So it's good to see that here on Waiheke, the need for sustainability is a key driver for our leaders. So much so, in fact, that the word itself is now officially incorporated into the title of every meeting they hold. Workshops on sustainable this and sustainable that, if you are lucky enough to negotiate your way through their arcane publicity process, can be attended almost every day. Sadly, the way in which these workshops are promoted is so obscure that the average attendance is comprised of 2 LB members, 4 concerned citizens and a bloke who is sheltering from the rain on his way to the bus stop.
Inevitably all good things must come to an end, and this one is especially premature in its demise.
It has become very plain to all and sundry that, to this particular group of local politicians, sustainability is little more than a word - an important one, of course, because it’s a real vote winner, but really that's where it ends. Because they clearly have no clue what it actually means.
I recall only too well Dr AJ Fairclough, one of the founding fathers of UNEP and a man more responsible than most for making sustainability a byword, sharing his fears with me that it would be hijacked by the Green movement, who would use it only to further their own cause in their quest for power and control..
How right he was.
Sustainability is of course what is says - something that can be sustained. Astute readers will be quick to point out that being sustained is not exclusive to environmental matters, nor should it be.
It can be applied to a myriad of things. For example, profit. If Air NZ makes 1bn 2 years ago and 2bn last year, can that level of profit growth be sustainable? And would it be a good thing?
But let us think about the environment for a moment. Of course we want it to be cuddly and fluffy and beautiful and enduring. But we have to live in it too. And that comes at a cost. A new pair of shoes that look beautiful in the window will doubtless be but a memory after a year of solid use.
And it is the same with the earth.
Sustainability is a trade off. Short of wiping ourselves out voluntarily (and of course in some cases this would be entirely commendable), we are stuck here on planet earth, and it is going to take a bit of a battering.
But it is arrogant in the extreme to think that Nature will not fix this. We are of minute significance in the greater scheme of things, and the chances of us doing for the Earth are infinitesimally small.
The idea that mankind has no responsibility for the planet is as ludicrous as those who seek to scare us with their absurd postulations about climate change.
Only this week the much maligned Tony Abbott ensured the sustainability of Australian Forestry by making guardians of it those who will profit most from its longevity.
Abbott’s strategy is brilliant – and free too. Give the moral and financial responsibility of sustaining a vital natural resource to those who will profit most from it. Far better than empowering a bunch of unwashed hippies with their left wing textbooks, who have never done a days work in their lives and who would either abandon the forests altogether or use them as a place to grow their illicit marijuana, and demand massive lumps of taxpayer money for the privilege. Remember the stand of trees on Waiheke? QED.
Abbott’s way is real sustainability in action.
On Waiheke, however, it means sacrifice - usually yours and mine, mainly in terms of changing the way we go about our daily lives, and paying money: lots of money, because it is not understood in anything other than a theoretical, abstract sense by our Board. Why else would they insist upon sustainable tourist (a misnomer if ever I hear one) and then organise a workshop in the hope that some bright spark will tell them what that means in real terms?
Honestly what on earth do they mean by sustainable tourism? Sustaining the number of tourists? Sustaining the island's economy through tourist dollars? On making sure those nasty tourists don't tread on the grass lest they wipe it off the face of the planet. It’s farcical, or it would be if we weren’t paying them $150,000 a year to conduct such charades.
Real sustainability means working out a practical solution which balances economic, social and environmental needs.
Is there any chance that these poor deluded fools will see the error of their ways? Highly unlikely, as they simply don’t live in the real world. They are here to pursue personal agendas and leave others to do the work and pick up the pieces.
But as they sit at night in their intellectual teepees, guzzling pot, massaging their own egos for being slavish adherents to the cause of sustainability and uttering self congratulatory edicts, the real world must go on, and as is always the case with fervent proponents of nothing, they are a distraction from the real business of living and surviving.
Out there in forward thinking countries, sustainability has already been forced to take a back seat to resilience. Of course resilience is required because of climate change, which is a result of a lack of sustainability. So it’s all our own fault anyway.
It takes no quantum leap therefore to assume that in due course we can all be expected to learn (after the event of course) of a series of workshops on resilient tourism, resilient marina development, and in all likelihood resilient candidacy for the local trough, I mean board. Plus ça change and all that.
So is anything sustainable? Well yes, and we have Viagra to thank for that. Which is ironic, because we all being stiffed in the name of sustainability.
By Jerry Flay