Interview with Rod Oram: Life after COP26

Image of a hand holding a small globe in front of a mountain landscape.

With economies stagnating, politics polarising, societies shattering and ecosystems suffering, I felt an urgent need to go walkabout last September. It was my best chance of making some sense of the news from around the world. Most crucially of all, the ominous signs of the onset of the Anthropocene… — Rod Oram, Three Cities

The New York Times declared 2020 “the year you finally read a book about climate change”. Two years on, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of titles addressing this vital topic–as well as ongoing interest in earlier works. One of our favourites here at Wellington City Libraries is Three Cities: Seeking Hope in the Anthropocene by Rod Oram. (Borrow a copy here or read it via our eLibrary.)

Rod Oram has been writing and speaking about climate change for the past fifteen years, and is renowned for his ability to explain complex ideas in clear, concise language. Luckily for us, he was also present at the recent UN Climate Conference (COP26) during the negotiations surrounding the Glasgow Climate Pact. How will the pact influence Aotearoa? How will it shape the rest of the world? We contacted Rod to find out…

Rod Oram:

If there’s a concerted effort to put the Glasgow Climate Pact into action, what key international developments should we see over the next twelve months?

Rod Oram: Momentum on climate action built rapidly in the past few years, accelerated in Glasgow, and will continue to gain speed, scale and impact in 2022 — although there will always be leaders and laggards among countries, sections of society and industries. Three big trends to watch for: countries increasing their climate pledges (their Nationally Determined Contributions); more action and ambition by farmers and food processors; greater civil society responses, ranging from more innovative climate solutions to more intense protests.

The New Zealand delegation to COP26 announced they would “show the world what meaningful, ambitious and lasting climate action looks like.” What could this mean for us in the near future?

Rod Oram: We have made big emission reduction commitments to the rest of the world…but we still lack policy responses to help deliver them. So, crucially next May, the government will release its Emissions Reduction Plan. This will lay out the government’s broad architecture for those inter-linked policies. To succeed, it has to be a roadmap for deep changes in structures, systems and behaviour in the economy and society. Then, civil society, business and other essential actors have to respond rapidly with their own ambitions and plans. That applies across all aspects of our lives from how we design and build our towns and cities, how we decarbonise all our transport (including aviation), how we use land for farming and other purposes, how we use resources, consume products and recycle/repurpose after, and how we restore our ecosystems to help solve the co-crises of climate breakdown and ecosystem degradation – solutions to one are often solutions to the other, and vice versa.

Stenbocki maja:

You mentioned that there was very little New Zealand business presence at COP26. What role could New Zealand businesses have in lasting climate action, and what would be the benefits of a larger business presence at COP27?

Rod Oram: Businesses create most of the goods and services we (individuals and society) want and/or need; they have the skills, capital, technologies, and knowledge required to do so; and they respond to the needs and desires of those customers. Thus they are crucial to devising and delivering better and new climate solutions. However, they also depend on us (customers, government, society at large) for their survival. So we all have a symbiotic relationship with each other. At COPs, businesses can contribute to many of the climate solutions; but crucially they also learn a lot from other businesses, governments and civil society. The greater the number of New Zealand businesses at COP27, the more New Zealand business in general will lift its climate commitments and performance…and the more government and civil society will benefit from that enhanced business capability.

How do you address the differences between governmental, business and activist approaches to climate action? There seemed to be tensions at COP26 with the final morning walkout of several hundred representatives?

Rod Oram: All three have crucial, distinctive and different roles to play on climate in general and at COPs particularly. The tensions and conflict between them are good and necessary when they are challenged constructively into more creative, more ambitious and more effective action. COP26 was positive, for example, on progress of indigenous, human, gender and justice issues on climate, and for some progress (but far from enough) on developed countries’ financial and other forms of help to developing countries. But at COP26 some civil society delegates were more frustrated than at recent COPs because seats for them in negotiating sessions were more limited than usual (or even absent). This seemed to be because of poor planning and Covid restrictions…rather than a deliberate policy by the UK (as hosts) and the UN to reduce the civil society presence in many meetings.

