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Showing posts from 2021

Pre-dinner drinks

Paradox - a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition. The COP26 meeting of international leaders in Scotland, has brought in over 400 private jets from around the world. Some of them had to drop off their very important passengers and then fly elsewhere in order to find somewhere to park. Meanwhile, the arrival of this diverse selection of planes has prompted the arrival of a selection of plane spotters. A group of four of these even drove through the night from London to catch this 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to document the variety of aircraft on the runway at Prestwick. No reduction in emissions so far. I learned to my surprise today that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury used to work as an executive in the oil industry before deciding to be ordained as a result of a calling from God. He was quoted in 2013 as saying that senior bankers often go out of their way not to be given certain information so that they can plead ignorance. He went on to

What will they achieve?

A  conservationist is someone who seeks to conserve. In the case of the environment, wildlife, ecosystems and so on, a conservationist will attempt to preserve the status quo, even to turn back the clock to reinstate a previous set of circumstances. This is widely seen to be a good thing to want to do, and of course it is: The human race is sliding rapidly down a slippery slope towards a very uncertain and probably difficult future - unless something can be done. The imminent COP26 get together in the UK is the latest and biggest attempt to stop the rot. Of course some people are already saying it is a waste of time and will be nothing more than a photo opportunity for the world leaders' Class of 21. Scott Morrison will probably be the one scowling in the back row; I don't think he is going to have a very good time of it. I wonder if he will be taking his lump of coal with him. I can almost hear Jimmy Carr saying "Scott, have you brought a mascot?" Apologies for the i

Fact mimics fiction

I was on the phone with a client this week and surprise, surprise, the subject of Covid came up. We were talking about how there is no normal any more. I observed that, if you're in business, all you can do is sit down, have a good long think about things, decide how you're going to proceed, and get on with it. He said 'I'm sure we can do it Peter'. I'm not so sure. Who would have thought, just a couple of years ago that we would all be wearing masks and social distancing, cafes would be closed and we'd be queueing up to get into the supermarket? It's a bit sci-fi and it's happened very quickly. But hasn't it always been coming to this? I have childhood memories of posters of cities in domes on stalks in the middle of red deserts. Vast wastelands where nobody lives and nothing grows. TV shows regularly featured space travellers leaving a defunct planet Earth and heading off to colonise new worlds. I wonder whether there was any point at which the

Column subject licked

  Anyone know what a devious lick is? Sitting at the dinner table this evening I mentioned that my deadline was rapidly approaching and I had yet to settle on a subject. Hidden in the avalanche of irrelevant and often downright mischievious suggestions under which I found myself was the term 'devious lick'. So, despite the fact that, as yet, I have no idea how I am going to relate it to my environmental brief, I have decided to go with it. Jimmy Carr the English comedian is a bit of a comedic technician, in fact he has written a book about why jokes work and why we need them. Amongst others he makes the point that the joke can only happen in your head. That is to say that if your reaction to reading the phrase 'devious lick' was to imagine a dodgy character in a crowded subway getting up to no good and thereby deriving his nefarious jollies - that reaction was down to you - not the phrase. As you may have guessed that was my first mental image upon hearing the phrase. S

Vax and fiction

  There seems to be a fair bit of anger in the community directed towards the prime minister. As far as I am aware she did not introduce Coronavirus to this country, nor is she trying deliberately to ruin everyone's day. To resort to name calling and personal attacks is, I feel, unworthy of the people of this great country. If someone has a better idea the way into politics is open - go for it. Now, anti-vaxxers; I've heard a couple of people recently who have said, apparently quite seriously, that a healthy diet will be sufficient to protect against Covid 19. I have also heard of people finding friendships strained by the issue. How does one react to the revelation that one's friend, a hitherto seemingly sensible person, is of the view that vaccination is a bad idea? Or to look at it the other way, how does one deal with a friend who takes the illogical view that vaccination is a good idea?   Of course it all depends on one's own view. The reasons for differences of op

