The Rainbow Warrior in Wellington with the Beehive in the background (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
The Rainbow Warrior in Wellington with the Beehive in the background (C) GREENPEACE / SHAROMOV
There is a worrying trend among our political leaders to use an age-old but completely nonsensical and deplorable excuse for doing bad things.

And it is this: "If we don't do it, someone else will."

We've had to tolerate this stance a number of times in recent weeks. First, David Parker, Minister for Climate Change, in response to our Lyttelton coal action

We have no intention of stopping the export of coal, and even if we did, it wouldn't make any difference to climate change, because the countries we export to would just get their coal from somewhere else.

Second, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard, in response to the fact that his own company, SOE Landcorp, is clearing tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the central North Island for conversion to intensive dairying:

"If it (Landcorp) stops work someone else will do it."

Landcorp CEO Chris Kelly also hid behind this flimsy justification when asked about the company's wholesale destruction of forests for dairy farming.

To justify doing something wrong by saying that if you don't, others will is simply immoral. Substitute "manufacture of cluster bombs" for dairy conversion and see how that goes down. The excuse could be used to explain away anything from drug dealing to sweat shops.

New Zealand's politicians are constantly banging on about being world leaders, particularly when it comes to issues of sustainability and the environment. What kind of leader fights wrong with wrong?

If a country like New Zealand announced that in response to the threat of climate change it was prepared to address growing emissions in its most polluting sector (agriculture) and cap coal exports, it would send an extremely powerful signal to the rest of the world that developed countries were prepared to take real action. It would be a signal as powerful as that sent when we banned nuclear-powered warships in the 1980s and reinvigorated the peace movement.

Unfortunately, our politicians are still more intent on covering their backs and ensuring their own survival, rather than ensuring the survival of the biosphere.