Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Youth Consultation

Over the last couple of days I have gone to two youth consultation forums at the Auckland City Council, and I know what your thinking “why the hell would he subject himself to that?” and yea I agree but I thought I would meet some interesting people an there was free coffee, poor excuses I know but its all I have. Both of these events were about getting “youth” advice on the councils and the regions short and long term plans. The first one had about 50 people including the co chair of permaculture New Zealand, a few greenies and a large number of youth politicians. To cut a long story short the morning was a complete waste of time and by lunch time I was seething at the knowledge that this was just a chance for the council to rubber stamp the report with “approved by youth”. So it was with some delight that I knew that the mayor of Manukau City (Barry Curtis) and the mayor of the North Shore (George Wood) would be attending for a brief Q and A session.

Barry spent about 15 minutes explaining how he had made the economy grow and repeating his usual spiel about diversity and growing up poor and completely avoiding questions going so far as to ask “what was the question?” after talking for 5 minutes. George spent about 10 minutes explaining how to get a skate park approved and telling us to talk to our community boards while a councillor pointed out how much of a waste of time community boards were to me and those around me. So by this stage most of the room was getting frustrated and I decided to vent at the mayors for a while talking about peak oil, climate change and the need to radically transform. After yelling at them for a bit George asked what needed to be done, my reply “we need to start moving towards a city without cars” to which of course his reply was “impossible” and he then talked about one bus route he was building.

Anyway the next forum was similar with any suggestions for major change ignored and suggestions for things like more festivals or cycle lanes lept upon. I think this highlights not only the stupidity of local government but the fact that environmentalists are expected to and generally argue from within the current economic system. Our arguments are framed as how we can best make the economy grow and how to best maintain our current standard of living. And the public and those in power have come to expect these arguments from us. It is my opinion that maintaining thes arguments which never challenge the dominant system will never result in an overall reduction in the destruction of the environment. These arguments allow those in power to feel like they are doing somethign and lull the public as they look at their brand new bus lanes and groovy logo's while never questioning the wider system.
It didn’t help that those running the sessions at the council had a better knowledge of environmental issues than most of the youth attending or that most of the youth attending had no idea of the severity of the threats facing us. But I think this is typical of our current situation, those in power these days often know more than us, and the solutions we have to offer them are still stuck in the first wave of environmentalists. We need to move forward and constantly challenge those in power and those around us to envision and start moving rapidly to a completly different way of living. We need to question the very basis of our current society and be unafraid to say the environment and the health of ecosystems is more important than the economy. Of course these words must also be backed up by direct action aimed at crippling the current system by identifying and shutting down key infrastructure (go happy valley lock on's)

Anyway I’m thinking about putting a written and oral submission in to the council about these plans, just so I can keep yelling at politicians. I know it doesn’t really make a difference but at least it makes me feel better.

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