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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 4. 21st March 1973

Ecology Action: Are they Wasting their Energy?

page 10

Ecology Action: Are they Wasting their Energy?

When you go to a meeting of a group that calls itself Ecology Action, what do you expect to happen? Do you expect that the people who are running the meeting will be able to recognise the fundamental nature of the problems of conservation and pollution?Unfortunately, the meeting held by Ecology Action on 14th March was a disappointment — it might have seemed to an observer that most of those present were there without knowing what they were up against. The group aims "to work towards a revolution in environmental management", but at present progress, any such revolution must be in the distant future.

Ecology Action has been divided into five subgroups: population, water conservation, re-cycling, scenery preservation, and curriculum development. But at the moment, these groups are by-passing all the basic issues. With scenery preservation, for instance, it is all very well to keep New Zealand nice for tourists to look at, but if we are to preserve our scenery, the people to get at are those who destroy the scenery. And the reason they attempt to destroy scenery is, of course, for profit. The problems of Lake Manapouri, the Clutha Valley, the Waiwhetu stream are all based on this, just as are rubbish tips for Petone and Porirua. And the environment is only one victim of the capitalist's endless search for profit.

Look, for example, at the attitude of the capitalists to population expansion. We have the president of the New Zealand Manufacturers' Federation calling for more immigration of skilled labour to this country for "the successful development of industry and its increased productivity." When this sort of thing happens, one questions the worth of the actions of the population group of Ecology Action in pressing for family planning clinics. The same issue arises again when one is discussing water pollution. If a factory is discharging its effluent into the air or into a waterway, it is going to cost it money to process this effluent to make it less harmful. What capitalist is going to spend money like this willingly if it does not increase his profits? No wonder shingle and ready-mix concrete companies want permanent water rights to discharge into the Hutt river! Legislation is useless when the government has big ideas for industrial development.

Ecology Action dodges the issue again with their re-cycling group. Why should we have to buy all this junk that needs to be re-cycled anyway?Again, the issue is one of profits. To make profits — which are, after all, the backbone of our society — the producer must be able to sell as much as he can at the price he gets for his product. The more plastic, cardboard, and pins that he can sell with a shirt, the larger is the price that he feels able to charge. The only limitations are imposed by competition, not by any form of morality. It is rumoured that the better teaching of such methods of exploitation is the reason for the establishment of a Chair of Marketing in the Business Administration Department. That, of course, says a lot for the curriculum development group of Ecology Action.

Perhaps not all aspects of the activities of Ecology Action are bad. Only two known Trotskyites were present at the meeting. And although a large part of the meeting was of the opinion that the Values Party had all the answers, a motion to officially endorse the Values Party was rejected on the grounds that it might bring politics into ecology. It seems possible Ecology Action may, at some time, wake up. And though breweries will ignore their barrages of beer cans, the publicity at least increases awareness of the symptoms of the problem. But a revolution in environmental management is impossible by itself — perhaps a more far-reaching revolution is called for.

Drawing of an old man

Reward If person who removed overcoat from toilet on second floor, Union Building on Saturday night, March 17th will return it to me. Phone David 558 303 Wgtn.