Archive | July, 2011

Making a Stand

31 Jul

Making a Stand for a Renewable Energy Future

Speech given by Katerina Seligman
at the Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining)
30th July 2011
Motueka, New Zealand

Katerina's speech

This information was put together by a group of local people in Motueka who are very concerned about what is happening here in NZ in regard to mining. This is our third public event and we plan to have an event of some kind on the last Saturday of every month at noon. Our goals are to protect our beaches from potential oil spills, and to highlight the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy future. If you want to be on an e-mail list to get information about future events, e-mail:

NZ is on the brink of a massive fossil-fuel-extraction binge. The government has laid down a welcome mat to international mining companies…. “please come and mine at our place”. And the mining companies have responded to the call. Companies are lining up to drill for deep sea oil, prospect for minerals and dig up coal all around NZ. New Zealand is pockmarked with new new exploration sites on land and sea. About 70 petroleum exploration permits are current with about 23 more pending. Many permits have also been granted for coal and mineral exploration.

In regards to oil, the government is encouraging prospecting in very deep waters. To put that into perspective: The deepest offshore oil well off Taranaki is 300 metres deep. The Deep Water Horizon Well in the Gulf of Mexico which went terribly wrong with a massive oil spill, was 5 times as deep …one and a half km. Humans can’t go that deep. All repairs were attempted by robots. 6500 ships responded to the spill disaster. It took almost three months to plug the well-head. The proposed drilling off our coastlines is twice that depth, 3 km deep! That is sheer madness for a country that simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with even a very small oil spill.

It was reported in the very reputable newspaper the UK Guardian ( 5th July 2011) that serious spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms are occurring at the rate of one a week, even though the companies claim to be doing everything possible to improve the safety of rigs.

We currently have Anadarko test drilling off the Otago and Canterbury Coasts and Petrobras have just finished exploratory drilling off the East Cape. Greywolf was refused its permits here in our region because the company turned out to be too unreliable, but the government is very willing for a more reliable company to come in and do the job.

What about coal? There are companies bing granted permits all over the country, some mines already in operation and some rearing to go. I’ll just focus on just one of these: the proposed lignite projects in Southland, on 4000 hectares of farmland that has been purchased by the Government. Lignite is very dirty coal. It’s half water, high in ash, and takes a lot of energy to turn it into anything useful. If all the lignite at the proposed mine site in Southland were burned, anywhere in the world, and export is certainly on the government’s agenda, it would put over 8 Billion Tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s over one hundred times NZ’s annual emissions from all sources!

Solid Energy has applied for a pilot briquetting plant, and is planing a second plant ten times bigger than that . They also want to make urea and diesel from the the lignite. Collectively Solid Energy’s projects, if they go ahead, would raise NZ’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. This at a time when we should be trying to reduce our emissions. This is an State Owned Enterprise that you and I own! But it gets worse: The government is going to use our taxes to meet its Kyoto obligations. Solid Energy tells us it will “meet its climate change obligations in full”. But that’s easy because by current laws it has almost no obligations.
The reason the government is willing to subsidize this kind of development is because it is central to its economic growth strategy. This is a much bigger and harder issue to deal with than the Mining- in- the- National- Parks issue that we saw recently.

Where will the capital come from for this Southland development. It’s going to cost billions!
Neither Solid Energy nor the government has the money. The plan is to sell about half of Solid Energy to an overseas company, almost certainly a Chinese one. We already have a free trade agreement with China. If a Chinese company were to run the show, and some subsequent government brought in new environmentally responsible laws, the Chinese could sue us in a secret tribunal for loss of investor profits!

John Key is currently doing his very best to negotiate a similar agreement, The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the USA who would be even more likely and able to sue us than the Chinese for making responsible laws in our own country .

