Out Of Time

10 min readFeb 15, 2023
Photo by Neda Astani on Unsplash

I shed a few tears on the way to work this morning. It wasn’t out of nowhere, and the way things have been for the last few weeks, it wasn’t surprising. Part sorrow, for the family of the firey lost in the landslip at Muriwai and all those suffering from the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle, part frustration at how predictable and predicted this was.

Not to the weather modelers, who a week or so out spotted a convergence off the coast of Queensland and immediately raised the alarm. If in ancient history, we ascribed magical qualities to those who could predict the future or read the weather — then their descendants of today deserve no less praise. Without them, even more lives would have been lost in the last week. We still don’t know the full toll of this disaster.

For decades now, there has been political organisation and activist campaigning about the effects of climate change. Generations of politicians have carried the standard, with a message: if we don’t act now, things are going to get really bad.

This hasn’t been wholly ineffective. Any casual observer of politics over the last thirty years would note that what was policy on the green and eco-socialist manifestos, would eventually be a policy on the manifesto of the parties of traditional power — with a five to ten-year time-lag between the two.

The obvious problem is that the climate is changing. Not like a thermostat that can be turned up and down, although yes there’s an awful lot of additional heat about. No, climate change is a ratchet that goes in one direction. I think there’s still a complete lack of understanding about what reducing carbon and other gas emissions is about, it’s not about reversing the change, it’s about preventing things from being even worse in the future.

The effects of climate change that we are seeing, the oceans warming, the atmosphere containing more water, the possibilities of extreme weather events in sequence like the North Island is experiencing right now — you know that’s not the consequence of what we’re doing now right? Hell no, the Auckland Downpour and Cyclone Gabrielle are the consequence of twists of the ratchet from a decade ago. Events like this are locked in already, and the deadline to prevent them has passed.

Photo by Neenu Vimalkumar on Unsplash

Screaming Bloody Murder

Not that the green movement hasn’t tried to explain this. That’s what, as Don Draper didn’t say, THE POLICY IS FOR. For decades the political parties, campaign groups, and their activists have talked about reducing carbon emissions, transitioning to clean energy, and attempting to wrestle the steadily rising particulate per million number to a standstill.

But that’s not all. Ecological urban planning, the use of public spaces to mitigate weather events, national and local public transit systems, reorientating agriculture and forestry towards less land-intensive and land-destructive purposes, rewilding coastal areas and allowing drained wetlands to return.

That was the backup, basically saying if we can’t try and slow down the imminent climate catastrophe then we can at least try and mitigate the consequences.

What did the greens get for this? Mostly, scorn. They were scaremongering, their policies would ruin the economy, they were daydreaming, they were part of a Marxist-communist plot to destroy capitalism (hey, we can dream). Many companies responsible for carbon emissions ran a well-funded campaign to deny the evidence, and a lot of politicians decided they were satisfied with that. After all, it’s not happening now is it? By the time it does, it won’t matter to us. It is now time.

The last couple of days has seen Labour Prime Minister Chris Hipkins point to “…a long history of poor past decisions in New Zealand that we’re confronting right now” as a source of the disaster unfolding across the North Island. National leader Christopher Luxon has indicated the need for a decades-long project of climate adaptation and infrastructure, while his party still has signage — some of it submerged — opposing Three Waters, a climate adaptation and infrastructure project.

If only Labour and National could find who was responsible for those poor past decisions, or opposing climate infrastructure projects. We’re all trying to find the guy who did this!

There’s a story I heard once about Jeanette Fitzsimons, as co-leader of the Greens, running the numbers on carbon and realising how bad things were going to get if things continued as they were. The latest that story can take place is 2009, the year Fitzsimons stepped down as co-leader. It’s likely to be from even earlier. And Fitzsimons kept on campaigning, explaining, and staying calm. She deserves a statue for not screaming blue bloody murder whenever she had a microphone.

Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

No More Incrementalism

We’re here now though, well over a decade or so on. Many of the Green MPs of that time have left, and the good ones have continued their front-line activism, even ending up criticising their former party for its relative timidity in action. After all, these were the MP’s who were shut out of actual Government by Helen Clark and John Key’s consecutive administrations, until 2017. It’s not that they didn’t get things done, but what has been done is not enough because of what is going to happen, because of what is happening.

There is no more time for incrementalism, for the introduction of gradual changes, improving things slowly and allowing everyone to get comfortable with the new normal. That time was ten, twenty, thirty years ago when how bad it was going to get was already known, and not enough was done. The ‘Tech Will Save Us” argument, promoted by industries that profited massively off carbon emissions, was always a distraction. I recall then Prime Minister John Key discussing climate change in terms of a technological challenge, that there would be a way to reduce carbon emissions which did not yet exist but would have a revolutionary impact.

The only revolutionary impact we have had is Cyclone Gabrielle. And she won’t be the last. Now is the time for taking radical and large-scale action to attempt to mitigate a situation that is bad, and will later be worse.

