Friday, January 22, 2010



John Robinson

1. Overview.. 1
2. The world scene. 2
Extinction. 3
Population. 3
Food. 3
Water. 3
Plague and war. 4
Refugees. 4
Climate change. 4
Post-oil 4
Economic depression. 4
The whole picture. 5
3. New Zealand the lifeboat nation. 5
4. Control and information. 6
5. Science and information. 8
6. Kyoto calculations and the new currency market 9
7. To the task 11

1. Overview

Climate change is not the one key global issue facing modern civilisation. While global warming is flavour of the month, the current buzz word filling the media, it is only one of a number of interacting trends that will result in world-wide breakdown in about 20 years time, around 2030. Then this lucky outpost, the last significant land mass to be colonised by people, will become a lifeboat for refugees fleeing their collapsing societies.

This has been known for 40 years, but resolutely denied. The science of all of civilisation on a global scale - building on information from many disciplines, forming a synthesis and constructing large-scale computer models - has long forecast such trends. And the world is following those forecast trends towards the expected global crisis.

In this brief discussion I list some key issues, consider the situation of New Zealand in this troubled world, open the question of control of a society which has been moving so resolutely in the wrong direction, with particular mention of the destruction of that science whose responsibility is to examine evidence and inform us all, point to the absurdity of the Kyoto approach, and finally suggest that each and every one of us must become fully aware of the disastrous situation, so that we together can do something about it instead of retreating to denial.

I hope that this introduction will wet your appetite and that you will seek further, more detailed information. What is happening is evident; the information is widely available, reported in the media with more detail from web sites. So a first source of further knowledge is readily at hand; you must simply read with care and get to grips with the reality of the reports. It is not a fantasy world that we are told of, but our one planet home. Here is my suggested list to get you started.

Thomas Paine Rights of man 1791
Rachel Carson Silent spring 1962
Paul and Ann Ehrlich Population, resources, environment 1969
Barry Commoner The closing circle 1971
Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens The Limits to growth 1972
Lester Brown The twenty ninth day 1978
Barbara Tuckman A distant mirror, the calamitous 14th century 1979
Barney G O, The global report to the President 1982
John Robinson Excess capital 1989
Derek Wilson Five holocausts 2001
Graham Turner A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality 2008. A copy of this CSIRO paper is available at and a video at
The Island Bay World Service Manifesto 2008 is found on the website at Associated sites are listed there.
John Robinson NZ 2030, the world’s lifeboat 2009

There are many other writings exploring the many facets of the global crisis, some of which are referenced in those books. The books by Wilson and Robinson are available from IBWS, contact We in the Island Bay World Service meet each month; all are welcome, and we are happy to talk with your group if you wish.

2. The world scene

Some 41 years ago in 1968 a group of international civil servants and business leaders shared their impressions of the world that they saw in their many work travels. They noted the repetition of the same problems in all parts of the globe, and concluded that many problems had become global in scope. They formed The Club of Rome and commissioned a study by a MIT computer group. The report to the Club of Rome, The limits to growth which came out in 1972, raised the possibility of a global population decline due to food shortages and pollution by 2050.

That was just one report. I had already become familiar with literature describing the environmental catastrophe caused by human activities. Further far more detailed global models followed. That further information, and the events of the subsequent decades, have convinced me that global collapse is probable around 2030.

This is a science-based forecast. It is based on work with many international organisations, with studies of many global model projects and the publications of many diverse think tanks, and with the comparison of forecasts with events as time passes. A general pattern was evident in 1968-72 and this was subsequently confirmed and extended by considerable scientific analyses. There have been no surprises, as many forecast events, symptoms of the coming storm, have come to pass. Major features of events in the years up to and around 2030 include:


For thirty years now scientists have warned that the earth is entering an extraordinary period of species extinctions. While environmental destruction and extinction of other species has been a constant feature of the spread of humans across the globe, the process has accelerated. Many countries no longer have any remaining natural environment and many animals live in severely constricted areas, some awaiting their inevitable end.


