Monday, March 29, 2010

No Mining protest - printable placards

I've been having a play around making a few placards for tomorrow's No Mining in NZ's National Parks protest.

The protest will be outside Parliament from 12.30 to 1.30pm - Tuesday 29 March. Please come if you care about our National Parks.

Hope you like the placards. I've put links to the downloadable PDF versions at the end of this post.

National: Selling our heritage for 30 pieces of silver:

National: Selling our heritage for 30 pieces of silver<br />

John Key: Why didn't you mention mining during the election campaign? [edited 30/03/10 to add the "John Key" bit at the beginning]

John Key: Why didn't you mention mining during the election campaign?

No mining in our National Parks:

No mining in our National Parks.

Brownlee's postcard on Eden Park (with a side-by-side comparison of Waihi goldmine and Eden Park):

Brownlee's postcard on Eden Park (with a side-by-side comparison of Waihi goldmine and Eden Park).

Surgical mining is a big lie - like scientific whaling: [edited 30/03/10 to make BIG LIE bigger]

Surgical mining is a big lie - like scientific whaling.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

Downloadable, printable placards

Each PDF consists of five A4 pages - the first is the full slogan so you can see what you're getting. The other four contain a quarter of the slogan each - with an overlap. If you print out all four you can trim them and put them together to make an A2-sized placard. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Save Radio NZ! No mining in NZ's National Parks!

Or... How National And ACT Turned Me Back Into A Political Activist After Many Years Away...

In my dim and distant yoof, when I was still English, I was very politically active. I lived in the UK for most of Thatcher's 17-year reign, and my God it was a tough time to be a leftie.

I protested on behalf of CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); marched for Save the Whales; opposed the government's anti-gay legislation Clause 28; cheered Bishop Desmond Tutu when he spoke out in Hyde Park against the South African apartheid regime; welcomed Nelson Mandela to freedom at the huge concert in his honour at Wembley Stadium; demonstrated against the Falklands War and the first Gulf War; and was a local organiser in the Anti-Poll Tax campaign (I was at that riot in London - scary times indeed!).

One of the reasons why I finally left the UK was that I was just sick to death of banging my head against what seemed like a brick wall at the time. The day the British people voted the Conservatives in for yet another term (after John Major's coup that dethroned Thatcher as party leader) I was sitting on a little yacht in the Bay of Islands reading the paper and thinking "That's it. I resign. I no longer consider myself to be English. The British people are obviously too bloody stupid to be trusted with any kind of a vote on anything that means anything - and I quit." I've considered myself to be "formerly English" ever since.

Fast forward through the last 17-odd years as a New Zealander - I stopped travelling, settled in NZ, made friends, found a job, found a place to live, found another job, became a web designer/developer, moved house a few more times, eventually bought a house with a garden, got a couple of cats, worked my ass off - and somewhere along the way I lost my political activist streak.

I think it's partly because I was so involved in settling in a new country, which took up a lot of my energy, and partly because Kiwis on the whole are much more laid back and a lot less politically active than yer average pom. Or at least that's been my experience. Don't get me wrong - I still follow politics, I still have great political discussions when I get together with my mates, I'm a member of the Green Party - but in terms of actual activism I seemed to have pretty much given it up.

Until now.

I have National and ACT to thank for that. Yeah - thanks guys! You rock! Not.

I've watched with growing concern as they attack and dismantle one important part of my adopted homeland after another. National Education standards and closing down night classes, Paula "I used to be a beneficiary but now I'm not and you losers can all just GET FUCKED" Bennett's attacks on those least able to fight back, increasing GST when they specifically said they wouldn't, tax cuts for their rich mates and to hell with the rest of you, the Auckland Super City undemocratic debacle... the list goes on and on and on - not to mention pushing through a whole raft of new and potentially unpopular legislation under the cloak of "urgency" so they don't even have to discuss it in Parliament and no-one gets the chance to oppose it.

The final two straws that broke this particular camel's back have been their attack on Radio New Zealand's funding, and now - most egregious of all in my opinion - their plans to mine in our National Parks.

