Global warming

by Listener Archive / 28 December, 2011
Political inaction over human-induced global warming is not “a dangerous game” (Editorial, December 17). Rather, it is a real and present threat to human civilisation and to most life on Earth. As a retired upper atmospheric physicist, I sent six detailed submissions on global warming to 122 MPs and 74 chairs/mayors of regional, city and district councils. These 1176 submissions led to productive meetings with one council (Horizons) and one MP (Brendon Burns). I’m encouraged Labour’s 2011 election policy directs Solid Energy to desist from further lignite development until effective carbon capture and storage had been proven (deemed unlikely).

The editorial argues that “sooner or later there will be a new international treaty with binding emission-reduction targets, because there has to be. Global stability and the prospects for future generations depend on it.” How true. The National Party was elected in 2008 on a “50-by-50” slogan to halve New Zealand’s carbon emissions by 2050. In reality, emissions have risen inexorably since then: New Zealand now ranks sixth worst among OECD countries in meeting Kyoto commitments.

National’s post-2008 initiatives reveal further extensive green-washing: repeal of Labour’s moratorium on new fossil-fuelled electricity; an ETS subsidising big polluters; motorway expansions; mining on conservation lands; expanded offshore oil prospecting; lignite mining. Post-2011, Steven Joyce has the “key task of selling oil and gas [expansion] to a sceptical NZ public”. In the US about a third of all TV ads – sponsored by big fossil-energy interests – push this message. Can we expect the same misinformation?

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand collected a “Fossil of the Day” award at the Durban climate change talks, and was criticised by other negotiators as being “deliberately inconsistent” and having “extreme positions [making] it difficult to reach consensus on anything”. Could New Zealand’s “100% Pure” brand be threatened by fossil thinking?
George Preddey
(Wadestown)

It’s not just an economic crisis that binds us hands and feet (Letters, December 17). Some time ago civilisation gently cut its throat – maybe with the start of the Industrial Revolution – and has been slowly bleeding to death ever since. In the past few decades the pace has quickened. Maybe this is one reason chief executives’ pay has reached obscene levels. Take Cadbury’s head of human resources, for example, with a package for 2008 of about $6 million. Meanwhile, our oceans are dying, our air is changing, our forests and grasslands are turning to deserts – if they haven’t been paved over – we have fisheries and icebergs collapsing and shortages of potable water, and so on. Nature is seen as a source of raw materials to be exploited.

Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, in his 2011 masterpiece World on the Edge, puts forward four major components that will lead to a better future: “a massive cut in global carbon emissions” [the recent talks in South Africa don’t augur well]; “the stabilisation of world population; the abatement of poverty; and the restoration of our planet’s diverse natural landscape”.

All worthy causes, but no mention in the book of the “military industrial complex” about which President Eisenhower warned us in 1961. Global military expenditure in 2010 reached $1630 billion – $233 for every man, woman and child. The top military spender was the US at $698 billion, with China second at $119 billion. $233 would go a long way to improve the life of one poor person, wouldn’t it?
Derek J Wilson
(Johnsonville, Wellington)

CALLING IT QUITS
Murray Laugesen (“The will to quit”, December 17) has the right idea. Smoking is not just an addiction to nicotine. For many, the hand-to-mouth habit is the hardest to break. Weaning us off with pills is not the answer. Especially when the pills have horrendous side effects and are an antidepressant likely to make people need them for the rest of their lives.
Please give us e-cigarettes. If they came with progressively less nicotine content, even better.
Paula Yeates
(Napier)

AFTER THE QUAKES
A recent news item referred to the building of a new Christchurch town hall. What, then, is the fate of the current one to be? Christchurch’s award-winning town hall (1972) is recognised as a group 1 heritage building in the city council’s District Plan. Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney are credited with the design, which reflects modernist ideas of architecture (namely truth to function, structure and materiality) in an aesthetically astute manner. It is perhaps more accurately described as a complex, rather than a building. Through elegant composition, it brought new possibilities of public use and engagement to the site. The Ferrier Fountain, donated to celebrate the opening, is integral to this sensitive understanding of place.

In addition to the town hall’s significance as the pinnacle of Christchurch brutalism (a movement within architectural modernism), it is important in the history of acoustic design innovation. The techniques developed by New Zealander Harold Marshall in the building are internationally recognised.

A decision to demolish such a significant building cannot be made lightly. Already it has been reported that 27 heritage buildings, which engineers indicated to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust could be saved, have needlessly been demolished. This rushed demolition has been criticised by experts because it affects the city’s future viability.

