It is Waitangi day, I have been working on a picture book.
Its an interesting problem, the problem of ‘gainful employment’. I’m 62. I wouldn’t be happy doing nothing, but I want to live in the country, and I want to work creatively while I still can.
New Zealand has been very generous to me. I have lived for five years on a student allowance, and in three more years when I turn 65 I hope to receive a pension enabling me to live comfortably enough for the rest of my days, or as long as my health lasts, anyway. To fund our welfare state I understand that we, like the US, borrow extensively from overseas, often from China, where the people who work long hours to produce so many of my consumer goods mostly live more frugally than I do, yet also save more of their income than New Zealanders, – allowing China to invest around the world.
This leaves me feeling that I may not be pulling my weight in global terms, and as the old colonial order is replaced, we hope, by a more equal world, the influence of China and of other Asian nations on us is likely to expand enormously.
I reason that the less I buy the better off the planet is, environmentally, and if I had more money I could only spend it on travel and/or other stuff the planet arguably can’t afford.
Potatoes, milk and beef from a home farm seem much more practical environmentally; in fact if I still used my horse and cart for basic transport as I used to do, that would be better still. But neither home grown food nor horse drawn transport help expand our GDP, or help to fund the welfare system I still depend upon. I’m sure that I could still live well while spending less than I now do, but it is hard to practise spending less while all around us other people keep on spending more.
What does Ou Ning mean when he talks of ‘right relationship’ between town and country? I understand it as that countryside should not be exploited and polluted by cities in order to supply their needs ‘efficiently’, if such efficiency takes no account of such ‘externalities’ as global warming.
At Waitangi Marae protest groups from Ngapuhi in the north have now arrived, and say they don’t want oil exploration on their lands; they see it as polluting water and endangering their loved environment. It’s good they walked, not drove, because an even more important threat than fracking might be burning fossil fuels once harvested: there seems to be so much carbon stored underground that if we burn much more of it we risk tipping ourselves into irreversible global warming.
John Key assures us there is no real threat from oil exploration. Would he be bold enough to tell us it is fine for all those in China and India to use it as fast as New Zealanders do now? Yet for the 40% who live in China and India, and for perhaps another 40% who are still less ‘developed’, fossil fuels seem to be the only way of making an emerging world increasingly egalitarian.
One of my hopes, the idea with which I ended my MA, is that: “A post-industrial world could yet decide that rural and cooperative eco-villages,socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and linked by media networks based on light and durable technologies are practical and possible.” But do I even have a clear idea of what I mean by post-industrial?
I believe Rainbow Valley’s founder members wanted ours to be a lifestyle of ‘voluntary simplicity’. As such we could help pioneer a more sustainable future, especially by modelling such voluntary simplicity.
I don’t expect or want cities to disappear. But living in the country could, and maybe needs to be, a viable, desirable alternative. Only in this way will we come to ‘right relationship’, where rural hinterlands are not despoiled to dubiously benefit city people who are therefore ever less likely to positively interact with them.