COP this Mr Morrison

  COP26 is coming up. It's a get together of world leaders and negotiators. It's happening in Glasgow at the end of October and the aim is for everyone to agree to do more to combat the causes of climate change. Some people say there's nothing to worry about, that climate change is all recurring natural cycles. It is true that climate cycles of the past have caused widespread changes in the environments of the day and no doubt many species have come and gone as a result. But natural climate cycles typically happen slowly - slowly enough for evolution to work, thereby giving species the chance to adapt. So evolution carries on wending its way wheresoever it is going - and who knows where that is? Certainly not us - we'll be long gone by the time it gets there. The change in climate which is happening now though, is happening so fast as to make the suggestion that it is due to anything other than human activity laughable. And anyway, if a tree is falling and you look up t

Yesterday when I was young

  Someone said to me at the weekend that the world is in a mess. If you think about it - it's not really surprising; in the big scheme of things humans have only just swung down from the trees. It's no wonder we're having trouble growing up into a sensible global civilisation.   One of our problems is that we don't learn fast enough.   A warthog hits the savannah at birth and very quickly learns how to avoid lions - or doesn't get to pass on the genes. By comparison humans are useless when they are born. I'm not saying that warthogs should be the dominant species, but humans could do with steepening their learning curve. Have you ever seen the TV programme "Grumpy Old Men"? I could be in it. Compelled to watch early evening television this evening by virtue of the fact that I was in the same room, I found myself grumbling about everything on it.   Why do advertisers insult their audience by portraying men as stupid while their wives are in possession o

Seeing the whole of the moon

I like the idea of the pen being mightier than the sword but I guess it rather depends on whose hand wields the pen. I'm sure it is possible for a paragraph of prose to cut a swathe of understanding, justice, and logic through the banal swamp of ignorance and apathy in which much of humanity resides. The notion of an armour-clad knight of the literary realm sweeping across the sky raining glorious and uplifting words upon the parched masses brings to mind a favourite song. It's "The Whole of The Moon" by The Waterboys. Released in 1985 this song is a lyrical tour de force. I've always thought it was about drugs but a quick net search revealed that there are many interpretations; from a journey of self discovery to an allegory of gay love - not sure about that one. Mike Scott, who wrote the song, says it's about someone like CS Lewis who sees and explores things deeply, or someone like Jimi Hendrix who "came like a comet, blazing your trail". He says

How people cope...

  Lockdown is tough, more so for some than others. In the course of my work I speak to a variety of clients most days and it is the ones who are doing it alone who struggle the most. That's why we hear the words "be kind" so often. Some people are so pleased to get a phone call they will talk for ages - and that's fine - why shouldn't they? The least I can do is spare some time for a conversation which veers off topic for a while. The whole family and I went for a bike ride today. The idea was that they would cycle down the normal path to the furthest point from our house, about 2 kilometres, and then turn round and come back. I, on the other hand, wanting to get some real exercise decided to cycle towards town and then go round the long way, hoping to get to the 'turning point' before the rest of them.   During the course of my excursion I witnessed a range of temperaments so wide I thought I should write about it.   Some people put their heads down and s

Examining the waste

  Having developed, in recent years, a desire to be a better global citizen, less wasteful and more caring for the planet on whose surface we scrabble, I was particularly struck by a recent event. I should say at this point that I live in a house with my wife and four teenagers. I walked into the kitchen to find a sizeable portion of the fridge's contents on the bench; this was scene of a lockdown clear-out. Now, I am regularly to be found toasting the crusts of bread for breakfast because no one else will eat them. We buy toast slice, supermarket brand, wholemeal bread for the kids because they routinely go through a loaf a day, along with a box of eggs. However they seem to be unable to eat the crusts. The bread bags which contain two opposing crusts appear to multiply in the fridge and now there were a good half dozen of them on the bench, along with three large yoghurt pots, various left-overs, and halves of onion and avocado - there might also have been shrivelled sections tom

Follow the guidelines

  Here we are again. Whilst none of us are, I'm sure, entirely happy about it, can we at least agree that it is necessary? I mean, what's the alternative? Just carry on as normal and let the cards fall where they may? Ultimately, I guess that might work out - for the majority of the poulation. Unless of course you were one of the people who died as a result of catching the Delta variant of Covid 19. Or unless the health system collapsed under the strain and you were part of the collateral damage - one of those who couldn't get urgent medical treatment because of that collapse. I think it is fair to say that nobody really knows how serious the consequences of an unfettered outbreak might be, but I do think the government is right to do what they can to avoid it. Sure - it's inconvenient for most and downright difficult for some, but it is the right thing to do. I drove into town today and was surprised by the amount of traffic on the road, and by the number of people who

