Thursday, October 29, 2009

On getting heated -

I have until now retained a (hopefully fairly dignified) silence on the subject of global warming, climate change and carbon dioxide levels. That in large part is because I am somewhat undecided on the merits (and otherwise) of the various people involved.

There are two parts to the “problem” –

First, whether the planet is getting warmer or not.

Second, if it is getting warmer, what is causing the change.

I (quite intentionally as it happens) got somewhat passionate about TF’s post that further distributes the idea (that Monckton has put forward) that the Copenhagen agreement on global warming is going to spell the end of the US and freedom as we know it; that the agreement is the first step toward socialist (read communist as well) dominated world government. That “passion” also requires an explanation.

Now I know that TF will protest once more that the “End of the USofA” he wrote of is something other than climate change. We have a disagreement there for a starter; primarily because in the speech advertised by TF, Monckton is actually slating the climate change movements as “just another step” toward socialist world government and domination. I intend not to pursue that line any further than I have already pursued the climate change argument.

I want to introduce a third line of thought at this point.

Over this last weekend (a four day weekend for the lucky ol’ probligo as NZ celebrates the advent of the 40 hour week – a total victory for socialism!!!) there was a discussion on radio about the relative “natures” of talkback hosts and bloggers. One of the questions that started the discussion was why most if not all talkback hosts espoused right-wing political positions rather than liberal, centrist or left-wing. Among the opines given in response to the question was that the liberal/left-wing faction were more given to thoughtful presentation and logic compared with the right-wing penchant for bald, largely specious, statement.

The consequence is (and I “know” this empirically) that the talkback radio audience is largely dominated by people of the “far” right who listen in order to get more of their confirmation bias fix, there are a smaller number of people from the left who still have that misguided ambition and fire in their bellies to try and “save the world from itself”, there is that confused part of humanity who will believe anything said by someone with authority in both voice and stance, irrespective of how specious the statement. Oh, and there is the small proportion of unfortunates, the drunks and the over-tired who call in total confusion because there is no “reality” on their tv and thinking that something is “really happening” on the radio.

I can not say that the blogiverse is dominated in the same way by “liberals”. There are enough right-wingers around the blogiverse to keep me happy for a whiles to come.

Having those thoughts in mind, I want to return to Monckton. Well, no. I want to return to a group which includes Monckton along with the likes of Michael Moore (the American one, not the retired head of WTO), Al Gore (as TF rightly points out), even Michael Laws, Paul Holmes, Phil Hannity, Phil Donahue and even perhaps the ol’ probligo if it comes to that.

The common personality trait with all of these people is not the nature of their politics, their style or their message. The common link is that they have a message which they promote without stint nor favour; a message that they present with a minimum of justification and logical support; the message is in reality no more than the presentation of themselves to people who want to believe them.

So if I were to listen (as I do not) to the likes of Laws or Holmes in the full flight of their “oratory” I could expect to hear statements which can only be politely described as “intending to get the audience in the mood, their breeches around their knees, while bowing to the west”. The whole process is not dissimilar to that of the more charismatic churches – there’s an idea, I should have included Bishop Brian Tamaki in the mix as well. You preach to the converted. You cater to their personal biases. You tell them what they came to hear. Then you add a little more. Then you add a little more. Before long the “truth” that people came to hear has expanded to a new idea. There is as much truth in the new as there was in the old. Then you add a little more. Before you know it you can name yourself "King"; the latest in the line of "King Davids", the chosen ones.

How many times has the “world government” conspiracy been around the traps in my time. Beyond number almost. It ranges from the UN taking over, to climate change, to Islamic extremists, even shady organisations like the Opus Dei (which does apparently exist despite The Da Vinci Code), Scientology, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and even perhaps the High Council of Zion.

There is a point to all of this.

