|Mt Kuha : Proposed site for a new open cast mine.|
IT IS DISAPPOINTING, to say the least, that E tu should decide to align itself with the fossil fuel industry. It has come out in favour of a proposed open cast coal mine on top of Mt Kuha, some 10 kilometres from Westport.
In order for Stevenson Mining to proceed , they need 100ha of public land, held by Buller District Council, for drinking water supply. They also need access to 12ha of conservation land.
E tu, which is affiliated to the Labour Party, thinks this is just fine and have been reciting the fossil fuel industry's familiar argument that mining creates jobs and pumps money into the local economy. In the case of Mt Kuha, Stevenson Mining say that sixty jobs will be created.
According to organiser Garth Elliott: ""We on the West Coast, we've been knocked around over the last three or four, five years in regards to employment, no matter what it is. Mining was a big industry on the West Coast and it created a lot of employment and a lot of employment was created out of that in the private sector. We need to get that back."
Elliot and E tu are obviously happy to pay the high price for 60 economically insecure jobs - which will be the destruction of pristine conservation land. Stevenson Mining's assurances that it will clear up its mess are cold comfort.
And what does E tu's enthusiasm for open cast mining say about its commitment to fight climate change? Rather than taking leading role into the fight against climate change, E tu is obviously letting us all down in its support for the fossil fuel industry.
And its support for the new mine is a clear blow to the credibility of those groups that continue to claim that we are progressing, inevitably, toward a sustainable and low carbon "green capitalism'.
In 2014 Coal Action Network issued a comprehensive report, Jobs After Coal: A Just Transition for New Zealand Communities, updated in 2015, in which it stated that around the world, the coal industry was contracting, prices had fallen and demand shifting to renewable resources.
“Coal is a sunset industry,” the report confidently concluded.
But a new report, Are We Moving Away from Fossil Fuels, issued by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy suggests that the world is not moving away from fossil fuels at all. Authors Sean Sweeney and John Treat say the optimism that we are well on our way to a low carbon and green capitalism has been "misplaced, misleading, and disarming."
The comprehensive report provides ample evidence that the "era of fossil fuels" is far from over.
Sweeney and Treat write:
"By promoting a false optimism, the advocates of "green growth" have decoupled their own ideologically driven aspirations from indisputable and genuinely grave realities. Their historical mission - to be the pioneers of a new phase of sustainable capitalism - has been a complete failure. Their attempt to keep this mission alive is now based on the selective and misleading presentation of certain facts, while at the same time turning a blind eye towards the larger and much more disturbing picture. This reveals a level of desperation reminiscent of elite groups in the past - be they slave owners, feudal lords or colonial rulers - who declared a new dawn just as the sun disappeared over the horizon."
The struggle, say the authors, is not for a just and green capitalism but the struggle against an economic system that threatens our very existence. But at a time when radical change is needed groups like Coal Action Network, the Green Party and Greenpeace continue to peddle the dangerous illusion of a 'just transition' to a new 'green capitalism'.
Meanwhile, Forest and Bird have launched legal proceedings against the proposed Mt Kuha mine. But, unless there's a fundamental shift in political direction by the mainstream environmental movement, all this can ever be is yet another attempt to put out a fire when an even greater environmental catastrophe threatens to take us all out.