In the words of the Grease hit, I’ve got chills. They’re multiplying.
It started as a shiver of concern as the fog of the coalition government’s negotiations cleared and its stance on environmental issues came into sharper focus.
Drilling for oil and gas is back on the table. Motorways are once again the transport solution du jour. And while the Zero Carbon Act appears to have survived, fossil fuel extraction is so hot right now.
So far, so mid-last century. [Around the time Grease is set, in fact.]
But it was hearing our newly minted Minister of Resources, Hon Shane Jones, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday that transformed my shiver of concern into one of fear.
It wasn’t so much what he said, though I found that awful enough. It was how he said it that made me frightened for the future of Aotearoa.
I’ve got used to debates and speeches in our Parliament sounding a tad unhinged, but to my sensitive, environment-loving ear, listening to Jones, I couldn’t help but wonder if someone had spiked one of his baubles of power. He sounded drunk on the stuff.
I’ve got a copy of the speech in front of me. He starts relatively reasonably, convivial in fact, welcoming new members of the House and acknowledging how nice it is not to be in opposition anymore, what he calls “three years of banishment and a period of self-reflection”.
He’s self-aware enough to admit the latter is “something that comes to me with great difficulty” and promptly launches into a terrifying demonstration.
Each subsequent sentence of Jones’s speech felt like a hammer blow, intended to hurt the work being done in our communities to reverse environmental degradation and adapt to climate change and humiliate those engaged in it.
Climate change isn’t a crisis, he said, and you are “hysterical” if you believe the “lie” that it is. You are a “tiny minority with a loud voice” if you care, with “narrow and shallow” ideas.
For those at the back of the class who weren’t aware of just how Important and In Charge Mr Jones is, at one point, reminiscent of He-Man’s proclamation, “By the power of Grayskull”, he announces, “I am the Minister for Resources.”
Almost a little bit hysterical if you ask me.
He conjured “legacy industries”, oil and gas exploration, and rare earth mining back into being before the assembled House, softening – if bombast can ever be described as softening – what to me sounded like a dystopian future with the promise of “wealth, our wellbeing, and jobs”.
“If there is a mineral, if there is a mining opportunity and it’s impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddy.”
At best, Shane Jones’s characterisation of the protection of indigenous biodiversity is reductive and, at worst, plain offensive. But it was an amuse-bouche compared to his next sentence:
“We are going to extract the dividend from Mother Nature’s legacy on the DoC estate in those areas previously called stewardship land.”
What dividend, Mr Jones? By some estimates, in the past 800 years, we have lost over 70 per cent of our indigenous landcover and 75 species of plants and animals have become extinct.
The Bank of Mother Nature appears to be in deficit.