Our changing world

It seems trite to moan about recycling soft plastics in Cambridge NZ when across the world people are dealing with such crises as the earthquake in Haiti, unprecedented rainfall and flooding in Japan, and of course the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul.   I can't help thinking of the people of Afghanistan who have, over the past twenty years, become accustomed to a level of freedom which now seems unlikely to continue. A spokesman for the Taliban called the BBC this morning and said there would be 'no revenge' on the people of Afghanistan and went on to say that they are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power as 'servants of the people and of this country'. That would be the power they have just taken by force from the elected government? Or would have done had government forces not evaporated in the face of their advance.   I certainly do not claim to understand the intricacies of the situation, hardly even the overview. It is a complex situation with religion at its

Here's the ammunition...

  As I write, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to publish their latest report. I reckon it should be called "Have you been paying attention?" This will be the most comprehensive report of its kind and it will provide the most up to date assessment of the effects of climate change in the coming decades. The last time this panel got together, in 2013, they weren't absolutely convinced that extreme weather events could be ascribed to climate change, itself caused by human activities. Now, thanks to advances in the science and the computer modelling available, I am sure they will be unequivocal in that assertion. There will still be   plenty of people who believe it's all a hoax, citing natural patterns, but they are gradually being edged out into the cold, as it were. I don't mean to pick a fight with the climate sceptics, there's no need; nobody has a serious debate with a flat-earther.   By the time these words are in print, the new report

Time to take a lead?

  The biggest manufacturer, in the world, of plant based meat is called Beyond Meat. The founder of Beyond Meat is called Ethan Brown, and he has said a tax on meat (animal meat, that is) would encourage people to cut their consumption of animal-based products. He says it could help emerging markets to invest in plant based protein. When I read this earlier today my first thought was that any politician or public fugure who made such a suggestion in this country would find themselves in very hot water indeed. The recent 'Howl of a Protest' would pale into insignificance by comparison to the flames of outrage which would be ignited even by the proposition, at government level, of a tax on meat. Then I wondered whether it might, in fact, already have been suggested, and it turns out that it has. In January 2019 a panel of international experts, co-chaired by Professor Boyd Swinburn of Auckland University and Professor George Dietz of George Washington University, called for a tax

Money to watch the world go round

  Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have both recently returned from the edge of space. Virgin Galactic took Branson 86 kilometres away from Earth and Blue Origin with Bezos on board went as far as 100 kilometres. It's all very exciting, and both men have made inspiring speeches on their endeavours, and there have been a few uplifting tweets as well.   I think the impression I get in both cases is that this is rich kids playing with their toys while serious things happen elsewhere. A very quick round up of stories on the net today yields headlines and snippets such as these: Flooded London hospitals ask patients to stay away. Israel to cut 85% of emissions by mid-century. Climate scientists begin debate on vital report. Wildfires surge across US. Thunderstorms leave roads and tube stations flooded in London. ‘Everything is on fire’: Siberia hit by unprecedented burning. The family of elephants trekking across China where swift, deadly flooding this week inundated a network that wasn’t

Why we must work together

After the Howl of a Protest which swept through Cambridge and the rest of the country last Friday, I thought it only natural that I should write about it this week. But what to write? It might be problematic to engage directly with the sentiments expressed on some of the placards. "Jacinda's a communist" and "Stuff the ute tax" being two examples. Neither factual nor constructive in my view. This is a hot issue and feelings were always going run high, and no doubt will continue to do so. One of the cornerstones of democracy is freedom of expression and anyone who truly supports democracy would go a long way to defend it. I am staunchly in favour of any citizen's right to wave a placard stating their opinion, or even the suggested placement of any policy with which they do not agree. At some point, however, there has to take place a rational discussion of the issues. Actually, there is a lot of useful discussion happening across the globe and it is to be hope

On the right track

  We boarded the train en famille at Frankton last Saturday morning at the start of our 'winter break', all six of us frantically recording every moment for the family social media groups. It's a commentary on the times when the best view you get of a scene is when you watch it back on video. The train pulled out of Frankton and the rail yards and suburbs gradually gave way to farmland, which turned slowly from dairy to forestry. For a while I put on the supplied headphones and listened to the commentary which was very interesting. I learned of the rich, albeit short, history of the logging industry in the King Country and Central North Island, of some of the characters and challenges involved in building the railways and transport links with which to remove from the forests the trees, each of which had been growing there for hundreds of years. It was necessary to cut down the trees so that houses could be built for the people who flocked to the area to cut down the trees.