Power, all Power and hence all Government, is reliant upon fear. That fear can be of your next door neighbour (who just has to be a communist or a undercover member of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee depending upon your own politics), the bogeyman under your bed, Islamists, Jews, Russians, anything that has to it an element of power that might intrude (or does intrude) on “your” lifestyle. It works the other way too – in the fear that X will stop or prevent you from attaining the ends that you deserve; be it riches beyond imagining, the right to bear arms, a 42” tv set, or 72 virgins. It can be the fear of the consequences if you fail to observe Rules, whether made through democratic or autocratic processes; the fear of failing to attain the 72 virgins in dying for your god, our burning in hell for failing to observe the right obeisances at the right time, or of being burned at the stake for speaking out against the ruling order.

What we have is the question of motivation. Why do people like Garth George and Paul Holmes write newspaper columns, especially when anyone in their right minds would turn the page before they puke? Why does Michael Laws use talkback radio to spread his particularly strange version of politik real? And why do “hosts” like Hannity and Donohue exist at all?

Each in their own way provide comfort from fears. Each in their own way builds on existing fears as a way of presenting comfort. That comfort is from the “understanding” the fear; you are not alone; together we must defeat this…

There is also the motivation of denial. “Fear not because I am right and ‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ might be) are wrong. Together we will prevail”.

So, where does the ol’ probligo stand on the climate debate?

First up, is the planet getting warmer? There is some evidence - concrete evidence - that climatic changes are occurring. The unproven question is "How fast?"

Second, is the cause human (what do they call it now? "anthropological outputs"? Not proven, either way. That is where the science is at the sharp end of the debate.

The truth is, and the reason why the “debate” is so heated and divisive, we just do not know the causes. All of the positions taken, whether scientific, political or personal, are based upon suppositions and assumptions which are very open to dispute. There is no empirical, scientific, experimental evidence strong enough to constitute “proof” to the point where it is incontrovertible. No one can take a planet like Earth, run an experiment to show "Yay" or "nay" on a repeatable basis - the essence of scientific proof.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On fighting a war...

Out of yesterday's Herald comes a fairly brief summary of the situation in Afghanistan and the prospects for the future of that nation and the military campaign against the Taliban.
"The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and Isaf's [International Security Assistance Force's] own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their Government," McChrystal argued in a document leaked to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. He said the consequence had been a "crisis of confidence among Afghans. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents".

That is extracted from a confidential briefing paper prepared for President Barack Obama by the senior US general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, in August 2009, eight years into the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan.
"We should honestly admit that our efforts have not led to the expected results. Huge material resources and considerable casualties did not produce a positive end result - stabilisation of military-political situation in the country. The protracted character of the military struggle and the absence of any serious success, which could lead to a breakthrough in the entire strategic situation, led to the formation in the minds of the majority of the population of the mistrust in the abilities of the regime."

"The experience of the past years clearly shows that the Afghan problem cannot be solved by military means only.

"We should decisively reject our illusions and undertake principally new steps, taking into account the lessons of the past, and the real situation in the country."

So the Americans are starting to have doubts?

Far from it, it seems. That second quote was from August 17, 1987. The writer Colonel K. Tsagalov is addressing the newly appointed Soviet Defence Minister, Dmitry Yazov.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the Word of God; whose word?

Tapu Misa often writes a worthwhile op-ed in the Herald, most usually Monday. This week her topic was the “re-writing” of the Bible by “a Conservative American organisation”.

I am not going to quote any of her commentary here simply because it would become the cause celebre and detract from the purpose of this piece.

I tracked down the website of conservapedia and their “Conservative Bible Project”.

The following is direct from their website –
Conservative Bible Project

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:
• lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
• lack of precision in modern language
• translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.
Experts in ancient languages are helpful in reducing the first type of error above, which is a vanishing source of error as scholarship advances understanding. English language linguists are helpful in reducing the second type of error, which also decreases due to an increasing vocabulary. But the third -- and largest -- source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate.[1]
As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]
1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent;[4] Defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here.

At the same time, there is a new lexicon presented which includes such novelties as “doubting Thomas” (without at all recognising its Biblical derivation), Death Tax, and Old Glory.

In the same vein, there were other tags listed by Google including one from Guardian with other re-writes of the Bible that are in the works.

The Guardian report is from 1991, and reveals that Vatican scholars are in the process of re-writing the Bible to bring into the accounts of the New Testament the writings of “The Dead Sea Scrolls”.

