Dave McArthur: Green Party Alert!
Green Party Alert!
Why the Party’s sponsorship of Enviroschools could well reduce our children’s options.
By Dave McArthur
Definition of science
Background -Global history
Background -New Zealand History
Reflections on hardcopy/published material
Reflections on electronic based material
These reflections were based on the New Zealand Green Party media release on the 10th of May 2006:
Education for sustainability will get a major boost in this Budget with a big increase in environmental education spending over the next four years thanks to a Green Party Budget initiative.
..A total of $7.4 million will build and support the national coordination of the existing Education for Sustainability programme.
…A further $4.6 million will go to the Enviroschools Foundation to support their excellent programmes.”
The reflections were also prompted by subsequent requests from people that I summarise my concerns about the Enviroschools education resource. Difficulties encountered accessing the resource limit these reflections and I have opted to provide a wide perspective of its place in global and New Zealand history. I conclude the resource is fundamentally flawed because of its lack of science evokes and the unsustainable images of nature. Its lack of science means there is a high risk it is an agent of Greenwash. I start with my definition of science.
Definition of science:
Science is Love is Energy. Each is bounteous and constant and comes in ever changing forms. Qualities essential for the existence of science include honesty, compassion, trust, collegiality, inclusiveness, time and reflection. The more we experience these qualities the more we know love and can better understand the nature of energy.
Enviroschools: Global history background.
Two new great resource uses happened at the advent of the 20th Century that transformed the role of the human species on planet Earth. They were new uses of electricity and a dramatically enhanced ability to extract fossil fuels such as coal, oil and Natural Gas. The resource uses spawned technologies that resulted in the number of humans expanding at an explosive rate from 2,000,000,000 to the current 6,500,000,000 (give or take a few).
Up till this point resources directly formed by solar activity had largely sustained the human species. Throughout the 20th Century humans developed uses of these two new resources that resulted in civilisation being reshaped on images and assumptions that these resources themselves were energy. At the same time the use of resources directly formed by the sun decreased dramatically per capita and many sustaining life forms were destroyed.
A major reason for these fatally flawed practices is that a relatively few humans (merchant bankers and traders) sought to dominate global wealth using the new resources. This group of people realised from the outset that the capital-intensive use of the electricity and oil/Gas resources enabled maximum short-term flows of personal wealth for themselves.
The capital-intensive use of electricity is in the form of Bulk-electricity generators and centralised grid structures. With oil/Gas it is in the form of very inefficient combustion devices such as the private motorcar, planes, Bulk-electricity generation and other processes that transform most of the fossil fuel resource into unusable heat i.e. involve processes that are very inefficient and maximise sales of the fuels.
At the same time, as part of this desire to maximise short-term flows of wealth, this group promoted the development of systems that suppressed knowledge of alternative, less capital intensive and more efficient use of the resources. As part of this process, energy was redefined by international accounting accords and limited to those resources that the group could trade and directly profit from; fuels were redefined as energy (i.e. as having effectively unlimited potential); the constant increase in the rate of consumption of tradeable resources was deemed healthy (GDP growth = good); the atmosphere was eliminated from energy equations; power was redefined as Bulk-electricity for most of the century and about the 1970s energy was also redefined as Bulk-electricity. US-based merchant banking concerns drove many of these redefinitions.
The bankers’ models for use of electricity and fossil fuels dominated global activity by mid century, regardless of the seeming political system. Indeed some of their most effective agents have been so-called counter movements such as “communist” and “environmental” (green) movements. The banker’s control of the general media and regulatory/educational institutions ensured they could frame debates with symbols of their choice and eliminate science.
A civilisation that is not based on science with its sound civics is doomed and the 20th Century was dominated by two World Wars as nations fought to secure resources, particularly oil and Gas. Some semblance of peace was regained after each occasion, sustained in part after WW1 by expansion of economies based on the harnessing of the great power of Bulk-electricity and after WW11 based on an enhanced capacity to extract oil and Gas reserves and consume material goods on scale.
Also working to maintain peace was the continuing existence of communities that retained some control of their electricity resources. These retained some ability to institute intelligent management of the use of Bulk-electricity and to promote efficient, innovative technology. Similarly some communities put a higher value on oil and Gas resources and taxed them accordingly to ensure food and transport systems were less wasteful of them and to minimise pollution.
These communities remained under relentless pressure to transfer control of their resources to the merchant bankers, to devalue fossil fuels and to adopt the dominant culture.