COP26 Global Day of Action:

One area that has had a lot of focus in New Zealand recently has been methane, specifically in relation to dairy farming. What are the possible outcomes here in terms of the Global Methane Pledge, Nestle’s policies, Groundswell protests, etc.?

Rod Oram: Globally, the initial focus of the Pledge is to reduce emissions from oil and gas production. But agriculture is a bigger source of human-induced methane emissions than oil and gas. So in due course there will be more focus / pressure on agriculture to reduce its emissions. A growing number of major multinational producers such as Nestle (dairy and other foods) and Unilever (diversified producer of personal care, food and other household consumer items) and retailers (e.g. the five largest UK supermarket chains) have ambitious, science-based targets for reducing methane and CO2 emissions. Most New Zealand farming and food business are lagging well behind…but they will come under increasing international pressure to catch up. To do so they will need to work far more effectively with those farmers who are finding change very hard or believe it is totally unnecessary. Groundswell seems to draw many of its members from such farmers.

Are there any potential climate actions/policies/technologies that you’d like to see more promotion of post-COP26? (Particularly ones that haven’t received as much focus as they deserve?).

Rod Oram: Our biggest climate tasks fall into two broad categories: built-environments; and farm environments. On both we’re failing to identify, let alone act on, big systemic solutions. On the first, that covers the way we design and build towns and cities and the transport systems for them (e.g. we need higher, far more attractive density, featuring much more natural materials (e.g. timber over concrete), much greater presence of nature for ecosystem services, food growing, recreation etc; and much more active and public transport and diversified transport options. On the second, we are largely ignoring regenerative agricultural practices that lower emissions and rebuild ecosystem health; and beneficial de-intensification and diversification of farming.

How are journalists adapting to covering the climate emergency, and what new challenges does this involve?

Rod Oram: Climate coverage is increasing. But challenges include: conveying the complexity and urgency of the climate crisis; empowering people so they are eager to act; encouraging beneficial behaviour change (e.g. in the choices we make); and showing people the big upsides from acting (and the grave consequences from not).

Discover more with our climate booklist:

Three cities : seeking hope in the Anthropocene / Oram, Rod
“Orthodox is obsolete; conventional is kaput. We thought we knew how we make economics, politics, technology and nature work for us. But increasingly, they are failing to run by the rules and systems we’ve honed over recent decades. Pioneers around the world are seeking new values, systems and technologies. Thus equipped we might achieve the unprecedented, speed, scale and complexity of change we need to meet the immense challenges of the twenty-first century.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Saving us : a climate scientist’s case for hope and healing in a divided world / Hayhoe, Katharine
“Over the past fifteen years Hayhoe has found that the most important thing we can do to address climate change is talk about it-and she wants to teach you how. In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Under a white sky : the nature of the future / Kolbert, Elizabeth
“So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it’s said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperilled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.” (Catalogue)

The rough guide to climate change / Henson, Robert
The Rough Guide to Climate Change is a complete, unbiased guide to one of the most pressing problems facing humanity. From the current situation and background science to the government sceptics and possible solutions, this book covers the whole subject. The guide also includes lifestyle advice and tips for consumers who want to make a difference in tomorrow’s climate, and comes complete with a glossary of websites for further information.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How bad are bananas? : the carbon footprint of everything / Berners-Lee, Mike
“Ten years on from first publication, a new edition of this invaluable and entertaining guide that shows just what effect everything has on carbon emissions, from a Google search to a plastic bag, from a flight to a volcano. This new edition updates all the figures (from data centres to hosting a World Cup) and introduces many areas that have become a regular part of modern life – Twitter, the Cloud, Bitcoin, electric bikes and cars, even space tourism.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Net zero : how we can stop causing climate change / Helm, Dieter
“What can we really do about the climate emergency? The inconvenient truth is that we are causing the climate crisis with our carbon intensive lifestyles and that fixing – or even just slowing – it will affect all of us. But it can be done. In Net Zero, economist Dieter Helm addresses the action we all need to take to tackle the climate emergency: personal, local, national and global.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fathoms : the world in the whale / Giggs, Rebecca
“When Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beach, she began to wonder how the lives of whales might shed light on our seas. How do whales experience environmental change? Has our connection to these fabled animals been transformed by technology? What future awaits us, and them? And what does it mean to write about nature in the midst of an ecological crisis? In Fathoms, Giggs blends natural history, philosophy, and science to explore these questions with clarity and hope.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Entangled life : how fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures / Sheldrake, Merlin
“Merlin Sheldrake’s revelatory introduction to this world will show us how fungi, and our relationships with them, are more astonishing than we could have imagined. Bringing to light science’s latest discoveries and ingeniously parsing the varieties and behaviours of the fungi themselves, he points us toward the fundamental questions about the nature of intelligence and identity this massively diverse, little understood kingdom provokes.” (Catalogue)