With rising Green House Gases, we are heading for an environment that will no longer support the lives and livelihoods of communities. The poorest communities of the world are already suffering the most with increased droughts famines and floods. But even here in New Zealand we are experiencing more extreme weather events. You might think this latest cold spell is reassurance that global warming is not actually happening. But unfortunately climate change is not about short term changes in the weather. Changes in the Climate which are a result of global warming, are happening. Unfortunately climate change is now very evident in many parts of the world and is undeniable. James Hansen, one of the world’s most highly respected climate scientists who visited NZ recently, claims that we still have time to turn things around. He says that coal, world wide, is the biggest cause of climate change. He thinks that we could still burn the remaining easily accessible oil and gas, as long as we don’t start any new extractions from tar sands and deep-sea drilling, and as long as we phase out all burning of coal to zero by 2030. To do that we would need to put all of our ingenuity, resources and will towards creating a renewable energy future.

Some ask: why should we be the first in world to stop mining and using coal?
The good news is that if we took that courageous step, we would not be the first. Resistance to coal and extreme fossil fuels extraction like deep sea oil has been growing worldwide for quite a few years.

In June 2007, Florida refused to license a huge coal plant because it was looking like it would be more expensive than investing in renewable energy generation. This led to the withdrawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.

This is just one example of thousands worldwide where governing bodies have responded to the people’s demand for common sense to prevail. Leading investment banks in some parts of the US have stopped funding new coal mines. Existing coal plants are being closed in New York State because of that state’s very sensible energy efficiency standards. The phasing our of coal plants is making some progress in Denmark, Hungary, Canada, Scotland.

If we keep pumping green house gases into the atmosphere, it is the young people and future generations who will suffer most. And young people world wide are making their voices heard.

A courageous group in the USA, fronted by 15 teenagers, is suing the US government under the Constitution for failing to protect the rights of future generations. (Google: Hansen, The Case for young people and nature.) Young people here in NZ and world wide are getting active to try to secure their own future: groups such as the NZ Youth Delegation, Generation Zero, The 2050 Alliance, Regeneration,, and CANA, (Coal Action Network Aotearoa) and a number of others. But we don’t want our youth to be the only ones fighting for their future. It’s time for all people to inform themselves, to get active and to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

Of course, jobs and money are vitally important for the wellbeing and of individuals and communities. No one is denying that. But a community that depends on jobs and income from unsustainable activity has no resilience and will eventually lose everything. Communities who are dependent on renewable resources that will never run out for their jobs and incomes are the ones that will survive in the longer term.

So what are the alternatives to fossil fuel extraction?
A report from The Political Economy Research Institute in the US estimated that 100 billion dollars spent on clean energy over a 10-year period could create two million new jobs, compared to just half a million jobs if the money were invested in oil and gas-related industries. That’s four times as many jobs. The Center for American Progress, has estimated that renewable energy and efficiency improvements create twice as many jobs (per unit of energy and per dollar invested) than traditional fossil fuel-based technologies. In other words, money invested in clean energy can create two to four times as many jobs as money invested in fossil fuel industries…

Policy-makers have the opportunity to create viable new markets, boost private investment and innovation in renewables, and stimulate the economy. Governments around the world are redesigning their economies to embrace a cleaner way of doing business. Governments like China, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Germany, who are offering incentives for renewable energy initiatives, are establishing stronger competitive positions in the global clean energy economy. According Investment New Zealand, approximately 250 companies and organisations are researching, developing and commercialising clean technologies in New Zealand and least 60 of these companies are potentially world class. An economic crisis is the breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Many very successful companies (Microsoft, Nokia), were born during during an economic downturn.

We need to demand from our government that they abandon their fossil fuel agenda, and put all of their efforts into creating a renewable energy future. It’s just the right thing to do.

What can you do?

