James Rus­sell

El­e­ment edi­tor

Element - - Contents -

The min­ing com­pany Bathurst, given the Govern­ment’s bless­ing to dig up the lig­nite be­neath the South Is­land’s pretty Den­nis­ton Plateau, has un­veiled an im­pres­sive plethora of en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives with a $22m pric­etag to mit­i­gate for the dam­age of its pro­posed open-cast mine.

In a re­cent piece in the Her­ald, Gareth Mor­gan and Ge­off Sim­mons ar­gued it was a good deal, say­ing that “the re­al­ity is jobs and in­come mat­ter and if the govern­ment of the day feels ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries are the best way to pro­vide those, the chal­lenge for those who dis­agree is to prove oth­er­wise.”

The poor old cli­mate sci­en­tists the world over have been pro­vid­ing that proof for years, but the sit­u­a­tion has per­haps never been summed up with more clin­i­cal re­al­ism than by vis­it­ing US jour­nal­ist Bill McKibben on his re­cent, na­tion-wide ‘Do the Math’ tour. De­spite be­ing un­able to spell ‘maths’ cor­rectly, his cam­paign cer­tainly has all the hall­marks of a mar­ket­ing ge­nius. The gist: three num­bers, com­pelling in their sim­plic­ity. Two de­grees, the tem­per­a­ture all gov­ern­ments of the world agree we can­not af­ford to sur­pass; 565 gi­ga­tons, the amount of car­bon we can re­lease into the at­mos­phere by mid cen­tury and still have some small hope of stay­ing be­low two de­grees; 2795 gi­ga­tons, the amount of car­bon on the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies’ books, al­ready con­sented, with the full in­ten­tion that it be burned.

And yet here we are look­ing for more, with Govern­ment sub­si­dies to the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try reach­ing $46m a year. McKibben’s vo­cab­u­lary didn’t let him down when he came up with a one-word sum­ma­tion of that logic: “Per­verse.”

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