mr Cull said that over the past few years he had ''learned
more from younger people than older''.
And, including while hearing submissions on various plans and
strategies, he had been ''incredibly impressed by the
commitment, intelligence, passion and values of so many of
the young people'', particularly those in the city's tertiary
''That's not undervaluing the wisdom of age, just
appreciating the vibrant pertinence of so many younger voices
He emphasised the importance of thinking in ''fresh ways,
sometimes intuitively'' and ''clear appreciation of fact and
evidence untainted by wishful or nostalgic thinking''.
It was understandable that the older most people or leaders
got, ''the more they look backwards, not forwards''.
And he also noted the ''mental sclerosis and settled habits
that so often accompany age''.
But it was ironic that some older people, especially
politicians, claimed ''more right to control based on their
past experience, than young people who, by definition, have
more future to be concerned about''.
He noted the proverb ''He that lives in hope, dances without
And he urged graduates to ''dance, and make your own music''.