The reason of this global destruction is the human population explosion; we have been born as part of a plague. The number of people reached 1 billion in 1800, then tripled to 3 billion in 140 years to 1940, and is tripling again in 80 years to 9 billion in 2040. An overshoot-and-collapse forecast was made in 1972 in The limits to growth and a 2008 report from the Australian CSIRO shows that the world has since followed their standard run closely, and is well on track to disaster (both are referenced above). Yet that worrying forecast has been met with denial and false rebuttals, with overdeveloped societies still insisting on an absurd and unsustainable growth. New Zealand has no population policy and calls for a population debate fall on deaf ears.


Supplies of food are uncertain. Once the population has added a couple more billions from the 6 billion of 2000, there will be too many and there will be widespread starvation. Planting of crops for fuel production has worsened the situation.


Water shortages are common, with frequent disputes over supplies. One particular concern is the draw-down of aquifers whereby stores of underground water are being depleted and ruined, and much agriculture dependent on irrigation will fail with the water. For decades scholars have pointed to water as the key determinant of limits to potential food production.

Plague and war

The frequent stresses of overpopulation with the concentration of peoples in cities and eventual resource shortages have led to plague, war and religious extremism many times throughout history. Current regional disputes will blow out in widespread war and destruction. The terrible 20th century with its murderous world wars will form a template for the even more horrifying 21st century. As Barbara Tuckman wrote in A distant mirror, the calamitous 14th century, the world will repeat the experience of the Black Death and subsequent disruption when around one-third of Europe perished. Then, as now, successful technological developments had resulted in centuries of growth of population and cities, with the greater concentration of peoples providing a rich breeding ground for disease.


Back in 1983 when I worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Blue Plan on the Future of the Mediterranean, the movement of economic and environmental refugees across the Mediterranean was foreseen, and this is now well established. It has long been obvious that struggling peoples and the wealthy wishing for a better environment will want to leave overcrowded South Asian countries. While the wealthy have long been welcomed. Australia is now taking strong action to keep boat people away.

Climate change

The burning of fossil fuels is the major contributor to greenhouse gases. New Zealand is a hypocritical nation; while signing up to Kyoto and telling the world of our ‘clean, green image’ this country has burned more and more, importing gas-guzzlers and extending motorways, building up the driving habit. The result is that between 1990 and 2007 emissions of greenhouse gases increased by 39.2% for energy and 35% for industrial processes.


The forecast oil peak came as expected in 2008 as the prices zoomed to around $150 a barrel. Our whole economy is dependent on cheap available oil, which will soon be unavailable. The changes required are fundamental, and oil cannot be replaced by either electricity or plant fuels. Yet advisers to the New Zealand government have forecast variously a peak around 2035 and oil prices continuing at around $35 a barrel.

Economic depression

Western capitalism in fundamentally unstable, being characterised by the formation and bursting of a series of bubbles, leading towards a massive depression akin to 1929-1933 in a pattern described in Excess Capital. One such, the stock market crash of September 2008, followed the collapse of the oil bubble when a price drop from $150 to $50 a barrel removed an enormous amount of petrodollars from the market (about $3 trillion a year). This depression has a way to go yet. Developed nations have long needed to get off the growth treadmill and move to a steady and equitable economy, but the 1984 Douglas coup took this country in the very opposite direction, and has harmed many lives since. The world is in a lose-lose situation. There is no readiness to shift to a steady state economy or to accept limits to consumerism. Economic recovery will fuel a new bubble, and the damage will continue as human activity increases and more resources - most importantly oil - are used up.

The whole picture

All those features of world civilisation interact and add together to create the whole picture. This has been forecast. Indeed a 2008 study by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) showed that the world is following the pattern described in 1972 by The limits to growth. They conclude that “30 years of historical data compare favourably with key features of a business-as-usual scenario called the ‘standard run’ scenario, which results in collapse of the global system midway through the 21st century.” There is little new here. Such crises have happened frequently through history. The difference is that whereas past events have affected regions, this time we are all involved in a connected world, the global village with the integrated market of modern globalisation.