The Christchurch Town Hall is a landmark design in a city now dangerously short of landmarks. It is an accomplished design; one that has earned the right to be celebrated not demolished.
Christine McCarthy
Chairwoman, Docomomo NZ

SECOND-HAND BOOKS
Thanks for the Top Reads recommendations (December 10), but let’s not forget to catch up on those books we missed in previous years.
I’ve recently been seeking out secondhand bookshops, only to find they are disappearing. Hamilton had three but now has one. Apparently Tauranga lost one recently; Wellington has lost at least one; Cambridge’s has gone and the wonderful stores in Tirau and Rotorua need support.

For the price of two or three flat whites, you can buy a pre-owned book, offering a few hours of quality reading. They are almost cheaper than library fines if you slip up on the return date.
My plea to all book lovers is to make a trip to your second-hand book dealer to buy books for this summer’s holiday. If we don’t use them, we will lose them.
K Callander
(Rotorua)

ELECTION 2011
The behaviour of the media, especially broadcast media, in the two weeks before the election was disgraceful. The public got little coverage of the big issues. Broadcast journalists, ignoring the big issues facing the nation and the world, rallied round a fellow media person. They tried to deflect disapproval of his conduct by implying it was wicked and suspicious to hold a staged cafe meeting while making a point in an election. Then they kept doing it until the last campaign weeks were gone.

Journalists get special reserved privileges from the society they function within. This is because they are supposed to work as our information bastion, the cornerstone of our democracy. And an election build-up was the most critical time of all for them to do this work. This vital part of the media’s work to protect our democratic rights and system simply did not get done.

We need a review of where the media stand and how they operate. If the big issues must make space whenever journalists are pursuing their own union-style matters, even at crucial times, we cannot entrust them to safeguard our democracy.
Lyn L Milnes
(Riccarton, Christchurch)

Jane Clifton’s December 17 Politics, while up to her usual high standard, left me with a sinking heart. The leadership brawl in the Labour Party to find a popularly acceptable face was depressing to watch, as it seemed to be missing the point: Labour has haemorrhaged voters to the Greens – and, guys, it’s your policy. You’ve lost the middle-class liberal voters who used to support you because they are looking for an alternative approach to tough times; Labour is not providing it, and they are smart enough to vote on policy, not personality.

Both the Left’s “spend and tax” and the Right’s “monetarist belt-tightening” are failing worldwide because they both rely on future growth that seems permanently over because we are hitting hard physical limits – such as rapidly increasing energy costs and land degradation.

The Greens appear to be the only group that has even partly figured out that a preferable alternative might be a different approach: lose economic orthodoxy’s straitjacket and go with socially consensual, environmentally and economically sustainable solutions – hence the party’s success at the polls and a trigger for Labour’s self-disembowelling that may simply push away even more policy-focused supporters.

Another alternative is to keep an obsession with economic growth that has the potential to ruin us financially because it relies on types of growth that may have gone forever. It also has an imbalance of emphasis with the potential to create inequalities that can destroy our society.
David Cohen
(Dunedin North)

EUTHANASIA
Dr John Moore’s letter (December 17) was a succinct summing up of the discussion. Simple, to the point, and voicing the general opinion of many. We all are on the same road, and hope we have comfort at the end of the journey rather than explorations and practices that may give us a few more stressful moments to delay the inevitable.
Lesley A’Court
(Maunu, Whangarei)

PARKER-HULME MURDER
We were disappointed in the title and content of the November 19 article on the Parker-Hulme murder. The gratuitous title “Bipolar creatures” is in no way a reasonable reflection of the article’s content. Rebecca Macfie’s article includes only one vague sentence to support this: they “may both have had bipolar disorder”.

For the Listener to extrapolate what amounts to conjecture into the article’s title creates an unwarranted and unreasonable association between bipolar disorder and murder. If the book on which the article is based provides real evidence to support any link between bipolar disorder and murder, then the Listener should have provided references to it. In addition, the writer could have provided balance by seeking a clinical opinion. As it stands, the article misleads readers and raises the risk that people with bipolar disorder will also experience increased stigma and discrimination.

There are many organisations, workers and consumers in the mental health sector working to dispel myths about mental illness and to reduce stigma and discrimination. We invite the Listener to publish a more balanced article on bipolar disorder using the help of those who experience it and the NGO community mental health sector and clinicians who specialise in this area. Such an article could explore the many ways in which people with mental illness recover and continue to live full and productive lives.
Sue Ricketts
General manager, Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support (MHAPS)
Ian Johnson
Service manager, anxiety support (MHAPS)
Frances Caldwell
Service manager, bipolar support (MHAPS)
Richard Wheeler
Registered clinical psychologist

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