Islands of abandonment : life in the post-human landscape / Flyn, Cal
“This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Books at the Climate Crossroads – lunchtime event, Tuesday 11 May

Join us for our Books at the Climate Crossroads lunchtime event at Te Awe Library on Tuesday 11 May — “personal stories at the crossroads of history and the climate crisis”.

Ingrid Horrocks, Turi Park, Tim Park and MC Rebecca Priestley (Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica) will be discussing the ecologies, histories and personal journeys that weave their way through two ground-breaking New Zealand books — Geoff Parks’ Ngā Uruora and Ingrid Horrocks’ Where We Swim.

Facebook event page

Event details

When? Tuesday 11 May, 12:30 -1:20pm

Where? Te Awe Library (29B Brandon Street)

What? Books at the Climate Crossroads

Meet the panel

Our panel are…

Ingrid Horrocks

Where we swim, by Ingrid Horrocks

Dr Ingrid Horrocks is a writer whose work spans poetry, travel, environment and community. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Massey University.

Where We Swim is her account of setting out to chronicle a solo swimming journey, only to switch streams to a different kind of swimming altogether — one which led her to more deeply examine relationships, our ecological crisis, and responsibilities to collective care. Where We Swim ranges from solitary swims in polluted lakes and rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand, to swims in pools in Medellín, Phoenix and the Peruvian Amazon, and has been called “beautiful, surprising, mysterious, deep and reflective”.

Turi Park and Tim Park, sons of Geoff Park

The late Geoff Park, author of the ground-breaking work, Ngā Uruora, is represented on our panel by his sons Turi and Tim Park.

Ngā Uruora, by Geoff Park“First published in 1995, Ngā Uruora took the study of New Zealand’s natural environment in radical new directions.”

“Part ecology, part history, part personal odyssey, Ngā Uruora offers a fresh perspective on our landscapes and our relationships with them. Geoff Park’s research focuses on New Zealand’s fertile coastal plains, country of rich opportunity for both Māori and European inhabitants, but country whose natural character has vanished from the experience of New Zealanders today.”

Description from VUP

Turi Park designed the powerful cover image for his late father’s book Ngā Uruora. He is a brand strategist, creative director and contemporary painter, with works held in both public and private collections. His paintings have been described as “large, layered and allusive”, exploring “the darkened fringes of our remaining forests.”

Tim Park is Manager at Ōtari-Wiltons Bush and an Environment Partnership Manager. He has an extensive background in ecological restoration and environmental programmes and has been involved in the Dune Restoration Trust, the Wellington Natural Heritage Trust and the National Wetland Trust of New Zealand.

Listen to Geoff on Radio NZ:

Ngā Uruora – The Groves of Life documentary on RNZ

Dr Rebecca Priestley

Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica, by Rebecca Priestley

Dr Rebecca Priestley was the inaugural Director of the Centre for Science in Society at Victoria University. Her 2019 work Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica has been called “an utterly engrossing, surprisingly relatable memoir combining science, awe, anxiety, family life — and the spectre of climate-change devastation”:

“Rebecca Priestley longs to be in Antarctica. But it is also the last place on Earth she wants to go. In 2011 Priestley visits the wide white continent for the first time, on a trip that coincides with the centenary of Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful trek to the South Pole. Writing against the backdrop of Trump’s America, extreme weather events, and scientists’ projections for Earth’s climate, she grapples with the truths we need to tell ourselves as we stand on a tightrope between hope for the planet, and catastrophic change.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We’re really looking forward to an excellent panel discussion — all welcome and we’d love to see you there!