I am not going to even attempt to critique what has been done, is being done, with the Word of God. If, as I am so authoritatively informed by TF, the Word is the immutable command of God then what are these people doing? What validity, better or worse, will this version have over KJV, or NIV, Maori or Samoan translations, or any of the many other existing translations?

Or, as I have tried to argue previously, is it merely a case “one man’s word” in terms of which version of “the truth” you might happen to choose?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On being of a peaceful nature -

You know the thing that media do on their websites - "you may also be interested in..."

Looking for the Telegraph article for the previous post also turn up this -
The Global Peace Index, a report prepared for the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranks 144 countries in a league table of peacefulness.

The index defines peace as "the absence of violence".

Twenty-three criteria on which the league table is compiled include political stability, risk of terrorism, murder rate, likelihood of violent demonstrations, respect for human rights, internal conflicts, arms imports and involvement in foreign wars.

It will be a source of quiet satisfaction for New Zealanders that Australia, their great rival across the Tasman Sea, managed to score only 19th place.

Nordic countries Denmark and Norway took their accustomed positions near the top of the table.

Britain, by comparison, was 35th, slightly higher than last year but one place below Botswana and one higher than Italy. Britain also ranks below most of the rest of Europe.

The United States came 83rd, dragged down by two foreign wars, a high prison population, and the wide availability of guns.

Its position did, however, mark a rise of six places, attributed to the number of years that have passed since 9/11 without suffering another terrorist attack.


The report says the global economic recession and an increase in violent conflict and political instability around the planet took a toll on world peacefulness in 2008.

So, there y'go! That is why I still live in NZ.
Top 10 most peaceful nations: 1 New Zealand, 2 Denmark, 3 Norway, 4 Iceland, 5 Austria, 6 Sweden, 7 Japan, 8 Canada, 9= Finland, 9= Slovenia.

Ten least peaceful: 1 Iraq, 2 Afghanistan, 3 Somalia, 4 Israel, 5 Sudan, 6 Democratic Republic of the Congo, 7 Chad, 8 Pakistan, 9 Russia, 10 Zimbabwe.

On "there being enough to go around" - Fit the Third

This is the article which was re-published in Granny Herald on Friday...
The world's economic travails have combined with a large increase in the price of staple foods in poor countries to force the number of undernourished people to the highest level since 1970. The total has risen by at least 100 million in the last year alone.

The UN's survey of the "state of food insecurity" found the gains of the 1980s and early 1990s – when the number of hungry people fell every year – were steadily being reversed. Instead, the total is rising in both relative and absolute terms for the first time in four decades.

Five years ago, about 15 per cent of people in the developing world were undernourished, today the figure approaches 20 per cent.

This is not primarily because of poor harvests or bad weather, although drought has brought immense suffering to Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia this year. Instead, the main factor is the increase in global food prices since 2007, together with cuts in aid from wealthy countries and the loss of jobs and remittances caused by the world recession.

While retail food prices have fallen in rich countries over the last year, they have stayed high in poor nations.

"As usual, it is the poorest countries – and the poorest people – that are suffering the most," said Jacques Diouf, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Josette Sheeran, the head of the World Food Programme, in their joint introduction to the annual study.

Staple foods in poor countries still cost more in real terms than they did before the recession. Of the 56 nations surveyed by the WFP, basic food prices in 47 were about 19 per cent higher than in 2007.

Consequently, many people simply cannot afford to feed themselves or their families, while others are forced to buy cheaper and less nutritious products.
Caroline Hurford, spokesman for the WFP, said: "The cost of food in developing countries has not come down, while the world's economic troubles have reduced employment opportunities and remittances.

"Many families have already sold off all they own to pay for food and they've been pushed into destitution as jobs disappear."

She said the only solution in the long term is to increase agricultural output and cause prices to fall by boosting the supply of food. But rich countries have steadily reduced the share of their aid budgets devoted to agriculture, from 20 per cent in 1979 to about five per cent today.