This death of billions is quite unnecessary and is the consequence of human development; the subtitle of my 1989 Excess capital was “How the fruits of human progress are destroying modern society and the environment.” Yet this is not the end of life on earth, the end of people, or the end of civilisation. Many will die, but many will survive. Indeed while some scientists point to the coming storm, many other forecasts focus on technological advances and describe a wealthy, high-tech future. In a 2000 report to the Foundation for the Future, A review of some forecasts to the end of the century and beyond, I reached the conclusion that both sets of forecasts may prove robust, as existing trends take different regions or different groups along very different paths. There is then the probability of the coexistence of two very different societies in the future, the rich and the poor. This is quite likely; after all it was like that in medieval times and in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, and this is the reality in many parts of the world today.

3. New Zealand the lifeboat nation

New Zealand is caught up in the modern crisis, failing to deal with many serious problems, with high unemployment and inequality and much environmental damage. There are however still some remnants of the natural world here. New Zealand is far from the crowding and pollution of many highly populated regions, and is isolated from the worst of the coming strife. To the rest of the world New Zealand will be a sanctuary from a collapsing civilization. There will soon be a flood of refugees from a hellish world, some wealthy enough to buy their way in, some distressed and starving.

So New Zealand will be a place of escape, a favoured place, where people may survive far from swirling disaster and conflict. How can we react to the demand for places on one of the world’s lifeboats? The harsh reality is that the time is coming for some very tough decisions. Do we allow ourselves to be overrun or do we man the barricades? James Lovelock has opened the debate in The vanishing face of Gaia. “Our first imperative is to survive, but soon we face the appalling question of who we can let aboard the lifeboat? And who must we reject? There will be no ducking this question for before long there will be a great clamour from climate refugees seeking a safe haven in those few parts where the climate is tolerable and food is available. Make no mistakes, the lifeboat simile is apt; the same problem has faced the shipwrecked; a lifeboat will sink or become impossible to sail if too laden. The old rules I grew up with were women and children first and the captain goes down with his ship. We will need a set of rules for climate oases.” That is us. How will New Zealand react?

· The country may become overcrowded with refugees, with the high population numbers bringing environmental depredation and resource shortages.
· The country may be colonized by wealthy refugees who will insist on strong defenses to keep out the following masses.
· The country may move to self-sufficiency with a limited population, again requiring strong defenses and tough decisions on the few who can be allowed in.

These are key questions, yet New Zealand lacks a population policy and refuses a debate on the alternatives and issues.

4. Control and information

Since the Second World War, western capitalism has operated as a command economy and not as an unfettered free market. As I described in Excess Capital, enormous effort is required to prevent the overshoot and decline (i.e. collapse) of the whole economy. While many ways to organise an economy, such as social activities on a national scale (schools, hospitals, welfare benefits) are beneficial, others involve conspicuous and harmful waste. Principle among these is the spending on a massive military.

In 1961 the conservative USA President Dwight Eisenhower warned of that growth of the military-industrial complex. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

That power has grown. In 2008 $711 billion or 48% of USA federal taxes went to current military spending and cost of past wars. This one country is responsible for 44% of the $1.473 trillion world expenditure on arms.

The economic system is dependent on a growth imperative (also described in Excess Capital). Goods and services are produced and sold, thus creating profit. Once the demand is satiated, the machine slows and then fails. The imperative for unbounded profit is buttressed by a belief in a self-serving concept of freedom with an emphasis on ownership and the absence of any constraints on wealth. In this ideology freedom demands growth; only unfettered capitalism can provide freedom, defined as the ability of wealth to do as it likes. Obviously the existence of physical limits that demand constraint is inimical to the system and must be denied – even against all common sense. These deep-held, self-serving beliefs have prevented questioning debate, done immense harm and created the conditions for disaster.

