Sustainable carrying capacity – or what are limits anyway?

Last week, the Royal Society published two papers on the sustainable carrying capacity of New Zealand. I’ve been working on these for a while but, as ever, I don’t feel like I authored them. Instead, they’re a consolidation of discussions with experts, reviewed by yet more experts. There’s a huge list of names of the back of them, go see.

The papers are asking the question of how many people can New Zealand support and copiously failing to give a simple answer, but that’s ok, coz this stuff is hard. For instance, here’s some of the press about the papers:
Kiwis take more than a fair share – NZ Herald
Less television, more gardening suggested – Otago Daily Times

Both those articles miss the point, or rather they are casting about for a simple message – that we’re overshooting the planet’s capability to support us. There’s a bunch of issues with that simple message, which I’ll get around to describing another time, but the primary one is that we know we’re in overshoot, we’ve known that for really quite some time, and saying it again isn’t going to change that.
We know that, so let’s think a bit harder

The new Model T?

It’s a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, lithium batteries, 130 km range, twice the torque of the petrol version and able to break any speed limit in the land. It’s dinky, but four seats and the inside looked surprisingly roomy for something that easy to park. Charge it from Meridian’s power and you’ve got zero-carbon transportation, right there. Even some Yanks driving it thought it was pretty decent.

This one was parked outside the cathedral this morning. They’re planned to be on sale in NZ next year. Welcome to the future*.

* Maybe. It’s got the performance of a Citroen 2CV and costs a lot more. How much more? Don’t know yet. It’ll get you a day trip to Levin or Martinborough and back, but can’t make it as far as Palmerston North, let alone get you back from there. Here’s hoping that it’s a success in the marketplace, but still, petrol technology remains hard to beat. And it’s got a stupid name.