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Bonus Joules: Suffocating Images

Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

Suffocating Images


Bonus Joules discovers Science is only as good as its images.
Bonusjoules Blog - 28 Feb 2006
Chapter 3 No 14 A Blanket Warning
Blog by Dave McArthur - published 13 Feb 2006


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New Zealand – land of the long white cloud. Or should that read land of the long dark shroud. Our Parliament is cloaked in ignorance, confusion, obscuration and pure nastiness and the statistics of our carbon emissions form a pall over the nation. The sacking of the Minister for Transport, Energy and Climate Affairs deepens the murk.

First I should explain to new readers that the cartoon strip that accompanies this was created a couple of years ago. It is complete serendipity that it happens to coincide with this blog and is most apt today. Early this morning I gave leaflets to delegates attending the Climate Change and Governance Conference in Wellington. In it I outlined an interim strategy for developing a science in the communication of climate issues. That is a story for my next blog perhaps.

I will start this one by explaining to overseas readers that my country, more commonly known as New Zealand, was first named Aotearoa by its first settlers, Maoris. The title is very apt. Our country is a thin thousand mile (1600 km) long range of mountains “uplifted high” that straddle the Roaring Forties, the winds that race around the planet’s oceans at this southern latitude. The moisture-laden air meets our mountains and forms clouds over the land. The clarity of our air means in the clouds transform our land into a long ribbon of shining white light when viewed from afar. Indeed the purity of this white light has long inspired myths that describe us as the land of the shining light.

Blessed by such pure air and with an economy famed for its agricultural products you would think New Zealanders would care for the atmosphere. Not so. Our use of carbon and electricity forms a shroud over our children. This is sad as we are in a position to endow the next generation with a world of shining light. We have the resources to create an economic model that can sustain all humanity. Instead we squander them in an orgy of greed and fear.

One place where fear is thick in the air is our Parliament. It is paralysed by it. The nature of our bureaucracy is such that one small failure or technical breach of laws of compliance and taxation can destroy the career of an MP overnight, no matter how great and good the person. Every person in Parliament has committed such breaches at some time or another and these are compounded every year thereafter. In most cases the breaches caused little or no harm. Often the breach made common sense, as millions of the small vital acts of care and nuturing that sustain our society could not take place if placed in the current framework of taxation and compliance.

In this context any stuffwit or dollar-driven journalist can dig the dirt and dish an MP in New Zealand. Many very able people do not even considered standing for parliament as they know the mindless power of our gutter-based media. They know they have committed some minor technical breach of the laws of the land at some time and it can be used to destroy their political career, their family and their general life. So fear hangs over our Parliament and our country like a shroud.

It so happens that the portfolios of “energy” and climate encapsulate our greatest challenge to our children’s survival. This challenge is our carbon-electricity use. Sure, we can destroy civilisation using nuclear warfare or a large meteor might hit Earth. These are risks but they do not form the systematic risk that our use of fossil fuels and Bulk-electricity poses.

So it is vital that our Parliament apply its brightest and most honourable people to this issue. In my experience intellect without honour is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. I have no idea if David Parker, ex-Minister in charge of these portfolios, was up to the task. The fact that the Labour party understood the issue sufficiently to group “energy”, transport and climate issues together was a sign of intelligence. Perhaps that same intelligence saw in him the ability to achieve what Parliament had been unable to achieve in the three decades since our carbon-electricity use became evident as the pre-eminent challenge to the survival of our civilisation.

I had no knowledge of David Parker’s character and honour until I observed his resignation. This occurred after Ian Wishart of Investigate magazine dug up a technical breach of company compliance regulations he had committed. In the great scheme of things his breach seemed most minor to me and his manner of resignation signalled him as a man of honour. If this is true then it is probable that history will judge Ian is either very ignorant or is a nasty piece of works.

In the National Radio interview I heard, Ian certainly seemed proud of his ability to dig into the compliance statements of non-operational companies. Any fool can waste their lives trawling for such miserable minutia. At no point did he indicate any awareness of the impact of his activities on the greater political issue of how do we adapt this nation and humanity worldwide so we all survive this very dangerous period we are entering - the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age - and reach the Great Electric-Solar Age.Y

You have to wonder about this magazine. Ian’s last prominent act was to dump on a Government Minister for supposedly putting a tennis ball in a student’s mouth decades ago. This is minor compared to what teachers did in those days. I was taught by teachers who came straight out of Tom Brown’s School Days and Catholic Ireland. Canings, strappings and cutting sarcasm were the norm. My woodwork teacher had a strap called the WHOOFER with metal studs imbedded into it. Discipline was mainly applied in the workshop by making students spread their fingers on the desk and whacking them with the steel workshop rulers. That was his way of keeping order and people safe among dangerous machinery.


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One nun at her wits end took me into the boy’s toilets more than once, stripped off her veils, beads and habits and wildly thrashed any part of my body she could hit with the strap. A weird experience by any count for a child, especially as I confronted her grizzled shaven scalp, mottled red with rage and with this strange deep lobotomy-like dent in it from the veil holder ring (mortar?) .

Teachers at college had caning competitions and the most feared could reputedly slice through the region’s telephone book in one swipe. One teacher caned me twice. Each time I was entirely innocent. To me there was no irony in that he was a devout worker for Amnesty International and later on he provided a second family for a number of training college students. When I innocently reminded him in front of the training college class in 1970 of his caning days he was shocked, dismayed and denied it. That did not make him a dishonest man. Indeed he is an outstanding citizen. What it shows is how much things have changed and indeed I am sure many teachers died before there time as they concluded, unfairly, they had failed their own high standards of humanity in that era.

If people like Ian experienced a strong sense of humanity they would understand this and, for instance, apply their journalistic talents to exploring the impact of the Minister of Justice Phil Goff’s continuing refusal to address the festering issue of Peter Ellis case. This is having a devastating impact on sexuality in New Zealand. This prosecution proved that in our present system a rogue detective or parent can destroy any male teacher and they are defenceless against lies. In a culture where a generation of influential and disturbed women see every man as driven by child abuse desires such a flaw in our legal system has a chronic impact on the nation’s sexuality.

When I said I was going to Training College in 1998 men came up to me, shook my hand and said how much they admired me as it is such a dangerous occupation for any male now and there is such a need for a male presence in children’s lives. Overseas readers should know that now it is possible for a child to never experience a male teacher and some schools with twenty teachers may have only one or two males on the staff – as principal or as janitor. Working in education now is a weird experience and I failed those men’s hopes. I am glad I am not a teacher under Phil Goff’s regime.

Any myopia extends far beyond Ian in the David Parker case. No media that I saw or heard expressed awareness or concern about the potential serious impacts of the resignations on the big issues. Read later or click here to go to end of this blog to read my letters of concern to my most important source of news – Radio New Zealand. The notes were written in a hurry as I let off steam.

