Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Piled in bins like summer fruit

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  • Idiot Savant,

    It's also the possibility of the crop switch to biofuels. Now there's established technology and wide acceptance of turning food to fuel, food prices have begun to track oil prices. And with oil prices going up, that can't be good.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    We'll have to find out whether the MOU in the China trade deal on environment and labour standards means much and will be effective. But I really wish that Russel Norman of the Greens would stop speaking as if every Chinese factory is staffed by 12 year-old slaves. People in China have a right to better themselves, to escape rural poverty and to earn themselves more choices.

    Sure, Russell. But perhaps those of us who are a little sceptical about the hype -- especially when nobody had actually seem the fracking text -- don't give a shit about starving peasants.

    So far, I'll give MFAT and the Government 10/10 for the kind of media management that generates uncritical press the IOC would kill for. I just hope the likes of Fran O'Sullivan are going to come home and commit journalism that's a little more substantive than 'open slather on cooks and Kung Fu masters! hooray!"

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Sure, Russell. But perhaps those of us who are a little sceptical about the hype -- especially when nobody had actually seem the fracking text -- don't give a shit about starving peasants.

    Eh?

    So far, I'll give MFAT and the Government 10/10 for the kind of media management that generates uncritical press the IOC would kill for. I just hope the likes of Fran O'Sullivan are going to come home and commit journalism that's a little more substantive than 'open slather on cooks and Kung Fu masters! hooray!"

    We're trading with China anyway, a lot. To be the first nation to do so under a rules-based structure seems a good thing to me.

    Opposing opinions can be found in some number amongst screeching Kiwiblog commenters.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I don't see us running out of food in a hurry. Just getting it conveniently might start becoming more expensive. But then again, the proliferation of affordable electronics and machinery such as computers and tractors should mitigate.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Palmer,

    When I saw the farmlands swinging from floods to drought in the same season, my first thought was that this wasn't a climate problem, it was a problem with water infrastructure. Why didn't the farmers work together to provide the dams, reservoirs, canals, dikes and so forth that would get them through all these recurring 100-year droughts?

    (Of course the NZ farmer would rather eat his own children than work collectively. The FFU is there to spout off, not to build things. I know that. But business is business.)

    The issue seems to be the high price of land that determines that none of it is going to be set aside for the provision of water. And the price of land is driven up by the easy availability of loans and the high indebtedness model that, for example, dairy farmers develop under. All brought to us by our friendly local (i.e. offshore) bank with no discussion or oversight.

    Since Nov 2006 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Opposing opinions can be found in some number amongst screeching Kiwiblog commenters.

    Now you're just being naughty, Mr Brown -- not for the first time, I wonder what Matthew Arnold would have made of the blogisphere. Sure don't think he would find cause to revise the last stanza of Dover Beach:

    [F]or the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various, so beautiful, so new,
    Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
    Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.

    Still, I do find it ever so slightly ironic that among some on the right 'FTA' has become as much an unquestionable dogma as 'climate change' among some sections of the left. The signal to noise ratio from all side becomes painful.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    When I saw the farmlands swinging from floods to drought in the same season, my first thought was that this wasn't a climate problem, it was a problem with water infrastructure.

    Damn right. It might be the most under-reported economic story in the country at the moment.

    Why didn't the farmers work together to provide the dams, reservoirs, canals, dikes and so forth that would get them through all these recurring 100-year droughts?
    (Of course the NZ farmer would rather eat his own children than work collectively.)

    Funny thing is, working collectively used to be a hallmark of how things were done in New Zealand. Combined with bountiful markets it did ultimately tend to produce a stultifying absence of risk, but it certainly wasn't all bad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Now you're just being naughty, Mr Brown -- not for the first time, I wonder what Matthew Arnold would have made of the blogisphere. Sure don't think he would find cause to revise the last stanza of Dover Beach:

    You are the human Dictionary of Quotations ...

    Still, I do find it ever so slightly ironic that among some on the right 'FTA' has become as much an unquestionable dogma as 'climate change' among some sections of the left. The signal to noise ratio from all side becomes painful.

    They're actually almost all agin it, on the basis of its provenance in the festering bowel of Helengrad. Of course, it'll take more than a change of government to make some of those people happy ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    It might be the most under-reported economic story in the country at the moment.

    that's true.

    Funny thing is, working collectively used to be a hallmark of how things were done in New Zealand.

    has there been any shift in how much of our behaviour is collective and how much is more individualistic?