I'm so outraged by their mining plans I can't even begin to express how outraged I am. Talk about short-sighted! Do they not have children and grandchildren to whom they'd like to leave the few pieces of pristine wilderness we have left? Apparently not - or at least, if they do, they apparently don't care about them too much.

There are not many things that would get me to leave my nice comfortable life and go chain myself to a bulldozer in protest - but this is certainly one of them. This is our taonga, our heritage, it's what makes us special and unique, and it's what brings in billions of dollars a year in tourism - AND YOU WANT TO DIG IT UP???? You greedy bastards. How dare you???

I actually began my reawakening to political activism by joining the Save Radio New Zealand Facebook group a month or so ago. What a cliché eh? Join a Facebook group and do your bit for the protest! Except that... the group grew so quickly and became so motivated to get up off the couch and actually do something, that the media began to take notice. And the politicians, I think, have also begun to pay attention.

Whether this is because yer average pollie doesn't really "get" social media like Facebook but secretly thinks they should, and they hear that Web2.0 is the Next Big Thing and think they should show some interest so as to get down with da kidz - or whether it's because they also know that for every person who actually gets off their ass and joins a Facebook group (easy though it is to do), there are 100 others standing behind them, agreeing with them, but not actually ever getting round to pressing the blue "join" button, I don't know, but it does actually seem to be having some effect.

Anyway, whatever the reason, people-who-count started taking notice and the Facebook group grew and grew. Hundreds and hundreds of members made comments on the group's page (and continue to do so). Gaining 20,000 members in a little over a month is pretty impressive for our small country, even if it is "just" on Facebook.

It soon became clear that the Save Radio New Zealand people weren't all pointy-headed liberals from Wellington like they said we were - we come from all over the country - the world, even; we come from all kinds of different backgrounds and age groups; and perhaps most importantly for those politicians watching, we come from right across the political spectrum. There are many people in the group who voted National and are now wondering what the heck they signed up for. And they are not happy.

Some interesting things start happening when you join a group of any kind. Firstly you realise you're not alone, and that there are tons of others from all over the place who agree with you. That feels good! It gives you hope! Then someone comes up with an idea for more direct action - and all of a sudden instead of trying to persuade a couple of your mates to demonstrate outside Parliament about this thing you care about, you've got hundreds of people to get motivated with - who already care about the same thing that you do. It's brilliant.

As I walked back to work after the Protest Picnic outside Parliament a few weeks ago, my portable transistor radio still switched on, trailing RNZ's music and words behind me like a stream of bubbles in the breeze, it occurred to me that I felt pretty good having got out there and taken the time to stand up for something I believe in. The last time I did that was the massive protest against the War on Iraq, but that was a long time ago.

It also occurred to me that as I'm a web designer/developer, I have a skill that might be of use to the campaign, and that as part of my activist re-awakening, I could actually do something more to help. That night I registered and offered my services to the campaign organisers. I've spent the last couple of weeks on WordPress finding and re-styling a suitable theme and writing the first 30-odd pages of the website, and we did a soft launch of the site at the weekend. It's getting a lot of hits already.

It's good to be a part of something, and it's good to be back fighting for what I think is right.

Last night I found Metiria Turei's No mining in NZ's National Parks Facebook group, and all day I've watched the number of members creep up. There's a lot of cross-fertilisation that can happen in a social networking environment (hence the term "networking"), and I know there are many people who, like me, have joined both groups. I know, because I invited a whole bunch of 'em myself! That's another awesome thing about Facebook - the "invite friends to join" function. Talk about helping groups to go viral! It's brilliant!

One of the things an online group can do is to help members fight in all the range of legal ways possible - again it's about getting the information out there and the motivation that comes from being part of that group. The No mining in NZ's National Parks group will be helping us to make submissions to the innocently-named Schedule 4 Stocktake discussion paper, and I'm most definitely making a submission with their help. This is too important an issue to sit by and hope someone else does the protesting for me. I have to do it myself, and I have to make my voice heard in every way I can.