The enormous power of corporations includes the control of media, which are loath to take up issues that will embarrass or displease their owners or the large advertisers who pay their wages. The growth of alternative information exchange through the web danger goes a long way to correcting that imbalance, but creates another danger. The information available is provided from a multitude of sources, and many well-funded groups (particularly from the fringe right in the USA) provide highly questionable material. Some extreme (and nonsensical) groups preach a distasteful and false conspiracy theory, that government is per se harmful and must be fought with arms. ‘Buyer beware’ in all information provision; it is important to question and debate, gathering background information and demanding that any argument be fully understood before it is accepted. If a presentation is full of suggestive music and flickering visuals that do not convey clear information, you are being brain washed or conditioned; take care.

The point is well made by architect Richard Gage in his DVD 9/11 Blueprint for Truth 2008 Edition. His arguments are clear and all visuals, which are complete rather than confusing bites as common in many presentations, can be understood to illustrate his points. Gage speaks clearly, with the camera focussed on his talk and without images flashing across the screen. He presents facts in a straightforward manner and sets down a logical argument, asking the viewer to consider the information carefully. At all times we know just what is being said and what is intended. He sets out an accurate picture of the scientific method, and follows it.

I am highly critical of many conspiracy theories; there is no small and evil group in control of the world. Rather there are many who share a common class interest and act in tandem to support the status quo. However from time to time some group will carry out an action that points to a conspiracy amongst a number of agencies – for example the assassination of President Kennedy in the USA and the Mount Erebus cover up in New Zealand (the famous “orchestrated litany of lies”; see Peter Mahon Verdict on Erebus 1984).

Gage presents a damning analysis of the collapse of the three towers on 11 September 2001 (9/11) in New York. I believe that I acted wisely in resisting his hypothesis that these were brought down by pre-prepared controlled demolition; the thought is too horrible to contemplate. But after watching the DVD and hearing him speak in Wellington, I have become convinced – after a thorough examination of the evidence. (For further information go to

Awareness that a powerful class rules our society and blocks debate on such a major issue as the future of peoples and of civilisation then creates immense problems. Who do you believe? These issues are complex and society is best informed by scientists acting independent of non-professional control, and able to explore in depth with a focus on facts rather than ideology. Each scientist, while enjoying a satisfying career, could then seek the truth and be a true servant of all the people. Unfortunately, the scientific enterprise has been destroyed in New Zealand.

5. Science and information

We all gain knowledge from those experts who have made a career in their particular subject – provided those who are knowledgeable are permitted to speak out. That process was of great assistance to New Zealand in the nuclear debate of the 1970s when scientists with differing views could bring information to the public.

Science is, and should be, fun. The game of exploration can attract the best minds, and scientists will expand human knowledge and understanding, and enrich the economy. The process worked well in the first half of the nineteenth century as work on trace elements helped to enrich pastureland. In the 1930s New Zealand scientists had recognised the potential of radar, and they were able to develop and run radar stations here in Wellington and across the Pacific.

The further organization of science after the War was based on wide-ranging discussions by leading scientists from other Commonwealth countries. They knew that an organisation of national scientific activities would produce the best returns if science is run by scientists who know their subject and how to best carry out their work. This follows the ‘Haldane Principle’, which calls for the separation of research from administrative departmental control. The resultant Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the DSIR, worked well.

Yet in 1992 politicians, guided by a business ideology, broke up the DSIR and organised science into business units, Crown Research Institutions or CRIs. Maurice Williamson, former Minister of Research, Science & Technology saw the DSIR as an old government monolith and an old sort of soviet-style bloc. So they set up a fragmented system based on a quite inappropriate business model.

The mission of the new control agent, the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FoRST, a true monolith staffed by the ignorant with little understanding of science) is “Actively growing value for New Zealand by investing for results from research and development.” This is nonsense; such a goal is unreachable. It is simply not possible to second-guess the outcome of scientific research.

There have been many studies of the effectiveness of research programs, and they all tell the same story. The National Science Foundation in the USA set down a clear guideline; there are no measures (in the conventional sense of the word) of what the future benefits of research will be, at least in part because the future pattern and course of research impacts cannot be known. It is not possible to evaluate a scientific program in advance.