Towards the end of the 20th Century the effects of the lack of science were becoming evident. As much as the PR industry operating for the bankers likes to inform us to the contrary, oil and Natural Gas are not energy and it became apparent to the bankers that reserves were rapidly depleting. The global economic system they had created was based on this ignorance of the Conservation Principle and involved ever increasing material consumption and expanding debt.
The bankers viewed community-owned, often freehold grids as a source of “unrealised” or “under-utilised” capital. Since the mid 1980s there has a major push to unlock this “unrealised” potential by transferring ownership and control of electricity (communication) resources from communities to the bankers.
Enviroschools: Background New Zealand History
New Zealand is archetypal of this process. It has placed an extremely low value on fossil fuels such and this is reflected in our industry structures, dwelling use, transport systems and very high rate of carbon emissions per capita.
Our electricity use has largely been based on the Bulk-electricity model though its impact was ameliorated for much of the century by the fact that essential elements of the grid were owned and operated by 60 democratic community structures. These created some of the most advanced Bulk-electricity demand control systems in the world. Towards the end of the century they were also in the world vanguard in creating paradigms for the distributed means of generating electricity, educating for the efficient uses of electricity and reducing the need for Bulk-electricity using insulation etc.
The 1993 the Electricity Reform legislation, enhanced by the 1998 legislation, effectively disenfranchised communities and excluded them from intelligent uses of electricity. They were excluded from the Bulk-electricity market, forced to transfer ownership and control of crucial elements of their systems to private interests and prevented from engaging in the vanguard activities mentioned.
2000 was a pivotal year internationally and for New Zealand. A small consensus among climate scientists was developing that human activities could trigger a dangerous tipping point in the fine balance of the Warmer Trace Gases in the atmosphere that sustains us. An administration was installed in the USA that put an even lower value on fossil fuels than previous ones and its carbon sensibility was near non-existent. The cost of extracting oil and Gas on scale was at historical lows. Oil was selling on the international market for $US9 a barrel and this price was reflected in the pump price in countries like the US and New Zealand, which put a low value on the resource.
By 2000 some sensibility had formed in New Zealand that linked notions that our inefficient use of fossil fuels and electricity was unsustainable, the costs and risks of this inefficiency were set to rise exponentially and New Zealand as an economy and as a world model was untenable.
It was rumoured that the costs of extracting from Maui, our major Natural Gas field, were set to rise exponentially and that as international demand for global oil and Gas exceeded supply we would be involved in warfare to ensure cheap short-term supply.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) was given formal status as a Crown entity in 2000 and charged with establishing a National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS) by October 2001. This just worked to further obscure the fact that the Economic Reforms, especially the Electricity Reforms, were designed to promote the inefficient use of resources and the community structures capable of generating efficient practices had been gutted, if not destroyed.
Officially the risks of human- induced changes to climate balances were acknowledged with the development of Climate Change Office. However this agency was fundamentally founded in the belief we could trade away our responsibility for our carbon emissions and make a profit doing so.
The pivotal nature of 2000 in New Zealand is epitomised in the country’s educational response to these issues. At the time the two dominant Environmental Education resources were Energy Action and Enviroschools.
Both were generated by communities and were responses by councils and community boards to challenges they perceived in their work at the interface of delivery of services, the education system and local economies. Each had similar objectives and each had very different ethos and strategies for achieving those objectives. Both had flaws, reflecting the unique interests of the sectors that gave birth to them. Both were created in the mid early 1990s and trialled till 2000.
A summary of the history of Enviroschools can be read on its website. Key points are its community-council based origins, its extended period of trialling at a regional level and the launch of an actual kit and handbook in 2001.
The Energy Action programme was initiated in the early 1990s by a small group of business people in the Wellington region who were concerned to develop education programmes promoting awareness of carbon use issues while enhancing living standards by promoting the effective use of moisture and thermal barriers in dwellings, smarter transport and trade strategies and the greater use of small-scale use of electricity generation and our solar resource. Much of their work was coordinating councils, community boards and schools and providing educational and product services in lower decile areas.
As part of that work they created the 80-lesson, curriculum linked Energy Action resource complete with teaching posters, detailed school- community activities and teaching instructions. These provided an integrated introduction to key energy, thermal, electrical, carbon, population and civics precepts required for creating strategies for the sustainable uses of resources.
