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Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

Goodbye Pork Pie has been made twice so far, once in 1981, again in 2017 and what’s the bet it has at least one more remake in it? It offers too much of what we like in a movie for it not to come around again: a roadie, a few drinks, a bit of smoke, casual disrespect for stuffed shirts and authority figures.

It’s also one hell of a time capsule. Marvel at how different it all looks in 1981. Traffic officers in black and white cars, goods trains with hundreds of wagons rolling up and down the country. No Warehouse. No cookie cutter malls. No SUVs. It was before Rogernomics, it was before the water in the rivers got too dirty to drink. 

Can your whole country change more than you could conceivably imagine? Could things we perceive to be immutable and unyielding be remade? There’s your proof, right there on the screen. 

I’m imagining a 2030 remake.  The original opens with our hero mooching down the street in Kaitaia, picking up someone’s wallet, using their cards to rent a yellow mini for the fun of it and before long we’re in a headlong plunge through New Zealand, much of the story driven forward by failing to pay for petrol and getting in trouble for that, evading the cops, selling parts of the car to get more money, careening headlong towards Invercargill in search of love and reconciliation.

The search for love and patching things up is an eternal human quest but would there be petrol in a 2030 version? Would there even be a yellow mini? And if they didn’t need money or petrol would there be any police or car chases? 

Want to go to Invercargill? Take the electric train. There’s one leaving in half an hour because they go everywhere all the time now. They won’t need to sneak on board, their Universal Basic Income will cover the very affordable ticket.

If it still has to be a yellow mini, it’ll be a nice quiet e-vehicle, and they won’t need to steal fuel because hooking up at the power station will be cheap as chips.

They really would have to work at getting into trouble, but assuming they end up being chased by a cop on their, let’s say, yellow e-bikes, maybe they might give him the slip by pedalling into Horopito’s  legendary car cemetery. Check out all the SUVs and utes, stacked up here ten high bro. No one drives a petrol car any more.

In the original, their mate in Wellington has a chop-shop garage that looks as freezing as Aro Street in February. But not in the remake. Insulated and retrofitted, the place is warm as toast. No fires burning in 44 gallon drums. 

Where’s Claire, the hitchhiker? Claire’s not in this one, she’s too busy with her conservation corps job getting rid of rats and possums and restoring wetlands.

When the train hits the coast we might pull out to a nice high drone shot and see all the marine energy farms. The countryside will look different too. Paddocks full of trees and is that permaculture farming you see? You bet. In a world living on synthetic food, grass-grown produce fetches a premium that makes the whole thing viable. 

You may say I’m a dreamer but if I wasn’t right now, I’d be the only one. Everything really is on the table as the government gets ready to spend billions on a kneecapped economy. Look at all those wish lists.

Maybe now we can do what we’ve been told until now would be “nice to do but just too expensive”, namely, tackling the climate crisis, and in the process making life better for everyone.

Consider this one more wish list, consider it an endorsement of the plan on this site that sets out what could be possible under a green new deal. 

Let’s by all means spend money like great things are happening in energy because they are.  The cost of storage technology is falling. We can be generating  wind and solar and hydro and storing it in abundance.

We can be putting the latest and greatest in home power generation tools into every household. We can be treating all this vital infrastructure and funding it accordingly, the way we do roads and drainage. Why not?

And then we take that abundant energy and fill our boots, moving ourselves around and keeping the wheels of industry turning and emitting nothing harmful. Our government vehicle fleet runs on clean energy, our buses are electric, everyone moves around at will and with pleasure using a vehicle charging network and a car-sharing scheme that stretches from Kaitaia to Invercargill. There are electrified rail lines and an abundance of cycleways, and there’s room to move for everyone, enjoying the surroundings the way we’ve been doing this  past locked down month, with so much pleasure: slowly, quietly, gently.

This plan is good for the planet and good for putting food on the table.  There’s going to be plenty to do: putting up wind turbines and transmission lines, building the vehicle charging infrastructure, installing solar panels and batteries, retrofitting homes to make them warmer and more efficient. Other work too: eradicating pests, planting native trees, fencing and planting farm waterways, restoring mussel and shellfish beds and that’s even before we look at all the work that’s going  to come from new industries like say making New Zealand a centre of ocean energy research, project demonstration, certification and commercialisation. 

By thoughtfully targeting the stimulus, everything still works, but it becomes sustainable and just. You protect the climate and rebuild the economy. And of course, underpinning all of this change is a Universal Basic Income ensuring that everyone has enough money to buy food and other essentials.

You can do this kind of thing with great disruption; you can do it in a way that carries everyone along with care. In the 1980s Rogernomics saw tens of thousands thrown out of jobs, never to work again. Businesses were upended in a way that was convulsive and caused great hardship. Change doesn’t need to happen that way. This plan contemplates a just transition to a carbon neutral world, with inclusion, retraining, and a universal basic income as we move to a new and better way of doing things. 

It might sound fanciful but you can project this even further: a future where you don’t own anything. Not a car. Not a house. Not appliances, not clothes. One by one all these things become free, so it ends up not making sense for us to own much. Products are turned into services, you have stuff that gets shared and reused and little pods bring them to you; maybe your neighbourhood has a library of tools to share. You don’t endlessly buy stuff, instead things are designed for durability, repairability and recyclability and they get shared. AI and robots take over things leaving us to eat well, sleep well and spend time with other people. 

Too much? Wait for the 2050 movie, maybe. 

But a Green New Deal type covid recovery, well, I could see that happening without straining the imagination very hard at all.  Less consumption, less waste, life in a measured sustainable way. And maybe it might speak to a lockdown feeling people have been talking about: a sense that we have been devouring a banquet faster than we can swallow and less really is more.

It’s not too far, this plan, it’s not too much, it’s not something that can’t be conceived of. The movie shows it and the experiences of the last month show it, things can change over time without you noticing, and they can also change overnight in the most colossal way.

The government has licence right now to do huge things to make things better. Let’s get stuck in.