by | Jan 3, 2020 | Environment, Stories

The Three Pillars of a Climate Action City. 

Every action we take must take account of the wellbeing of people, our livelihoods and of course, our natural world. 

Taiao – The Natural World. 

Sometimes living in a city makes us feel as if we are separate from the natural world – nature feels like a place, over there somewhere. It isn’t though – your house, skyscrapers and highways are of this Earth. The sky is above, birds fly overhead, the soil below teems with billions of microorganisms and ants are making a beeline for the sugar in your pantry.  

While nature is resilient, it slowly wears away as its ecosystems are destroyed. The more we cut down the trees in our backyards, the less birds there are. The more we use artificial fertilisers to grow our foods the less life there is in the soil. All life is carbon-based. If it isn’t locked up in the living world around us, then it burns off into the sky as carbon dioxide and creates the Greenhouse Effect, which heats the Earth.

Climate action is bringing life back to the landscape around us, the sea, the soil and the sky through Kaitiakaitanga – Guardianship. 

On land climate action looks like planting trees; planting food forests, lining the streets with trees and blending our cityscapes seamlessly into surrounding natural landscapes. It is having urban green spaces and creating biodiversity around our homes, streets, parks and roadsides. It is about turning our backyards into habitats for wildlife and “Pollinator Pathways” for bees, beneficial insects and birds and reducing predators. 

In the seas it is about ensuring the watershed is clean before it arrives to the sea. The watershed is where our water sources start before making its way to the ocean through rivers, streams, ditches, drains and pipes. It is ensuring there is planting on the riverbanks for fish to lay and pūkeko to breed and hunt in, to act as a barrier to prevent rubbish entering the sea. It is about planting trees to shade the water to prevent overheating. It is about creating water security by capturing rainfall in tanks and building big open drains in the berms, planted in reeds to clean and filter the pollutants out of storm water.

In the soil it is about building life in the soil – reducing chemicals, utilising compost. It is learning about Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture. The most valuable way to draw carbon down from the atmosphere and store it again is within healthy life-rich soil.

In the sky it is planting trees to return oxygen to the atmosphere and filter pollutants from the air. Birds were here long before humans and their presence or not is an indicator of a healthy natural world. We need to encourage them back to the skies, return the dawn chorus to the cities. 

He Tangata – The People

In climate change people are key – just like the natural world around us, people and their lives are affected by it and, we are the ones that have to find the solutions to climate change and act upon them. 

When many people have the very immediate problems of poverty, homelessness or physical and mental illness, it can seem like a stretch to try and act in the interests of the wider world we live in. However the hauora/wellbeing of people goes hand in hand with climate action because it involves taking a more holistic approach to life; reconnecting with natural systems, which have over the centuries sustained all life on this planet.

Climate action requires hapori/communities coming together for action – a handful of people making small changes won’t bring about change. Climate action also requires we create spaces in which the diversity of voicesin our local and global communities can be heard. These include the views and ideas of everyone, regardless of their age or stage in life, their background, their upbringing or their employment status.

Hearing the voices of our elders is vital. Our elders have knowledge of the past that will be lost if their stories and their voices are not sought out. Likewise this diversity of voice must include those of our youth – dynamic, free thinking and as yet unencumbered by a lifetime of living within the confines of the way things “should be done”. 

Which leads us to tangata whenua, who possess a vastly different culture to the colonial one, which arrived with the Endeavour; one sustained and guided by nature. Knowledge of the stars, the effects of the waxing and waning moon on hunting, fishing and fertility was not only the domain of a select few; tangata whenua lived in nature, knew it as they knew their knew their own mother, just as they treated it as they would their own mother.

Ohana – The Economy

 Climate action is buying local as much as you can. The more we shop from local business the more money stays here, strengthening the local economy and our local community. Locally sourcing the food we eat means it doesn’t have to be shipped across the country or the world, using less oil in its transportation and often its packaging. Climate action also means valuing farmers working towards regenerative agriculture. In regenerative agriculture the land is biodiverse, there is water storage across the land and a co-existence within its unique ecosystem. 

Climate Action is becoming aware of the waste and pollution that result from the current market economy and designing ways to avoid it. It is wasteful to mine oil to make plastics that go in the bin after a single use. We need to design systems that either reuse or eliminate these. This means going from linear systems to circular systems, what is called a Circular Economy. This also involves prolonging the lives of products and materials. On an individual basis this means buying the best quality you possibly you can and ideally repairing them, and in a fully-functioning circular economy returning them to the manufacturer to be re- manufactured, recycled or even composted to return the nutrients to the Earth. 

Renewable energy (solar, hydro, wind, tidal power) is also an important component of a circular economy.

Innovation and enterprise are integral aspects of climate action. It requires that we encourage new technologies, new thinking and perhaps even the re-imagining of old knowledge to address the issues of climate change. 

Climate Action is also about becoming more self-sufficent by growing your own veges and fruit, hunting for your own meat, raising backyard chickens and learning to cook from scratch. Capture your own water, grow your own trees, provide your own energy from solar or wind, bike and walk when you can. Make your own, bake your own. DIY. Go forth and be free.

These are the three pillars of a Climate Action City – they provide us with direction to guide our actions; they provide something to pass on to our children. I want to show my children that there is hope, that we care about them and their future. For me, the motivation behind creating a Climate Action Movement is the thought of that feeling we will get when the world around starts to heal – when it greens up, when the birds return, the bees are buzzing and the water is clean.

Story and Photographs by Courtenay Waikari.