Meanwhile, back in the real world

A school pupil participates in a School Strike 4 Climate in Auckland last month. Photo: Getty...
A school pupil participates in a School Strike 4 Climate in Auckland last month. Photo: Getty Images
The incessant need for constant growth at the expense of the place we live is almost impressively insane, writes Kate Oktay.

Kate Oktay
Kate Oktay
In my last column we looked at five of my favourite things. They included cats. Next time I will share another five of my favourite things. This week, we check in with reality.

I studied Classics. It was not a great career decision. While not exactly a job in McDonald's, then probably a job in quite a bad not-for-profit. Or quite a good secondary school. One with a Latin motto and children called Charlotte and Oliver. The one thing it is really good for though, is a well-rounded understanding of the end part of a civilisation in order to compare it to the beginnings of our own coming cultural Armageddon. Greece, Sparta, Rome ... Western Society. Yay us!

Still, right before the end there is usually a wonderful Wild West extravagance to it all that will be quite fun. After that of course is pure unbridled panic and then the vast majority of us will die in a stabby or starvationy sort of a way, which admittedly won't be as good.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse are leering around the corner at humanity, but most of us are pretty chill about it. Report after report comes out; the coral is dying, the bees are dying and the great Pacific garbage dump is blooming. And we buy bread in a plastic bag, and milk in a plastic bottle, and needlessly replace our mobile phone when there is a new model because of a barely perceptible improvement in performance. Yaaay us.

The incessant need for constant growth at the expense of the place we live is almost impressively insane. Arms-akimbo, eye-rolling, knickers on your head madness. If your main argument is that hippies don't understand the economy, you should be gently reminded that we need air and food and water to live. We will also need something to live on. There will be 200 million climate change immigrants in 30 years. You used to have a holiday in Bali. Soon four million people from Bali will be on permanent holiday here.

There is minor outrage among people like me and even more outrage from the small group that feel passionately and really do make huge life-impacting changes. Then there is the group that say they do, but are usually just reusing plastic bags. There are others who have no control and are washed with the tides of the world. Another group is overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all and is trying not to think about it. The majority though, are driving a large SUV in town, getting excited about sales at Farmers, and buying My Food Bags with all their delicious carbon miles and individual product packaging.

Of course right down the end of the bell-curve is the small mouth-frothing minority who are standing with the remaining 3% of scientists who don't believe in climate change. Probably this end of the graph is where they are the most comfortable anyway. These are the people that ring talkback radio and expound at length but without substance that the looming ecological disaster is only based on models. (Models, which, it bears pointing out, just mean science and maths, you loon, not butterflies and glitter.)

Fortunately, the climate change deniers are slowly shrinking in numbers and are now just slightly larger than the flat earth movement. Unfortunately, this is because we have an embarrassment of riches in the Proof of Earth's Ruination Index. Freak floods, flash fires, and an Arctic melting faster than an ice cream in the hand of an acquaintance's child who is lounging, floppy wristed on your most expensive couch.

We are frogs boiling slowly.

But. Still. Despite it all, good things are happening. It is undeniable that humanity on the whole is getting less dickish*. In the '70s racial slurs were a standard greeting. In the '60s it was illegal to be gay. In the '50s women were second-class citizens. In the '40s it was a world war and the decade before that a single potato was an extravagant dinner for seven. Things are getting better. We have managed to make our society more equal, more tolerant and kinder. Today's youth are taking a stand and driving change, and thank God for that because we have handed them the equivalent of vomit on a plate as their generational inheritance.

We have an opportunity to make something much better than the world we have now. A fairer place and a more sustainable place. Of course, unless we want to die in a flood or a fire in a few decade's time, we will have to.

* At least here in New Zealand anyway. (Side-eye at America, Australia and England.)


Nein! Nein! Classics is not utilitarian. It is the epitome of Liberal Education.

The people of Bali may well move here, but they will expect us to put some clothes on.

You need to research how they came to the so called 97% claim. Its easily debunked . The IPCC diminishes the credibility of their good science every time this is bandied about , and/or each time they are found to manipulate and misrepresent data as has been proven several times and attested to by former lead authors. The fact that none of their predictions have , to date, matched reality is another problem . That's not to say they aren't on the right track but it's the old cry wolf scenario, and in the end we all know what happened when the wolf actually turned up,