The conclusion is echoed in the UNESCO International Comparative Study of the Organisation and Performance of Research Units which reported results of a survey of 1,220 research units in six countries. “The performance of research and development activities cannot be evaluated by a single universal criterion. The autonomy of the research group in decisions concerning the actual research process is essential for all types of effectiveness. When expectations focus on scientific goals, scientists are apparently best left alone. There is then a limit to the extent to which upper level management should plan and control research activities.”

The consequences of the foolish restructuring, counter to all professional understanding, have been disastrous. A considerable amount of the time of scientists (estimates are in the 30% to 50% range) is taken with funding applications rather than research. Around 89% of applications fail and much of the effort put into those applications is wasted. Such funding uncertainties and strange decisions limit and disrupt science - projects which take some time to carry out may stop midway and linked projects may fail when a significant stage is not funded. The control structure, including the extensive funding rounds, is expensive and wasteful. And so on.

Organizations that must compete for funds need to please their masters. Subsequently scientists are prevented from speaking and public debate is thus controlled. One other consequence is the prevention of new, challenging initiative such as my own interdisciplinary and holistic subject of futures research. When the problems of global interconnectedness became evident I commenced research in 1974 while a scientist in the DSIR, and the organisation supported my initiative. This preceded the short-lived Commission for the Future (1978-82). By 1984 I had extended my research and worked with a number of international organizations, but I found myself unwanted and unemployable. There is no place in the current structure for this new discipline since it brings a challenge to the status quo. The consequence has been large-scale ignorance of many current issues. The country could have been forewarned but has chosen active denial.

6. Kyoto calculations and the new currency market

Despite signing up to Kyoto and talking clean-green, New Zealand is failing to take any meaningful action on climate change. Instead of reductions there has been a massive increase as the production of greenhouse gases through energy use expanded by 39.2% between 1990 and 2007. And many Greenwash exponents fly off to Copenhagen, to produce yet more massive amounts of additional greenhouse gases.

The principle source of greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels. Yet instead of tackling that major question, the debate in New Zealand has swirled around from cow farts to forests, with an added diversion from the Maori Party argument for ethnic-based special treatment. The resultant confusion is further fueled by the trading of carbon credits, which requires all contributions to be measured in one simple unit. For the impacts of the various sources of greenhouse gases are fundamentally different. The burning of fossil fuels is a simple addition of new greenhouse gases, releasing carbon that has been stored in the earth for millions long. Trees and cows are part of the natural environment, with gases recycled, sequestered and output at various stages; this is a more complex system. The mixing of such diverse physical systems has helped to cover up the lack of action in a country that continues to drive on large inefficient vehicles, to plan and build more roads, to favour road transport over rail, to encourage motor sports, to fly frequently and to encourage tourists to add to their carbon footprint.

Many scientists feel that the impact of agriculture is overstated. The total system of cow plus meadow will remove some carbon dioxide from the air, and produce some methane. The overall balance is highly uncertain. About 54% of carbon taken up by cows is breathed out back into the air. Some 10% is removed as milk and meat. Then 32% is excreted on to the field, where what happens is highly variable; while natural decay puts carbon dioxide back into the air, significant amounts may be taken up and stored in the soil. Thus the cows and pasture may act as a carbon sink.

The remaining 2% of the carbon is released to the air as methane by cow farts and burps. This estimate is highly dependent on the individual animal, with a huge uncertainty of plus or minus 53%; yet it is this methane that is included in the greenhouse gas calculations. And while methane has a greater immediate impact as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (about 7.6 times as much for each carbon atom), it is effective for a shorter time as methane decays with a half-life of around 5.8 years. After some years a constant number of cows will just preserve a constant amount of methane in the atmosphere.

