Professor Jonathan Boston ended the Living in an Unstable World series of lectures with a wonderful flourish that was enormously well received by his audience. The central topic of the discussion (discussion being absolutely the right word) was the disressingly short term focus of politics when we live in a world of long term "creeping" problems. The glaringly obvious one is that of climate change which has so stealthily and corrosively crept up on us. Many fail to see it yet it has the capacity to be lethal for humanity.
Prof Boston illustrated, with powerpoint images, the urgency of addressing long term a phenomenon that permeates all areas of our existence and could well produce a nightmare scenario for our children and granchildren if we fail to act. The loss of future productive capacity to chemicals and habitable land to the sea will create massive forced migrations, for example - even within this country let alone for billions of people Asia and the like.
The lack of foresight in planning for the future has led to the housing problems we now face. The scourge of nitrate runoff into waterways from dairy expansion has caused river damage that could take 100 years to fix (even starting now). Yet the nature of politics to date is such that our leaders instinctively think short-term. They were handed a seminal report many years ago by the Commissioner for the Environment predicting the severe problems we now have with intensive dairying but took little notice.Money gazumps even the future of our vulnerable planet.
It is not Prof Boston's style to lecture from a high pulpit. Rather he eyed his audience up close and energetically challenged its preconceptions on things leke electric cars and current political thinking. The U3A members responded enthusiasically and a good old socratic dialogue emerged. It was generally accepted though that action is now needed and not merely words. The hour is late and so much has to be done. Maybe a new political wave needs to be born; one that puts policies for the future ahead of a myopic fossil-fuelled present.
It was clear from the discussion over coffee (that was thriving long after Prof Boston headed back to the University) that he has sparked a serious debate that will continue among our members and, hopefully, their families. We thank the Professor for coming out to Tawa and stimulating much thought on a crucial topic.