Their own economic difficulties have also caused them to cut the amount they donate to the WFP for emergency aid. This organisation has a long-standing target of feeding 10 per cent of the world's undernourished people – or 100 million this year.
It needs £4.2 billion to achieve this, but donors have provided only £1.7 so far.
"That will inevitably mean cutbacks and that's going to hurt the poor," said Ms Hurford.

The overall picture, however, is less gloomy than in the past. Four decades ago, one in three people in poor countries was undernourished – today that figure is one in five.

For a bit of "raw research" take a read here...
The countries that make up two thirds of the world's agricultural output are experiencing drought conditions. Whether you watch a video of the drought in China, Australia, Africa, South America, or the US , the scene will be the same: misery, ruined crop, and dying cattle.

With the Australian experience just across the ditch (as it were) and having seen the effects that drought was having within a very small area of a few hours drive of Cairns including the levels of the local water supply reservoirs I can appreciate in a very small way what it might be like in east Africa, or north China. Take a look at the article because it presents two (admittedly statistically invalid) global maps which outline one part of the problems involved.

However, I would guess that it is also likely source of the article in Telegraph and Herald.

Forget the emotive language for just a little and try to put this into the context I have been presenting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On "there being enough to go around" - Fit the Second

TF, I confess. I am most astonished at your response.

". The idea being that if you wanted more, you'd have more because you would learn the required skills or obtain the necessary tools to acquire that which you wanted. The same holds true for those living in less than ideal habitats.

OK, so when the Japanese (as they did) sent their deepsea trawlers to Vanuatu and literally scraped the reefs clean of fish, the ni-Vanuatu were supposed to do what? Obtain the tools and skills to catch fish from the reef and surrounding waters? They already had those, but no fish. Should they go out and buy deepsea trawlers? Whatever for? They normally use small canoes and catch just enough fish for the evening meal. After the Japanese stole all of their fish, what should the ni-Vanuatu do?

When the Icelanders and Brits cleaned out the cod stocks from the Newfoundland Bank, the Newfounders were supposed to do what? Go fish the North Sea? Go fish round Iceland? Remember the so-called “cod wars” between Iceland and Britain? What should the Newfounders have done if Iceland had sent naval vessels to “protect” their trawlers on the Bank (and effectively to keep the Newfounders and British away)?

How about we consider the Somalis, or the Nigerians living in the Sub Sahara. In both instances traditional agriculture is impossible because of long-term (20 years plus) drought and encroaching desert. The tools necessary would include the ability to dig wells to a considerable depth, the energy to pump water in high volumes from that depth to the surface and an infrastructure to distribute the water to fields. How do you suggest that they should go about obtaining those resources? They have little enough money to grow and buy food as it is.

Genetically Modified (GM) crops? That is one answer. Would you buy and feed GM soy products to your family? Fine if you do. Would a Somali farmer be able to buy a drought resistant grain from the likes of Marsanto? Probably not, simply because the major thrust in GM crops is into weedkiller resistance so that the likes of Marsanto can sell both the seed and the weedkiller. Supposing that he could by such a crop, how would he afford it? If he is (as a matter of practice) accustomed to reserving part of his crop as next year’s seed how will he pay for the seed from Marsanto or whoever? Charity aid? Think how many Americans there are who preach “Give a man a net…”. Giving a man the seed is much the same as giving him the fish instead of the net. He plants his seeds, grows his crop, sets a portion aside to plant for next year. The following year he plants his seed… and nothing grows because one of the genetic “modifications” applied by the makers ensures that the seed is sterile.

But enough of that for the moment…

Those without natural resources are there by choice and for no other reason. Throw away the idea of being anchored to a particular spot of land by birth because if anyone really wants to move, regardless of the restraints, the human will to get things done wins when applied to most any challenge.

Now, TF, I have to ask; what in the world have you been drinking? Seriously! Did you really consider the implications of that statement?

I live in NZ because I was born here. There is little reason to leave.

There are a large number of Afghanis living in a shantytown close to the French end of the Chunnel. Why are they there? Because they are trying to get into Britain in response to exactly the motives you have suggested. Le Gendarmerie moved in a couple weeks back with bulldozers to “move them on”. Video coverage showed many of them disappearing into the trees not far distant. Comment said it will be a short while before the camp is “re-established”.