So just when the new Government administration is settling in and the new Minister of these crucial portfolios is perhaps getting a grip of them and maybe sensing synergies between them that will release us from our present deadly trap he is gone. The portfolios are broken up and back in the hands of caretakers who have either failed at them or were very uncomfortable with them. The dominant group in Parliament, National, United and ACT, publicly dismiss our carbon use is an issue and their idea of electricity use is limited to Bulk-electricity. The nominal ruling party, Labour, acknowledges the issue in its talk but its walk is counterproductive and compounds the problems we face. So it looks as though Parliament is shrouded in impotence while New Zealand’s options go up in smoke.

You will notice my repeated use the symbol shroud. I guess I do smell decay and death in the recent axing of the Carbon Tax proposals. This follows a long period of malaise in the carbon-electricity use debate:


• The unsustainable Electricity Reforms have been imbedded in this century with most options for the intelligent uses of electricity being destroyed. Meanwhile demand for Bulk-electricity soars.

• Our broadband uptake potential, once the highest in the world, is going into freefall relative to comparable countries.

• Energy Gobbledygook is now rife and pollutes our schools and universities. The dominant Environmental Education resource, Enviroschools, omits the atmosphere while programmes that taught the links and impacts of our carbon-air use are fatally starved of funds.

• Interest rates are high and we are now importing $1.44 of goods for every dollar of goods we export with our addictive uses of oil being a key driver of these trends. Trade Deficit Reaches Record Level

• Our Warmer Trace Gas emissions are unsustainable, certainly from the point of view of our Kyoto commitments. More stats on this later.

• New Zealand has rapidly moved from a strong carbon trading credit status into a deficit situation. Part of this is because we have been recently destroying forests (carbon sinks) and in some cases replacing them with methane producing cows. Attempts to limit these emissions were aborted in what is called the Fart Tax Fiasco.

• Air and motorway transport has been subsidised at the expense of rail and shipping.

The use of the symbol shroud is also inspired by a recent NZ Listener article on Human-induced Climate Change (my words, not theirs) in which the atmosphere was described as acting like a “greenhouse shroud”. Now the article was no doubt very well intentioned but this symbol of atmospheric processes was just so sick that I had to sit down and remonstrate with the editor. For me the atmosphere is this awe-inspiring dynamic environment of exquisite beauty and balance. Scientists’ constant self-serving evocation of it as a greenhouse is abhorrent to me and I believe it is very destructive of science and sustainable practices. The symbol greenhouse shroud …well I am lost for words…it is just so appalling…in fact it is so appalling that it is hilarious … if deep tragedy can be comic… to think some humans have such an exaggerated opinion of their roles that they believe the universe is made in reflection of them….

When are we going to begin using symbols like trace that evoke the incredibly fine thermal balances of the atmosphere that sustain civilisation as we know it and keep us mindful of our power to screw them against us?

I guess I wrote the letter for another reason too. I have long subscribed the NZ Listener as it embodied the finest writings and reflections on our culture since its beginnings in the 1930s. The Government of the day created it as a voice for the people of this country. Perhaps its new overseas owners, APN do not have that same passion for our country. Of late some issues have seemed very short of meaningful content. For the first time ever I reviewed sending off my cheque to renew my subscription.


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I see a great role in the future for a national magazine of this tradition and with the same name. As people become brain dead from staring at electronic screens all day they are going to seek nourishment and insight from other media. I believe audio is about to enter a new age. The unique capacity of audio creations to explore our universe using wonderful rich sound symbols is about to explode with the advent of digital archiving of programmes, Internet broadcasts, Ipods and other such liberating technology. You can walk with the talk. It’s a great way to learn and some of the greatest ideas ever were born while walking.

So my letter was an attempt to promote the thinking and questions that would enable this future and to highlight the shroud hanging over New Zealand journalism at present. Since posting my letter off the sacking of David Parker by our political-media complex graphically proved my point. Read the letter at the end or click here to view my letter to Pamela Stirling, editor of The Listener.

It’s been a while since my last blog and I have been busy. I finally managed to assemble on my website a prototype definition of the bonusjoules-junkjoules energy efficency measure for Wikipedia. Have still got to work out how to Wiki it. Which reminds me, I must blog my reflections sometimes on how Victoria University teaches Economics. Another case of tragedy being unbelievably comic.

I attended the NZ Climate Change Office public consultations in Wellington. What a sad affair. The several staff lined up looked kind of shell-shocked – as I would be in their position. See my outline of their failures above. They are faced with the shambles of our impossible carbon trading policy. I have always argued that carbon trading is just a psychological mechanism for those who don’t care about the environment to carry on as usual while publicly excusing their activities. I figure these bods have a worse impact than those who simply say they do not care for our environment.

My doubts about the sustainability of carbon trading were confirmed as forestry representatives got up and lambasted the officials for the Government’s failure to reward them for planting trees to protect our environment. One of the most vocal was a representative from a Christian religion’s investment group. I can only ask where has the concept of love, care and stewardship of our land gone? It seems these guys are hanging off planting forest till they get a better deal in the carbon market. Meantime our forests dwindle, our soils erode and our carbon debt grows.Yes, where is the spirit of King Asoka who had planted tens of thousands of miles of trees to shade pilgrims across India and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai?

One young man got up and pointed out the obvious to the officials. He thought it immoral of the Government presentation to use CO2 statistics that compares nations and global regions. New Zealand has only 4 million of the 6.5 billion humans on this planet and this makes our national emissions look insignificant. He argued that it is per capita emissions that count. On that count we have one of the highest emission rates.

The Government official responded that they were only being honest with people and showing how little difference we can make to global emissions. To be fair, the official is accurately portraying our Parliament’s attitude to the climate. This is to say we are too insignificant to make a difference and so why bother changing.

There was an element of disbelief when I reported the Government official’s response to this on the Sustainable Energy Forum.

Click here to see my posting providing proof. Some of it is hilarious.

And in case you think I am unkind or unfair of our Parliament, check out this correction of my letter to The Listener. While reading the statistics supplied, please recall that we committed ourselves to reducing Warmer Trace Gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol to 1990 levels. The stats are also an indictment of our Environmental Education industry and must surely serve as some cause of serious reflection there too. Here’s hoping the Climate Change Office now means what it says when officials stated at the public consultation that the Government has to start from scratch again and the Office is open to all ideas. Up till now I have completely failed to find a way to communicate with them. Maybe the following figures will facilitate open dialogue:

Dave,

I can clarify those figures a little further now. A recent UN Report states that NZ greenhouse gas emissions have risen 22.5% in the past 15 years from 1990-2004 ( ie - not 21% as we discussed previously).

This was the eighth highest emissions increase over that period among the developed countries. Spain topped the list at 41.7%, Australia was just above us at 23.3%, the USA had a 13.3% increase, Japan had 12.8% and Italy 11.5%. (Source: NZ Herald, Mon 21 November 2005).

The three major greenhouse gases in NZ make up about 99% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. In New Zealand, with carbon dioxide up by 39% from 1990 to 2004, and nitrous oxide up around 28% from 1990 to 2004, I calculate that methane must only have been up by 7% above 1990 in order to get an overall increase of 22.5% from 1990 to 2004.

This would be consistent with figures from the Climate Change Office which showed that at the end of 2002, carbon dioxide was up 33.7%, methane was up 7.8% and nitrous oxide was up 27.9%.