Local councils and trusts, using their Bulk-electricity and Gas retail facilities, supplied the resource to 1400 primary schools throughout New Zealand. EECA also provided funding for the wider programme (dwelling retrofits) and some of this funding was used to support the education required. Energy Action was fully facilitated into 140 communities and their school using a team which included a qualified teacher, a qualified engineer and back-up in the form of fundamentals such as quality insulation materials, efficient lighting technology and a central database to support schools in calculating their resource use and impact. The database also provided material for research and policy making.
Note: those attending the 2006 NZAEE National Conference will recognise elements of this in the accounts of Jonathon Porritt and Jenny Su of recent innovations this century in Scotland and Taiwan.
By 2000 Energy Action was recognised as a world leading resource. For instance, as early as 1995 the first thing members of a community saw when entering the main foyer of their primary school was a poster on which students had recorded their Bulk-electricity, Gas use (coal burners were being phased out) and even water use. On the same graph they converted this into dollar terms and into carbon dioxide emissions.
2000 was also the year the impact of the Electricity Reforms began to impact on scale on the New Zealand economy. One consequence of their loss of control of their local grids was the fact communities could no longer generate funds to support the Energy Action programme. Also the Reforms are designed to restrict community owned Bulk-electricity and Gas companies to the very narrow range of activities that are designed to serve the interests of the new banker- driven structures. Maximum sales and consumption is the imperative of the new order. The community structures that had created Energy Action disappeared and with them the essential source of funds.
2000 also brought in a Labour-led administration and Energy Action proponents lived in the hope that it would re-enfranchise communities and return some of the lost power back to them. During the hiatus in policy that year, Energy Action was extensively rewritten for Australia as Energy Action Australia and drafted for New Zealand as Energy Action 2008 to more fully support our Kyoto commitments. Key changes included an extension of the discussion of carbon-climate issues in a simple series of 20 learning activities linking Level One education (5 year olds) in our primary schools to national Kyoto commitments.
The Bulk-electricity/Gas sector origins of the original resource meant that it contained many of the flawed uses of the power and energy symbols promoted by the commercial interests mentioned earlier. These were removed. Focus was put on alerting and supporting teachers with simple understandings of basic and vital science concepts in a psychosocial environment where commercial interests invested heavily in creating confusion of them.
Also driving Energy Action 2008 was an awareness that there are three poorly communicated concepts in New Zealand plus the belief these can be simply communicated:
One is the nature of our thermal beings and the nature of thermal flows. This is vital for understanding the effective use of the atmosphere and thermal barriers.
Two is the nature of our trace beings and the nature of tiny quantities and large leverage. This is vital for understanding many things, ranging from being aware of the impact of our use of carbon on the atmospheric balances to maximising our bank balances.
Three is the fact that the meter board in the New Zealand dwelling is crucial to our transition from a civilisation based on cheap oil and Gas to one based on sustainable uses of solar and electricity resources and the avoidance of international war.
The reader will probably be well aware New Zealand is very much more firmly driven in the short-term interests of the merchant bankers now. These are evident in an array of statistics, for example:
These statistics all point to a fundamental lack of science in our lives. Energy Action 2008 sought to address this problem and as such it directly challenges key commercial interests.
Parliament is also challenged. The programme works against the current SOE framework, it works to expose the fallacies and risks of current national carbon use policies and it works to redirect the billions of dollars of dividends and taxes the Government at present receives from the Bulk-electricity sales SOEs back into the communities where it can be used to reduce Bulk-electricity dependency.
While individual officials working for agencies such as the Climate Change Office, The Ministry of Education, The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Ministry for the Environment and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority may be very sympathetic to the aims of resources like Energy Action 2008 their institutions are fundamentally designed to serve the interests of the commercial sector, not those of New Zealand communities.
All operate within the merchant bankers’ framework and employ their use of symbols. They confuse energy with the forms it takes and write the role of communities out of history. For instance, the publications of the Parliamentary Commissioner such as Electricity, Energy and the Environment and See Change omit the extensive community involvement in creating our national electricity network in the years 1904-1987 and the latter publication evidences no awareness that the Energy Action programme ever existed. And this agency is the pre-eminent environment authority in the nation.
Similarly EECA ceased interest in Energy Action 2008 when it learned in 2001 that the resource had been revised to teach against their commercial definitions of energy and supported the Principle of the Conservation of Energy. In doing so the resource directly challenged key ideas underpinning EECA e.g. humans can conserve energy and energy is the problem, not our use of it.
