Letters: January 9, 2016by The Listener
War footing to fix climate change; NZ and Australian refugee responses; and keeping dementia at bay.
WAR FOOTING TO FIX CLIMATE CHANGE
The Paris climate agreement has been made at the highest levels and we can hold our governments and businesses to account to bring its intended outcomes to a reality (Editorial, January 2). That needs to be a multifaceted process involving policy, organisations, technology and lifestyles.
The editorial correctly identifies the need to reconsider some of our cherished privileges, such as the right to travel with few restrictions, and provides examples of the changes in smoking and drinking practices of the past.
It may also be necessary to call on stronger examples, such as the efforts made on the home front during some of our wars. We made these efforts to secure the futures of nation and empire. Should we not go to similar lengths to secure our global future?
I wish to raise a point in response to the otherwise excellent editorial regarding the Paris agreement. It notes that “barely days after the Paris deal, the Government awarded a clutch of new oil and gas exploration permits, raising the question whether it makes strategic sense to be promoting a sector that is facing demise if the world is to reach zero carbon emissions.”
It is a little known fact, perhaps intentionally blocked by the news media, that 20-25% of the petroleum (oil and gas) produced worldwide is not burnt – it goes into thousands of chemicals and products, hundreds of which most of us have and use in our everyday lives.
These include pharmaceuticals, plastics, lubricants, kitchen necessities, even the materials used to make the kayaks and canoes that the naive (and/or hypocritical) paddle about in when protesting the arrival of a new offshore drilling rig in a local port. Without these products, life as we know it today would not exist.
Indeed, with oil prices as they are at the moment, it is likely that these “value-added” materials make a lot more money for their manufacturers than is made by those who simply refine and sell petroleum for combustion.
So the petroleum industry is most definitely not heading for its demise. Yes, it may in future be a far smaller entity than it is currently because of the need to cut emissions, but it will endure far into the future, for as long as we demand the beneficial non-combustion materials of its production.
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser sees no need for a short-term change in Government policy to comply with the Paris agreement, and he is pinning his hopes on a technological fix to reduce agricultural emissions. He is wrong on both counts.
There is an urgent need for change. Control of dairy herd emissions by technology is a distant, sci-fi dream. The conversion of land to dairy farming should be halted.
To limit transport emissions, we need a ban on all used-car imports – the discards from other countries. Import licensing for vehicles with engines bigger than 1.3 litres – adequate to go shopping and take the kids to school – should also be reintroduced.
And we need to rethink how we move goods around. Sea transport is least damaging, followed by rail. Rail should be subsidised in the same way as the road transport industry.
I write as a dual New Zealand and Australia citizen and critic of the Australian Government’s offshore detention of asylum seekers. But I believe self-satisfaction about the response of New Zealanders to asylum seekers is misplaced (Editorial, November 21).
First, some figures. In the first six months of 2013, more than 17,000 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat. Several hundred thousand more were in South-east Asia preparing to make the perilous journey.
I wonder how the claim that “New Zealanders, in contrast, jealously guard this country’s human rights record” might have stood up in the same circumstances. I think you would find them behaving as badly as anyone else experiencing an influx of desperate strangers.
New Zealand is in the privileged geographical position of being able to lecture others but is responding meanly to the global crisis confronting some 50 million refugees worldwide.
Australia accepts 13,750 refugees a year and has agreed to take an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16. New Zealand accepts 750 refugees and has agreed to take an extra 250 Syrian refugees a year over the next three years.
Both responses are inadequate but New Zealand’s is clearly worse. The only possible solution to the global humanitarian crisis is an international one in which privileged countries such as Australia and New Zealand truly play their part and offer sanctuary to meaningful numbers of desperate people. It could mean Australia taking one million, New Zealand taking 200,000.
(Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia)
LETTER OF THE WEEK (It’s a dirty job and Listener columnist Michael Cooper has done it for us. The product of the 3000 wines he tasted, his 2016 Buyer’s Guide, is this week’s prize)
The Australian Government’s treatment of New Zealanders in its detention centres is hardly surprising given the human rights attitude shown by the continuing exclusion of its indigenous people from the country’s constitution.
It seems scarcely credible that despite a 1967 referendum when over 90% of Australians voted yes to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the document, the talking continues as to how – or even whether – to hold another vote to achieve that recognition.
Adding insult to injury there are still references to race in the constitution that allow governments to discriminate against indigenous Australians.
Given the tens of thousands of years of occupation by Australia’s first people, logic would suggest that a more appropriate referendum would be one to see whether the immigrant population should continue to be recognised in the constitution.
(Blackbutt, Queensland, Australia)
JUST NOT CRICKET
The Black Caps’ display of short, fast, intimidating bowling against the Sri Lankans in the second cricket test reminded me of the bodyline period of pre-war tests between England and Australia.
All pretence of skill by the batsmen goes out the window as they desperately wave their bats above their heads in the faint hope of getting a touch and much-needed runs.
A graphic showed how many short balls were bowled and, to borrow a phrase, it just wasn’t cricket.
SCARED STIFF ALREADY
Don’t scare me with stories of cyberattacks (“Through enemy lines”, November 21) – I’m scared already.
We live in a country with far more serious issues, where: supermarket trolleys have wheels pointing in four directions; our secondary education system turns out teenagers after five years with a vocabulary consisting of three words – “sweet-as”, “choice” and “bro”; RNZ National presenters butcher English with “secetry”, “Antartic” and “fil-um”; and the “sincere”, smiling faces on real-estate hoardings (a testament to tooth whitening) watch our every move. Not to mention those summer sales.
Forget cyber attacks – the real theatre of conflict is much closer to home.
KEEPING DEMENTIA AT BAY
There is no doubt that dementia in general, and Alzheimer’s disease in particular, is of increasing concern for New Zealanders (“Hope on the horizon”, December 5). So we should be mindful of any steps that can be taken to delay cognitive decline, even in the face of increasing brain pathology.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of Dr Dale Bredesen’s therapeutic approach, the message is correct. Many risk factors for Alzheimer’s, such as smoking, obesity and poor cardiovascular health, are modifiable by individuals. Living a healthy, active and social lifestyle, with good nutrition, will almost certainly help delay dementia’s onset. Ultimately, however, Alzheimer’s will still develop in thousands of New Zealanders each year.
It’s critical, therefore, that efforts are still made to understand the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s and other ageing-related neurological disorders in order to develop new therapeutic treatments. We also need to find ways to diagnose these diseases at their earliest stages so interventions can begin as soon as possible.
Fortunately, significant funding has been provided recently by the Government for a national centre of research excellence – Brain Research New Zealand, Rangahau Roro Aotearoa – to pursue this mission.
The centre has highly experienced top-notch researchers and clinicians spread across the county to tackle these issues. So watch this space.
Cliff Abraham and Richard Faull
Co-directors, Brain Research New Zealand, Universities of Otago and Auckland
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