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    Why didn't the farmers work together to provide the dams, reservoirs, canals, dikes and so forth

    Project aqua anyone?

    on a total tangent, i like the TVNZ banner ads. Jenny's got a P habit!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    You are the human Dictionary of Quotations ...

    English teachers who were big on making impressionable minds memorise stuff -- and if anything is going to get your irony detector working, it's a Marist priest dropping 'Dover Beach' and 'God's Funeral' (!) on a thoroughly bewildered class of teenage boys.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Food prices are now a major sleeper issue. The number and bitterness of complaints over the price of dairy products could easily be turned into votes and, IMHO, this is an issue tailor made for a populist party like NZ First. Given the zero traction they get these days with immigrant bashing, a nice bit of Fonterra bashing with threats to introduce quotas for the home market would win a LOT of votes.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Funny thing is, working collectively used to be a hallmark of how things were done in New Zealand. Combined with bountiful markets it did ultimately tend to produce a stultifying absence of risk, but it certainly wasn't all bad.

    I don't know if either our memory of the past or our perception of the present are correct about this. Working collectively is a very poorly defined concept.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    When I saw the farmlands swinging from floods to drought in the same season, my first thought was that this wasn't a climate problem, it was a problem with water infrastructure. Why didn't the farmers work together to provide the dams, reservoirs, canals, dikes and so forth that would get them through all these recurring 100-year droughts?

    You're right, but they actually are in some places, usually the ones with a tradition of drought management. Both Marlborough and Tasman have had major dam/irrigation projects come on stream (ahem) in the last few years with more niche projects planned for the future. In Tasman's case this was done with a Water Augmentation Committee made up of key parties from agriculture, horticulture, local communities, councils etc...

    The trick is to implement systems that provide irrigation (and potentially niche power) without wrecking catchments and waterways.

    I do think you'll see a lot more happening in this area over the next 10-20 years. You can't really blame Taranaki and the Waikato for not being completely prepared for a major drought though, surely :-)

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    I do recall people active in energy issues warning that a move to biofuels could impact on food prices and that any major move in that direction could be very dumb. Not much new there. Just the continuing amazement that some politicians and segments of the public were fooled yet again. With respect to climate change, I never could see how burning carbon-based bio-fuels could claim to be much better than burning carbon-based fossil fuels. Yes, you have an added degree of energy independence, but nothing to do with climate change in any significant way.

    As for China and the FTA, I have no problems with a free trade agreement with another democratic country that operates under the rule of law and where we know the justice system is generally reliable. None of these attributes can be correctly attributed to China. Even an FTA with the United States would make some sense, despite that country's considerable history of ignoring the terms of the free trade agreements they sign when they are contrary to politically powerful domestic interests, as Canadians well know after nearly 20 years of NAFTA. The soft timber dispute was only resolved when the US attempted to coax Canada into joining the invasion of Iraq.

    China is a whole other thing. They arrest and imprison or kill people who simply want to vote for who governs their country. I do have real concerns that binding New Zealand's future to an unaccountable and ruthless dictatorship disrespectful of human rights will leave a small country like ours little latitude for action when major human rights issues do arise. How large an outrage would be required to make us draw back? A thousand dead? A hundred thousand? A million? Or are we ready to do anything, pay any price, for the "baubles of office" associated with an FTA with China?

    I'm not opposed to free trade conducted fairly and regulated by robust institutions that have integrity. With respect to China, we should have thought very carefully before risking selling our liberal democratic souls for a few pieces of silver. I still haven't seen the detailed agreement. But whatever is in the agreement signed, we should have been be prudent and also consider what else we may be be giving up in order to maintain this new and important (to us) relationship with a China that is not only not democratic, but a ruthless dictator. As an emerging superpower, unaccountable capricious power is theirs to exercise and ours to fear.

    I'm not saying it's inevitable. But history indicates it's a matter of when, not if. Are we ready to face this future? Here it comes, ready or not.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    But I really wish that Russel Norman of the Greens would stop speaking as if every Chinese factory is staffed by 12 year-old slaves

    Exactly. 12-year olds are intractable and break things. 13 or 14 year old's are much better workers.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    Food prices are now a major sleeper issue.

    James Lovelock had a highly alarming and entertaining interview in Rolling Stone last year and he highlighted food shortages as being a critical problem in the very near future as land becomes unusable and populations shift.

