Confessions of an Activist

July 12, 2016

Dugald McTavish’s “seeds of activism” were sown when three projects threatened the Moeraki Boulders, and hewn as peak oil reared its head. As a water engineer he had the background knowledge, but how to get people interested? Thus the Hampden Community Energy Forum was born, filling the local community hall for three weekends in a row.

That group, started in 2004, is still going strong with a recycling shop at the local transfer station creating an ongoing revenue stream for its activities. It showed Dugald that lecturing didn’t work; “people don’t want to be preached to, so you have to do more projects.”

Other activities in his decades of environmental activism have included ensuring safeguards through consent and plan hearings and, with a coalition of others including academics you, engineers, lawyers, artists and sportspeople, launching the group Wise Response, calling on local and central government to face up to New Zealand’s critical risks and respond rationally to them.

With our biological impact footprint now around 1.5 times the earth’s ability to cope, Dugald said planning criteria had to look at limits (physics) not just blue skies (economic) criteria.

He recommended people keen to effect change should not be intimidated by process, be careful not to burn out and study Donella Meadows’ work on “leverage points,” places to intervene in systems to best effect change.