Fluoride: forming a view

Chatting to a client the other day, the conversation turned to a subject I know to be controversial. I won't feign a view I don't hold but sometimes it is best to avoid a subject rather than clash with someone for whom I am, for the time being, working. Referrals are good too, and less likely to come from someone I have recently disagreed with.   As it happens the subject in question was fluoridation of the water supply - a subject on which I do not have a view. This, I thought, is something which needs to be remedied; not the fluoridation of the water - my lack of a viewpoint. So I have been doing a bit of reading. It seems that like many topics, there are as many arguments as there are participants in the conversation. There have certainly been a lot of studies undertaken and the conclusions reached are spread across the spectrum of possible positions. The only demonstrable benefit of putting fluoride in a community's water supply is a probable reduction in dental caries

Doing it by the book

  On the occasion of a recent birthday I was given a copy of a newly published book. It's called 'Climate Aotearoa - What's happening & what can we do about it'. It's edited by Helen Clark who also wrote the introduction, and the contributors are a range of climate scientists and commentators.   So I settled down in an armchair with a cup of tea and my new book. It's full of great information and insights, and I am very pleased to report that a number of themes which I have covered in this column feature prominently.   I confess I got a bit bogged down in the introduction so I skipped forwards to the first chapter from Haylee Koroi, an indigenous sovereignty activist and Māori public health advisor. Her words certainly come from the heart and one can't argue with the historical facts presented.   One would expect a book such as this to kick off with a rallying cry, perhaps coralling all citizens of the country to come together and address the very seriou

The gulf between us

  I wrote recently about timescales and how we sometimes refer to mind-bendingly long periods of time in convenient terms like the 'Cambrian explosion' - which lasted for something like 20 million years. Today I was reading about the marine protection areas of the Hauraki Gulf which are shortly to be expanded under the 'Revitalising the Gulf' strategy announced by the ministers for Oceans and Fisheries, and Conservation respectively.   This latest move will see the fully protected area of the Gulf rise from 0.3% to just over 5%. Sounds like a big enough increase - the Hauraki Gulf covers some 1.2 million hectares so the increase is from 3,600 Ha to 60,000Ha. Then I looked at a map showing all the new protection areas and was immediately struck by how small 5% of an area looks when you look at all of it.   You could say the fully protected area will increase by over 1,600% if you wanted to sound impressive. It's a bit like cricket - all depends on which way you want

Car package works for me

  I have, on a couple of occasions, had cause to write to Jamie Shaw who is now the minister for climate change. I didn't receive a reply on either occasion - not from anyone. He must exist though, because I recently heard him quoted in the news as saying that the last time there were concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere at the level we have now, there were palm trees in the Antarctic. Oh. Well thanks for that Jamie, now that you have thrown the situation into such stark relief I guess we had all better do something about it. Seriously, are there any quotable pithicisms left with which to attempt to frighten the public into action? He went on to say that a major part of our contribution to greenhouse gases comes from us driving between the cities in this country. As I heard this I was, myself, driving. I have to tell you it was almost enough to make me pull over and walk.   There followed one or two other news items; I don't really remember, I was too busy wondering at the a

The truth is ...

  I became vegetarian about four years ago.   There were two reasons. One was to slow down the inexorable expansion of the waistline which was becoming difficult to ignore. Then there was the added benefit of not being party to any unnecessary cruelty to animals. For most of my life I have experienced a sense of unease in relation to being a carnivore. I am prepared to accept the notion that the presence of canine teeth in my mouth indicates that humans have eaten meat for a very long time - but it does not mean I should, merely that there is an undeniable precedent for it. Another benefit of being a vegetarian has been that it has given me the opportunity to inform people that the word 'vegetarian' does not, in fact, come from the word 'vegetable'. Rather, it is derived from the latin word 'vegetus' meaning to thrive, to be healthy. This often comes as a surprise to people - as it did to me when I learned it courtesy of Stephen Fry and the team on the wonderful