    He thinks we're already screwed, the population will be decimated by 70-80% by the end of the century and we need to rip into nuclear power and food synthesis right now if we're to have any hope of surviving.

    Is he a nut? Probably, although he's generally been correct re global warming issues so far. The most interesting part of the interview for me was that he links the environment to Western philosophy and culture. He reckons the biggest risk for us is that massive environmental impact will decimate society and all the benefits of rationalism, liberalism, the enlightenment etc... will be lost as we return to some sort of middle ages nightmare.

    Fun times!

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Opposing opinions can be found in some number amongst screeching Kiwiblog commenters.

    The screeching ones, yes. But I wouldn't say the bulk of them are opposed.

    How large an outrage would be required to make us draw back? A thousand dead? A hundred thousand? A million?

    Good question. Would Iraq really be a good enough reason to refuse a free trade deal with the USA? Not that one is ever really on offer...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10653 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Ben Wilson: I don't know about that. It my experience that one of the defining aspects of the New Zealand character is an aversion to conflict and deep desire for consensual decision making. The amount of times I've seen this manifest itself in cultural misunderstandings with meeting with (particularly) brash Australians and Americans is legion. New Zealanders will sit quietly whilst a go-getter from across the Tasman brow-beats and the NZer's will say nothing, leading to an impression of acquiescence, only to discover that the most important conversations occurred in the corridor after the meeting and a sullen inertia blocks any attempt to actual put into action what they thought had been agreed.

    I am not sure why we are like this. Maybe it’s an un-acknowledged impact of Maori culture on Pakeha New Zealand. Maybe it’s a couple of generations of unchecked political correctness gone mad in the education system. Perhaps it’s an echo of our egalitarian past. Or it could be that in an isolated society we've learnt to husband and pool our limited human talent base to try and get the best outcomes. Or maybe all of the above.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    Exactly. 12-year olds are intractable and break things. 13 or 14 year old's are much better workers.

    LOL! No teenagers in your house then?

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    People in China have a right to better themselves, to escape rural poverty and to earn themselves more choices

    Sounds great. Pity people in rural China live in a totalitarian state where the ability to move from rural areas to urban areas in search of new opporunities is subject to central government planning controls on internal migration.

    Or the ability to "earn more choices" is constrained by same. Try organising a union or going on strike for better wages and conditions in China without Part approval.

    Your excitement seems to be making you reality-blind.

    The number and bitterness of complaints over the price of dairy products could easily be turned into votes

    We had relatives who are living in Singapore come visit the family a few weeks ago. One went shopping with my mother-in-law and noted that butter and cheese prices for the same New Zealand branded products were substantially higher here than in Singapore. "Meeting the international market" my arse. I wonder how long it is before supermarkets start importing low-perishable products from overseas for their own product lines.

    ("Don't fucking come crying to me for money next flood or drought, Mr Farmer. You ought to be stockpiling it" is my other thought.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I never could see how burning carbon-based bio-fuels could claim to be much better than burning carbon-based fossil fuels. Yes, you have an added degree of energy independence, but nothing to do with climate change in any significant way.

    Biofuels are a carbon sink while they grow, they convert the CO2 out of the atmosphere back into Oxygen. Oil doesn't do that.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Exactly. 12-year olds are intractable and break things. 13 or 14 year old's are much better workers.

    Now you're just being silly. They can't fit up the chimneys after about 8, so just send them out to beg for themselves.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    Speaking of biofuels, anyone know how the trials of the algae grown on seweraged derived biofuels went? that was all over a while back but nothing since.

    I'd like to see some numbers of the sort of how much of the transport needs of a city of say 100,000 people can be met from algae grown on its sewerage and then turned into biodiesel/ethanol?

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Peter: I saw the other day that Aquaflow in Marlborough has claimed they have started limited commercial production of sewage pond derived algae biodiesel. I've got a mate who is a senior analyst of the energy sector for a large corporate and his view is their is still some skepticism around the claims by Aquaflow of significant technology breakthroughs and the economics of what they are doing. None the less, the jury is still out on whether or not they are a genuine company making significant progress or just another perpetual motion machine company.

    My view is that Algae fuel technology is the ONLY realistic fuel technology being developed that can replace our current liquid consumption without all sorts of unpleasant Malthusian consequences for the world's hungry.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

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