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Thinking too small

Written By: - Date published: 8:18 am, March 13th, 2013 - 24 comments
Categories: bill english, climate change, disaster, Economy, national - Tags: , , ,

The extent to which we as a society just don’t get the ongoing impact and the implications of climate change continues to boggle my mind. In his latest piece, for example, John Armstrong seems to be groping his way dimly towards the truth, but he misses the mark by treating the impact of the current drought as something exceptional, a capricious “one-off” event:

Budget goal at mercy of drought

Yes, it is. Most of our economic activity is at the mercy of the weather. As loony greenies have been saying for a long time, there is no economy without the environment.

What next? A plague of locusts? Or frogs? Or boils?

Something along those lines, yes, the warming weather will bring increasing pests and insects.

With half of the North Island officially deemed drought-affected – and the remainder fast heading that way – Bill English must be asking himself what he did in some past life to have seemingly so incensed the forces of nature.

english-fart-tax-260Bill English personally is insignificant of course, but it is politicians of exactly his ilk that have indeed pissed nature off. Through decades of inaction and delay, through decades of short-term greed, they have committed us to a warming future. It’s happening now, and if Bill’s impact was negligible in practical terms, he can still think of this as karmic revenge for his opposition to even simple research on the issues.

Now comes a drought which could seriously jeopardise tax revenue forecasts – and thus dent National’s chances of reaching Budget surplus by 2015.

You’re thinking small and short term John (as you usually do). There is much more at risk than the Nats’ pyrrhic surplus. (And then the rest of the article wanders off into the politics of welfare for farmers.)

And so on we go, continuing with the same assumptions and the same actions that got us in to this mess. Bemoaning the effects of climate change in as much as they affect us right here and right now, but determined not to see the big picture. Reaping what we have sown – smaller crops and bigger problems.

24 comments on “Thinking too small”

  1. karol 1

    Armstrong: What next? A plague of locusts? Or frogs? Or boils?

    Funny he should say that. I just spent a few days in a rural area where they are experiencing the hard edge of the drought. One person there commented that they haven’t had the usual crickets this summer and that probably once the rains come, they will come out of the (erm?) ground where they are currently lurking in egg form I think.

    I had a look for some details. Here there is an article about a drought causing a cricket infestation in Tulsa:

    The recent heat and drought plaguing green country have caused infestations of several types of bugs and insects.

    A few weeks ago FOX23 News reported on a black widow spider infestation. Now crickets are trying to take over Tulsa.

    Kenda Woodburn with the OSU Extension in Tulsa says the cricket population isn’t necessarily larger than normal this summer. But they are coming closer to people because of the heat and drought.

    “They’re just now maturing,” Woodburn said. “And they’re looking to mate and lay eggs.”

    “There isn’t a lot of places to lay eggs where it’s moist enough, so some of them are looking inside where there’s more moisture.”

    The result is swarms of crickets hanging outside doors of homes, businesses, and even churches.

    Blinglish talks about changing farming practices because there will probably be an increase in droughts in the future – but doesn’t mention the double C words. Sounds a promising plan, though. Then he mentions practices like changing to drought resistant grasses. This seems like tinkering.

    The North Island is strong on dairy farms. But it requires excessive amounts of water for cows to produce milk. The plan should be to move to the kinds of farming suitable to a warmer and drier climate. The old Kiwi focus on diets heavy in dairy and red meat needs to change. A Mediterranean type diet is supposed to be healthier anyway.

  2. Bill 2

    Long grass retains more moisture and is more resistent to drought. Long grass also develops a more substantive root systems that makes it more resistent to drought. Long grass, when it is grazed and shat upon also builds up soil that builds up humus that retains more moisture and carbon. Long grass is also what migrating herds eat down and subsequently move away from.

    Or keep it short and stunt its underground growth through persistent grazing and apply fertilizer….no drought resistence and bugger all carbon storage.

    Common sense would dictate that the option in the first paragraph is pursued. The market would dictate that the option in the second paragraph is pursued. Climate change will see to it that option ‘b’ – the market option, is no option at all. But by that point we’ll most likely be all out of any types of options and frantically – even desperately- reacting in a piecemeal fashion to rapidly deteriotating scenarios.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Spot on. And oddly enough, I give Bill English kudos for obliquely accepting that the climate is changing and that life could get more difficult. He was reported on Stuff as saying this:

      Finance Minister English, standing in for John Key while he is visiting Latin America, said that while the Government was providing support now, this may not be sustainable if severe droughts became regular events.

      “If there’s going to be more droughts, more regularly, farming practices will simply have to adapt,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast.

      “We’ve got research in place for instance to find more drought resistant grasses and farmers have for years been adapting their management practices.

      “That would have to continue because . . . Government simply can’t support them to maintain practices in the face of continuous droughts, if that’s what happens.”

      NB this guy is a smart politician – he doesn’t even argue about “climate change” explicitly (boo-hoo Jenny). He just accepts it’s a possible real life thing with consequences which need to be managed and moves on.

      • Bill 2.1.1

        Thing is, he’s implying that the market, as expressed through current farming practices has the capacity to simply adapt to ‘whatever’. But further than that, I’d bet my bottom dollar that he can’t imagine anything beyond market based solutions insofar as he sees the market as encompassing all possible solutions rather than it being the basis of the problem.