Note that for the first few years after 1990, methane emissions actually went down because of a downturn in the agricultural sector before they started to rise again, whereas carbon dioxide emissions have risen very steadily at an average of a little over 2% per year ever since 1990.

Also note that New Zealand's annual methane emissions figures were revised downward a few years ago by the CCO in relation to the other two major greenhouse gases. This meant that instead of the proportion in 1990 being about half methane, a third carbon dioxide and a sixth nitrous oxide as had been stated during the 1990's, the 1990 proportions were actually 41.5% methane, 40.9% carbon dioxide and 16.7% nitrous oxide.

The CCO now states that carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas in NZ's emissions profile. I calculate that at the end of 1994, the actual proportions would have been about carbon dioxide 46.4%, methane 36.2%, and nitrous oxide 17.4%.

However, when the methane and nitrous oxide are added together, the agricultural sector is still the largest emitter in NZ. The CCO states that in 2002, 49.2% of the total greenhouse gas emissions came from the agricultural sector and 42.8% came from the energy sector. Emissions from industrial processes and the waste sector are very much smaller comprising 4.7% and 3.2% respectively of all of NZ's greenhouse gas emissions in 2002.

Regards,

John Blakeley


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If nothing else those figures have to act as a bit of a wet blanket on the Government’s Clean Green Image marketing programme.

I should explain before any reader gets confused about the nature of energy, the symbol energy sector is a miserable little construct created by a few global investment bankers. They limit their definition of energy to energy uses they can trade, tax and personally profit from. Don’t worry. Energy is something far finer and wondrous than that and every activity in the universe(s) involves energy. And yes, New Zealand agriculture involves the use of energy too.

I will end with a funny story that also involves shrouds and that is highly relevant to this discussion. About 1989 my family was struggling to stay in Wellington as we had had our capital decimated by Necom policies of the new Labour government. So we ended up building a home here with our own bare hands. The Caygill family had long been family friends from our Christchurch days and they popped by to check out developments. The frame and outside cladding were all in place and we sat around our new lounge on sawhorses and bales of insulation, sharing a snack. I gave Dave a can of beer.

Now understand Dave is renowned for his mild manner and conservative habits. So we were all rather startled, especially our children, when he took a swig and it suddenly seemed to go to his head. Indeed he grappled at his tongue and his eyes rolled in demented manner. His normally contained demeanour was transformed into a manic contorted appearance as he leapt around the room spluttering incoherent expletives.

This was a simple explanation for this transformation. A wasp had sneaked into the can and stung him on the tongue. Within minutes it had swollen, or should I say, become theribrily thwollen and he was reduthced to an inarticulthate lithp. Normally such an accident would not be of national moment but Dave had to present his first budget in his capacity New Zealand Finance Minister that week. It must have been a difficult delivery, as his tongue would still have a life of its own. In the event the Evening Post broadsheet ran billboards and headlines all over the region of the sort:

Finance Minister says New Zealand under a Shroud.

I cannot recall what Dave was really trying to say but the shroud utterance generated great mirth at the time. However maybe he was at some primal level anticipating our present situation. It is clear now plans were now well advanced at that point to flog-off our state owned Telecom and other plans were in place framing up the Electricity Reforms. Labour sold Telecom in 1990. Only those blinded by their returns from their shareholdings in the privatised Telecom, fools and academics still argue this was a good thing. Even business people are becoming aware that the destruction of our broadband potential has cost the country many billions of dollars as our nation became stifled in the most repressive of all worlds – that of the private monopoly. And those costs are going up exponentially in many cases as the Age of Cheap Oil-Gas ends.

At the time I wrote to Dave as Finance Minister strenuously objecting to the planned sale. He sent me a large wad of Treasury papers promoting the sale and even I, a simple meter reader, could see they were as flakey as sin. For instance they put no value on ownership of telephone numbers and these were given away. Fatal move number one. While I had no idea the form the Internet would take I sensed these guys understood and valued its potential far less than I did. They simply saw the Telecom system as just a few copper cables. At the same time even as Parliament and the media promoted lies that the sale was needed to get new technology I was stepping over road-works daily as Telecom installed optic fibres down the Terrace in Wellington city.

My work as a meter reader had made me powerfully aware that the structures we call “power poles” and “power ducts” had far more value than that. I saw them as vital communication modes that were an essential key to a sustainable future. This future even in 1990 was clearly articulated in my mind in the form of an intelligent grid system. Check out my last blog (midway through it) for my proposal for grading the intelligence–incoherence of a grid. It is pretty apparent that our national grid structure has been reduced to below the bottom on the scale of incoherence now by the sales.

Telecom was an essential part of this wider system and this gave it vastly more value than the miserable $4.25 billion we transferred it to Ameritech and Bell Atlantic.

The sale destroyed most of the energy efficiency potential residual in an integrated national grid system.

The truth is there may be a shroud covering us but it is not the atmosphere. More probably the shroud is of our own making – our impotent Parliament, our ignorant schools and our maladaptive industries. Perhaps that is why a journalist reported that businesses are shrouded in gloom these days. As I write headlines are rolling in suggesting that we are officially in a recession.

GDP Declines 0.1 Percent

Which reminds me - the winner of this weeks Junk Joules Award for Undermining Science goes to the National Radio business reporter who has just described New Zealand’s economy as “stalled.” When something is stalled it is not moving, seized up, jammed, locked, stationary, dead. I can assure readers that all around me are a million signs that our economy is still alive, moving, working according to all laws of Physics.

And no doubt the international climate conference being held in Wellington this week will add to the shroud over us. Climatologists will do this by employing their stubborn practice of employing confusing and unscientific climate symbols.

David Vaughan just gave what could have been an enlightening interview on National Radio in which he described how present “global warming” trends suggest some regions of the globe will heat up, others will experience warming unchanged and others will cool down. Can the symbol “global warming” get more confusing than this? Well, actually, yes but there is no time here to explore the labyrinth.

Similarly Kevin Trenberth gave an excellent explanation last week of how INCREASING the amount of thermal energy retained in the atmosphere increases the risk of hurricanes etc. The Nat Radio Science reporter, normally most clear and erudite, then completely demolished any scientific sense in the explanation by framing it as “global warming”. The warming process, unlike warming up, involves a constant process in which temperatures stay unchanged.

Similarly climate expert Jim Salinger compounded the confusion between constant states and changing states throughout his interview on National Radio yesterday. The thinking citizen has much cause to wonder about the science of climate experts. I suspect most people at least sense the nonsense.

I’d love to attend the conference but its not designed for those of us who have to “work for a living” and are not rich. Usual old Government/University Greenwash. Here’s hoping they open the windows and let some good old Wellington gales blast their obsolete images of our atmosphere as a greenhouse out to sea. I like to think they reflected on their use of symbols as they leaned against the forces of the cool, southerly winds this morning and scurried for the shelter of the warm, cozy, calm greenhouse which is Te Papa, the conference venue.