The effect of planting or removing forests is similarly fraught with uncertainty. Obviously the impact of planting will depend on what is being replaced – cutting down gorse to plant trees may actually reduce the uptake of carbon dioxide. The consequences of cutting trees will also depend on the use of the wood; much may be sequestered in the final product, while much, perhaps as much as half of the carbon in the wood, may be released back into the atmosphere within five years through decay of off-cuts, roots and branches.

The reliance on a market mechanism is tricky as each of these fundamentally different activities must then be measured in the same carbon credits. Considerable scientific expertise is taken up in this complex exercise, which could be better applied finding solutions.

The proposed trade in carbon credits will lead to yet another destructive money-go-round, to another boom and bust cycle which will damage the world economy just like the banking boom which led to last year’s collapse. Financial players are rubbing their hands with glee. The Australian Carbon Ring Consortium, including Rothschild Australia, plans to become a key player in the international carbon credit trading market, “an emerging commodity market that analysts estimate could be worth up to US$150 billion by 2012.”

The best solution would be to recognise that we share this planet and take action in every sphere to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and to maximise uptake and sequestration. The money-go-round introduces distracting red herrings and will create another financial monster. A first and all too evident action would be to tackle energy use – and for supposedly concerned public figures from the Green Party, the Labour Party, Greenpeace and local councils to stop unnecessary travel, to stay at home and to tackle the problem.

7. To the task

Many years have been wasted. We are all together on this one planet, part of a human plague that destroys other species, harms the environment, threatens the viability of our civilisation and promises widespread starvation. We cannot plan for sustainability, for our current way of life cannot be sustained. We look forward to a time of massive disruption, and must consider how best to survive the storm. If we tackle the task this will be a satisfying time, bringing fulfilment and togetherness as we join together to do the best we can.

Nothing can grow for ever. Each of us goes through stages of immature growth leading to maturity when we are fully formed. So it is with a society; when growth has succeeded, the time comes for a change of life, to mature strength, making good use of the benefits of past effort. We are there. The time for growth has long gone. This is a tough ask in a country with no awareness of how to work together, and with a widespread belief in social differentiation – tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in income and benefits for the poor, separate ethnic treatment written into the law.

A first aim in difficult times must be to protect the vulnerable. Guidance can be found in the profound thinking of leaders of the democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, those who fought to lay down the foundations for our 20th century welfare state. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The American Declaration of Independence challenge to absolutism and inherited privileges was expressed powerfully by Beaumarchais in his 1781 play, The Marriage of Figaro, in which Figaro the barber turns on Count Almaviva and issues his famous challenge: “Because you are a grand seigneur you believe yourself to be a genius … Nobility, wealth, rank, offices! All that makes you great and mighty. And what have you done to deserve so much? Just the trouble of getting born and no more: and for the rest you're just an ordinary man.”

A call for equality challenges the status quo and overturns inherited differences of poor and position. This is revolutionary. We should not be afraid of that; we are not bound in chains by the historical past. As Thomas Paine wrote in Rights of man, we need accept no tyranny of the past. “Those who have quitted the world, and those who are not yet arrived at it, are as remote from each other as the utmost stretch of mortal imagi­nation can conceive. What possible obligation, then, can exist between them; what rule or principle can be laid down that of two non-entities, the one out of existence and the other not in, and who never can meet in this world, the one should control the other to the end of time? The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also; and as Government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it. That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, who is to de­cide, the living, or the dead?”

This is the promise of one principle of the Treaty, set down by Parliament and included in a number of statutes. “Article 3 constitutes a guarantee of legal equality between Māori and other citizens of New Zealand. This means that all New Zealand citizens are equal before the law.” But the Treaty legislation is bad law, unclear and confusing. The full set of principles are clearly contradictory, elsewhere calling for particular treatment of Maori. This principle must be questioned - why, when ethnic equality has come to the USA and South Africa, should this country call for separate development?

