Rise for Climate and Cherish our Earth

Homo Sapiens have lived on Earth for around 10,000 generations***, yet since the industrial revolution (1760-1830), just ten to twelve generations ago, we have been the cause of much lasting damage to the earth.

We have degraded the world’s soils to the point that all it could be gone within three generations.  We watched species loss occurring at an ever-accelerating rate – from 100 times the natural rate, to between 1,000 and 10,000 times in my lifetime.  We have sat on our hands for two generations, and done nothing to mitigate the drivers of global warming that is now changing our climate.

For over forty years we have known that avoiding disastrous climate change requires breaking fossil fuel’s hold on our economy and our way of life.  And we have done so little.

Cherishing our Earth has become something we give too little attention to.

This came up at the Auckland Diocese annual synod earlier this month.   Amongst the presentation was one by journalist Rod Oram, a member of the Anglican Climate Action Network.  

His topic was our christian roles in this time of climate change.

One of Rod’s slides was a quote from American environmental lawyer and advocate Gus Speth.  

In this season of creation, we acknowledge the issues that humankind’s activities on this earth have caused. It is time we took action.  On these and other related issues.   

How relevant is the quote and how right is the sentiment?  What do you think?

350 Aoteroa’s event Rise for Climate outside the Anglican Cathedral in Parnell. L-R Amanda Larsson (350 Aotearoa), Rod Oram (Anglicans CAN), Barry Coates (350 Aotearoa) and John Allen (Anglicans CAN)

 *** assuming a 20-year cycle from birth to procreation

 

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Ecological Overshoot is a tragedy, not a tactic

It’s an easy and sometimes advantageous strategy to overshoot a mark we have in our sights.

When selling a house, it is usually the case that the asking price is set higher than the expected selling price.  It gives some wriggle room for the negotiations between buyer and seller.

And in salary negotiations, a confident job applicant has been known to overshoot the job’s salary target in the hope of influencing the employer to anchor salary negotiations at a higher level.  That tactic can backfire on those who do not know the realistic salary expectations of the job.

It’s a tactic used in golf.  The chance of holing a putt increases by weighting the shot for the ball to go past the hole, rather than dropping in to the hole on it’s dying rotation.    The downside of this overshoot strategy is that when one misses the target, the next putt may be even more difficult.

So it seems to be when setting carbon emission targets.  The Paris target of less than 2 °C of warming, will be difficult to achieve.  So we see the tendency to allow global GHG concentrations to rise above the target level in the expectation of bringing them back down at a future time.

Technology may or may not satisfy the expectation.

If it does, then the costs of meeting the target will inevitably have risen over that time of procrastination.

If it does not, then there will be no consequence to the procrastinators – that will fall on future generations.

We can see this lose-lose overshoot strategy playing out now in the concept of Overshoot Day.

Developed by the Global Footprint Network, Overshoot Day is a means to flag the date on which we ask more from nature, than our planet can renew in a year.

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https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days/

Today (August 1st) is World Overshoot Day.  This date reflects human demand for ecological resources across the planet, being 1.7 times what the Earth can sustainably meet.

New Zealand had it’s own Overshoot Day.  May 1st was the date on which Earth Overshoot Day would have fallen if all of humanity consumed like we do. Our demand for the earth’s resources is equivalent to more than three earths.

What will life be like when the rest of humanity demands what we have and take for granted?

When selling a house, negotiating a salary or playing a golf shot, overshooting the target may be a valid tactic.  When overshooting the capacity of the Earth to supply resources, it is a tragedy in the making.