*****************

Editor
The NZ Listener
10 March 2006

Dear Pamela

I am glad to see you featuring articles such as Era of Extinction (from Human-induced Climate Change) and Enron together. They may be more profoundly linked than you imagine.

Our individual addictive uses of fossil fuels, our national dependence on them and the potential impact of our use of them on the environmental balances that sustain us are combining to put our civilisation at very great risk indeed. Personally I find the challenges truly humbling and so it is in a spirit of considerable humility that I make the following comments. I am not being judgemental. The situation is too critical for that and compassion is the essence of all sane responses.

My simple objective is to promote a science of the communication of the issues. Without this science we make unhelpful uses of symbols, promote flawed images of our environment and risk perishing on scale.

In 2000 I became very concerned that the new order in the USA would lead to the much greater risks that we would rapidly deplete remaining oil and Gas reserves and that our carbon emissions might trigger unsustaining climate changes. The increased potential of warfare and famine was so huge that it was clearly too much to think about. So I stopped and I addressed an open prayer to the greater wisdom that has sustained us these millions of years. In brief, I asked what I might do?

As usual the answers, when they came, were ones I could never have imagined. They came as a series of questions that go right to the heart of what drives Western civilisation. I found myself asking these questions:

"What is the nature energy?"

“Who defines our popular images of energy and power and whose interests does that definition serve?"

"Why do we cultivate an image of Earth's atmosphere as a greenhouse and is it adaptive? How does this greenhouse image impact on our ability to relate to planetary thermal balances? How does it impact on the ability of tradespeople and other major decision makers to use air in insulation and thermal controls?"

"Are there more helpful images of atmospheric processes?"

"Why don't Scientists evoke trace images when they bemoan the fact that people cannot understand that human activities are perhaps impacting on the trace gases that sustain the thermal balances that enable life on Earth?”

“What psychological mechanism enables those most publicly concerned about our use of carbon and the atmosphere (Scientists such as climatologists, geologists, ‘energy experts’ and ‘conservationists’) to be among the top few percent of carbon users/emitters e.g. frequent air travellers etc?

Things got really interesting when I started asking ‘energy experts’ and climatologists the first four of these questions. I found the responses of the Scientists were anything but scientific. I began to realise that their use of key symbols is driven by primal values that they are seem unaware of. If they are aware of these drivers, they are incapable of confronting them. Some have privately volunteered that they are aware of their incapacity. As a result, often their activities are in complete variance with their stated beliefs, passions and concerns.

My hypotheses that there is little or no science underpinning the communication of the issues is supported by recent fMRI research. This indicates we are well capable of saying one thing and experiencing the opposite It is possible to have a 100% discrepancy between stated and acted belief. For instance you will probably know of the fMRI research suggesting that women may say they do not like ads featuring women with certain body shapes while their brains are registering strong pleasure patterns of response at the sight. Editors of women’s magazines have long known this intuitively. The Listener makes use of it all the time.

Such research prompts specific questions of the Scientists’s behaviour. For example:

“Could it be their need to use the greenhouse symbol to evoke images of Earth’s atmospheric processes reflects a primal brief expressed in the Victorian faith that humans dominate and can engineer the environment in any manner they wish?”

“Scientists and ‘energy experts’ often confuse energy with the forms its takes. They talk of an energy called sustainable energy and renewable energy. Is this because they cannot accept at some primal fundamental level that humans cannot create or destroy energy? Are they unable to confront the fact that that they are truly responsible for their actions and how they use energy?”

Whatever, my summary conclusion is that at present there is little science underpinning the communication of the nature of energy and none underpinning the communication of climate issues. This ignorance extends to the highest levels in NOAA and New Zealand’s equivalent, NIWA.

One of the reasons I am writing to you is because these “experts” claim they have to use certain key symbols because the media use them and they “are what the public understand”. Invariably they have no scientific evidence to support such uses. All the relevant national statistics indicate their symbol use is counterproductive and the public does not understand the issues. I will offer a couple of brief examples from our country:

Our impact on the Warmer Trace Gas balance is increasing by the day with some suggesting New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions have increased by up to 39% since 1990 (officially about 21%).

Jet travel is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions and its impact has a thermal “forcing” of at least 2.7 normal emissions because of the altitude at which combustion occurs. A Government subsidised Wellington-Auckland jet fare can cost as little as $69 while the standard (a mainly electric, low friction mode) rail fare is $143.

SUV ownership has increased fourfold since 2000 and NZ car engines have the second largest cc rating in the world.

New Zealand dwellings are among the least energy efficient in the OECD.

Examples of doubtful uses of key symbols by Scientists and journalists include “global warming”, “climate change”, “greenhouse gas”, “greenhouse effect” and the global bankers’ definition of “energy” and “power”, which is energy and power uses that can be taxed and traded”.

In turn media people and policy-makers say their use of key symbols is dictated by the fact that “scientists and energy experts use them”. It is a vicious and destructive cycle in which science in our society is severely undermined.

Take, for example, your byline

“The Climate Change Issue is, unquestionably, far more serious than people realise.”- Dr Peter Read.

Humans down the ages have learned to appreciate at a most primal level in their genes that climate change is a good and healthy process. Indeed at times of drought, hurricane and flood it is our most powerful source of hope.

So we have immediate potential confusion as Peter layers in an argument and symbol use that is diametrically opposed to the primal state of enjoyment that the “climate change” symbol evokes.

The article’s use of the “greenhouse” symbol begs enormous questions, some of which I posed earlier. I am seriously struggling to ask useful questions of the writer’s use of symbols such as “greenhouse shroud”. I hypothesise its probable impact on people’s primal responses will be unhelpful.

Not once does the article use the “trace” symbol or evoke our Trace Beings or talk of the fact we are impacting on the balance of trace gases, including water vapour. Such seeming simple omissions have profound impacts. The choice of this use of the “greenhouse” symbol as in “greenhouse gases” reinforces the dominant trend in our education system to communicate the atmosphere as a greenhouse, a car with the windows closed and a bottle in the sun.

Water vapour is our experience of weather. It is by far the most dominant Warmer Trace Gas (without it the surface of the Earth would be minus 5°C instead of the current 15°C). Its short cycle of 11-14 days makes it the most vital and unpredictable element in the equation.

These omissions and symbol uses also detract from the fact the sun only warms a small part of the planet at any time and the fact that it is air’s incredible convection capacity that enables the atmosphere to provide the bulk of the warming of the planet’s surface.

By contrast, evoking trace images generates lesson activities communicating very tiny proportions and the power of leverage . This is surely what we have to understand when dealing with our potential impact on the atmosphere. The gases we are concerned about exist only as parts per thousand or less. Think of how our activities were proven to impact on ozone – a trace gas which exists in only parts per million. Altering those rare molecules in the stratosphere affects us in the depths of our cells.

Note how almost all the interviewees confuse warming and warming up – two very different processes. Warming involves the maintenance of a stable, unchanging system. It is about equilibrium. Warming up involves breaking the stasis of the system and disrupting equilibrium. The Scientists in the article talk of unwelcome, even hostile, temperature changes and describe this as warming. Most people experience the daily warming of the planet as a most welcome and positive process at their primal level.

