Matrix can help save landscape and planet
Saving the planet was once a euphemism for environmental prissiness.
Much better to look after numero uno, one’s family, the community or, at a pinch, the local environment. But that has changed dramatically due to the diminishing window of opportunity to mitigate, and adapt to, the rapidly accelerating rate of anthropogenic global warming.
The Mahurangi Action Plan, currently being collaboratively developed, is billed as a strategic plan for the next 20 years. It builds on the more narrowly based five-year action plan, which was a response to 10 years of science showing the harbour’s benthic communities under increasing stress. The more holistic strategic plan should, nevertheless, also be science-based. If it was a five-year plan, and it largely ignored global warming science, it would be patently deficient. A 20-year plan with the same failing, however, would be worthless.
To seamlessly integrate climate action, the matrix approach can help. It would readily allow proposed Mahurangi Action Plan priorities to be tested against climate-action priorities. It would also allow those who have yet to familiarise themselves with the science to concentrate their focus on the purely Mahurangi aspects—likewise those who suspect that the scientific consensus is global conspiracy.
Incidentally, for an actual global conspiracy, folk need look no further than the tobacco industry. And the same sabateurs who were paid to confuse the science on smoking as a cause of cancer and heart disease are currently becoming even wealthier, attempting to neutralise the response to global warming. In Australia a courageous Kevin Rudd has unavoidably put some tobacco money back their way for a rearguard action against one of the last logical battles to drive smoking into the history books: The banning of the branding on tobacco products.
The outstanding natural beauty of the Mahurangi Harbour landscape is self-evident. The harbourscape is an inherently appealing mix of pasture, remnant indigenous trees and indigenous forest.
- If aesthetic appeal was the only consideration, the current mix should be maintained.
- If soil conservation was the only consideration, the landscape should be predominantly indigenous forest.
- If sequestering carbon was the only consideration, the landscape should be predominantly indigenous forest—including to provide future alternatives to high-carbon materials such as steel and concrete.
- If feeding a world that is losing productive land to climate change and sea-level rise was the only consideration, the landscape should be predominantly pasture.
A matrix can layer these needs and help identify where some or all goals align. And where they don’t, the matrix can help evaluate the options. Use of the matrix metaphor can help ensure that the draft Mahurangi Action Plan is not irrelevant from the outset.
A moment’s contemplation of the carbon dioxide level in relation to the history of civilisation, and it is clear why global warming is widely described as the moral challenge of the century.
It is also clear why that is utter understatement.