  • Inform yourself. Let everyone know what is happening and build networks of people willing to take action. Check out the government’s New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website
  • Keep informed by signing up to the CANA e-mail list (
  • Talk about it to family and friends,
  • Write letters to editors
  • Write submissions on consent applications. CANA will send information to help with this .
  • Write to Fonterra letting them know that they should shift to wood fuels rather than burning coal. (to make their milk powder etc)
  • Write to oil companies..let them know that you will only buy diesel from those who do not make it from lignite
  • Write to fertiliser companies letting them know you don’t want urea made from lignite.
  • Make this an election issue. Ask candidates where they stand on coal mining and oil rigs.
  • Be ready to turn up in person at events like this ( at noon on the last Saturday of every month) and be ready to turn up at the mine site in Southland one day if necessary. It may come to that!
  • Google the following inspiring groups: awakeningthedreamer, pureadvantage, commondreams, generationzero (, happyzine

Ride for Renewables

30 Jul

My son and his Nana

Today my Mum and I took the toddler to his first ever protest. We attended the Bike Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining) in Motueka. He rode on the bike seat on the back of his Nana’s bike. He is just so cute in his little helmet! It was way past his naptime but he handled it all really well. It was fun. I know it’s a serious topic, but the event itself was fun. A few dozen people showed up on their bicycles, many with kids in tow. We pedaled along High St, two abreast, with plenty of cars honking on their way past. It is a stunning day today, perfect for a bike ride.

My friend Katerina Seligman gave a great speech about mining and renewables. I didn’t get to hear all of it due to an overtired hungry toddler who needed to be fed and kept happy, but I’m looking forward to reading it on email. Then local MP Damien O’Connor said a few words. It’s good to hear a politician agreeing that we need to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, not just frantically try to find more oil and coal or other energy source, and that environmental destruction is not OK. As far as I could tell (while I was busy with the aforementioned needy toddler) he didn’t really say anything except that he’d take our views to parliament. I suppose that’s what politicians are for… I personally don’t think he went far enough, but then he is a Labour MP, not a Green one!

I took a whole bunch of photos (some of them while I was riding!) and put them up on flickr here. Katerina is going to let me publish her speech here so I’ll upload that when it comes through.

Snow snap

28 Jul

Last Sunday night, it snowed! Right in the middle of town. I thought it was cold, but didn’t realise it was that cold. I’ve lived in or visited Motueka since I was 11 years old and it has never snowed this low down before. I had just put the baby to bed when Mum called me outside. I went outside, started shivering immediately, and got a snowball in my face! She’s been telling this story with glee to everyone we see.

It was a surprise to see it snowing, but it was even more of a surprise when we got up in the morning to see that it had settled, several inches thick. By the time the photos below were taken the sun had been up for several hours and we passed several cars on our way to Atamai with 6 inches of snow on their roofs and bonnets. We stood up on one of the elevated lots and looked down over the beautiful Motueka Valley, with snow right down on the hills.

It’s common here for the mountains to be white all winter, but apparently it’s been 100 years since it last settled in the valley and in town. For those in colder climes there is nothing special about these photos, but for locals, it was a rare and special event indeed! I was so glad we were here (rather than home in Wellington) and that my son got to experience snow for the first time.

Motueka Valley with snow in July



Atamai Eco-Village


Snowy logs


My toddler learns to walk on crunchy grass


My mother and my son


Snowy hills


Me and my baby standing on one of the Atamai sections, with the stunning Motueka Valley behind us.

Activity book

26 Jul

I made my son an activity book. I believe these are traditionally called quiet books, and were given to children to keep them quiet in church. Since my intention is not to keep him quiet, nor to go to church! I have called it an activity book. I think they are also called busy books.

This project took me hours and hours. Cutting out the fiddly little leaves and flowers and the tree and the edges of the barn and sewing the envelopes and all the velcro and and and. I think if I had realised quite how time consuming it would be to finish it, I wouldn’t have started it. But I am glad I did, so there’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

My toddler loves it. Admittedly, he likes the pages where he can pull things off (the flowers and barn pages are his favourites for that), and the book is already looking slightly worse for wear. He also really loves the family home page – he gets really excited opening the flaps and seeing his favourite people. At 16 months it is definitely a supervised activity, but I think it will last him a long time – he hasn’t even explored things like tying the shoelaces yet.