Why does the Australian Navy stop and turn back boatloads of people “taking a day trip” out of Indonesia heading for North Australia and West Australia? Is it because they are poor tourists who can’t afford the flight fare? Really?

How many people try to cross from Mexico into US every day? WHY are they trying to get into the US? Same answer. What is your response to those illegals TF? I know, because I have seen it often enough. You certainly do not want “lower peoples” in the US; certainly not from Mexico.

People live in Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Zimbabwe for the very simple reason that they were born there in the same way as you were born a citizen of the US. Why are they still there and not hightailing it to US, EU, Australia, NZ, or even South Africa or Brazil? Because they barely have sufficient resources to get themselves to the next town or the next refugee camp. Even if they can afford to travel to “better places”, would they be allowed to immigrate and stay? Like hell they would. And at that point look to your own attitude to those coming across the Texas-Mexico border for the reason. You are not alone, and I would probably feel the same about people trying to enter NZ.

But it does make the total lie of your statement.

The energy available to mankind is limitless whether you want to call it oil related, wind, solar, nuclear or "other". We need only use the inventive and creative minds God gave us to figure out the mechanics of it.

I don’t believe I made a specific point about energy. But there y’go. Yes, cheap sources of energy are running thin, globally. Good point! I wonder if the South African cropper who has just bought himself a clockwork radio would be looking to buy a Hummer if you were able to similarly repower it? Clockwork radios? They have been around for a while… I have not the knowledge, time nor ability to argue the laws of entropy.

The idea of not having enough food is also not real. There is the idea of "fishing to excess" and destroying one breed of fish; that is true. Then again, the oceans are able to sustain many life forms which have yet to be harvested for food; what are we able to do when we get creative is limitless.

In your backyard that might be true. Been fishing recently? I know that the places where 50 years back we could get in an hour or so enough fish to feed three families now might provide one or two fish for an afternoon’s fishing. If you go to those places now you might be lucky enough to catch one or two fish in an afternoon, and one of those might be of legal take size. You could revisit my comments earlier on fishing in Vanuatu as an example of that.

I know from experience that there are many places where the general idea of “having enough food” is true. I also know that there are many places where there is not. I have canvassed some of those already…

We better learn what is acceptable under Muslim Law because the way things are going we all are going to be subjected to the barbaric system they use the way things are going. Aside from the fact they intend to do away with any and all infidels, removing all non Muslims from the equation, we might not have to worry about running out of food, energy or a comfortable sofa upon which to enjoy the A/C.

Off topic and not even worth responding to in the present discussion.


In the news this morning - I will pick this up over the weekend - was statements that current estimates have over 1 billion people globally without sufficient food. I want to research that just a bit further to validate claims that the estimate includes/excludes the impact of "increased food cost". Bear in mind that if (as an impromptu example) the "price" of millet has increased then it would impact upon those who use it as a part of their staple diet. Bear in mind too that that price increase is simple Econ 101.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On "there being enough to go around..."

This exchange with Fraser Stern follows my exposition on the idea of a probligo utopia (resulting in confirmation of my strong feeling that any utopia is an impossibility because there will always be some idiot turn up to spoil the party)...

...I would like to add a comment to your line, "To reach my dream, I need to face that my standard of living will be lower; that others will benefit in far greater measure than I. Of even greater measure, I have to persuade the richest 20% of the world's population to join me in giving up what they have."

I’d have to disagree on this point. Your belief system is based on the premise that there is only so much to go around, by extension, there can be no increase; but such limits are burst by innovation and productivity incentives which would make the natural resources more useful and go farther. The false warning which I continue to hear is that the earth is too populated, that its natural resources cannot sustain the quality of life which we would all desire or prefer; that simply isn’t true. I refuse to buy into the idea that in order for me to improve my life’s quality that somebody else must reduce their quality of life.

The probligo said...

So the availability of such resources as arable land, potable water, and quality air are infinite TF?

Not in my book.

