2014: Signs of Progress

At this time last year I reflected on what appeared to have been the Year of Eco-Thrifty. The Auckland teenager who goes by ‘Lorde’ rocketed to international fame with her song Royals, which rejects the excesses promoted by many others in popular music. Similarly an American rapper who also goes by one name, Macklemore, got considerable radio airtime with his quirky-but-catchy song, Thrift Shop. Finally, Pope Francis spent much of 2013 promoting messages of conservation and thrift, and even took on the beast of wealth inequality.

That was then, this is now. What about 2014? From my observations, Francis has been quieter this year, but certainly not inactive. The recent news that the US would be “normalizing” relations with Cuba came as a surprise to many. Likewise, that Francis had been working behind the scenes to facilitate communication between the two countries also came as a surprise.

Screen shot 2014-12-27 at 5.33.18 AM

But the more we get to know him the less of a surprise these types of things become. In a word, Pope Francis is progressive. From my perspective, that is about as much as we can ask of anybody these days.

In this world, you are either going forward, going backward, or standing still. If you are a keen observer of current events, you may recognize that standing still is not an option any more.

Take climate change as an example. Doing nothing is not an option for those who believe in peer reviewed science and are concerned about the world their grandchildren will inhabit. The recent agreement between China and the USA on carbon emissions can be seen as progress. Baby steps are important. Screen shot 2014-12-27 at 5.37.19 AM

On the home front, it has been refreshing to hear a couple of District Councillors speaking in progressive terms and even using the word “progressive” in public. It is especially encouraging that some Councillors can reflect on their decisions and change their minds. This is a sign of great progress for our community. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step…

In the year to come let’s hope our community can make progress on a number of important issues such as resilience, inequality, health and the wastewater treatment plant. I suspect it will be difficult for us to progress as a community until there is some accountability for the monumental failure of the treatment plant and the ridiculous decision to spend close to a million ratepayers’ dollars squirting perfume into the air next to a windy coastline. Wouldn’t it be amazing for someone to put up his or her hand and say, “I’m sorry, and that type of bad decision will never happen again”? That would be real progress. Screen shot 2014-12-27 at 5.42.03 AM

Finally, I understand our city is looking for a new slogan and that some moderate progress has been made. To help the process along, here are a few suggestions:

Welcome to Wanganui: H me, Bro!

Welcome to Whanganui: No Longer ‘Family Friendly’

Welcome to Whanganui: Slogans Welcome

Welcome to Whanganui: Lawless


Welcome to Whanganui: The Bhutan of New Zealand*

* The mountain kingdom of Bhutan has become known for its measure of Gross National Happiness as opposed to the reductionist measure of Gross National Product used by most nations. Thanks to Cr. Martin Visser and his progressive ideas about quality of life in our awesome River City and the work he has done with the Social Progress Index.

This outside-of-the-square thinking is refreshing after the uninspired drone of “growth, growth, growth” we have been hearing for years. Here’s hoping 2015 brings more progress on this and other fronts for this beautiful place we all call home.

Peace, Estwing



World’s Best Garlic!

2015 Permaculture Principles Calendar

Available today at the REBS stall at the River Market