The whole book - I love the cover fabric!

Snaps shut

he pages are made from calico

The first page has my son’s name sewn in felt block letters.

The barn and seasonal tree pages.

The family home. Each window opens in a different direction, and contains a picture of his favourite people. He loves this page.

Summertime tree.

Autumnal tree

Winter tree. (The leaves and flowers velcro on and off and can be stored in the pouch of grass.)

Springtime tree.

The paint palette and shoelace pages.

Mix and match the colours. Each paint blob velcro's on and off, the point is to identify the colours. And a real paintbrush, for the sake of it. (Pretend painting?)

Shoes with real eyelets and shoelaces to practice threading and tying.

Texture and mailbox pages

Different textures to explore.

The mailbox snaps open and shut, there are 4 envelopes with tiny stamps on, and the flag pivots on the buttons.

Dress the boy pages.

He has a wardrobe of red t'shirt and blue shorts, polka dot pyjamas, and brown dungarees. They velcro on and off the boy and can then be put away in the wardrobe.

Flowers and barn pages.

The flowers button on and off.

I think the barn is so cute.

The barn doors open to reveal finger puppets. They're supposed to be a pig, frog, and duck but this was a later page and I was getting a bit over it so was a tad lazy with them. My boy loves them though.

The puzzle page. The pouches on the left each contain a different puzzle, which go on the velcro strips on the right.

Leaf puzzle

Heart puzzle

Star puzzle. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I failed dismally at putting this one back together. I'd like to blame sleep deprivation but I'm not too sleep deprived. Think I might redo this one with a simpler star and more even cutting.

Laundry and basket pages.

They are real mini pegs. The basket has an open top that the clothes can be put in.

The basket is for weaving practice. The bottom and right edges are sewn down, the rest can be undone and rewoven.

Clock and tent pages.

The clock hands can be moved when he is ready to learn to tell the time.

The tent can be unzipped to reveal a smiling teddybear.

The last page contains pouches for crayons and a little notebook. Although he loves to draw, he has also been testing his boundaries regarding eating the crayons. So they have been confiscated for a little while.

So, climate change isn’t real?

10 Jul

Tell that to the people in the Horn of Africa.

It breaks my heart to think of all those suffering people. What can you do? It seems so futile: too little, too late. So many devastated families.

Going raw again

9 Jul

Today is the day. I’m sick of making excuses for myself.

It’s too expensive. (It’s not.)

I don’t have time. (I can make the time)

I like cooked food. (Oh well.)


I have had a cough and stuffy nose for over a week now and I just can’t seem to shake it. I have been tired (no surprise, with a bug, and a sick toddler who has me up at all hours of the night). I can almost feel myself putting on weight.

Enough is enough! I have done raw before, and I know how it good it makes me feel, even if I don’t love the food. I do like it, I just don’t love it. Eating needn’t be such an emotional deal thing anyway. I’m weary of putting crap into my body.

Again, I’m not going 100% raw. I’m still allowing myself eggs, cheese, potatoes (cooked in a healthy manner!), and things like chickpeas and kidney beans. But I’m going to eat a lot more raw vegies and fruit, and snack on things like nuts and raw crackers.




A gardening misdemeanour

9 Jul

I am flabbergasted. I cannot believe the stupidity of the human race sometimes. Check out this story of a woman who faces misdemeanour charges for… having a vegetable garden in her front yard.




Good on her! I love that she decided to put her vege garden in the front yard instead of the back yard, so that her neighbourhood could share the experience of growing vegetables. Kids ride their bikes past and check out the plants? Awesome! Whether intentional or not, she is making a statement about home grown food, reducing her dependence on oil and processed food. With 6 children it’s no wonder she can’t afford to feed them all organic vegetables. I think she is doing a wonderful thing for her children; they won’t be the sort of kids who don’t know the difference between a potato and tomato.