Cherishing our Earth and the Zero Carbon Bill

Was there something special about Monday, 1st May 2018?
Weather wise, the rain of Auckland’s weekend was clearing to sunny skies with a temperature high of 20°C and strongish southerly winds.  Nothing special there.
The news reports of the day covered a homicide, the closure of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park to protect Kauri trees, and Auckland University promoting a public lecture, “Coasts in Crisis”, on the impacts of sea level rise.   Two environmental headlines!
Missing was a more significant environmental matter.  May 1st was New Zealand Overshoot Day.
The concept of Overshoot Day was developed by the Global Footprint Network as a means to mark the date on which we ask more from nature, than our planet can renew in a year.
New Zealand Overshoot Day was the date on which Earth Overshoot Day would fall if all of humanity consumed like we do. May 1st corresponds to our domestic demand for the earth’s resources being equivalent to more than three Earths.
Of the 36 countries with an even earlier Overshoot Day, Qatar heads the list at 9th February.  Vietnam’s Overshoot Day concludes the list at December 21st – still requiring more than one Earth to meet their demand for resources. 
For 2018, World Overshoot Day will fall on 1st August.  That date reflects human demand for resources across the planet being 1.7 times what the earth can sustainably meet.
Obvious it is, that we have only the one Earth to meet that demand.
The Earth is already showing signs of its unwillingness to meet our wants.  Those signs include growing inequality, rising sea levels, a loss of biodiversity, extreme weather events, and much more.
What will it be like when the rest of humanity demands what we in New Zealand have and take for granted?
Global warming is behind many of the signals that nature is giving us.  In a belated response to those signals, our government are taking action.
When enacted, the much vaunted Zero Carbon Bill will set carbon emissions targets and pathways, and establish a Climate Change Commission to advise the government and monitor our progress on meeting those targets.
Submissions on the Bill’s discussion document, which closed in July, were made by members of the Anglican’s Climate Action Network, Auckland.  These can be viewed on cherished-earth.nz.
Those submissions reflect the climate and sustainability actions that are already happening within the Auckland Diocese.  But even those actions will not be enough to forestall the existential threat that the Union of Concerned Scientists warned of for the second time in 25 years. “Mankind is … facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources…”  There will not be another warning in another 25 years.
What is clear, is that our Earth will survive whether we cherish it or not.  
Not so clear is whether our grandchildren will enjoy a liveable climate – that depends on the Zero Carbon pathway we must now take.
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Earth Day 2018 being celebrated at St Davids Anglican Church, Buckland with a Charcoal Fire event.  Here, Vicar Jan Wallace is helping quench the charcoal embers that were subsequently buried to sequester atmospheric carbon.

Submission on the Zero Carbon Bill

Anglicans CAN logoThis submission represents the collective views of the Anglican’s Climate Action Network (Anglicans CAN), Auckland, and does not purport to be the position of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Anglicans CAN is a group of Anglicans who have been raising awareness, providing education and supporting political action on climate change issues since 2006 under the Cherished-Earth.nz initiative.

Cherished Earth is a climate justice initiative of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. e initiative is about taking actions that connect Christian faith with caring for creation, and is the practical outworking of a commitment made in 2006 by the Anglican Bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand, including Māori, Pacifika and Pākehā.

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Anglicans CAN supports the need to create certainty around New Zealand’s response to the challenges of our changing climate. We offer these considerations around the intentions of the proposed Zero Carbon Bill.

The overarching principle to apply in developing the Zero Carbon Bill, must be one of social justice, not just for New Zealanders, but for all peoples of the world and for future generations.  This implies equality in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, privileges and obligations.

For example, our climate actions must recognise the rights of people in developing countries to achieve the same standard of living and privileges that we take for granted. As the Earth cannot sustain our level of consumption of resources, it follows that our obligation is to reduce our consumption of the things we want but do not need.

Another example is that if incentives and subsidies are to be made available, they must be able to be taken up by anyone, regardless of income, assets or standing in the community.

The numbered paragraphs within this submission correspond to the questions posed in the Zero Carbon Bill Discussion Document.

1. The Government must set an ambitious 2050 target in legislation now.
A goal around “net zero emissions” is not adequate because it assumes an unspecified level of gross carbon emissions with offsetting to achieve a net position. Offsetting unconstrained gross emissions is not sustainable because the supply of land suitable for tree planting is limited, and the Government cannot guarantee that it will be able to purchase international carbon credits indefinitely.

That 2050 reduction target must focus predominantly on the release of new carbon to the atmosphere, and less on the recycling of existing carbon gases. New carbon is defined as carbon that is locked into the earth as coal, oil and natural gas, and is therefore, not already within the existing carbon cycle.