You often speak of "God-given rights". Is the right for a person living in Somalia to have sufficient food to sustain life "God-given"? If so, why are so many people living there on the verge of starvation? Do you have a "God-given right" to consume (and don't worry, I am no different) far more food than you actually need?

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, I didn't say these resources were infinite, only that there was sufficient to go around. I continue to believe that there is enough so that my increase does not mean someone else must decrease.

The idea of God given rights is not the same as consumption of natural resources being spread evenly, I would have thought you understood that concept after the many times we've gone head to head.

Now I started this with the intention of a rather ascerbic scrute at the idea of "god-given rights" but, as TF points out we have traversed that ground before without any consensus ad idem.

No, it is the thought that "there is sufficient to go around" that draws the eye this time. It is a thought that has exercised economists, sociologists and others far more learned than I. It still bugs me though, on a number of levels.

First is the idea of "sufficient". At one level, there is "sufficient" as measured by the fact that both TF and I, along with about 20% of the global population, can "exist" on high carb, high fat, high protein diets compared with the subsistence-and-less diets of perhaps the lower 50%. There is "sufficient" in that we both are able to expend significantly excessive amounts of energy in our daily living, compared with the energy sources available to many who have just sufficient to cook a daily meal. There is "sufficient" in that we are able to live in permanent housing having significant economic value compared with the very large numbers who have no prospect of owning land (a concept that might even be foreign to their culture) let alone erecting permanent structures on it. There is sufficient water that we both can use what might be equivalent to a days supply from the community well for all of the family just to wash the family car.

The counter argument of "effort", "earning", "saving", and "value" mean little to people whose lives are essentially subsistence. For many at this level the idea of "subsistence" can be seen as a reasonably comfortable standard of living if you leave out essentials such as education, functioning health services, effective law enforcement, or the trappings of what TF and I might see as "civilisation". I have in mind those such as Samoans, ni-Vanuatu, and Tongans who because of the climate in which they live have better than adequate food supplies, adequate shelter, and not much more. There is a second generalisation that can be applied here; self-sufficiency. Does that mean that these people are happy to live as they do? No!, for the simple reason that they have the same desires for better and more that we all have. No tv? It becomes a desire, then a want, then a need. Minimal education? The same.

The second is the "what" that "has to go around". I would list as examples land and specifically arable land, water and specifically potable water, and mineral resources.

To that extent TF is quite right when he says -

" Your belief system is based on the premise that there is only so much to go around, by extension, there can be no increase; but such limits are burst by innovation and productivity incentives which would make the natural resources more useful and go farther."

This particular line of logic is based upon the same line of thought that gives rise to this -

TF's statement that "...such limits are burst by innovation..." is also "true". However, there are also an increasing number of instances and some within the past year or two which illustrate the first cracks in that argument.

First to come to mind is the "alternative fuels" debate. The conversion and diversion of food-producing land and crops to "fuel-producing" has impacted on (just one instance) global food prices. Suddenly, it was "better business" to produce crops for alternative fuels than it was for food. Prices for cattle-feed grain went through the roof leading to higher beef prices. Why is that? It is the simple, direct application of Economics 102.

On the same line, does it matter if Indonesia or Brazil burns and clears "unproductive" land of the overlying jungle and wild animals? Better to have "productive" land than not, surely? Well truth is that we know as much about the possible impacts of rain forest clearance as we do about the causes of global warming. In other words, not a lot.

Only one example? No.

Go look for a description of the "Sinai Aquifer". This is one of the largest freshwater reservoirs on the globe. It stretches from the north Sinai Peninsula to Cairo and further south. [About 20 years back there was major concern that the water being taken for Cairo was becoming brackish (increasing salt levels). Investigation indicated that the level of the water in the aquifer had dropped to the point where it had gone from "positive pressure" at its outlets under the Mediterranean (giving rise to outflow in the Med) to "negative pressure". The result? Not only was Mediterranean salt water "leaking back into the aquifer, but the salinity of the Mediterranean itself was increasing to the point where fish stocks were potentially under threat.]

Want another example?

