University of Waikato’s Professor Bob Evans advised New Zealand has to take charge of environmental planning to deal with three challenges ahead of us – climate change; volatile and rapid global change; and sustainability and global ‘fair shares’.
Speaking at the 13th Lincoln University State of the Nation’s Environment Address, on the theme ‘Fair shares, self-interest and environmental planning, will New Zealand cope with the challenges of the 21st century?’, Professor Evans said “We can either stumble into the future and hope that it works out alright, or we can try and shape it. To shape it, we need to know where we want to be, and the challenges that we must face on our journey to get there.”
It is predicted that by 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.2 billion people and this will have an impact on our world. Oil, gas and other mobile energy sources will inevitably become more expensive, food prices are likely to rise and international competition for all natural resource will become more aggressive.
“Sustainability is not a thing, it’s a way of doing things” he said. “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
One key element of sustainability is the concept of fair shares of the earth’s resources. The ecological footprint is the number of hectares of productive land or sea required to support one average person at the world average consumption level. During his address Professor Evans gave an example of London’s ecological footprint. This equals 49 million global hectares (gha) which is 293 times its geographical area (about twice the size of the UK). If this level of consumption were to be extended worldwide, we would require at least three planets.
Research shows that countries that have a high quality of life unfortunately have increased environmental cost. Focusing on environmental planning will allow citizens to still have a high quality of life but at a low environmental cost.
New Zealand is known for its space; renewable energy; declining bio-capacity; positive environmental awareness; small population; ingenuity; and small towns. Unfortunately New Zealand also has urban sprawl; untenable eco-footprint, high carbon output; export of raw materials; a rising and aging population; and the loss of productive agricultural land.
What does this mean for New Zealand? Professor Evans said “the New Zealand Government needs to respond to these challenges through a national urban strategy, review of the RMA, a national spatial/land use plan, and support and resource for local government.
“In terms of planning all this means securing significant reductions in overall energy use; restriction of car usage including parking; promotion of public transport, walking, cycling; changed building regulations and design guidance; tighter urban containment; and micro and meso-renewable energy.”
Professor Evans also believes that the education sector has a responsibility to ensure they inform and encourage the younger generations to be political and aware of the environmental impact on our planet as they will be the ones that will have to deal with the consequences of our past actions.
Presenting the challenges of the 21st century, Professor Evans said “we need to re-think how we live, how we plan for the future and how we can meet future challenges. If we wait until we need to change, we probably won’t be able to afford it.”
The series of annual Lincoln University’s State of the Nation’s Environment address was founded in 1999 by Lincoln University’s Professor of Nature Conservation, Professor Ian Spellerberg and associates. Presenters over the years have included Cabinet Ministers, Government ministry heads and environmental and conservation group leaders. The 2011 address was chair by Lincoln University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger Field.
The State of the Nation Environment Address is available on YouTube.