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Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
Billy Matheson, 16 Jun 08

Last week over 200 people met in downtown Wellington and ‘froze’ together to help New Zealand launch the 2008 World Environment Day.

According to the event’s mysterious organizer, ‘Mr Freeze’, the purpose of the Freeze was to “encourage everyone to stop and think together about our environment. By thinking and acting together, we can help turn any harmful impacts on the environment around.”

Check out the official video on Intersect.

Inspired by similar Freeze 'improvs' that have happened before, the organizers say that this was one of only a few used to promote an environmental message. “We would love to see more spontaneous actions like this happening around the globe. What this Freeze provoked was a great sense of community in the participants and the witnesses were challenged to think very hard about what is going on. This is a microcosm of what needs to happen on a global scale.”

Mr Freeze says that one of the great things about this kind of street theatre is that it is so self-organizing. “Isn't it great how one idea, seeded by a few people and spread through each others' networks, can lead to a self-organised event with over 200 people taking part and countless others paying attention?”

The event was an interesting mix of mystery, fun, and contemplation. One participant described the experience of standing still for five-minutes in silence in the middle of the busy city as “poignant”.

Observers were largely left to interpret the experience for themselves. After the event, organizers distributed cards encouraging everyone to take some time to think about the future that they want to create, prompted by a variety of provocative questions.

The Freeze was one of over 300 World Environment Day activities created by Community Organizations throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. (Further information about many of these can be these can found on the Government’s official WED website)

The Ministry for the Environment was the lead government agency coordinating the event alongside the United Nations Environment Programme.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1972, the UNEP created World Environment Day and since then it has hosted by a different country every year and is celebrated annually in more than 100 countries.

The slogan for New Zealand’s 2008 World Environment Day was "CO2, Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy." Many local government agencies (city and regional councils) also contributed to the World Environment Day. Volunteers focused on major transport hubs (such as train stations) giving away eco-friendly products such as low-enegy fluorescent light bulbs and reusable shopping bags. AS well as give-aways, volunteers applauded commuters for using public transport users.

New Zealand’s Labour Government has a publicly stated goal of achieving carbon neutrality, and is currently attempting to implement a carbon based Emissions Trading Scheme. Labour has also recently nationalised New Zealand’s railways (after selling the asset in the 1990’s) as part of its newfound commitment to sustainability.

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All you people inspired by NZ's freeze and ready for climate activism, go check out 350's new website which has just been launched.
We need to start linking these high profile events together.

Posted by: ed on 18 Jun 08

Kia Ora,

Coming from Germany I've been living in NZ for the last 3 years working for an environmental organization. The slogan "CO2, Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy" was really nice, however, not really reflects New Zealand's governmental policies.

A bill to increase taxes on petrol was just recently rejected buy the current leaders and furthermore the government refuses to cap emissions for the primary industries. Measured by the Kyoto commitments NZ is third to last in fulfilling the targets. Consequently, from the point of a critical observer the government's statements to become a carbonzero economy seem to be just idle talk.

So my point is: I like having those actions like the Freeze actions, as it is really up to the people to stand up and make an impact. We have an everyday myriads of choices of whether to consume and act eco-logic or not. Proactive actions like the Freeze help to raise awareness about our unsustainable way of living.

Given it's low population and the isolation I believe NZ has a really good chance to become more carbon-neutral. But this has to involve more actions like this one and New Zealanders need to acknowledge indigenous knowledge about its unique places and nature.


Posted by: Frank on 21 Jun 08

Hello and thank you for the very informative article.

Have an impact: Do away with bottled water.

Get a more sustainalbe environmentally friendly source of water. Atmospheric water makers can deliver 99.9% pure water, are energy efficient, clean air, purify air, completely do away with the need for bottled water.

Posted by: greatdomain on 27 Jun 08



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