Also note the continual use of the symbol “global warming” when several points in the article make it clear some regions will know far colder extremes such as can occur with desertification and thermohaline circulation collapse. No wonder people find our Scientists unscientific and confusing at their gut level. A better symbol would be Thermal Disruption.

Mention was made of the film The Day After Tomorrow. This film was made with educative objectives in mind using the expertise of the Potsdam Institute. Read my discussion of it and see how it failed those objectives according to the Potsdam study of audience reaction – as I publicly predicted it would before its release.

Fundamentally this was because the film was not scientific either.

My contrary hypotheses that the movie would disempower people and increase scepticism of climate science were supported. I also predict the movie’s had an even greater counterproductive impact on the majority of people who did not see it. The Potsdam research did not extend to the impact of trailers, billboards, reviews, articles etc

I share Dr Peter Read’s optimism though I find little cause for hope in his solutions. There is less than two and half hectares of arable land per human being now and this ratio is deteriorating fast as fresh water, nutrient and soil levels diminish while populations expand. We have to think global and that will bring rewards local.

I find hope in the great plasticity of human behaviour and it is this potential I address, not more engineering of the planet. I did find hope in the structure of your article and commend you for addressing the essential issue. This issue is the challenge of maintaining realistic hope while confronting the enormity of the issues facing us.

I believe it is vital for sustainable change that any vision of despair be paired with a vision of hope and the article attempted that. This requirement is why it is helpful to ensure climate education and energy efficiency strategies are closely linked in education resources. And this is where our Government is failing our children with its incoherent approaches. Global climate issues taught alone breed despair and energy efficiency strategies taught alone are meaningless. Pair them and they breed hope and inspiration from each other.

As mentioned, I do not find hope in the solutions offered in the article or in its actual communication of climate processes. Rather I find hope in our ability to identify the psychological constructs that prevent us from developing sustainable uses of Earth’s resources. I have already outlined the vital role our choice of use of a key symbol makes and how it impacts on our systems of thought, including our legislation. Such psychological constraints are not materially expensive things to alter and yet they are fundamental to our responses.

One system of thought that will yield considerable benefits from critical scrutiny and review is our burgeoning Environmental Education industry. Such a review will probably indicate important elements of our current Environmental Education resources will have to be junked as unsustainable. For instance, the dominant programme in our schools and universities, Enviroschools, is arguably just Government Greenwash and is fatally flawed. As Jonathon Porrit pointed out at the recent NZAEE national conference, it completely fails to address the greatest issue facing humanity – our carbon use. It contains no serious atmosphere component at all. I alone of the 300 NZAEE members present saw fit to applaud his profound criticism. (See my Feb blog of the conference.)

I would also point out that in my view Enviroschools contains even larger flaws. As its name implies, it is about the school environment. It fails to tap into the greatest source of sustainable practices: communities.

It also completely fails to address the issues of who determines popular use of the symbols of “energy” and “power” and whose interests that use serves. Indeed its lesson activities are designed to promote and serve the short-term interests of the bankers of Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector. They work directly against our children surviving the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age.

This brings me to your article on Enron. The activities of the afore mentioned bankers working through the likes of Arthur Andersen and Co and Enron have a vast negative impact far beyond the “business sector”. Like Edison and JP Morgan before them, they work to control the world’s wealth by the Bulk-electricity system. They also are working to control it by the world’s biomass energy and are striving to gain ownership of global seed stocks. This involves very high-risk manipulation of the gene structures of plants for very short-term benefits of a few. Witness Arthur Andersen’s 1999 template for Monsanto to control 100% of world seed stocks by 2010. Fortunately the programme has failed so far because of the resistance of European and African peoples.

In Enron and our own OnEnergy, both Arthur Andersen creations, we see the re-engineering of the “energy” symbol itself as the bankers attempt to maximise profits by stifling energy efficiency practice and the development of intelligent grid systems that make maximal use of distributed electricity generation options.

For me, a future for our children resides in the universal and intelligent use of all forms of electricity, localised food production using a wide range of freely available seeds and maximal uses of solar energy. Psychology, not technology, enables this future. Get the psychology right and the appropriate technology will happen.

For instance, our new Building Code needs to be educative rather than prescriptive. This said, it must contain within it the right and protection of every dwelling to solar energy. This will include having New Zealand roofs shaped to the north to enable best practices in solar use. This will enable all dwellings at all points in their lives to exploit solar energy for lighting, heating/cooling and to generate electricity.

Our appalling trades practices such as shonky insulation measures need to be addressed by educating our young people in the simple thermodynamics – something the Extinction article failed to do with its evocation of greenhouses.

When I spoke of intelligent uses of electricity I was referring to the ability of people to use a wide range of electricity forms. With regards to our national grid and metering I define an intelligent system as one in which all can contribute on equal terms using its full broad-band potential. The recent Electricity Reforms were specifically designed to destroy this intelligence so that the grid now tends to serve only the short-term imperatives and interests of bankers in the Cayman Islands, Prime Infrastructure etc. The New Zealand Electricity Reforms need reforms that re-enfranchise communities and permit their intelligent access to the Electricity Market again.

It is of most value to see this review and reform process as essentially a political/education issue. To aid this process I suggest we build on the insights of the Enron movie and ask the following questions:

“Could the same thing happen here?”

“Has it happened here?”

“Has worse happened here?”

“Would people know about it and, if not, why not?”

“Who is paying the price if it has happened here?”


”What happened to the employees and their families and communities if it did happen here?”

“What was the impact on the development of intelligent uses of electricity in lighting, warming (cooling) communication, transport, education and entertainment?”

“Why do Government-owned education websites teach that the water levels never drop in our hydro-electricity dams?”

“What is the role of the New Zealand Consumer’s Institute in all this? How come its website states it is fiercely independent and accepts no sponsorship when the truth is that Government pays it large amounts of money to push its “free market” Electricity Reform agenda in PowerSwitch. Why does the Institute punish Bulk-electricity companies that invest in community-based energy efficiency strategies and reward ones who most destroy our social and environmental base?”

We can, as an example, apply such questions to a specific Bulk-electricity company. The collapse of the TransAlta-OnEnergy structure directly involved 540,000 Bulk-electricity consumers – 32% of New Zealand’s connections. Reports suggested that it only had 13% of the generation capacity required to satisfy the historic demand of its customers.

“Who was responsible for its design and where are they now? Are they still in positions of power?”

“What legislation enabled this massive failure?”

“Were TransAlta-OnEnergy’s managers relying on political favours and contacts to bail them out by giving them access and control of more undervalued generation plant?”

“What was the ethos of the OnEnergy management that it failed to hedge against climate variation and so put a large portion of NZers at major risk?”

“What would have happened to New Zealand’s Capital City if the Government had left the region to its new Electricity “free market” Market mechanisms and had refused to bail it out? (Note: The Wellington region was a growing liability in the winter of 2001 to all the private Bulk-electricity companies. It was causing much of the million dollars per day drain on OnEnergy’s new owners, AGL-NGC. The Todd family’s FreshStart was preparing to drop Bulk-electricity customers in batches of 400, starting with our most vulnerable citizens.)