Carbon Dioxide generated by the burning and mining of previously sequestered fossil fuels is an example of new carbon. Methane emissions from the exploration and mining of fossil fuels is another example. The emissions from these sources must go to zero.

Biological sources of methane generated by the agricultural sector, is an example of a gas already within the existing carbon cycle. The emissions from this source have already stabilised (since 2011) and have grown by only 5.6% since 1990 (calculated from the 2016 Greenhouse Gas Inventory published by the Ministry for the Environment).

2. Anglicans CAN support none of the three options presented as the “best” target:

  1. net zero carbon dioxide excludes nitrous oxide and so this option cannot be supported.
  2. net zero long-lived gases and stabilised short-lived gases does not explicitly provide for zero new carbon gases and so this option cannot be supported.
  3. 3. net zero all gases (CO2, CH4, N2O) ignores the fundamental differences between short and long- lived gases and so this option cannot be supported.

In place of these “best” target options we propose ones that:

  1. target gross zero emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel sources (2016: 84% of total CO2)
  2. target methane being stabilised at 1990 levels (2016: a 4% reduction to 1990 levels)
  3. for N2O, targets:
    – gross zero emissions from manure management (2016: 1% of total N2O)
    – 50% reduction of N2O from agricultural soils (2016: 94% of total N2O)
    – gross zero emissions from the application of nitrogenous fertilisers to land

3. How should New Zealand meet it’s targets?
Use of the term “net emissions” in each of the three options within the discussion document, make the explicit assumption that tree planting will offset gross emissions and that any shortfall on the target, will be offset with international carbon credits. Anglicans CAN do not see this as an acceptable response to the very serious challenges that global warming represents.

Our submission distinguishes between the emissions of new carbon from the mining and burning of fossil fuels, and the recycling of existing atmospheric and oceanic carbon already within the carbon cycle. Emissions of new carbon must go to zero in gross terms; they must not be off-settable through tree planting nor the purchase of international credits.

Having a target for zero new carbon means that tree planting can be focused on the removal (sequestering) of CO2 from the atmosphere. We recommended a separate target be set for the tonnage of CO2 removal by tree plantings.

4. Revisions to the 2050 targets.
We agree that the 2050 target could be revised but with the proviso that any revised target be no lesser a reduction target than exists already.  That is, once the initial target is set, any revised target may be increased but not reduced. We believe that it is very important that the Zero Carbon Act be protected from dilution by political interference.

It is acknowledged that the Act could need to be repealed. We envisage this only in exceptional circumstances, and then only following a public referendum that approves such a repeal.

5. Yes, we agree with the proposal for three successive budgets, each of ve years’ duration.

6. Yes, the Government should be able to alter the last emissions budget (years 10 – 15) but only during the term of the first budget period.

7. No, the Government should not have the ability to review and adjust the second emissions budget.  Any government having this ability, would work to negate the certainty the Act would provide, especially in the build up to government elections.

8. Anglicans CAN believe the Climate Change Commission ought have a role greater than just advising the government on policy decisions. In particular, we believe the Commission must have a regulatory role as noted in point 11 below. We have no view on the considerations the proposed Climate Change Commission may take in to account.

9. Yes, the Zero Carbon Bill must require Governments to set out plans within a certain timeframe to achieve the emissions budgets.

10. The single most important issue for the Government to consider in setting plans to meet budgets is that our economic system does not support economics based on planetary/national resource boundaries. For example, the work of the Global Footprint Network suggests that our present use of global resources, requires 1.7 earths to meet our demand. If every person lived like New Zealanders, we would require 3 Earths to meet the demand for resources. Such levels of resource use are clearly not sustainable, pointing up the need for an economic system that works within planetary boundaries.

11. The Climate Change Commission ought have a regulatory role (perhaps along the lines of the Reserve Bank and Commerce Commission) to ensure that actions are taken, and not just talked about. Such a role should be protected against political appointments and interference.

12. The NZETS needs to be replaced with a Carbon Tax.  The current pragmatism around there not being enough differentiation between an ETS and a Carbon Tax to justify the costs of changing over, ignores the ineffectiveness and abuses of the ETS that have occurred to date.