Pelargic tuna stocks in the Pacific forty years back were at a level estimated to be equivalent to roughly ten years fishing, "just under sustainable levels" at the rate of fishing in the 1970's. The most recent census (taken by MAF NZ and several Pacific nations) is indicating that the predominant species of bluefin and yellowfin tuna are endangered, and possibly close to extinction. Remember that with the next can of tuna you add to a sandwich or salad.

Want another example, closer to home?

Check out the Newfoundland cod fisheries. That was about 40 years back. It is recovering, slowly, but Britain and Europe will not see cod and chips on the menu for some while for sure.

Or how is about the Lower Colorado irrigation area where the demands on land and water supply are so great that the farms are getting "saltified" as the water evaporates and the river itself is struggling to make the sea.

OK, so "technology" will solve all of these problems? Innovation and production incentives will increase the numbers of bluefin tuna? How much would it cost to provide Cairo with desalinators and then to run them so that that city had "sufficient" (not the amount we use) fresh water.

TF, I suspect that I can explain the difference between your statement that " increase does not mean someone else must decrease..." and "... there is only so much to go around, by extension, there can be no increase...".

That difference comes from what best fits with "a different point of view". My up-bringing, my culture, the nature of my community is such that we have very narrow physical boundaries. Nowhere is more than 50 mile from the sea. Beyond that is more than 1000 miles of water to the next major habitations. Those boundaries have, for better or worse, made NZers generally far more conscious of the "outside world".

I had a word in mind when I proposed my challenge. I was reticent to use it at that time as it could be mis-taken as insult rather than descriptive.

"insular a ... 2. of or like islanders, esp. ignorant of or indifferent to other countries and their culture, narrow minded. [Concise Oxford Dictionary]

It started as a suspicion, but these more recent comments confirm, that for so many Americans (observation again, TF, and generalisation) the problems of "the outside world" just do not exist. Well, not at least until they impinge themselves directly upon the US. Hence, until such time as the lack of a resource does impinge upon "my" ability to obtain it, there is no shortage; there is plenty for all; any deficiencies must be the fault of those who can not afford to buy what they need. Of course, at the time that the last tuna is taken it will be the fault of the UN, of "big government", of faceless bureaucrats et al that more was not done to ensure that there would be tuna for dinner next year...


Sometimes I should read my own advice. I based my commentary on the Sinai Aquifer on memory of a series of articles in SciAm, Nature, and the news of the time. As is so often the case my memory is faulty. Sorry to those who went chasing geese as a result of my error.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A new world -

of wearable art.
A previous winning garment - 2007 if I recall right...

There are some events in a person's life that deserve to be commemorated in style. One of those is a 40th wedding anniversary. Well, at least we agreed that it was an appropriate thing to make into an excuse to have an expensive - and expansive too - weekend off.

One of the things we have promised ourselves for quite some many years has been the annual "World of Wearable Art" event.

This uniquely NZ event is, by their own promotion, "indescribable". It is a competition. It is undeniably entertainment. It started as a personal desire of a Nelson woman to transfer art to something wearable; not as body paint but far more sophisticated than that. That was 20 years back. The show has since been sold to Wellington City.

So it was that last Thursday SWMBO and the probligo climbed into the silver budgie and got themselves transported from Auckland with 16C and gentle SWers, to the 6C and light SE'ers of Wellington. For those who live in "temperate maritime" climes no further description will be necessary. For those who do not, I can not imagine living in snow for three months of the year either.

Checked in, checked out, showered and shaved, and then dinner was sought. As time was disappearing somewhat rapidly and we had not been able to (completely) agree what we wanted, or to understand what the hotel was providing, we ended up with a $60 per person set menu as part of the hotel's promotion of WOWA. What a time to try and work out the "polite" way to eat prawns (the Aussie king variety). The beef filet was acceptable. The desert - what was it? I can not remember. Wellington weather being what it is we (wisely as it happened because it rained, twice, during the trip) taxi'd from hotel to Events Centre (yes, that is what it is called).

