A submission to my local Council on bio-diversity & climate change

I note that the Mayor states in the forward to  the  Council’s proposed Annual  Plan that: ‘A strong area of focus for our Annual Plan 2019/20 is climate change. Council recognises that climate change mitigation and adaptation present key challenges for our region, country and the globe. We need to build our resilience and harness innovation to ensure we can plan and act in a responsive and responsible way”

It is rather difficult to reconcile this statement, which confirms the enormity of climate change as a fundamental threat to human sustainability, with the actions proposed in this Plan.

It is interesting to note that there is no mention in the Plan about species loss and ecosystem collapse- issues which have equal weight in terms of human capacity to survive on this planet in the medium to long term, and which are completely interrelated to climate change. Other than the Department of Conservation, which has a very limited range of actions permitted to it , there is no human agency out there looking out for nonhuman survivability either in this region or nationally. Councils must act!

Given the recent government report; ‘Environment Aotearoa 2019’, which as “Stuff” notes paint a grim picture in many respects, the report’s assessment of native ecosystems and the plants and animals they contain is particularly bleak. Almost two-thirds of rare ecosystems were threatened by collapse, the report said, and thousands of individual species were either threatened or at-risk of extinction. Those species include 90 per cent of all seabirds, 84 per cent of reptiles, 76 per cent of freshwater fish and 74 per cent of terrestrial birds.”

Actions which focus on th city’s  “development’ are fundamentally in opposition to working to reduce climate change and at the very least, slow down our catastrophic species loss. Whether we like it or not, humans are entirely dependent on the other species on this planet for our survival. We cannot live on shopping precincts and electronic baubles.

Human ‘progress’ equals the substitution for living and wild areas for dead spaces or toxic farming areas. Like it or not, your city planners will be forced sooner rather than later to plan for a zero growth economy – why not start now?

E.O Wilson’s book “Half Planet” and the Half-Earth Project https://www.half-earthproject.org/ make it very clear that humans will not survive on this planet without urgent and dramatic restoration of the eco-sphere that protects us all . The Extinction Rebellion movement of our youth also makes it very clear where our future does not lie and what our options are.  Act now with bravery! https://rebellion.earth/

Since coming to this city I have been amazed at the amount of concrete “easy-care’ properties; in a climate where plants grow well and where lawns could quickly become low maintenance shrub and vegetation areas that support a wide range of habitats and species.

Surely our recent wildfires are a lesson to be learnt? Re-plant hill areas with native shrubs and trees that provide shade and damp ground areas beneath them and provide moisture back into the air, increasing the likelihood of rain. Stop the planting of pines and eucalypts – plants which are adapted for drought conditions and which minimise moisture loss from their leaves and produce resins that encourage wild fires in dry times.

Some Proposed Actions:

  • Develop and environmental code for all city planning decisions , which place predominant weight in planning decisions that ensure minimal disruption to all wildlife, along with specific actions to increase wildlife . Equal species rights is the only survivable option https://www.humansandnature.org/humans-nature-the-right-relationship

  • Apply permaculture strategies for urban planning https://permaculturenews.org/2012/03/07/re-imagining-urban-design-and-city-life/ (and please note that quote there in terms of busineses co-opting open spaces: The enclosure of public spaces, by the same reasoning, is anti-democratic. When shopping malls and office towers eliminate our public squares, our parks and our promenades, we lose our capacity to see each other, to socialize and speak publicly, to identify and empathize with each other, to be commoners. Without these spaces, we are forced into playing roles dictated by the Market or the State.

  • Develop city planning processes that are aligned with human and other species centric behaviour https://centerforthelivingcity.org/janejacobs. Develop a city whose structures and systems fosters and celebrates other species in our presence, that encourages interactions between all members of its human society (the poor, the unemployed, the wealthy , the young and the old) , that promotes safety, connection and wellbeing for all.

  • Replant most large lawn areas owned by the council with native and edible plantings. And stop putting toxic acid bark as mulch. Pine bark kills most of the native insects and other organisms for some soil depth – mulch with living plants.

  • Completely eliminate immediately the spraying of weedicides to keep berns and other grassed areas “tidy”.

  • Develop a city by-law to limit the concreting over of properties – all new driveways remain gravelled and unsealed .This will allow the soil to breathe underneath and permit the multiple soil species in that area to survive. It will also allow rain water to soak into the ground and help create more life, rather than being siphoned off into concrete storm-water drains and into the sea.

  • Extensively replant all stream, river and estuarine boundaries to the water’s edge with plants natural to those habitat areas. This will reduce erosion, silting up and improve water quality, and greatly improve the diversity of all species surviving in the area and beyond the water.

  • Severely restrict fishing in all areas close to the shore. Such fishing is helping (along with the commercial companies) to destroy our oceans, by eliminating essential breeding grounds for fish and other marine animals.

  • Stop the development of more commercial areas unless they are densely planted with native and other species.

  • Provide extensive education training and practical opportunities for communities to ensure their neighbourhoods are safe places for all species. (learn how to provide natural habitats, how to plant your backyard, compost etc etc ) Develop a free city-wide ‘creative commons’ of internet shared space for creating community, connection and environmental sustainability.

  • Develop public transport systems that are innovative and flexible and light- eg shared transport options that are modelled on electric scooter technology, and also encourage community interaction.

  • Encourage local small scale human activities that work alongside nature. Develop community garden initiatives, seed sharing clubs, local community planting initiatives…

  • Significantly extend and improve the filtering and natural oxidation processes for sewer discharge. More swamp ponds and natural screening filters to ensure all sewage and other industrial water discharges are naturally filtered and no untreated discharges occur in extreme weather events (events which are becoming more and more frequent!)

  • RE-PLANT!

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