“What happened to energy efficiency practice and demand control measures under the structure?”

“What has been the impact of NGC’s control of half of New Zealand’s switchboards and its associated ability to control dwelling design and use?”

“What will be the impact on energy efficiency, individual debt levels, the environment, New Zealand health levels, our dependence on fossil fuels, broadband uptake, intelligent grids, the trade balance etc of the current transfer of control of Vector Ltd to overseas banking interests?”

(Vector is now the owner of NGC and thus controller of up to 1.5 million of our 1.8 million meters.)

“Why did the Prime Minister refrain from warning her electorate and shareholders of the undervalued nature of Vector Ltd at the time of its float?” See my 2005 letter to Helen Clark outlining the immense value from the confluence of three great new technologies –“smart” appliances and response systems; distributed generation; and broadband over utility conduits and wires.

The maker of the Enron movie said in his interview with Chris Laidlaw on Sunday National Radio something to the effect that “ the movie is essentially about humans.” I have seen the movie and he is quite correct.

This brings up a new series of questions:

“How is it that New Zealanders know so much about Enron and know so little about huge collapses like OnEnergy?”

“Why has there never been a single in-depth article or programme on OnEnergy’s failure – let alone a book or a movie?”

“What happened in the Wellington City Council meeting where certain councillors decided to transfer control of Capital Power to TransAlta-OnEnergy for a severely undervalued price – including sale and management rights?”

“What happened to the city’s employees in Capital Power?”

“What happened to the city’s broad band uptake, demand control systems and grid resilence?”

“What happened at the Dominion and the Evening Post broadsheets each time TransAlta bought a large spreads?”

“What happened to the personal security of Capital Power’s and Energy Direct’s 130,000 customers?”

(Capital Power alone had the care of keys to 17000 dwellings of its 55,000 customers.)

I think you will find such questions reveal that workers were set against workers, families divided and torn apart, neighbours set against neighbours, communities set against each other and forced out of the Electricity Market, valuable history destroyed and vital knowledge fragmented and locked up by new “commercial sensitivity” imperatives and, on balance, New Zealand became more a liability to humanity than an asset. The probable fact is that our lack of honest reflection on our recent NZ history and legislation is because we are afraid to face our humanity. This lack is the greatest obstacle to New Zealand making a positive contribution in the carbon constrained Post Cheap-Oil Gas Age. It is indeed a very human problem.

To give you an idea of the obstacles such questions will face, I have three times rung the Welling City Council and asked if it is true that Arthur Andersen and Co were involved in the Capital Power restructure. The first two officers came back after a lengthy delay and said they could not find out. The third eventually came back and said I would have to apply under the Official Information Act for the answer. Why the intense secretiveness?

I am fairly certain of the answer to that question. I worked directly with the now defunct AA and Co as an employee of Capital Power when they restructured it. I experienced the process. I can also say the Enron structure and ethos was AA and Co’s global policy: Consumers are tradeable items, Bulk-electricity is commodity “no different to cabbages or bread”, energy efficiency practice is a threat to The Electricity Market and staff are liabilities while on the books. Similarly customer security and civil defence measures are needless restraints on trading operations.

These are not the only questions we can ask to open doors in our search for hope and humanity. I will leave you with these two broad questions:

“Why is our Parliament allowed to vote billions of dollars of subsidies to carbon dependent sunset industries of motorways and airtravel while it was not permitted to use some of its “$7 billion surplus” to buy our national rail company – a major sunrise industry - when it was valued at a mere $165 million?” (The cheap access Toll Holdings has over crucial parts of our rail network will cost the taxpayer far more.)

“Why is New Zealand spearheading opposition to EU initiatives to develop source label on products? Why did we vote alone with Brazil against the consensus of 117 countries at the recent Biosafety Protocol meeting and work to block measures to restrict “terminator” technology? At what risk are we putting humans to from the collapse of biomass energy sources that sustain us?”

My website contains many of the answers, further questions and proposals these questions generate. For instance my most recent blog contains a suggestion of how we can rate our Bulk-electricity system for intelligence. Most of New Zealand’s incoherent system now rates below the bottom of the scale.

I suggest a strategies for reconciling mechanisms so we achieve both our national Kyoto and NEECS’s objectives.

The seminar I delivered at the 2006 NZAEE conference (my audience was two people) contains a distillation of the website’s proposals for surviving the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age into the Great Solar-Electric Age.

In summary I find most cause for hope in the plasticity of human behaviour. I am sure good ideas will flourish eventually somewhere somehow. The WWF amended its PowerSwitch website significantly soon after I posted them my commentary on it. The New York Times recently reported that use of the “energy conservation” symbol is giving away to the “energy efficiency” symbol. Meanwhile New Zealand still has an agency, EECA, devoted to the unhelpful and impossible notion that humans can conserve energy.

I have reason to believe some of the proposals that I make are as advanced as any in the world and I invite you to join a call for a national review of our images of the nature of energy and, as part of that, climate processes

I had to write this to you as the article did leave me feeling a bit hopeless and writing this to you revitalises me. I will probably pop it into my next blog. Thank you again for published those two articles together and I hope you find the questions engaging.

Oh and my use of Scientist is deliberate. I am aware we bestow the title of “scientist” on a select group of individuals. I believe we are all scientists. as is proven by the fact we can learn to talk. This scientific achievement dwarfs any knowledge of a discipline a Scientist might have. A large number of people with no specialist knowledge are far greater scientists than many our Scientists. For instance, they have far more rigorous insight and acceptance of our primal natures.

The thought occurs that it may be very helpful to run an article on the implications of the latest fMRI research. It might make Scientists more aware of the lack of science in their communication and inspire them to establish serious research into the impact of symbol use in their fields. Then we might be able to break the current cycle of ignorance that I referred to. The recent Super Bowl advertisement impact research may be of help.

I will quote from the FKF Applied Research site

Exploring Human Decision-Making

“Choices that people make help shape their lives. Collectively, these decisions also help shape the structure of society- which cities grow; who is elected to govern; which companies will thrive. Despite the importance of how humans make these choices, scientific understanding has been limited, based mainly on interviewing and intuition.

New technologies, such as fMRI, have provided insight into how the mind works in many realms, including listening to music, playing chess, and recognizing familiar faces. It also has potential to help understand how people make choices, but has been applied only to a few aspects of decision-making.

Understanding how the brain makes choices is a complex problem that may never be completely solved. Any insight, however, has the potential to help people understand what influences their choices, and perhaps allow them to make decisions that better comport with their priorities. It also may shine a light on marketing practices, discrediting those that attempt to manipulate, and encouraging those that convey useful and accurate information.”

Re. the Super Bowl Ad research

In conjunction with the Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, we have measured the effect of many of the Super Bowl ads by using fMRI technology. We have tracked the ads on a host of dimensions by looking for activity in key parts of the brain areas that are known to be involved in wanting, choosing, sexual arousal, fear, indecision and reward.