I'm hoping the NIMBY vote will kick in in Auckland, especially about Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel, but there's the risk that (assuming this isn't the most politically stupid move ever) they're announcing these two places first so that they can then "back down" in the face of massive opposition - "ooh look we listened to the people!" - and then quietly go and mine somewhere else like the West Coast or Stewart Island where they think the opposition won't be as strong. We need to stop that from happening, and that means we all have to do our bit - including me.

I renewed my Green Party membership today (and gave them a bit of a donation to help the cause) and I also joined Forest & Bird today. Hey government! You want to stop the Department of Conservation from talking to our oldest and most well-respected conservation group? You want to start gagging people like that? Oh yeah - that's really going to work well. In fact - just because you've done that - I think I'll join them. Go check out the banners on their homepage - they're really cool. I particularly like "Forest & Bird. HYSTERICAL about nature since 1923". Ha!

It seems to me that an issue such as freezing (and thereby in reality, cutting) funding to our only remaining public broadcaster and then expecting a change of mindset at said broadcaster in order to live within those diminishing means - or an issue such as opening up our pristine(ish) wilderness to foreign mining companies so that they can rape and pillage te whenua to their heart's content - has to be shut down fast, shut down hard, and shut down now.

If we don't get off our collective arses and force the government to back down fully on both these issues, then elements of our country, our heritage, our culture and our landscape will be lost, and gone for ever.

As Oscar Wilde once said:

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
...which seems to sum up our current government's mindset pretty well.

...and as Joni Mitchell famously said (or, rather, sang):
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

"Would you like to take part in a 60-second survey?"

"Would you like to take part in a 60-second survey?" is the opening line from many of the unsolicited phone calls I receive these days. Being less than enthusiastic about strangers trying to sell me shit or ask me intrusive questions over the phone, my response is usually something along the lines of "why, what are you selling?"

"Oh I promise you we're not selling you anything at all - we're just doing a quick survey about the economy" says the girl on the phone this afternoon. "Oh," I reply, "do you want to know what I think about the economy? Are you doing an opinion poll?" - because I don't mind opinion polls (I think quietly to myself).

She edges round my question without giving me a straight answer, and when I ask her what her company does, she tells me they provide financial advice for businesses - or something along those, lines, anyway.

So I say OK, because I figure, well, what's 60 seconds out of my life? I can handle that. I'm waiting for the next two questions because I know exactly what they will be. The first is my age bracket. I fall within it so I answer in the affirmative.

The second question is the kicker. It is always - and I mean always "do you own your own home?"

Hmmm. Why would they want to know that? Gosh, really - I wonder why?

I lie and say "no" because I have realised it's the single most effective way to get these people off the phone.

I have never ever had to continue with one of these "surveys" when I tell them I'm a renter. Goodness me! Don't they want to gather the opinions of people who rent along with those who owe hundreds of thousands to whatever bank was kind enough to give them a mortgage? Apparently not. How very strange.

Could it be because they're actually planning to sell me something further on down the line - if I give them the right answers of course - of which the most important, apparently, is "do you have enough income to get a mortgage and therefore potentially have sufficient income to be tempted by whatever shit we're really planning on trying to sell you?"

Of course they are. They'll either store all my details away for a cold-call later on when they finally reveal whatever it is they're really selling - or perhaps they'll put my details together with the contact details of hundreds of other people and sell them in bulk to some company that wants to sell me whatever it is that they sell.

Which means - goodness me - the girl on the phone wasn't exactly telling the whole truth, now was she? OK so she wasn't trying to sell me anything right that minute, but her response to my "no I don't own my own hone - I rent" answer couldn't have been clearer.

"Oh well, that lets you off the hook, then! Thanks very much - goodbye!" and with that cheery farewell she's off to hassle the next poor sucker dumb enough to have their name and number in the phone book.

Yeah thanks a lot cheery girl on the phone. I've changed my mind - that's 60 seconds of my life I'll never get back. I'm so over people lying to me on the the phone to try and get useful info from me that they'll use against me later on. Thanks very much - goodbye!

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