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Coming together for the climate on Waitangi Day

Extinction Rebellion Whangārei

What has Waitangi Day got to do with climate emergency?

According to local climate activist group, Extinction Rebellion Whangārei (XRW), it has everything to do with it.

As one XRW member, Catherine Murupaenga-Ikenn (Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa), says, “Waitangi Day is a time to remember tangata whenua Tiriti rights to self-determination, our taonga (including thriving traditional lands, natural habitats and territories) and our customary obligations (such as kaitiakitanga over our natural environment).”

She reflects on the powerful history of Māori campaigns for the return of their lands, foreshore and seabed, fresh water ways, the restoration of thriving indigenous biodiversity and ecosystems, and social justice: efforts which tangata whenua continue to this day.

“To think that we came this far only to have all that sacrifice neutralised and rendered futile by the horrific effects of avoidable climate catastrophe…It’s the ultimate injustice, and one which is especially cruel considering that our whānau (a high proportion of whom are in poverty) are likely to be hit first and hardest, despite having contributed least to our climate emergency.”

Many Māori communities are also located in coastal areas which will need to relocate (if they haven’t already) due to increasing coastal erosion, storm surges, severe weather events and sea level rise.

“The evidence of a planet in ecological distress is all around us,” Ms Murupaenga-Ikenn said, “and the intensifying impacts will affect everyone. Unprecedented rates of ice cap melting, depleting aquifers, out of control forest fires, more powerful hurricanes, record-breaking high temperature and drought conditions (including in Northland, necessitating drastic water use restrictions), coral reef bleaching and wildlife extinction are just a few indicators.”

“We must take corrective action now to fend off the worst effects of our climate emergency, and support community resilience to withstand the extremes, that are, sadly, already ‘baked in’.”

XRW believes that whether Māori, Pākehā or tauiwi, joining together to create meaningful climate emergency responses must be Aotearoa’s top priority, similar to mobilisation efforts in the World War I and II eras.

While the timing of such destructive climate scenarios within current generations’ lifetimes is uncertain, XRW cautions that people would be seriously misinformed to believe society has any buffer of time to act.

Says Murupaenga-Ikenn, “Many experts still believe that with systemic change (eliminating fossil fuels, establishing regenerative agricultural practices, transforming the economy, scaling-up sequestration technology and so on) it’s possible for human civilisation to keep global average temperature increase to within a ‘liveable’ 1.5oC-2oC range. However, other expert data shows that, even if every country took all available radical action, we’ll still be on track for a 3oC global average temperature rise – or higher.”

“The truth is, no-one can accurately predict which way the world will go. But that’s really beside the point: we know enough to understand things are going to get worse, so that’s what we must start preparing for.”

“What better way to show you care for a peaceful, liveable Aotearoa than to join a climate justice campaign and get actively involved today.”

The XR global movement includes three Demands of all Governments to disrupt the climate crisis: Tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency; Act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and establish and be led by a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

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