Join the City Nature Challenge!

Wellington is teeming with wildlife, from mountains to the sea. Celebrate it with the City Nature Challenge!

Started in 2016, the City Nature Challenge has two parts: the first is observational, with participants setting out into the wilds–and back gardens–of Wellington to document as many plants and animals as they can via the iNaturalist app. Part two begins directly afterwards, and is based around identification.

Keen to be involved? It’s easy: just download the iNaturalist app and join the Wellington City Nature Challenge group! Part one begins on 30 April and runs until 3 May. And if you need help with the iNaturalist app, you can visit our drop-in session at Wadestown Library on Saturday, 1 May.

Several librarians have been kind enough to put together blogs about their own City Nature Challenge experiences. Check out Leif Hōne’s excellent blog below!

Leif Hōne

Kia ora e hoa mā!!

Joining me today is the iNaturalist app which brings about awareness of the Council’s Nature in the City programme. This programme is desgined to draw in rangatahi and interested parties, in identifying and documenting the city’s wildlife so that we can use this data captured to better understand the challenges being faced and how we can meet those challenges. It’s all about your part that you’ll play by participating.

Before embarking on this challenge, I want to predict what I think I will see out there in the wilds haha. I live near Tui and other birds, so I am guessing I will be able to spot a lot of harakeke bushes (flax), perfect for doing raranga – if they’re big enough, and if Hineiwaiwa allows.

I also think I will see lots of introduced species of tree and shrub that may overtake our native collections. This is unfortunately a common reality across Aotearoa, but I am hoping my prediction for the area I’m located in will be wrong. I will need to climb Mt. Ahumairangi and scope it out! Lesh go!

Get out there yourselves and enjoy identifying native and non-native species of plant life, and having fun! Learning is ka pai.

Related Resources

Wildlife of New Zealand / Suisted, Rob
“Wildlife of New Zealand includes not merely the flagship species but a unique assembly of fascinating plants and animals that have evolved amid habitats ranging from alpine peaks, open scrub and subtropical forest to wetlands, rocky or sandy shores and the open Pacific. Well researched and informative captions from Matt Turner make this not only a stunning photographic collection, but also a very useful reference.” (Catalogue)

Māori and the environment : kaitiaki
“The New Zealand environment has been allowed to deteriorate, but it is not too late to undo the damage. This book advocates the adoption of the kaupapa of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) to preserve what is left and to restore the lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, and foreshore of New Zealand.” (Catalogue)

Wild encounters : a Forest & Bird guide to discovering New Zealand’s unique wildlife.
“Wild Encounters is your complete guide to more than twenty of the best nature experiences New Zealand has to offer. Each entry contains maps, travel details and what to see and do, all accompanied by beautiful photographs.” (Catalogue)

July Sustainable Living Series @ WCL

This July, together with Love Food Hate Waste, Boomerang BagsBirth Wise Wellington, NappyMojoKaicycle and the Sustainability Trust and in support of Plastic Free July, Wellington City Libraries will be hosting a series of educational talks around sustainable living.

Join us at Central, Karori and Newtown libraries as we discuss some small and easy changes that you can make to your everyday life to help reduce your waste to landfill, minimize your carbon footprint and help to protect the environment.

For the first talk in our Sustainable Living Series, join Wendy Bertholet, from the Wellington City Council Waste Minimization Team & Pip Cameron from Boomerang Bags for a lunchtime talk on Tuesday, 25th July at Wellington Central Library.

Wendy and Pip will be on the ground floor in the Young Adults area starting at 12 pm to talk about some simple ways to make changes to your lifestyle and reduce your waste to landfill, from making the most out of your food to reducing your use of plastic!

Wendy will be talking about the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign and will be sharing lots of winter tips and tricks on how to reduce your food waste! Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website and Facebook page for tonnes of info on storage, recipes and easy ways to reduce your food waste. You could also check out the Wellington City Council Rubbish & Recycling page for info as well.

