With the start of the new dairy season only weeks away the recent death of an estimated quarter of a dairy herd near Cambridge, believed to have been caused by nitrate poisoning, will be a devastating tragedy for the farmers involved. While the number of dead cows is not known the financial and potential production loss will be significant blow.
Two weeks ago another Catholic clergyman admitted he had sexually abused a little child. He was due to face a jury at the District Court in Auckland last week but pleaded guilty, saving the family the ordeal of a trial.
Just two years ago a Catholic priest was convicted and jailed for 15 months in the District Court at Hamilton for molesting young boys in the 1970s.
The recent case of a foreign tourist, caught out using a beach near Thames for a toilet, may have horrified some people but for many others, particularly in remote rural areas, it is something they see and deal with far too often.
In spite of the claims by several groups there is no reliable, peer reviewed, science, so far, to show that cannabis, in any form cures anything. There is good evidence however to show that, properly administered, it is an effective sedative and pain inhibitor without many of the nasty side effects of conventional medications. Two bills before Parliament last week had potential to provide the correct access to the people who need it and those who do not. It's a shame that politics and ignorance got in the way.
The longed for long hot summer seems to have finally arrived with soaring temperatures sending hordes to the beaches. Some farmers however may not be so keen on the rising temperatures as pastures dry out and crops wither. In other parts of the country record dry spells have brought near disaster to many rural industries and water restrictions to urban dwellers.
Any suggestion that the drought, and intermittent flash floods have anything to do with climate change brings the usual snorts of derision from those who claim it is all a big hoax. It isn’t.
Based on what we know from reliable peer reviewed science Planet Earth is probably not getting any warmer. The earth’s atmosphere, which can be likened to the skin of an apple, however is most certainly increasing in temperature. It is this very thin layer on which all current life forms depend.
Earth sciences show that there have been times of intense cold and other times of very high temperatures going back many millions of years. We don’t know for sure what caused all of these changes but our sun no doubt played a significant part in some of them. We also know that most of these changes have taken place over very long periods of time and most life forms have been able to adapt. Those that couldn’t simply died out. When the changes have been rapid there have been massive extinctions among those species which could not adapt fast enough.
The current warming of earth’s atmosphere appears to be one of the rapid changes, almost three degrees centigrade over something less than 300 years. That is one of the fastest changes scientists have been able to identify. One of the principle causes has been a rapid increase in carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere created by the combustion of high-carbon fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas over the past three centuries. The amount of carbon in the world has not increased. We have just taken it from where it was safely locked up underground, turned it into carbon dioxide and released it into the atmosphere. This layer acts like the windows in a closed car on a sunny day.
Massive deforestation by humans has also played a significant part in warming the atmosphere by taking out too much of the forest cover which would normally absorb carbon dioxide.
As a result ocean surface temperatures are higher than they have been since records began leading to higher rates of evaporation. In summer that creates an increase in the size of rain storms. In winter it creates much larger snow storms and blizzards.
Over land masses the increased temperature have increased severe and fire risk as we now have in California. At both polar ice caps the ice has been melting sooner and forming later each year. In some cases the sea ice has spread out over larger areas than before but it is thinner and breaks up quicker. Terrestrial glaciers have retreated but then began to advance again as increasing amounts of melt water lubricated the valley floor rocks underneath them.
The melting of the polar ice caps won’t increase sea levels but the melting of inland glaciers will and we already have sea levels at some low lying islands in the Pacific high enough to force the evacuation of many long established villages.
Human created accelerated climate change, global warming or whatever else we choose to call it, will not put Planet earth at risk. However coupled with modern pollutants they are putting life as we know it at risk. Many amphibians have disappeared from their former habitats which are now too warm for them and many marine species are dying in the toxic soup we have made of their oceans with plastic trash.
Humans are the only species to have the intellect to understand and assess their impact on the environment they rely on for life. We are also the only species with the technology to manage and mitigate that impact. All that is missing is the collective will to apply that technology.
Two impediments to that collective action are personal greed and political expediency.
Some industries stand to lose fortunes if the required changes are made to avoid catastrophe. Some politicians understand that possibility and have chosen to deny there is any link between human activity and climate change. Humanity and the wild things we share the world with need urgent action now. In twenty years time it may well be too late, if it is not already.
With the last of the winter tourists hardly out of the country the first of the summer crowd is already on the way and we are still not ready for them.
Like a persistent sponging relative no one wants to offend the tourism industry is asking for massive amounts of money from taxpayers and ratepayers to provide much need facilities for the clients.
No one it seems wants to ask the question; why should ratepayers fund this self-serving exploitative and damaging industry over and above any other industry?
Our district councils appear to lack the courage, common sense or ability to tell the tourist industry to fund their own promotions. When regional councils spend ratepayers’ money it is generally to mitigate and control the adverse impacts of agriculture and other industries. When the Government spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars monitoring and controlling agriculture and the fishing industry it is to ensure those environments are protected from over exploitation. Only the tourism industry it seems assumes the right to tap into ratepayer for promotion and to meet the demand for essential infrastructure they create.
Many smaller district councils struggle to provide essential infrastructure for their ratepayers let alone massive increases for an industry which brings little in the way extra rates to pay for them.
We don’t need extra funding for tourism infrastructure as much as we need to put urgent and effective constraints on the tourism industry to protect New Zealand from the ravages of visiting hordes while there is still something of our wild and special places to protect.
Too many small communities have fallen in the trap of assuming tourism will be good for them. It won’t be. Without checks and balances it will change some communities beyond recognition and drive some people out of their home towns.
A visit to Milford Sound at the height of the summer tourism season will shock and sadden those unprepared for the spectacle of over-crowding at was once a remote and beautiful place. Also in summer funeral processions of dangerous campervan drivers on highways, human waste on our bush tracks and many scenic places closed to locals all thanks in part to unmitigated tourism which assumes the right to dip to the pockets of ratepayers and taxpayers to fund their industry.
Up until now those who have warned that a lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly public toilets was becoming a serious problem were simply ignored. That reality has arrived like an unwelcome relative demanding more of our money and it is time to say no!
They will probably plead that tourism brings jobs and extra money that eventually flows into the nation’s economy. This is far from the truth and we can say that about all industries but they don’t come demanding millions of dollars to support them.
We also risk dispossessing New Zealanders, whose heritage is being exploited by unmitigated tourism. We don’t need more taxpayer and ratepayer investment in tourism, we need fewer tourists. Not just a few hundred fewer but tens of thousands fewer.
The Kingitanga is, by its very nature, a political organisation but should it dabble in politics or not? Earlier this year the current Maori King Tuheita made the surprising announcement to endorse specific political parties in the lead up to the NZ general election. Was it a desperate move or a mistake?