As the article Buy This in the Scientific American MIND vol 16 no 2 points out, corporations are salivating at the prospects FMRI offers them. If we are not to be manipulated we must empower ourselves by researching how we are affected by symbol uses. We need to be truly scientific in the communication of the great issues of our day if civilisation is to survive.

I will leave you with this thought, Pamela. Check out the fRMI colour graphics of the brain’s activities at the Edge or FKF links. Then check out a colour graphic of Earth’s thermal activities e.g.

Now imagine the day when there is evidence of a fundamental harmony within each graphic and between the two graphics of thermal Earth and our brain activity.

All the best

Dave McArthur

************

Note to Check Point National Radio

Hello Mary and the CheckPoint team

I listened to your discussion with Kathryn Ryan with great interest last night (Tues) re. the David Parker resignations. Earlier in the day I had been so concerned by Kathryn’s failure to address the real issues that I had shot off the note pasted below to Morning Report.

I am wondering if you realised how inhuman you sounded yesterday when you remarked that

“Its quite extraordinary that it took journalists to point out his position to him..”

And

“Here is another example of another person who just cannot quite tell the truth…”

It is possible that you did not mean to sound as you did in the moment. However in case you think this really is an example of deep dishonesty I will put this scenario to you:

Mary Wilson ace journalist, brilliantly accomplished, articulate, probing, able to ask questions few others would ever think to ask, providing a great national public service and knowing she brings real talent to the job. Maybe she even feels this is what she is on Earth for – all her talents are so fulsomely used. People respect her directness and honesty and forgive her occassional waspish/raspist moments for they value her fundamental integrity.

Mary Wilson Rips Off Tax System
–False Declarations for thirty years.

One day these are the shock headlines.

It seems an old acquaintance has carried a snitch on you, gone to Investigate and reported that as a student you received $5 cash a week for a year babysitting or weeding a garden or something. This was not declared in any declaration over the following years and now penalties have compounded into the thousands of dollars. As you earned over $200 per anum on that activity it is classed as a business for ACC purposes. Non-declaration penalties are compounding there too. Maybe over the years you have thought to pay those few dollars tax but you are vaguely aware admission to the IRD might set in train a review process that could destroy you. At minimum it could tie you up for days of explaining and justifying years of returns. We all know the nightmare stories.

Your first emotions: Hell, just maybe when things seemed so right and good. Shock. Sick in the guts. Numb brain in spin. You know you are a loyal citizen. You contribute. Now suddenly you are a criminal. Your family? Your career? Your talents? Sure you may remember that wee student job – lovely kids/ pretty garden – every year as you ticked that box and signed and dated your returns the memory existed at the back of your mind but somehow you rationalised that signature each year. Maybe you also ticked and signed boxes for student allowances too. Your first inclination is to say you have not done anything wrong, to say “ I am honest.” That is probably quite true in the great scheme of things but not in law, not in the headlines. Initially you offer to stand-down a few days while the mess is sorted. Then it sinks in. Your career is stuffed. Your dreams snuffed. Your talents unemployed…..After another nights sleep you realise that you are just a hapless piece of flotsam in the great slosh of the media, your presence is a liability to Radio NZ…there is not alternative ..it is best to resign…

OK I know I am pushing the psychology of the shock response, Mary – the denial, the disbelief, the anger, the betrayal, the hurt and all those processes. The thing I wish to communicate is that in those first days everything is so out of proportion – that small omission each year is now so huge – and all the good you do and how hard you work to provide an excellent service now counts for nought..Choke gag ..but but but…it does take a day or two for it all to sink in.

I agree with Winston Peters that David Parker operated with very considerable integrity. If I have got the guy right he has operated with more honesty than most are capable of in such a short traumatic period– quite the opposite to your questioning of his honesty. Till this incident I had no views on his honesty or character.

Which brings me to ask the questions you, Kathryn and all are not asking:

Why him when any other MP could be trashed with similar ease? Sure, he is a businessman and this means his affairs are easier to investigate than constantly salaried people. What is it about our media politics that enables this selective destruction of an individual’s career?

And far more importantly the question that was not asked is – what is the impact of his resignations in the greater scheme of things. Energy (stupid, daft impossible, ignorant title) Transport and Climate between them encapsulate the central issue facing our civilisation – our unsustainable uses of carbon and electricity. At present our NEECS strategy and our Kyoto strategy work against each other. The Electricity Reforms prevent communities making an intelligent response to this great central issue. Our Parliament is increasingly incapable of addressing the issue. The previous incumbents in these cabinet positions since the issue became apparent 20 years ago have been unable to generate a creative response. Indeed many responses were deeply destructive of our children’s prospects.

David Parker inherited a fundamental disarray and confusion. There are powerful logics that the synergies of these portfolios generate and it is possible that he was after six months becoming aware of them. The logic of these synergies is powerful and difficult – powerful because it works directly for our children and difficult because it threatens the short term interests of key bankers of the Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector.

I could be wrong but David Parker might have been becoming aware of the enormity of this central carbon-electricity use challenge and, like you in your job, feeling he had an important contribution to make. Who knows? His cabinet colleagues obviously saw he was the best equipped to take the issue on. I have devoted much of the last six years to addressing this carbon/electricity use issue and I know the key quality required is honesty. Sure knowledge, technical know-how and a smart brain are useful but they are nothing without honesty and honour. I also know, having worked in the Enron environment, which is our Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector, that honourable people are viewed as the greatest threat because of the colossal greed, and corruption that is rife in the sector.

Anway now we are left dealing with overloaded ministers who were failures at addressing the issue or were uncomfortable in their ministerial roles. The bankers of this sector will rejoice in the confusion and paralysis of our Parliament. They know the paralysis is even deeper in National Party ranks.

The first question that came to our mind when I heard news of the resignations was, “How will impact on the growing risk we are all at from our current carbon-electricity use?” This would have been my headline. Why was it not Radio NZ’s first response too? Anyone observing Parliament knows that it is near impotent to respond to the challenge of this issue. The consequences of this impotence are already impacting deeply on our children’s prospects and the resignations clearly signal growing impotence. The only reason why the details of David Parker’s resignations could have had headline importance is if they had been because he had been corrupt in the administration of the carbon-electricity portfolios. Any other reasons for his resignation are minor in the great scheme of things.

At this minor level I was interested to hear Chris Trotter yesterday on Afternoons discuss the ease with which selected politicians can be made impotent by media processes. I have not read Blinded by the Right he refers to but I have read books like Power Play by Sharon Beder and, as mentioned, was employed in the Bulk-electricity/fossil fuel sector for decades. So I do know these books tend to understate the nasty ethos operating in some quarters since the Electricity Reforms. Any discussion of the portfolios held by David Parker need be mindful of this context and the honest politician who works in this field walks in a minefield.

I had thought I might be writing today to revoke the sentiments of my letter to Morning Report. However I am supported a little by comments by the likes of Rod Oram who said on Nine to Noon yesterday that not many businesspeople could withstand the level of scrutiny David Parker was subjected to. I was pleased to hear Morning Report this morning (Wed) bringing up the scrutiny issue with Don Brash this morning and I give bouquets, not brickbats, to Don for acknowledging there are those in his party who have filed incorrect returns. Therein lies a little hope for decency and a creative Parliament.

