09 November 2008

Good Times, Bad Times

I had a good time at the launch of Before the Sirocco, the 2008 New Zealand Poetry Society anthology, which includes the winning poems (in open and two junior categories) from the NZPS 2008 International Poetry Competition. A packed and appreciative audience at Turnbull House heard poets from all over the country read poems included in the anthology. There was a sizeable Christchurch contingent, and I had the pleasure of meeting Joanna Preston for the first time, and Helen Lowe for what turns out to have been the second time.

Then I went home and had a less good time watching the results of the 2006 [err, make that 2008] New Zealand General Election come rolling across the screen. The outcome was a conclusive win for the right, with a National-ACT-United Future coalition government set to be installed within the next few days. My biggest fear about this is that the modest - very modest - gains which have been made in climate change policy under the previous Labour government will be rolled back, and in particular, that King Coal will be enthroned as the "answer" to New Zealand's energy needs. It's going to take a big effort ot prevent that outcome.

To finish on a positive, though, I'm writing this while watching the concluding minutes of a very exciting Fifa Under-17 Women's World Cup football (soccer) quarterfinal between Japan and England - currently locked at 2:2*. Having watched and enjoyed the semi-final and final of the recent senior Women's World Cup, I expected to enjoy these games, but they have even better than I expected: full of skill, commitment, excitement and some wonderful goals, and almost completely free of the cynicism, cheating, time-wasting and boorishness that so often mars the men's game.

New Zealand's Young Football Ferns were very unlucky not to progress from the group stages of the tournament into the quarterfinals. A lack of polish in front of goal meant that they lost their first two matches 0-1 and 1-2, but in their final game, against South American champions Colombia, they more than made up with it with a 3-1 victory. You can see NZ striker Rosie White's hat-trick here, uploaded by an enamoured fan.

The game was played in absolutely atrocious conditions: a howling northerly gale and driving rain. Being there and seeing the game live felt like a badge of honour. I'm delighted I went, and now looking forward to seeing how many of the same players perform in the Under-20 Women's World Cup in Chile in a few weeks' time.

The semi-finals and final of the Under-17 Women's World Cup are still to come (semifinals Thursday 13/11 in Christchurch at QEII Park, final and 3rd/4th playoff Sunday 16th in Auckland at North Harbour Stadium). If you get the chance to go along to these games, do take it!

*England won in a penalty shootout - another thing that doesn't happen in the men's game!


Johanna Knox said...

Hi Tim - yes, a worrying (although not entirely unexpected) election result. :(

I was cheered up by spending the day with local Transition Towns people. Felt positive and empowered ... but your post reminds me that political action is still important too!

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Johanna!

Under the previous Government, there was the opportunity to make progress on issues such as climate change and even (to a limited extent) Peak Oil using the "traditional" political avenues - lobbying etc. It was often frustrating, and excruciatingly slow, but some useful work did get done.

I expect the incoming administration, especially given ACT's influence, to roll back or water down the present climate change legislation, remove restrictions on generating electricity from fossil fuels, and ignore concerns about future oil supplies as they ram through new roading projects. I hope I'm wrong, and there may be pleasant surprises - but that's the way I think they'll go.

I think that means that activists of various types, including Transition Towns people (who don't necessarily think of themselves as activists), are going to become the chief opposition to the new Government's direction in these areas. Transition Towns has not so far framed itself in political or activist terms - I'll be interested to see whether this continues to be the case in the new dispensation we now face.

Claire G said...

Hi Tim,
Are we to understand from the words '2006 General Election' that you feel NZ has regressed?

Johanna Knox said...

I agree that it will be interesting.

A lot of active TT people have a strong political streak, but my (limited) impression is that many feel they can achieve more, and/or work on a more manageable and less overwhelming scale when working within communities.

I guess you're right that TT doesn't frame itself as an activist movement, and yet I do see it as one.

I guess my wish for the coming decade would not be for people who are already active in any way to change their form of activism (unless they want to)... but for many people who are not active to become so - whether at a grassroots or a political level ... Maybe more people will be spurred to now.

Johanna Knox said...

Hmm .. and what am I trying to say sbout TT exactly? :) I think that a lot of current TT people *are* fundamentally very political, and won't be able to help themselves - they will fight stuff. Whether they do it as TT, or under the auspices of different groups I don't know though.

Perhaps TT will bring less political people under the influence of others who are more political, and be helpful in that way too? Even if TT never becomes a very political group itself.

Tim Jones said...

Claire: we science fiction writers can never resist a bit of time travel. I probably should have said "1990" rather than "2006". Thanks for spotting this!

Johanna: I think that Transition Towns derives a lot of strength from its "apolitical" approach, especially in attracting people who would be scared off by a more overtly political approach, but I also think that when TT groups start working on things like the "Energy Descent Action Plan" (see http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/node/507 for more information), they will be dealing with questions of how and to whom scarce resources are to be allocated - and such questions are deeply political.

Johanna Knox said...

Very good point re allocation of resources. It's such early days yet that it hasn't been relevant yet (not where I am anyway).

Hmm ...

Helen Lowe said...

Re the poetry, I thought that the Before the Sirocco launch was very successful and it was fanatstic to see such a great turnout--a "vote" for holding laucnhes on the weekend, I feel. I know that as a Christchurch resident I would have found it more difficult to attend a weeknight event. It was also great to see such a good turnout from the younger poets, with some very promising talent on show. Congratulations to editor Joanna Preston an a fine job putting the anthology together and to Laurice and everyone involved with organsing the event.

Tim Jones said...

Re the poetry launch: Helen, it was lovely to meet you (again), and also to see so many Chch people there. Did celebrations continue deep into the night?

Tim Jones said...
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