The importance of the third concept, the dwelling switchboard, may evade some readers. You used to own the meter/response technology in your dwelling through your local community structure and could exercise your democratic vote on its use. TransAlta-NGC assumed control of half of New Zealand’s 1.9 million meter boards in the mid-late 1990s. Vector Ltd, owned for a century by the Auckland community, controls a large portion of the remainder of the nation’s switchboards. Now Vector owns NGC and the control of Vector Ltd is now being transferred to overseas-based bankers with its privatisation. The transfer appears to have the approval and blessing of the Government and most of Parliament.
This transfer of control and wealth will have an unprecedented negative impact on our environment in the carbon constrained and Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age we are entering and it will vastly decrease the options available to our children.
In brief, the last thing the new owners of your switchboard want you to comprehend is the power and wealth their ownership bestows on them. It enables them and control the design and use of dwellings just at a time when this control is about to take on immense value as three great new technologies converge – broadband over grids, “smart” appliances and reduced cost micro-generation of electricity.
That is why TransAlta-NGC, which inherited community responsibility for Energy Action via its control of the community structures previous known as Hutt Mana Energy Trust, Capital Power and South Power, stalled funding for the education programme in 2000 and stopped it in 2001. Instead it transferred its “sponsorship” investment to the promotion of the Karori Wild Life Reserve, the Symphonia and other activities that do not put its short-term profits from its Gas and Bulk-electricity interests at risk.
On a national level the Government and industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in promoting New Zealand internationally as a 100% Clean Green environment. In the critical year of 2001 we even witnessed the phenomenon of Meridian Energy, the Government owned company or SOE (State Owned Enterprise) diverting million(s) of dollars to paying for the launch of the Lord of the Rings movie series in an attempt to portray New Zealand as the idyllic Middle Earth. The Minister of Energy and Science was also the Minister of Hobbits at that time.
This Clean Green Image is at odds with the reality and there is significant tension as the Government seeks means to promote the Image while accommodating the commercial sector interests that dominate our unsustainable uses of carbon, water, electricity and other key resources.
This is the background against which in 2000-2001 New Zealand decided whether it would support the Enviroschool’s resource and/or the Energy Action 2008 resource. The architects of both resources were clearly aware of the global issues and the local politics, as were many Government officials and some members of Parliament.
The architects of Energy Action 2008 saw Enviroschools as complementary and a very valuable subset to their resource, especially at the school level. (It was a subset in that the communication of the nature of energy was not its prime consideration.) Hence the architects of Enviroschools were given free access, as science requires, to study the resource and its implementation.
The architects of Enviroschools saw Energy Action (2008) as a very narrow resource that could be encapsulated in a one-week teaching unit. This narrow view of Energy Action (2008) was also widely promoted by the leadership of the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE) to policy makers. The President (<2000) of the Green Party also propagated this view at that time.
This view was maintained despite the fact that only about four New Zealanders involved in its revision had seen the revised version. Offers to these parties to study the revised resource were declined with a range of reasons being given, including “a lack of time” and “having greater priorities”.
At the same time the proponents of Enviroschools did not welcome scrutiny of that resource. Serious questions about the sustainability (science) of its content asked then remain unanswered today.
Other elements of science were missing in the response to Energy Action 2008. Dishonest information was disseminated. For example proponents of Enviroschools promoted mistruths such as the rumour that international interests were funding Energy Action 2008 and so it did not need New Zealand funding. This was part of a much wider pattern of profoundly exclusive and less than ethical behaviour at conferences, seminars and policy meetings that I have not time or inclination to detail here, though I would if necessary in a court of law.
Also exclusivity prevailed on scale on another level. The NZAEE, the ex-Green Party president and people from other environmental agencies and institutions all declared to the affect that, to quote the NZAEE, “There is no room for another resource besides Enviroschools” and “We (New Zealand) do not need another resource besides Enviroschools.”
This is not my understanding of science and such beliefs do not serve us well. Indeed I have considerable difficulty detecting a sustainable level of science underpinning Enviroschools. Without this essential level of science the resource can easily become a vehicle for PR Spin, Greenwash and the Clean Green Image campaign. Thus is becomes a liability for our children.