Thursday night was the opening night of WOWA, and in the absence of the cash required to buy a stage-side table, or the influence to nab an awards night seat from the hoi-polloi, this was the best night we could choose. It gave us the opportunity to outwit the judges; and we think that we did because we still think our award selections were far better then theirs. Anyhoos, any show that starts with the Topp Twins wandering on stage initially in the dark like patrons who have got themselves lost somewhere twixt door and seat, wondering "why the f??? are we here?", and then combines two hours of non-stop entertainment with the showing of "clothes art" in five different classes passes any description other than "Go see it for yourself!!".

Wellington weather being what it is we were able to walk from Events Centre to hotel completely dry though almost suffering from exposure (hypothermia) by the time we returned.

Friday was spent with the exploration of immediate vicinities. Our hotel (if you must know) was right at the nor'west end of the central city a step or three from Parliament and the rail station. So during the morning we covered most of Lambton Quay, Featherston St and the area down to the waterfront. That included Wellington Museum (not to be confused with Te Papa a Tongarewa which is scion of the National Museum). The Wellington Museum is well worth the visit too. Interesting, well presented, with several probligo family connections even if the name was not mentioned specifically.

As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the excuses for this weekend of excesses was our 40th wedding anniversary. That event was celebrated Friday night. We had hoped to eat at one of NZ's finest but again did not have the where-with-all to buy someone else out of their table, so there was a couple hours spent Thursday afternoon debating the likely risk attending the choice of one (of the very many) other eating establishments around town. We got it down to a choice of two, from which (sorry Bisque at Bolton) we selected Arbitrageurs. It happened that Arbitrageurs was an easy walk down the street from the hotel, the weather was fine if somewhat chilly but sufficed to refresh the appetite.

So a very delicious meal was enjoyed. I will start with the recommendation. If ever you find yourself in Wellington at the same time as having a desire for good food and wine, then I would stake my life on Arbitrageur providing the necessary satisfaction at the very least provided that the chef remains under the present management. The only caveat is that it is not the cheapest eaterie in town. The other side is that the food is absolutely first rate. The cellar is enormous. We shared three courses and wine by the glass to match our respective selections at a total cost of $180. We came away with the feeling that we had spent very wisely. For the record the selections were; Pea and ham soup, beef casserole, creme brulee for her; vegetable soup, roast pork loin in piece and creme brulee for the probligo. Oh, and finding Arbitrageur is not easy. There is only a single wood door to the street with a discrete sign over. Inside, seating (by my count) for about 80.

That said, a sleep-in on Saturday morning was almost compulsory. An energetic walk to the far end of town for breakfast was well-rewarded with good standard NZ fare in abundance (Vivace, thank you) followed by more walking through the "entertainment precincts" of Manners Mall, Cuba St mall, and the near eastern end of "town". In between times we thought we should go have a look through parts of Te Papa that we may not yet have seen. We got no further than the main foyer where there were people presenting and celebrating PRC's 60th birthday. That made for a couple of interesting hours between lunch and heading back to the hotel. There ensued a fairly serious discussion on food for the evening meal given that a) we were pretty near broke; b) travelling back to Auckland the next day; c) still felt well fed from the previous evening; d) wanted something fairly simple to eat.... and ended up selecting Habibie, a "Lebanese" restaurant in the entertainment district we had frequented during the day. An enjoyable meal with friendly staff for a very reasonable $75 including a glass of wine.

Sunday. A day of rest for some. A day of worship for others. For us it was up at 6a.m., no breakfast, and taxi to the rail station. Rather than travel by silver budgie back to Auckland and then spend the rest of the day doing chores we had decided that we would take the silver dinosaur (in the form of The Overlander) and spend some 12 hours watching the scenery passing by at close range as against 4 miles down. There was an element of trepidation in this because the weather had been so foul as to likely preclude any interesting scenery but we were most lucky.
The mountains were magnificent. The greens in the bush and fields were straight from McCahon.

To add to the attraction was the addition of truly dinosaur propulsion between Fielding and Taihape in the form of a WAB 4-6-2 steam locomotive. What is more it was fed with real live dirty COAL.

Lunchtime at Ohakune...
It was a very tired probligo and wife who were met at Britomart just after 8 that evening by a rather lost but definitely not prodigal number one son who kindly completed the circle for us back to Howick.