13. The proposed expertise that the Climate Commission must have is agreed to with the following additions:

  • Systems thinking expertise should be specifically included. Without this level of expertise, there is a danger that a reductionist approach to the issues will be adopted, leading to incomplete analyses and ineffective actions that work to sustain business as usual.
  • Likewise, a problem solving ability should be listed within the expertise requirements.

14. The Carbon Zero Bill ought not cover climate change adaptation.
To do so, runs the risk of taking the focus away from the urgent need to mitigate the drivers of global warming.

Adaptation strategies do need to be developed, but within their own enabling legislation.

15. The new functions around adaptation to climate change are NOT agreed with:
We believe that adaptation measures (including the new functions proposed) are necessary, but not desirable within climate mitigation legislation.

16. An adaptation reporting power should be established, but done so within a separate Climate Adaptation Bill and outside of the powers of the Zero Carbon Bill.

Cherishing our Earth at Fieldays 2018

I was at Fieldays last week, as an exhibitor in the Innovation Centre.  It was an exciting three days plus one.

Here are some thing that struck me as I observed the weather, the people, the products and of course, the innovations.

First was that despite being the 50th anniversary year, the weather still made its presence felt.  ’Twas not the parka-penetrating chill of the sou-westerlies.  Nor the eeriness of foggy mornings.  No, it was the wheel-spinning wetness that led to hour-long waits to get out of the parking lot that I remember most about the weather.  Is 50 years not long enough to solve that energy-consuming problem?

Then there were the people.  Those who looked away when eye-contact was imminent, those who freely gave a big smile without expectations of anything in return, those who listened to learn about dairy’s role in climate change, and those who either did not care or simply did not want to know.  Guess which group was in the majority?

That so much of the activity was focused on products that we want but do not need, was the big disappointment for me.  We will never achieve societal and environmental sustainability for as long as we try to consume our way to ego-satisfaction.

Finally, innovation in the agricultural sector is a major aspect of Fieldays and there were some really great ideas on display.  However, unlike the judges view that the winners of the awards choose their problems to solve with care, it seemed to me that they choose their products not to solve the problems that the world need solving, but instead, chose them to make a profit.

Will I return for Fieldays 2019?  Of course I will.  Despite my cynicism, it was still a buzz.  But I could do without the Saturday when the general public turn out.

Join us for Earth Day 2018 in Buckland

The future of the Earth as we know it, is under threat.  Scientists have named that threat global warming.

We already see some of the impacts of global warming: climate change; extreme weather events; the loss of animal and plant species; rising sea levels; and the acidification of our oceans.

The main drivers of global warming are twofold. First, the mining and burning of fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  Second, when we cut down forests, we reduce the Earth’s ability to tolerate those gases.

To reduce the impacts of climate change, two things we must do.  One is to significantly reduce our individual and household greenhouse gas emissions.  The other is to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The longer we take to do these two things, the harder is the task of ensuring a liveable climate for future generations.

EARTH DAY 2018, is the day to show that we cherish our Earth, the day to take a personal climate action to help ensure the Earth’s regeneration and protection for future generations.

Next Sunday, April 22nd, the Anglican’s Climate Action Network are offering an easy-do climate action that anyone can take.  The Pukekohe Anglican Parish are holding their second Charcoal Fire event in the grounds of St Paul’s Anglican Church in Buckland Road, Pukekohe.

For each person attending, a 1kg wood block will be burned to make biochar which will be buried in the soil and fruit trees planted on top.

This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding the CO2 that would have been released back to the atmosphere as the wood decays.

It will also sequester1kg of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

And even more carbon will be removed from the atmosphere over the fruit trees’ lifetime.

Join us between 9 am and 11 am to place 1kg of wood on the fire and learn about biochar.

Or join us at 11:30 am for a sausage sizzle before the fire is quenched at 12:30 followed by the planting of fruit trees on the biochar.

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Click to view full size map

Park at Buckland School – 72 George Crescent, Buckland.  A gold coin donation on entry will help us continue our sustainability work.