The resultant Treaty industry has the additional consequence of highlighting grievances and constructing a heavily biased version of our history. This is clear here in Wellington, where there is little general knowledge of murderous war parties of Ngati Toa warriors led by Te Rauparaha in the 1820s that conquered and killed Ngati Tara and Ngati Ira and left Te Ati Awa in control. Like Tom Paine in the 18th century, “I cannot accept the uncivilised principle of Governments founded in conquest.” Where there have been wrongs due to settler and British use of force, these are being put right through the Treaty settlements process. So too we must recognise wrongs derived from bloody Maori actions.

Yet that is the case. For example, the Participant’s Agreement for a December 2009 Climate Camp in Upper Hutt states that “First of all we wish to acknowledge the Tangata Whenua of this land and the Te Ati Awa iwi that are the kaitiaki of this particular site. We also recognise the oppression that has and still occurs and hope that this camp can go some way in addressing this.” But in this case the oppression was by and not against Te Ati Awa. I have suggested a different approach, more in keeping with the historic truth, in and article about Taputeranga in Island Bay, published in the Dominion Post on 11 November under the heading Chance to create and island of peace. A first priority then is to become better informed and to encourage robust debate to challenge the sacred cows of our time.

The 21st century challenge is to develop an economy that can survive tough times and evolve to a new sustainable pattern. We must all act to protect this planet and its natural environment. We must reduce our numbers. This can probably be achieved by debate and information, so that the many individual choices will be founded on an awareness of the need to keep family numbers small. Then immigration must be limited, and the discussion of population control extended across the Pacific.

The country must adapt, move away from consumerism and learn how to look after one another in the transition and beyond. We must follow conservative, down to earth, realistic goals that suit this time of stress. A stable economy can be satisfying and egalitarian, with problems of poverty no longer be left to the absurd trickle down mechanism but be faced directly. Work conditions, which have been seriously downgraded in the far-right revolution of 1984, can recover and improve. There can be an end to inhuman just-in-time employment and those in well-paid employment will no longer be required to spend a whole life at the office. Success can lead to a leisure society. New Zealand has much to offer here, with its past of good universal working conditions for all employees, state housing, universal health care and free education. Those are some of the returns to a successful past that will produce a happier future.

The many who live off and support consumerism will resist. A struggle against the growth imperative of capitalism will be difficult. Any such democratic revolution takes much preparation and time that is lacking as the crisis looms.

Who will lead the way? We have been told that backbench MPs have no power and there is little that a Minister can do, buried in the problems of a portfolio. Local councillors are trapped, we are told. Yet power in this fragile country has been wielded by tough operators who seized control and acted firmly, with support from powerful allies. Thus the Douglas-led coup of 1984 and the current success of Hide in getting all of Auckland to dance to his tune. Such successful bully-boy tactics of the right must be resisted and faced with determination.

As Machiavelli described in The Prince (1532), bullies get their own way of they are powerful enough. Such behaviour is found at all levels of organization, including community groups and NGOs, and takes many forms including tears, stomping off, throwing papers across the room and quiet disregard. Office holders in many organizations, such as Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and Transition Towns, must open up the debate and be prepared to consider challenging views. And activists raising difficult questions must be prepared to face resistance from the established pecking order. There is a difficult task ahead, best faced by well-organised teams free from guru control.

There is no evidence of any such evolution. Rather in the coming massive crisis a strong leader will seize power and the mass will breath a sigh of relief. Thus elected fascism will assert itself, probably from the libertarian right with an emphasis on the priority of property, prepared to drive down peoples and continue environmental destruction

We head into a perfect storm in 2030. 30 years of historical data compare favourably with key features of The limits to growth standard run scenario, which forecasts global collapse.

New Zealand will be a place of escape, a favoured place, where people may survive far from swirling disaster and conflict.

For 40 years we have known that the extraordinary population explosion in a finite planet would over-reach finite limits. Many species have gone and are going, resources are overused, the environment is damaged and mass starvation can be foreseen. The leaders who have insisted on growth bear a heavy responsibility for their inaction and denial. The aim now must be for survival rather than sustainability. We must wake up and face the future with determination and solidarity - in difficult times we must roll up our sleaves and get to the task.

This is an Island Bay World Service discussion paper, contact December 2009