As heated and “dirty” as this year’s election lead-up has become, I feel a duty to contribute my own “skullduggery” to the fray. Never mind that I do not know what skullduggery means. After all, where does understanding of language, facts, figures, data or research come into play in a political forum?
For example, after 28 months or describing in excruciating detail the win-win-win benefits of eco-thrifty design, I am left flabbergasted at our local government’s staunch rejection of the obvious benefits to our city, its people and its economy. Poor eco-design has already cost ratepayers tens of millions of dollars and will continue to cost us unnecessarily into the future. Put simply, I just don’t get it.
My observations over the last four and a half decades of walking the Earth and listening to people’s jibber jabber is that the further one is to the right of the political spectrum the less likely they are to be open to new ideas, to think holistically, to respect peer-reviewed research, to make decisions based on data rather than emotion, and most ironically, to embrace the precautionary principle.
The precautionary principle stipulates that when considering a risky new technology or when facing issues of immense global importance such as climate change, one should be as conservative as possible regarding policies and practices. Ironically, in most of these cases the political right is liberal and the political left is conservative.
Speaking of irony, I love this concept of the National Party’s “Blue-Greens.” When I was in school studying biology, I learned that blue-green was a primitive form of algae known as cyanobacteria. I suppose in that respect, there may not be much difference between the two regarding sound policy on sustainable development. I jest.
Equally as amusing would be the concept of the “Red-Greens” given my observations of the impotent Labour Party over the last six years. Some readers may be familiar with the popular Canadian DIY comedy “The Red Green Show” that aired from 1991 to 2006. The title character, Red Green (played by Steve Smith), was a bumbling handyman who ended up fixing everything with duct tape. In this respect, I also see some striking similarities to Labour. Of course this discussion would not be complete without a reference to red-green colour blindness.
But among all the shades of green within the colour palette, my experience is that the most dangerous of all are the Neon-Greens, individuals who tout their eco-credentials but whose behaviours and lifestyles tell a different story. For this group, “Actions speak louder than words” does not hold much meaning. Ironically, they tend to have outsized egos when compared to what they actually have accomplished. On the other hand, I suppose the reason that Jeanette Fitzsimons, formerly of the Green Party, was recognized as New Zealand’s most trusted politician over and over again was that everyone knew that she “walked the talk.”
On a final note, regarding jobs, sustainability and NZ housing. It is recognized by the experts in building technology and home performance that the quality of NZ homes is so low that the “job” of improving them to anywhere near an OECD standard will take decades and employ thousands. Only an extreme reductionist perspective would see the government insulation scheme and say that, “a big proportion of New Zealand’s older homes must be sorted.” The statement would only come from someone completely unfamiliar with the housing sector.
In my day job I spend hour after hour visiting cold, damp homes that have insulation in the ceiling and under the floor. I also get phone calls from occupants of new homes asking why they are so cold and damp. Finally, I meet with people in the early design stages of their dream homes, and council them toward shifting some of their dollars toward making the future structures warmer and dryer while keeping power bills low.
I reckon 99% of all NZ homes – even those built this year – do not achieve the energy performance they could or should. And homes are still being built this way everyday. From this perspective, I will never run out of work. I’ve got the most sustainable job in the world.