I asked my followers on Twitter the other day, did they think Chris Hipkins (and Christopher Luxon) have the ideological capabilities to recognise the need for a radical and transformative approach to mitigating the effects of the climate crisis. Are they willing to change the political economy of Aotearoa to meet the challenge? The answer was an overwhelming, no. Christopher Luxon today said he was still keen on tax cuts, which is a real ‘when you’re a hammer everything is a nail’ approach to the situation.

Photo by Ganesh Partheeban on Unsplash

How Do We Fix This?

This is cheerful eh? Fuckin day for it mate. And yet in this disappointment, in the tears of sorrow and frustration, I’m not succumbing to full doomerism. Possibly because I’m too angry to just give up now. Luxon’s said that the time of climate change minimalism or denial is over, which is a fucking wild statement from a National Party leader. Hipkins has accepted there has been a long history of poor decisions which has brought us to this point.

But what needs to happen is not just the transformation of what the state is for, what infrastructure projects are supposed to deliver (hint: it’s not just building everything that got knocked over back again) or accepting we cannot go back to the business as usual without ending up right back here again in 6 months, 12 months — rinse the flooded land, repeat.

Now is the time for a reappraisal of the political environment that allowed the clear and evidenced warning about the effects of the climate crisis, extreme weather events and all, to be dismissed as airey-fairy left-wing nonsense.

How can we be in a situation where entire towns and cities are without power and clean water for an undefined time, and one of the major political parties STILL insists it will repeal the proposal to overhaul drinking water, sewage, and stormwater infrastructure for the entire country?

Why have we allowed decades of NIMBYism to lead to homes being built in at-risk areas, while century-old wooden houses on the safe high and easily drained ground have been defended from the supposed evils of intensification — again and again and a-fucking-gain? Why is it costing double what it should to run fucking light rail to the fucking airport in Auckland because they have to dig a FUCKING TUNNEL UNDER THE RICH PEOPLE NEIGHBOURHOODS SO THEY DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT A FUCKING TRAM.

Why does every picture from Toluga Bay down to Hastings show immense amount of slash, the leftover logs from clear cutting forestry, piling on riverbanks and coastlines, demolishing homes and bridges? How is that legal, and if it isn’t, why hasn’t something been done about it before it caused billions of dollars of damage. A kid died, even before the floods and cyclone, because of that stuff.

What the fuck is going on when Christchurch International Airport Ltd plans to build an entirely new international airport at Tarras (WHICH IS IN OTAGO, fuck off back to Canterbury) a place which was almost entirely cut off due to bad weather last winter — simply to snipe some market share from Queenstown Airport. Seriously, that’s what you’re pouring millions of dollars into right now?

When the two big political parties talk about bipartisanship, they usually mean watering down stuff until they’re happy it won’t change things too much. Even the flagship Zero Carbon Act ended up carving out exceptions, leading it to be described as ‘an aspiration rather than an obligation’, with regards to reducing global heating to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

In 2022, the global surface temperature was 1.09 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Aspirational is not going to cut it any more.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Out Of Time, Time For Demands

There’s the political element to this, and the community element.

First of all, politically, it is an election year. Demand better from your elected officials, from their political parties. Raise seven kinds of hell about how this was expected, predicted and not at all surprising, so it’s time to actually do something about it. If you look, you’ll find some people who actually agree with you. Don’t accept the bipartisan watering downs of the action that’s needed to make sure next time it isn’t your house flooding, your town cut off, your water and power systems wrecked. Vote, I guess. But vote for something, not just picking red or blue.

Hey, try Green. Those folks have been pretty on the money about all of this for the last fucking thirty years or more.

The other side of it is community. It’s time to make sure you have collapsible containers to store water for days. 9 litres a day, per person. Keep a bag of things ready to go, copies of all your important documents. Don’t rely on them being in the cloud, you might not have power or cell towers. Keep a gas bottle for the barbecue handy, you can always cook on that. Check your gutters, clear out the shit in the garden that can get washed away. Plant some native plants in the right spot to help secure your soil. Keep an eye on which roads flood and which ones don’t when the weather gets bad.

Oh, and talk to your friends. Make a plan. This week a friend got in touch and said if my husband and I ever got stranded out of town when something big or unexpected happened, she’d make sure our son was picked up from school and looked after until we could reach him. We’ll do the same for them. Work out who’s got the right place if you all need to shelter, who knows what they’re doing with a bobcat or a shovel if you need it. Check in, keep in touch, make sure that when whatever it is happens, you’re as ready as you can be.

Out of Time…

We are out of time to take things slowly, we are out of time for incrementalism or watery centrist bullshit because the literal water is here. A lot of people are out of patience, out of keeping calm in the face of mockery and scorn and outright denial of the material disaster that is unfolding. We are out of our minds with worry, about our friends in flooded regions or the inevitable Next One that’s going to barrel down the Pacific, or come steaming in off the Tasman — or maybe something else entirely.

I am certain we are out of many things, but even though I’m tired and frustrated and fucking mad as hell, I’m not yet out of hope that we can at least try to do something to take the worst out of the worst that is yet to come.

Oh and of course there was a fucking earthquake as I published this. Perfect.




It’s longer stuff from PostingDad, the dad who posts.