For more information, call John on 09 238 1357


The Charcoal Fire event 2018

Grow Your Own Food: a means to an end in an uncertain world

A beginners “Grow Your Own Food” course is offered at Pukekohe’s St Andrews Church hall on Wednesday evenings, starting August 30th.  Over six weeks, the workshops will focus on practical, organic food growing techniques that don’t require a green thumb to follow.

Grow Your Own Food Course 2 flyer“When I was a kid,” recalled project manager John Allen, “our family and most of our neighbours had vegetable gardens.  Growing our own food was one of those things we just did.”

For many of today’s generation, the arts of growing vegetable have been forgotten or were never practiced.   In the uncertain world we are on the threshold of, there are many good reasons to learn those arts.

First is that growing your own food is a means for individuals and households to mitigate the drivers of global warming, to adapt to climate change, and address social justice issues.

In today’s society, it is easy buy whatever food we want, whenever we want it. The impacts of a warming climate are changing that.

For example, the crops that can be grown in some areas is changing due to warmer temperatures, stronger winds and unexpected rainfall patterns.

A recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal, concluded that climate change will cut crop yields.

A 2015 report by WWF, The Calm before the Storm highlight how disruptions to long supply chains will affect the availability of food.

These change will lead to food prices rising.

As well as these impacts, there are many others reasons for people to grow their own food.

For some, saving money is the reason.

For many, it is about knowing what has gone in to their foods.  People are looking for ways to avoid the chemical pesticides or genetically modified organisms that are increasingly finding their way in to our foods.

For an increasing number, it is about consuming in-season foods, grown locally on family-centred organic farms.  This is a reaction to industrialised global food chains that feature excessive food miles, lowered nutrition values and pesticide residues.

For others, it is about the simple pleasures of working outdoors, getting our hands dirty in the soil and harvesting what we have grown.

For most of us, growing our own food is a combination of these reasons and is a practical action for sustainability and resilience in the face of uncertain world.

Take this opportunity to learn the simple arts of food growing.

Enquire below or visit facebook.com/groups/GrowYourOwnFoodNZ/


A climate action that worked

World-wide, thousands of people took part in the March for Science on Earth Day last Saturday.  The Guardian‘s headline declared “Global ‘March for Science’ protests call for action on climate change” as the reason for the marches.   Calls to action and defending scientists from attacks on the legitimacy of climate science, were the objectives.
First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  The wider goals of this demonstration are laudable, but I have two ‘howevers’ around the March for Science action.
First is the irony of the marches – significant volumes of new carbon were emitted to the atmosphere from the vehicles used by participants.
Using the average emissions factor defined by our Environment Ministry for petrol vehicles and an average distance travelled of 25km, each participant released around 6kg of new carbon dioxide.
The second ‘however’ is that actions, not more words are now needed if global warming is to not exceed 2°C.  That is the goal of the climate agreement that our government has committed to.
One of the few Earth Day events that actually achieved a reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, was the Charcoal Fire event at St Andrews Anglican Church in Pukekohe last Sunday.
This event involved burning wood to make biochar.  The char was buried, inoculated  and two peach trees planted on top.
For each person attending that event, an estimated 3kg of carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere and buried away for a very long time.  Plus the new trees will sequester more carbon for many years.
It may be that the Marches for Science had an impact on US politicians.  It is clear that the Pukekohe event had an impact on reducing global warming.

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How does the carbon cycle work?
The carbon cycle is the movement of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and plants.  
One part of that cycle involves trees and plants taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and converting it to carbon which becomes embedded within the tree, and to oxygen which is released back to the atmosphere.
When a plant dies naturally, much of it’s carbon is released back to the atmosphere, and becomes available to other plants to absorb and continue the cycle.
Soil contains one of nature’s largest stores of carbon which is slowly released to the atmosphere or locked away as fossil fuels.
This balance in the carbon cycle has been a feature of our environment for millennia. 
We humans upset that balance when we add new carbon to the atmosphere by tilling the soil, extracting and burning fossil fuels, and when we cut down forests.  We have been doing this for over 100 years, which is seen in the ‘hockey stick’ graph that charts rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

A win win win climate action

Last week’s cyclone-determined weather was mild for us in Pukekohe, but severe on our east coast and catastrophic further south in the Bay of Plenty.

