I’m a pessimist when it comes to climate action by our governments. We know anthropogenic climate change is a massive issue, in the coming decades there will be deaths as a direct result of it, even if we take aggressive action. But the government has a terrible track record when it comes to making required change.
Look at the effects of colonisation here in New Zealand. Even after 175 years of Māori protest, Māori are still massively overrepresented in negative social statistics. People have been calling for a remedy to this ever since New Zealand was founded, but we still don’t have a solution.
The issues arising from the continued oppression of Māori shouldn’t be understated either. As a demographic, they have worse health, shorter lifespans and higher incarceration rates. There are literally people dying because of the government’s failure to act.
Our government has historically been very slow to act on even things which are just common sense. Women not being able to vote is unimaginable in Aotearoa today, but it took 60 years between women being explicitly banned from voting (in Britain 1832) until women were given the vote (1893). Admittedly, we didn’t have a central government until the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, giving the governor of the time, William Hobson, power to act in place of the Queen and we didn’t have voting rights until they were codified in 1852.
Even today, we have yet to relinquish adequate power to women, only 31% of our MPs are female. It’s amazing that, even after 180 years, we still don’t treat women as equal on the political stage.
It’s worth keeping our history in mind as we look to the future, the past is a good indicator of what’s to come. Our system of representative democracy has failed in sticking to its agreement, land was still being confiscated as recently as 2004. It’s also failed at providing democracy, with women not being able to vote for our first 40 years of elections, and still being horribly under-represented in positions of power.
Compare this with our current government. The National Party dismisses any Green Party proposal as economic suicide without even considering that to fail to implement such policies is regular suicide. Like previous governments, who took vast swathes of land from Māori or elected not to let women vote, the National Party decides to ignore the consequences of climate change.
Even assuming next election we bring in a Labour/Green government who actually takes action, it’s only a matter of time until the wind blows in National’s direction again, and any progress gets undone. And even if Labour does happen to get in, they are likely to continue the inaction of our last Labour government.
Realistically, to cause the required change to happen, we need to destroy the existing parliamentary system and replace it with something functional.