8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand (by Jill Caldwell & Christopher Brown) is a thought provoking little book about New Zealand society. It certainly has some significant gaps and omissions – lumping most Maori, Polynesian and other large-family non-European immigrant New Zealanders into the ‘Otara’ tribe is one of them, and silence about Asian New Zealanders is another. But it doesn’t pretend to be a scientific analysis, rather it presents the 8 ‘tribes’ as sharp caricatures of recognisable segments of contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand society. And those caricatures certainly provide some food for thought, from the perspective of green politics and the green movement.
Monthly Archives: January 2009
Between a rock and a hard place? What the structure of New Zealand society means for greens & the Greens.
To make progress on sustainability, greens, environmentalists, conservationists, nature lovers, and outdoor recreationists must recognise that simply espousing and advocating sustainable development is not nearly enough to bring it about in any meaningful way.
It is necessary to understand the logic of the existing economic system, its political and social institutions, and what drives this system relentlessly to exploit, degrade and ultimately destroy the natural world. Only with this understanding are we are fully empowered to challenge it head-on, in order to make sustainability its primary goal.
Allan Schnaiberg, in association with Kenneth Gould, David Pellow and others, has developed a theory that attempts to provide the required insight and understanding. This theory names the economic system the treadmill of production. Calling on the distinctly negative image of a treadmill – like the prison treadmill that broke Oscar Wilde – makes it clear that, by this analysis, something is fundamentally wrong with the way our economy functions.
In its issue of 18 October 2008, the New Scientist published a collection of nine short commentaries on the folly of growth. They are now on open access and make for essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of planet Earth.
For greens in particular, the articles provide welcome backing for a founding principle of the movement which has been eroded and undermined by relentless optimists (inside and outside the green movement) who would have us believe that ecological sustainability and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. The opening editorial piece makes it quite clear that ecological sustainability and economic growth are not at all compatible, observing:
personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. … if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.