Look like a pretty respectable front yard to me!

What a pompous jackass the Oak Park city council official is. Spouting the dictionary definition of suitable, to claim that only common ‘beautiful trees and bushes’ should be grown in the front yard. He clearly doesn’t have a clue. The whole concept of perfectly manicured front lawns with a few useless shrubs is an absurd concoction of ‘safe’ suburbia. Further, the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines suitable as ‘adapted to a use or purpose’. I think she is acting with utmost suitability. Someone on the Facebook page (there’s always a Facebook page!) made a very good point. They can’t tax the tomatoes you share with your neighbour. There’s the trouble.

It is a basic human right to grow food to feed oneself. This isn’t just a council code issue, it is much bigger than that. Julie Bass owns her house and she should have the right to put a vege garden wherever she wants to. The world is in desperate need of more vegetable gardens, and the idea that this woman could go to jail for hers is ludicrous. I can’t imagine that she will be convicted once it goes to trial… surely a judge or jury wouldn’t be as narrow-sighted as Kevin Rulkowski? May I point out that a vegetable garden is so much more beautiful (and infinitely more productive and valid) than a patch of grass. Ugh, conformity.

If you read her blog, she states all the things she didn’t do, because Oak Park doesn’t allow it. Bees, chickens, goats, compost, windmill… I feel so sad that she has her own land and wants to do all these things for her family and the planet, and some bureaucratic nonsense means she can’t. In an ideal world, she’d get an award for what she’s done, not jail time!

However, I think it’s great that she is getting so much support from all over the world. Goes to show there are plenty of aware people out there! A pity they probably don’t want to work for city council. Imagine what could get done!

I say we all plant vege gardens in our front yards in solidarity!*

*To be honest, I don’t plan to be in this flat for long, so I don’t really want to go to the effort of putting in a garden. But I am growing veges and herbs in pots on my stairs and porch… which you can see from the street! 


7 Jul

You know that feeling when you think you’re really busy? And then you get busier, and you look back and think you had leisure time then, but you really don’t now. And then you get busier again?

I totally feel like this

That’s where I am at the moment. I thought I had a fairly busy life pre-baby, although I also had plenty of time for chilling out. Then I had a baby, and mothering him takes up a lot of time! Then I started a business which involves a lot of sewing, website administration, and marketing. Then I started a part time swim teaching job. Then I started working on a book (I’m really, actually working on a book.). Then I got a part time nannying job. In August, I’m going to start studying organic horticulture. And I’m a single mother which means I have to do all the housework and all the errands, and I don’t have any childcare so I take my son everywhere or work while he’s sleeping (with one exception – my brother looks after him for a couple of hours a week while I teach swimming.). I’m also applying to be a foster parent.


So you can understand why I have been a little absent on the blog lately. I’ve been working really hard on my book with the aim of finishing it by the time I start studying.

I have also been really slack with eating raw food. When going through a heartbreaking separation and adjusting to life as a working single parent to a busy toddler, it is easy to revert to the style of eating that I have done for 24 years, rather than the way I was eating for a couple of months. I know it’s better for me. I know that once I get into a routine it won’t be too much harder.But did I mention I’m a little busy? It’s also a lot more expensive to eat raw – for me, anyway, as I ate a lot of nuts and things when I was mostly raw, but I didn’t eat much expensive processed food when I eat mostly cooked. So anyway, excuses excuses. I’m taking the baby on a trip to visit my Mum in a couple of weeks; it’ll be the school holidays so I won’t be teaching or nannying. It’ll be my last break for quite a while, and I plan to make the most of it! She is planning for us to be at least 80% raw while I’m there so I’m hoping I will get into healthier habits and continue them when we get back.

Farm for the future

7 Jul

Very interesting documentary: Natural World: Farm for the Future

Asks some very valid questions, and answers many of them too.