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Written By: - Date published: 7:54 pm, October 3rd, 2021 - 16 comments
Categories: climate change, covid-19, disaster, Environment, Politics, science - Tags: , ,

Covid-19 is sucking up a lot of oxygen of Government and of the NZ public. It is hard to think of other things when the number of news cases goes up & down like a yo-yo and in a synchronous way our hopes for relaxing of Alert Levels.

This pandemic has laid bare many issues and problems in NZ whilst others have been pushed into the background. Scientists, researchers, and vaccinologists, immunologists & epidemiologists in particular, have called for more funding from Government to better deal with this pandemic and better prepare for what’s coming next.

However, cancer patients have not stopped having cancer – tumours don’t stop growing because of Covid-19 – RSV reared its ugly head, again, and mental health is taken a battering too. To name just a few other issues that deserve our attention (and funding!) and would be more of a priority under normal circumstances.

However, this is the new normal and even when we finally get back to Level 1 it won’t be the same as before.

Prioritising doesn’t necessarily mean falling into binary choices, but in practice it does certainly feel that way and in some cases it does become a binary choice & decision although the PR departments usually prefer to call it ‘deferral’. Deferral often leads to cancellation, preferably when it is more opportune and the people are distracted.

This near-singular focus of politics and economics on Covid-19 can easily lead to an attention deficit and a vacuum of political debate on other pressing issues. Some can easily fill a political vacuum in the Opposition, like moths attracted to a flame. The press, as always, likes to blow things up beyond real proportions. Such is the nature of the beast.

The public seems more interested in balls, booze & burgers. We all have our own priorities and personal choices to make. Especially small businesses struggle for survival no matter what Government is trying to do to help. Life is tough for some (many).

The public’s ire is easily raised under these circumstances. Be it about people flouting the rules and jet-setting to Wanaka or the more orchestrated attack on James Shaw going overseas to some kind of conference called COP26. His main two sins, in addition to his mortal sin of being a Green MP and Co-Leader of the Green Party, are the thousands of carbon miles he’ll generate and the thousands of MIQ places he’ll be occupying and taking away from others who need and deserve it more. I’m exaggerating the latter, of course, but you’ll get the gist – when you crucify someone it helps to use big nails.

The good news is that this present pandemic is not likely to wipe out the human race. Phew! Luckily, we do have other ‘options’ to achieve this, if we want: 1) a nuclear holocaust followed by a nuclear winter; 2) climate change caused by anthropogenic emission.

Nobody knows what will happen, not even science-fiction writers, but what could a nuclear winter look like? Some kind of post-human dystopian Jurassic Park or Planet of the Apes or more like a post-nuclear spring where wildlife seems to flourish without human interference like Chernobyl? Life without humans? It might be shattering a few fragile egos but we’ll get over it, eventually, when we’re gone. Similar questions could be asked about the aftermath and fallout of climate change. Prevention is better than cure.

One of the best ways of dealing with the stresses caused by enhanced uncertainties about the future is getting back to nature, be it gardening or a walk in the park or on the beach. It is a real shame that people who live in the Waitakere Ranges have been banned from entering this magnificent protected Regional Park in Auckland with many of the tracks still being sealed and fenced off to the public.

For years, the fight against Kauri dieback was underfunded, like much of scientific research in NZ that operates on the smell of an oily rag and the goodwill and stubborn dedication of researchers and students, and we’re still not out of the woods [pun intended].

Some may argue that people come before trees in the priority rankings. Be this as it may, the world would not come to an end if Kauri goes extinct. Apparently, every day species across the world go extinct. It is a natural process, isn’t it, called evolution? And evolution is a good thing, isn’t it? Arguably, the world is not the same without Kauri. Science may be able to bring back extinct species in the future, right? Maybe, or maybe some smoke too much of their own dope or have watched too many Hollywood movies.

Once Kauri disappear, the ecosystems are likely to change as well, over time. They’re already under threat of invasion by invasive non-endogenous species (AKA pests) that can easily become dominant. The spread of dominant species in NZ ecosystems is not too different from the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 across the world. It is natural evolution, helped a little by us hominoids, so it must be ok then.

