Archive for May 2011

There may have been some wandering in the sun

Random pics in lieu of actual thought

We’ve moved offices, into the space left by the relocation of one of the odd corners of the NZ government’s security apparatus. So, 1970s decor, strange fibre-optic networking, and posters on the wall like this:

Still, the view’s not too shabby, for Wellington:

Work’s internet isn’t up yet, so I’ve mostly been working from home for a couple of days:

In other news, the long hole in the ground that was going to be the retaining wall for the path is now a retaining wall. The sense of achievement isn’t really matched by the visual extent of what’s been done, but that’s coz half of it is underground:

And it appears I have a carpometacarpal boss on my wrist. This would explain the pain when doing handstands, although I don’t know if it explains the copious swelling after shovelling. Further investigations are proceeding.

James Hansen talking on climate change in Wellinton next Monday

Topping the list of climate scientists who have nearly been fired from NASA, it’s Dr James “No to coal” Hansen!

From the IPS news release:

Human-Made Climate Change: A Moral, Political and Legal Issue – a public lecture presented by Dr James Hansen
Monday 16 May 2011, 5.45pm -7.30pm
Rutherford House, Lecture Theatre 1, 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington
No RSVP required – all welcome

Dr James Hansen is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He is the author of Storms of my Grandchildren (2010), and is probably best known for being one of the first scientists to bring global warming to the world’s attention, when he delivered Congressional testimony on climate change in the 1980s.

Trained in physics and astronomy in Dr James Van Allen’s space science program at the University of Iowa, Dr Hansen has been an active researcher in planetary atmospheres and climate science for nearly 40 years, with the last 30 years focused on climate research, publishing more than 100 scholarly articles on the latter topic.
Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1995, Dr Hansen has received numerous awards, including the WWF Conservation Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh, the American Geophysical Union’s Roger Revelle Medal, and the Heinz Environment Award.

In addition to numerous testimonies given to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, Dr Hansen twice made presentations to President George W. Bush Administration’s cabinet level Climate and Energy Task Force, chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney.

While Dr Hansen’s work has evolved from space science to climate science, it has constantly sought to make the results of that work widely available to the public. Time Magazine designated Dr. Hansen as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006, a tribute to his continuing efforts to serve the public through his scientific work.

Dr Hansen’s Wellington lecture will focus on human-made climate change as a moral, political and legal issue. To quote:
‘Human-made climate change is a moral issue. It pits the rich and the powerful against the young and the unborn, against the defenseless and against nature. Climate change is a political issue. But politics fails when there is a revolving door between government and the fossil fuel-industrial complex. Climate change is a legal issue. The judiciary provides the possibility of holding our governments accountable for their duty to protect the public interest.’

The Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown will be present to welcome and introduce Dr Hansen.

Oh John Key, you muppet

So, I had to sleep on it, but I’ve worked out what it was that disappointed me so much about John Key’s embarrassing performance in front of the UK media on Hardtalk.

John Key won’t accept that our tourism slogan isn’t reality and dismisses all the evidence otherwise. When the interviewer brings up the level of polluting nutrients in our rivers, John Key denied that there was a problem. Well, here’s what the NZ government has to say on the water quality in our rivers:

“There was a strong increasing trend overall in total phosphorus and in dissolved reactive phosphorus, … and also a strong increasing trend overall in oxidised nitrogen and total nitrogen, which all indicate deteriorating water quality, mainly attributable to expansion and intensification of pastoral agriculture.”

That’s from the Water quality trends at National River Water Quality Network sites for 1989-2007 report.

Or there’s the 2009 update to this data, with the key finding that “Nutrients have worsened”.

In fact, our water quality is so bad that this Monday, the government announced a new Clean-up Fund for water quality, with the Environment Minister stating “We have a number of significant rivers and lakes that require major clean-up investments”.

So, John Key, you’re a muppet, for denying reality.

Which brings us to how to present New Zealand overseas, given that our clean green image is a key part of our tourism. It’s undeniable that we’re running into our environmental limits, so John Key’s head in the sand approach isn’t acceptable. It we actually want to engage with this problem, and frankly, we don’t have a choice here, then there are several other approaches we could take:
1) Defensive – “Our rivers are polluted coz we grow food for you, so quit bitching at us.”
2) Sniffy – “Our standards for river pollution are much stricter than European standards, so much so that most rivers in Western Europe would exceed New Zealand’s pollution trigger limits by a factor of ten. What constitutes highly polluted for us would be clean for you.”
3) Responsive – “Yes, like every other nation with modern agriculture, we’ve got water quality problems and we’re working hard to fix them. Why, just this Monday we announced a big investment in cleaning up our rivers. Look, the New Zealand budget comes out later this month, we’re in a tight fiscal situation, there’s very little new spending, but top of the list is improving our water quality. That’s how much this matters to us.”

Or we could, you know, just fix the problem by requiring farmers to pollute rivers less. Instead, Key’s government this week released an entirely watered-down freshwater policy statement. If we haven’t got real policy, and we haven’t, then the Key government’s solution seems to be good PR, so I think we can expect a combination of 2 and 3 as a protective layer of bluster.