It is likely that a future cyclone will deal equally severe blows to us and our west coast communities.

Whilst we cannot forecast severe weather impacts for specific areas, NIWA have warned North Islanders to brace themselves for more flooding events.

And scientists are finding more linkages between our carbon emissions and extreme weather events.  Last month, Nature.com published an article on the influence of anthropogenic – aka “human caused” – climate change on extreme weather events.

Are we, individually and collectively, prepared to take a punt on future catastrophic weather events bypassing us?  The people of Edgecumbe would give a different answer to that question from those not yet seriously affected.

Those who do not consider the risks are burying their heads in ever-warming sands, for one thing is clear: extreme weather events are now part of our future.

The Insurance Council agrees.  It was reported last week, that the Insurance Council and Local Government NZ have worked together for about three years to explore changes to building consenting processes.  Their goal is to minimise property damage during severe weather events.

But Prime Minister Bill English does not agree.  He was reported last week as saying that it does not matter “too much”, what is causing the weather we have experienced over the past three weeks.  He went on to say that climate change as the cause, is something he does not want to spend time thinking about.

It is our grandchildren’s future that he dismisses so casually.

So what can we as individuals do that our government do not want to think about?

One action is to reduce our household carbon emissions.  Which means travelling less, buying only what we need, reducing waste, saving energy and more.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page1.jpgAn easy-do action, is for us to take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric carbon now exceeds 400 parts per million, and to bring that back to a level that will keep global warming below 2°C, carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere.

At The Charcoal Fire event on Sunday 23rd April, you can learn the means to achieve that.

Making and burying biochar is a win for carbon sequestration and a win for the fertility and water holding capacity of our garden soils.

And planting fruit trees on top of that biochar is a further win for growing healthy, nutritious food.

Join us at 18 Wesley Street in Pukekohe, anytime between 8 am and 11 am this Sunday (23rd April) to learn how to make biochar as a win win win climate action.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page2.jpg

Removing our weather blinkers to take climate action

Another Tuesday, another severe weather warning from the MetService.  On Good Friday, Cyclone Cook is expected to dump 200mm of rain as it passes close to or over the North Island.

NIWA’s modelling suggests that the upper and eastern North Island “currently stand the best chance of experiencing an impactful weather event from Wednesday through to Friday morning”.

Huh?  The “best” chance?  Like it’s a desirable event?

Try telling that to those in Edgecumbe who may never be able to return to their homes. For them, last week’s flood was a catastrophe.

Heavy rain events are now regularly occurring somewhere in the country.

Last week’s event was much more than a flash flood.  It was more than a 1 in 100 year event.

Have we normalised extreme weather to the extent that we are now blinded to its causes?

A new study, linking human-caused carbon pollution to extreme weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, ought remove our weather blinkers.  The study, published on nature.com, finds that this pattern has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural weather variability.

As report co-author Michael Mann says, “We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.”

This study will not placate those increasingly affected by the increasing incidence of extreme weather events.

Should someone be held to account for those affected?  To me, yes of course.

The responsibility lies with each of us who continue to release new carbon to the atmosphere – nature will hold us and future generations to account.

Our grandchildren will not thank us for shrugging our shoulders and writing this off as “acts of God”.

An event at Pukekohe’s St Andrews Anglican Church on Sunday 23rd April, is an opportunity for us, individually and collectively, to make a stand against our climate changing actions.

At 8 am, a fire will be lit in a special in-ground pit.  When the fire is extinguished at 11 am, more than one third of the wood burned will be turned to charcoal.

If left to rot in the field or burn completely, one hundred percent of that timber would be turned to ash and all of its carbon released back to the atmosphere.

Instead, burying the biochar will sequester carbon away for a long time, effectively taking carbon out of the atmosphere.  Planting fruit trees on top of the biochar will remove even more atmospheric carbon.

Join us at 18 Wesley Street, Pukekohe any time between 8 and 11 am and show your support for a climate action that does make a difference.