Enviroschools – Resource Assessment Qualification
I find it difficult to assess the impact of Enviroschools. I have visited other Enviroschools and I am a school janitor/caretaker of an Enviroschool Award School. This gives me access to the viewpoints of a range of caretakers and practical insights not available to politicians and academia. Not one Enviroschool’s facilitator or university academic promoting the resource has contacted me in my role as caretaker.
I have managed to get to one seminar after much negotiation to observe how our universities promote Environmental Education. However, in general, pricing barriers and direct refusals of permission to attend seminars by Enviroschool’s proponents has limited this avenue of research. If Enviroschools is a process then I do not associate much science with these barriers and refusals.
I do have some historical insight into its funding mechanisms through Government agencies and note its website acknowledges in its formative years the influence of the Tindall Foundation (The Warehouse -the New Zealand equivalent of the US based Walmart in terms of its promotion of carbon use.) and now of Vodafone (I do not have time here to got into the politics of grid control and use, including telecommunications). Those insights do not instill confidence in me.
Enviroschools –assessment of Hardcopy/printed material.
I require access to the hardcopy of the programme with its lesson activities to assess its possible impact on the average primary teacher. By “average” I characterise the teacher as hardworking, conscientious, dedicated to the welfare of children, overstretched by curriculum demands and uncertain of their ability to communicate “this thing called Science”.
I have been unable to access a single hard copy despite extensive inquiries ranging from my local Enviroschool, the Enviroschools Trust, Enviroschools facilitators, Ministries for the Environment and Education, the Green Party and environmental NGOs promoting Enviroschools. Reasons given include the kit has been mislaid, the organization has no knowledge of the existence of hardcopy, the copy is out on loan and that it is not made available to those who are seen as non-collegial and would criticise it.
Another reason traditionally given for refusal of access to Enviroschools resource material is that it is only available to schools that will fully commit to the programme. This policy is impractical and fails to recognise that staff and materials move between schools constantly. More importantly this response begs three important questions concerning science, respect for teachers and Cabinet rules.
1.It is not science.
2.Some teachers are very capable of evaluating and adapting a resource to ensure sustainable behaviour in their school.
3.Parliament’s Cabinet Rules 2000 state that publicly funded publications must be freely accessible. Sustainable Management Fund officials refused Government funding for Energy Action 2008 in 2000 and 2001 because copyright remained with its creators. This was despite their acknowledgement that it had a proven history of being freely accessible to the public.
This refusal of funding by the Government is important too because in 2001 it assumed ownership of large elements of Energy Action’s original community funders through its SOEs, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy in particular. Political imperatives and statuary requirements that SOEs be based on “business models” and must return maximum short-term profits to the (principal) shareholders. Any education programme that seriously challenges the flow of funds from Bulk-electricity consumption and promotes efficiency threatens that flow. It is effectively illegal for them to support such activity.
By contrast, Enviroschools has not been subject to the same scrutiny and Cabinet guidelines have not been applied to it with the same rigour. This is with tacit knowledge of officials that its implementation breaches the spirit of the guidelines.
Enviroschools – Reflections on electronic based material.
The quick look at the website such as a busy teacher will afford it reveals some fundamental flaws in the resource.
Its main symbol is “Enviroschools” and this does seem to reflect content and spirit accurately. There is a prime focus on the environment of the school with little reference to surrounding environments, including our image environment. This focus on school buildings and grounds is consistent with the Government’s Clean Green Image campaign and general thrust of policy. Indeed it can be seen to reflect the general ethos of Parliament, particularly in relation to its attitude to our use of carbon and the atmosphere.
One small example will suffice. Parliament’s policy is that the Market will provide solutions, what it calls “market driven solutions”, and this extends to school funding and support systems to a large degree. Hence the removal of school zoning is seen as a major means of ensuring all children have access to quality education. This policy is based on the belief that “exercise of choice” will enhance standards.
I see nothing in the resource that would prevent a school being accredited top Enviroschool award status even though its students are transported daily using significant and wasteful combustion of valuable fuels past a number of schools closer to their homes. At the same time I can see how a school will fail to be gain any Environschool credits despite the fact all its students walk to school.
The relevance of this is that in cities like Auckland up to 40% of transportation costs are now generated by education activities. In Christchurch the number of students cycling to school has dropped from over 40% to 18% or under in two decades. Billions of dollars that could have been used to prepare New Zealand with the rail system required in the Post Cheap Oil Age is being diverted to build more motorways to relieve car congestion.
