Don't mention the war, or the 'e' word

18:49, Nov 13 2011

Has anyone noticed the word 'environment' steadily and strategically being removed from the lexicon of local and central government?

Waikato, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty regional councils have all gone back in time by abandoning the 'environment' prefix.

Just last week the Taranaki Regional Council announced that their long-standing slogan of 'Working with people - caring for our environment' had now morphed into 'Working with people - caring for Taranaki'.

When asked a question by Councillor Roger Maxwell about why there was no colour green in the new logo, CEO Basil Chamberlain said "that every regional council used green so this set Taranaki apart". Quite.

Just as the patently untrue '100 per cent Pure New Zealand' tourism campaign recently altered its catchphrase to '100 per cent Pure You' (whatever the hell that means), regional councils have finally twigged to the same cunning ploy. They would really rather not have the dirty 'E' word hanging out and flapping around in the wind. It might lead to the hassle of actually being held more accountable for both their serial inaction on specific environmental concerns, and their cosy, crackling- fire romance with polluters.

At the same time, the word 'prosperous' is the new black. Previously reserved for Xmas cards and New Year cheers, it has now found a new lease of life as the current hottie splayed across various government sector mission statements.


Staff within the Department of Conservation, already reeling from nationwide cuts and greatly reduced budgets, are now required to put 'Conservation for prosperity' at the bottom of their emails. Prosperity for whom?

The Ministry for the Environment also has the relatively new mantra of 'Environmental stewardship for a prosperous New Zealand'. At least the 'E' word makes an appearance, but then it is the Ministry for the Environment after all. Though I bet there were some serious discussions about ways to 'e'liminate it.

The Ministry for Economic Development runs with "The Ministry's purpose is to foster economic development and prosperity for all New Zealanders". Fair enough, considering it's charged with unadulterated prosperity gathering and has the luxury of having absolutely no encumbrance upon it to even remotely act like it cares about the environment. How liberating.

The public is on to this new spin. Lately my contacts on social networking sites have taken to playing, as you do, with the renaming of various government departments. A sampling: Ministry for the Environment/ Mining Forever, Department of Conservation/Department of Commercialisation, Ministry of Fisheries/Ministry of Fishermen. My personal favourite is Ministry for Economic Development/ Ministry for Environmental Destruction. You get the picture.

It goes without saying that since the Nats have been in power the economy vs environment paradigm has been thrown into sharp relief. Their environment policy release last week proudly states "National believes sensible management of our resources can go hand-in-hand with faster economic growth and job creation. A stronger economy can better provide the means to restore, maintain, and enhance our environment."

Yet even in the good times (remember those) it's been a long, hard and fruitless slog for agencies charged with an environmental mandate to educate polluters. Now, facing the toughest times in many generations, it will be nigh on impossible - given that their already difficult jobs now require that they carry them out while mindful of creating 'prosperity'.

National's unsubtle direction change is eye-wateringly unintelligent. To hammer on about creating wealth while also pretending to care for the environment is an oxymoron. More cows, more oil, more mining, more endless growth, growth, growth.

But endless it is. The fundamental and immutable laws of physics tell us that constant growth, the upward arc, is impossible. What goes up must come down and society is beginning to feel the full effects of this law right now.

However, when people like me talk about stuff like this we are sidelined as kooks. I'm here to tell you that if you believe the endless growth theory it is you who is delusional. Society should be treating you and your kind - CEOs, bankers, economists, politicians and the suckers that believe them - with jeers and derision. Like flat-earthers and religious zealots we need to start laughing at you, right in your face.

Yet, you are the powerbrokers, the leaders, the ruling classes. The clever ones among you are already aware things are finite and are keeping the illusion of stability going for as long as it takes to get personally wealthier.

The problem for the rest of us, and the planet, is that you and your ilk are often leading the very organisations we rely on to protect our now dying environment. You're sell-outs, trough gorgers and oafs. I'm not talking the politics of envy. I'm talking fact.

Taranaki Daily News