Occupy Movement Digs in Around Aotearoa
Update 01/11/2011: Photos below are from the pot-luck picnic at Occupy Christchurch on Sunday 30 Nov. See also More Photos from Occupations in Aotearoa
Labour Day is the next focus for at least two of the occupations around Aotearoa which joined the Occupy Together movement on the Global Day of Action, October 15. Occupy Wellington are planning a day of activities, as are Occupy Christchurch.
Occupations are currently underway in at least 6 centres; Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. Harsh weather and internet trolling have failed to keep the occupations from being supported, and many of them are actively growing and developing every day. Response from corporate media has been mixed, mostly following the same pattern as Occupy Wall St, which was initially presented as an incoherent, disorganised rabble - amusing but impotent. But after more than a month, and with occupations spreading across the USA and the world, the concerns of the 99% are starting to break the corporate media blockade.
Online there seem to be two main responses; the predictable "why don't they get a job" and "how dare they use public space in unusual ways" comments, and others expressing support, and encouragement. Photos, videos, and blog posts about the occupations abound, many of which can be found by scraping the FaceBook pages for the various Occupy groups.
I have been spending most of my time at Occupy Wellington base camp, which began on the green space on the City to Sea Bridge, above Civic Square, and has spread down into Jack Ilott Green. Scoop put together some excellent coverage of our first day here. The reaction down here has been mostly supportive, bemused, or interested, although there have also been a handful of challenges from people who don't like the look of us.
Being able to leave the camp and stay with friend on the edge of the city reminds me of how privileged I am, compared to the communities living in shanty towns and squatter camps who live in worse conditions than we are camping in all year round. But our relative privilege pales in comparison to the global elites. Warren Buffet, who is one of hundreds of millionaires who has been asking their governments to tax them at a higher rate than their employees, has an annual salary of US$100,000, more than 10 times the unemployment benefit I live on, and probably 10 times the annual wages of the lowest paid employees in the company which pays his salary.
Today I read a National Geographic article about the rapid deforestation of the Amazon Basin, particularly in Brazil. Much of the forest destruction is the result of transnational agribusiness, which sucks huge profits from massive monoculture production of beef, soy, and other commodities produced on former rainforest land. But significant degradation is also the result of squatters who move into the forest using abandoned logging roads, desperate to eke out a living from land they can't afford to buy.
Permaculture development strategies based on helping poor communities develop environmentally regenerative economies has shown that improving the lives of such people is key to preventing the destruction of wilderness areas - social justice and environmental health issues go hand in hand. But the 1% do not profit from peasant farmers and indigenous peoples, living sustainable, polycultural lifestyles that work with the forest, rather than destroying it. Guns, machines, drugs, and money flow into Brazil, to keep the cash crops flowing out. Activists promoting sustainable development are murdered. Social and environmental goals cannot be achieved only by piecemeal efforts on the ground - the global economic system also needs to be rebuilt to serve priorities other than short-term profits for the 1%. That's why we are occupying. Join us!