Pip’s main area with Boomerang Bags is “Waste Diversion and Logistics” for Wellington and she helps to organize the Mt Vic and Aro Valley based volunteers group. She’s mainly interested in resourcefulness and efficient systems so the project can be self sustaining. Pip will be talking about easy ways to reduce the use of plastic and plastic bags. For more info, check out the Boomerang Bags website and Facebook page.

Also, take a look at the Plastic Free July and Plastic Free Tuesday Websites for other useful information on how to reduce your use of plastic and waste to landfill.

The second talk in our Sustainable Living Series will be with Shannon Unka, Owner and Operator of NappyMojo, Neonatal Nurse and Mum, at Karori Library after Baby Rock & Rhyme at 11:15 am on Thursday July 27th July.

Shannon will be there to talk about some small and easy changes that parents can make to help minimize waste and  bring sustainability into parenting. Come and have a chat about a range of things from wipes, breast pads and reusable sanitary products to lunch wraps, un-paper towels to cloth nappies and making it work in real life. To read a bit more about Shannon and NappyMojo, check out their website and Facebook page.

Courtesy of Birth Wise Wellington, there will be a giveaway of Sustainable Parenting Packs to help you make sustainable parenting choices and reduce the environmental impact you and your new family makes.

For more information about Birth Wise Wellington, their classes, meet ups and more resources for parents, take a look at their website and Facebook page. Also, check out their ‘Top 10 Tips for Sustainable Parenting‘ as well!

We also have a tonne of resources for parents and families on our Parenting page , including our monthly recent book picks, shelf help, educational information and resources and more!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry! Come along to Wadestown Library on Monday July 31st at 11:15 am right after pre-school Story Time Session, where Shannon will be giving this talk to another group!

Heading to the Newtown Farmers Market on a Saturday? Swing by the Newtown Library on July 29th July at 11 am for the 3rd talk in our Sustainable Living Series!

Join Sheldon Levet, one of the Kaicycle Facilitators, as he talks about composting and how easy it can be for individuals and communities to reduce their waste. With support from the Sustainability Trust, learn more about composting and different ways to reduce your waste. Sheldon will also be talking about the Kaicycle, what they do, their volunteers and the urban farm based in Newtown. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information.

Kaicycle and other community projects are supported by the Sustainability Trust, an organization working to help people in Wellington create warmer homes and reduce their impact on the environment. Laura-Kate Howells, the Sustainability Trust Educator will also be there on Saturday to talk briefly about what Sustainability Trust is up to! For more information about the Sustainability trust, take a look at their website and Facebook page and even better to get involved check out their ‘what’s on in your community’ page!

Other Resources 

Keep up to date with new books, magazines and online databases with our Environment and Sustainability popular topics page.

Bees at the Library!

They are here! You probably read about our new resident bees up on the rooftop of the Central Library.

Dompost article

You can find the Dominion Post daily on PressReader free via our website here

Here are a few “behind the scenes” photos we took as we brought the bees in. The bees arrived in the boot of a car, tightly strapped and wrapped, making their way up the library rooftop on library trolleys… They are library bees after all!
(Click on images to enlarge)


The hives were secured to pallets we had installed some weeks before. Their little doorways were opened.

Arrival of the bees Arrival of the bees

It was very exciting to watch the first bee come out of the mysterious wooden boxes we had been peering at!

Arrival of the bees

As Cenna was watching her brood anxiously, more or more bees came out and discovered their new environment.

Arrival of the bees

Arrival of the bees Arrival of the bees
Some bees landed on our shoulders as if to say hi.

Arrival of the bees
The weather wasn’t great but everything went well and we came back to very active and happy bees a few days later.  After months of preparations, we could finally celebrate the arrival of our new residents!
Arrival of the bees

Sustainability Trust Presents: Mini Worm Farms for Kids at Cummings Park (Ngaio) Library

FBYou’re invited to join in this fun session on worms and all the good work they do for us and our planet.

Together, we’ll take a closeup look at how worms can turn our food scraps into useful compost, and learn how to build our very own mini-worm farm.

So come along and get friendly with worms!

RSVP to Ngaio Library: 479 2344 or at the library front desk