Anway maybe current affairs can now address the big issue with its attendant questions of how NZ generates a creative and adaptive response. Like why is Parliament so ill informed and ignorant of the central issue? How can we free and support its members so they are able to address the issue?

All the best. Look forward to hearing your programme as I do two hours daily every day through my headphones over the sounds of the industrial vacuum cleaner on my back and the flushing of toilets.

Dave McArthur

************

Note to Morning Report

Morning people

Heard the rather strident political commentary on David Parker. I thought he brought up a very profound point and Kathryn completely missed the serious problem we have in politics in New Zealand. We don’t have an honest robust media in New Zealand and too often journalists and editors can be bought off. As a result their investigative abilities extend only as far as digging the dirt on the poor, the dispossessed and Maoris. They never dig into the millions, even billions dollar dirt of the rich. They would be too busy looking in the gutter to see an Enron coming at them that filled the street.

As a result there is no way that most of our most public minded and caring people can stand for cabinet post in this country. For instance almost every graduate is excluded because they have committed some crime. There are very few students who have not accepted a cash payment for babysitting or weeding the garden at some point in their lives. The ones who haven’t were usually born with silver spoon in their mouth. Similarly most will have paid someone cash and not invoiced him or her for it.

If everyone was to declare every single cash transaction then the bureaucracy would be totally crushing and much care work in New Zealand would cease. To give an example. I was on the dole last year. I wished to research the performance of older electricity meters as part of my concern for the national interest. Billions of dollars are at stake. Each month a rich firm paid me a token $30 to read the aging meters in their building. ($360 gross a year) This was my total income besides $28 bank interest and the minimum dole. The meter reading grossed $7.50 a week. I only claimed transport costs of $6 a month, nothing else, no office expenses etc as I was entitled to. I was not doing this for financial gain. However that tiny activity of a bit over an hour a month made me a business, even if for tax purposes I technically worked at a considerable loss. My tax on the $280 income left after transport costs was $64. My ACC levy was $417. I have paid this.

This was sprung on me with no warning and I had no idea of this liability. It seems that if you engage in an activity of any type there is a minimum cap charge regardless whether you earn 1 cent or $17999. And this is for every different type of activity you engage in. If the activity has more than $200 of value then it must be declared as a business and subject to ACC levied on that type of activity. Indeed, according to some ACC opinion, the fact one performs the activity makes one liable, even if one does not make a cent profit. All up I spent about 10 hours preparing my tax returns and this includes maybe up to three hours talking to at least 8 people in the IRD and ACC. That is vital money now not available for insulating my home, going to the dentist and protecting my health in general. To put it into sharp relief, it was 3 weeks of my dole payments.

In this country you are liable for a heavy penalty if you do not declare your full income. You are given no credit for not claiming on rebates possible. This is worth noting because many people make a sensible decision not to declare every activity they engage in that may have value of 1 cent. They help that aged neighbour or stressed parent and reduce demands on the State coffers. On balance the country is better off that they do this activity, even though they are breaking the law. They pay 99% of their taxes and perhaps do not claim rebates they are eligible for. Nevertheless they are committing a crime that makes them ineligible to declare they are fit to be a Member of Parliament. In the context of the sick state of journalism in this country they are extremely unwise to even attempt to think of standing for office. The only people who can safely do that are those who have been salaried for every activity they have ever performed and are thus covered by employer liability for their activities or the rich who will not be investigated. The former have little to offer as they by definition have not involved themselves in community affaires and the latter were bequeathed their lifestyle and have little insight into how people work to keep this country going.

So when Kathryn dirges on about this tired administration and its lack of talent etc she is completely missing the point. Journalism is stuffed and Parliament itself is sick, tired and failing and bereft of capacity to use talent. The truth is you cannot do much constructive there. What talent Parliament has is effectively stifled for as soon as any person attempts to do anything radical and sane they will get trashed by someone hauling out some trivial breach of the law that every one of them has been involved in. And God knows we desperately need radical and sane thinking in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age, as we have to plan for survival in a potentially hostile global climate. Our rising national debt levels and trade imbalance plus the collapse of support for the Carbon Tax are just small indications of the sad plight of our Parliament.

Common guys. Look at the bigger picture. Be invigorated. Don’t get tired and dragged down to the gutter level of Parliament and the Investigates of this world.

All the best

Dave McArthur

Energy is Eternal Delight -William Blake.
Join the journey of Bonus Joules at
www.bonusjoules.co.nz
(in search of sustainable images of energy.)

************

SEF discussion of Government attitude to Climate Change

A reader on the Sustainable Energy Forum responded to my comments on the Government activities through our New Zealand Climate Office:

Is this really true:

the CCO goes around our schools and communities arguing that there is little NZ can do to stop carbon emissions because our nation is such a tiny contributor compared to other nations.

By the same logic, you could make a strong argument for tax avoidance; any one person’s contribution is a tiny amount of NZ’s total tax take.

Cheers

My Response

The question was asked at the Wellington meeting

"I was wondering why you chose the emission chart that tables emission levels, but if you look at the emissions per capita this would put New Zealand in a different position on the global scale of emissions. Responsibility of emissions per capita should be used as the measurement."

The person argued that what matters is emissions per capita and it is utterly misleading to show NZ's national emissions against the emissions of large blocks like China, Europe, the USA etc. The CCO graphic certainly made our role look absolutely insignificant. See second graphic.

Barry Carbon countered that the CCO is just being honest with people and they don't want to mislead people into believing we can alter the global picture much. The records do not show that the young man was very irate and persisted with his argument unsuccessfully that per capita emissions are more relevant and should be in the information the CCO is using around the country. As I pointed out the CCO argument is completely at odds with our faith in our activities in Brazil at present and at Kyoto in 1995.

view a sample of the stuff the CCO is putting into our primary schools. Scroll down to a scanned copy of their resources - as I have written on SEF before - when I questioned the CCO about this cartoon and suggested surely NZ should be feverish red too instead of an oasis of blue/green as we are one of the highest impacts on carbon balances this last 150 years I was told that was my interpretation. Their interpretation was that it showed how lucky we are that impacts of "climate change" are modified by all the oceans around us and we wont be affected as badly as other countries. View the whole cartoon is a record of my interaction about four years ago when this resources was first published.

Late last year I attended a workshop at Victoria University which promoted this CCO material to teachers in our schools. In fact only CCO material was promoted. It is probable Massey does promotes it too and Canterbury certainly does through its Environmental Education gurus. Education officials have suggested to me that it does not matter that the dominant Government sponsored Enviroschools resource contains no specific atmosphere/climate element as the resource links to this CCO material.

Cheers - if that is the right word for this situation. The CCO cartoon does fairly accurately reflect national policy and stats re carbon emissions etc You can see why I am concerned for our children.

Dave

PS while you are the CCO website scroll down one more graphic to the source of emissions pie chart. It is complete Energy Gobbledygook and again I whimper for our children.

****** ENDS *******

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