The next most obvious flaw in the resource beyond its school-environment focus is its definition of energy. At every major point it works to reinforce the commercial sector’s definition of energy that I outlined earlier. The resource is divided into five equal themes and something called Precious Energy occurs along side water, buildings, landscapes and waste. They are not subsets of energy; they are equal sets with energy.
If browsing teachers are perplexed by this definition of energy, then some of their cognitive dissonance will be relieved when they encounter the resource’s definitions of energy as Bulk-electricity. Notable examples include pages in the lesson activities titled Energy Audits and illustrated with Energy Consumption graphs. The energy symbol will thus be used in schools and their communities with a vastly different impact than if it is associated with universal potential. Dozens of other such redefinitions will further reduce their dissonance.
One consequence of this redefinition is that teachers who have a reduced confidence in their ability to understand the subject of Science will experience increased doubt of their grasp of Science.
There is also a much higher risk too that children will become more vulnerable to the massive education programmes by the Bulk-electricity companies. Examples include Meridian Energy’s large scale wind-turbines in schools; Genesis Energies web-based education module which more or less eliminates the role of the atmosphere and where is never rains and lakes stay full; and Contact Energy’s media/web blitz redefining energy efficiency and the concept of positive energy.
All the above education resources are designed to support the Electricity Reforms and conveniently omit the fact that there is not a direct line from the Bulk-generator to the dwelling as occurs with small-scale electricity generation. The fact is the transmission line from generation to consumer is blocked and controlled by a retail corporation and supporting legislation. Enviroschools similarly fails to identify the various forms of electricity use such as Bulk-electricity (central based) and Micro-electricity (point of use based) Its general use of symbol tends to create associations with the former form and exclude small-scale distributed generation options.
And this links to another major flaw in the resource. Its framework defines the environment of our mind as something separate to the rest of environment. Hence it provides teachers no support in identifying the role of PR spin and Greenwash in their environment. As a result teachers are left more susceptible to commercial definitions of the nature of energy and science is reduced.
At risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, effectively the resource takes excellent science and reframes it in dissonance that works for the short-term interests of a few merchant bankers. Deep in the text it speaks of the universal and bounteous nature of energy but then packages it as something very limited in scale and separate to general resources like water, the land etc. One partial explanation might be that a superficial appraisal of lesson activities suggests they were sourced from unsustainable EECA publications.
Similarly the resource omits our Trace Beings and our Thermal Beings from discussion. This is particularly serious as knowledge of these elements of our being is essential for understanding our impact on the atmosphere, for instance. There is no parallel theme titled Precious Thermal Balances or Precious Trace Gases or Our Carbon Beings and effectively the vital role of the atmosphere in our lives is deemed irrelevant. This thematic construction is another case of the common confusion of energy with the forms it takes and where the atmosphere is eliminated from the combustion equation.
This failure to include the atmosphere affects contents throughout. The myths portraying combustion offers little hint of airs vital role. Flicking through the resource looking for hints of the atmosphere’s existence I note it lacking in key questions such as when it asks in Precious Energy for students to think about a car in terms of its use of fuel and fails to include the atmosphere in the same sentence. The focus is on the tank and the carburettor omitted.
There are references to the atmosphere and these evoke images of blankets and greenhouses rather than images of trace balances and leverage. Similarly statements such as “No burning, planet stays cool” are highlighted in the activity cards. This is in dissonance with our daily experience that Earth is subject to constant warming from solar activity and its surface is warmer than it would if there was not atmosphere.
I used the word “dissonance” and it is probably a reminder for me to summarize my views. I write with as much care and compassion as I am capable. I am very aware many people will have great difficulty with the ideas that come through me. To help you understand more why I believe symbol use is so important please visit my website www.bonusjoules.co.nz.
As a starter, read the Letter to Greenpeace in which I ask why climate scientists deliberately generate cognitive dissonance in the minds of the wider population. The reasons are very complex and involve insight and acceptance of our Primal Beings. My hope is you will better be able to understand this behaviour in the context of a wider of our Western culture and hopefully be able to review your personal behaviour from a dispassionate, even compassionate viewpoint.
In 2000 the architects and chief advocates of Enviroschools deliberately chose when creating the kit to adopt a limited, banker- driven uses of the energy and power symbols; to omit the vital roles of our use of carbon and the fine atmospheric balances in our lives; and to ignore the role of the PR industry in our environment. The evidence is in the history and the product. In recording that history and making these observations I do not ascribe any particular motivation or make any personal judgement of those decisions.