        In short, his mentality and outlook is woefully and dangerously inadequate.

    • Rogue Trooper 2.2

      ae

  3. Bearded Git 3

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9Fqp_BTusw

    This video of Ahoribuzz slagging Key is relevant not just to National’s attitude to climate change, discussed above, but also to everything else National is doing. Please enjoy and then share on Facebook-could become the next “there is no recession in NZ”.

  4. KylePIB 4

    There are already solutions to these problems.

    Creating beltways of bushland on farms – where animals are forbidden from grazing – retains moisture in the soil and biomass. If you had a hillside paddock, for example, it would be wise to create a ‘head’, ‘belt’ and ‘shoes’ of areas planted with a diverse range of native trees and have two paddocks in between. Moisture retention would increase substantionally and the land would not turn into a desert for future generations in 500 years time. Petrochemical fertilisers would not be needed as biomass, organic matter and moisture would be in abundance and there would be sustainable organic fertilisation from the green beltways. We wouldn’t have to waste money and risk unknown and unintended consequences researching genetic modification.

    It has all been done. Deserts have been greened and poverty stricken areas have seen abundance once again. Economic, social and environmental prosperity – we can have them all, if we embrace long-term thinking, new and smarter farming techniques such as permaculture, and educate our farmers about how their lives and the lives of their children can be easier, better for the environment, economy and society, happier and healthier if only they would research and embrace the proven methods of sustainable agriculture and permaculture.

    Some great case studies in this video. Whole desert valleys have been transformed into lush, productive green spaces and local median wages have increased 300%. Well worth the watch – you will be amazed.

  5. scotty 5

    National will no doubt use the current drought , to frame the argument , around irrigation , water storage , WCOs etc.
    cos anyone against irrigation subsidies, and continuing to allow Dairy Farmers to foul waterways, is obviously anti growth ,anti jobs and pro drought.

  6. georgecom 6

    I heard English on the news either Mon or Tues late arvo. He was asked what the future cost predictions of drought relief to farmers would amount to. That is, what the government might have to pay to farmers as climate change results in more droughts.

    English didn’t have any idea as the figures had not been analysed.

    The warnings about climate change have been clear for some years now. The Government has data it is able to run projects with. It seems like information the Government would want to know.

    Why haven’t they?

    Another example of the ‘do nothing government’ it seems

    • scotty 6.1

      National had no time to address the climate change issue while in opposition.
      They were too busy screaming “Its a hoax” led by their chief climate scientist. John Key

  7. Big thinking?
    They need a dose of climate catastrophist Guy McPherson, who left his uni job to live in the Arizona desert to prepare for doomsday.
    Unlike the Canterbury gentry who will suck all the water out of the rivers until hell boils over.
    I can see them hiring the slaughterers to deal with the angry urban dwellers who may rampage over their green acres. I’m sure there is a paper in that for Shearer.
    http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/

  8. Enough is Enough 8

    This is going to be National’s second term equivalent of the quakes. They will use this as the reason to justify or explain why they are the worst economic managers in the western world.

    Their narrative during election 2014 will be how they are brilliant managers and the only reason the economy is tanking is because of the great 2013 drought.

    Let it be heard long and loud that it is bullshit. When the grass grew last year in a record breaking year for dairy production, unemployment went up. That shows National can’t do anything right regarldless of whether it rains or not.

    • georgecom 8.1

      The Nats claimed credit for the economic growth resulting from the rubbish summer last year, they can be made to claim the credit from economic contraction resulting from the dry summer this year.

  9. George D 9

    You know how much the research charge amounted to?

    85c.

    85c per head of livestock per year. About $300 per year for a typical dairy farmer.

    They did not want to pay 85c. They got very angry about paying 85c.

    So angry in fact that they ran a very well managed PR campaign in coordination with National, and Labour backed down in a move of strategic stupidity (empowered by this win National and its allies used the template to win more campaigns and come close to government in 2005).

    And now they are asking us for help.

    Thank you for reminding me of this. I’d forgotten about the deliberate intransigence of National and the farmers. Their selfishness, their willingness to treat science as a conspiracy and a joke, their provincial naivety.

  10. AFEWMORETHEKNOWTHETRUTH 10

    thinking too small just about sums up Bill English, for him being a small minded hick along with asset stripper John Yankee sums up both pathetic men. What’s even more pathetic is so many kiwis suck on their shit! 🙁

  11. Rogue Trooper 11

    small indeed (i watch the lying pricks in the house and understand why they need DPS)

  12. xtasy 12

    Now does the brain not start shrinking and hollowing out a bit with age?

    Thinking too small may be all that can be achieved with a smallish brain.

    But then again, all of us will get old and rely stubbornly on what we learned through “experience” in our life time. That is what makes older people start being seen out of touch by younger ones. It is human to compare present events and developments with gathered own experience, or with what one learned in one’s own lifetime.

    As the world is changing extremely fast now, due to climate change, population pressures, technological advance and globalised traffic and communication, the learned and adopted thinking and behaviour of older folks is struggling to come to terms with what is going on.

    That is how I see John Armstrong, I am afraid.

    Problem is also, many younger ones are overwhelmed in the information age, a society and system prone to radical changes, so they seek escapism and distraction, often found in cyberspace. So there another somewhat distracted and distorted way of perception and understanding is developing.

    So hope lies with the astute, informed and enlightened ones.

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