Enviroschool's architects and proponents were given complete freedom to study the Energy Action resource and witness its process of implementation at first hand. In the event they decided not adopt its fundamentals. Similarly they worked to suppress the Energy Action 2008 resource in the knowledge that it was driven by a search for sustainable images of energy, that it highlighted the role of carbon and the atmosphere while alerting teachers to the dangers of the destruction of science by commercial interests.
It may be that they could not adopt or accept the vision in the Energy Action at a primal level, less still that of Energy Action 2008. It is a difficult vision for the average wealthy Westerner to entertain, subject as we are subject to intense commercial pressures, a narrow range of life style options and the deep belief that the planet’s resources are ours for the taking.
It may also be that at some level Enviroschool proponents sensed what would get funding and what would not get funding under the existing national regime.
In the event the resource has received extensive funding, directly through the Ministry for the Environment and indirectly through the universities and schools. Perhaps it is helpful to ask why it attracted funding in the present political climate. Could the resource fundamentally be Greenwash, reflecting without challenging the unsustainable reality of our national culture?
The issue at the heart of such a question is the impact of funding mechanisms on education frameworks and it can be asked whether it is better to forgo funding rather than communicate in a way that destroys science? Could it be that the Environmental Education industry is its own worst enemy in terms of its supposed objectives? Could it be that we are better to use limited funding to focus on ensuring students have access to a Science strand based on science (civics) within a more focussed curriculum?
It is clear to me that Enviroschools proponents have a very different view to me of what constitutes science. They dismiss other education models as “Just science” and argue there is much more to Enviroschools than “science” and that “science is just one part of it.” From my point of view this is an admission that some parts lack science or that essential elements of what constitutes science are lacking in their definitions of it.
Personally I believe our children are not served by any loss of science and would rather forsake funding and a career in the Environmental Education industry than I know there is less science my actions. This does not mean I cease enjoying science and stop my work, as this essay proves.
As I wrote earlier, it is hard to assess the impact of Enviroschools. One thing is clear to me is that it has had a powerful impact on the shape of education in New Zealand already. Indeed its impact has been compounding since before the Kit was put into schools in 2001.It largest impact is in what it is not and the process of its implementation.
Hon Pete Hodgson, then acting Minister for Climate Matters, stated in his opening address at the recent 2006 Climate Change and Governance conference that the publics understanding of climate-carbon use issues has gone backwards in the last three years or so. So have other important indicators such as “energy efficiency” practice. I was able to predict this outcome seven years ago as I gained a wider picture of education processes in New Zealand.
Even as I understand some of the reasons for the regression of science and climate awareness I still feel sure that this situation remains avoidable. To reverse this trend requires a simple education resource readily accessible to primary teachers that is based on as much science as we can muster, that links our thermal and trace natures and empowers us in responsibility for our actions. (See my discussion of the bonusjoules-junkjoules concept on my website).
Though Energy Action 2008 provides valuable framing, its limitations have become apparent to me. Enviroschools is not that education resource either and arguably it compounds our existing problems and unsustainable ways on a larger scale than EA 2008. Wider public debate is required if we are to provide a programme that sustains our children and I suggest as a first step the Green Party should review its reasons for supporting Enviroschools.
The Party needs to explain to the public what symbols such as energy, power and greenhouse mean to it, where it believes the atmosphere fits into its worldview and how it believes its use of symbols reflects those meanings. Explaining its policy on care and risk strategies concerning the atmosphere/oceans is doubly important as Enviroschools defaults teachers across to Climate Change Office education materials. I have discussed at length elsewhere the major flaws in that agencies education publications!
If the Green Party believes humans can conserve energy it should reveal at least one instance of where a human has. If it cannot then it must review its support for EECA for a start.
It should show the evidence it has that Enviroschools is underpinned by science and how it is consistent with Party beliefs. It has to do this or its association with the resource will affect its credibility. Worse, its association with the resource may destroy even more options for our children and I am sure that is not what members of the Party wish.
In summary Enviroschools was born in an ethos lacking science, it confuses energy with the forms it takes, it omits the atmosphere out of vital equations and is at high risk of promoting Greenwash, fear, confusion and loss of hope.
I believe New Zealand can create a resource that inspires with its vision of energy and generates sustainable behaviour born of hope and science.