There are some interesting parallels between the fightback against Kauri dieback and the response to Covid-19. Some (many) didn’t take things too seriously and some flouted the rules and got charged after several warnings. The (social) psychology has striking similarities too, but was obviously not spearheaded by Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Jacinda Ardern and there is a wee difference in money allocated in the Government Budget. Because priorities.

Getting buy-in to prevent the spread of kauri dieback is not unlike the government’s calls for co-operation in curbing Covid-19, Luitgard says. “We often refer to Covid because we have similar issues. We realise it’s partly communication; people have different values, different beliefs. Sometimes it comes down to communication through signage that is not effective.”

Indeed, the Māori way of viewing things is to see the inter-relationships, i.e. the links rather than the nodes of networks. An integrated way of mātauranga Māori and Western science and of seeing both together could be the way forward. As with most things, where there’s a will, there’s a way. This begs just one question.

16 comments on “Priorities? ”

  1. Another question is how to encourage more of this:

    I have only twenty acres,’ replied the old man; ‘I and my children cultivate them; and our labour preserves us from three great evils: weariness, vice, and want.’ Candide, on his way home, reflected deeply on what the old man had said. ‘This honest Turk,’ he said to Pangloss and Martin, ‘seems to be in a far better place than kings…. I also know,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.’


  2. gsays 2

    Good observations, Incignito.

    I heartily endorse the connection with nature, no matter what form it takes. There is no need for grand or picturesque vista. Simply abide with the sparrows, the gorse, the activity going on In the grass.

    Nature is largely chaos and is the antidote for order. We have an imposition of excess order in our lives, especially in Auckland.

  3. Patricia Bremner 3

    Thank you Incognito. A thought provoking piece. It made me look at my priorities, how I have responded and the effects on our family.

    Entitlement to travel each year to visit our youngest son on the Gold Coast, and other family in NSW came to a screaming halt. Our carbon footprint reduced.

    MSM Facebook and Skype became avenues for keeping in touch. Family pivoting to work from home.

    The fear for family affected by the virus.(they recovered well as they had been vaccinated).

    The effects on mental health.

    One pleasant family member has always appeared rather insular and self sufficient. An island around which life eddied He found after lock down and several weeks working from home he needed to contact family and friends on a regular basis He was missing the casual human interactions and outings with work mates quite badly. He has since joined two online clubs, chess and a discussion of current events group. His best friend has adopted him into his family bubble. He has attended to his physical health with more regular walks. He is a happier man who has gone on a special diet, which has led to the loss over the year of 30 kilos, leading to asthma control, no eczema, and loss of high blood pressure. He said covid made him evaluate his whole approach to people and life.

    I have become more fearful, as I had minor myocarditis after my second vaccine. Rare but frightening effect of heart palpitations shortness of breath and sharp stabbing chest pains now and then. This lasted about 4 days, and eased to just needing extra asthma medication for two weeks. I would not want covid, as a struggle to breathe when I had Polio at age 6 and the resulting "iron lung machine' is indelibly imprinted on my psyche.

    Although family in Australia listen to Jacinda Ardern and our health people for their advice, they are very nervous in the face of "opening up". We have all learned a great deal about co-morbidities.

    But you are right about the burgers!! After a moan about their current area of NSW being in lock down again, in the next breath, they were meeting another couple for a coffee and a burger lunch!! Different interpretations of Lock down.

    The family dynamics are challenged as well. I reflect we are reasonably compos mentis, but role challenges have appeared. It , lock down, must be excruciating for those dealing with mentally unstable or abusive housemates or family members.

    We find it harder to be tolerant and kind. It is easier to be short and a bit angry. Yes it is about freedom, which we had in abundance but treated with cavalier casualness.

    Now we understand more, "You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone". and unlikely to return in quite the same way.

    This virus is a result of human numbers imo causing crossover between species, and has caused a new mountain of waste, as we barely scrape the surface of preventing total climate collapse. We do need to urgently visit our priorities, and own that some personal freedoms have been destructive luxuries, and a simpler life may be a happier healthier road to live, sharing food wealth and health care on our way. Putting more resources towards marginalized groups may save us all and future children.

    I marvel at the calmness of the Government advisors and the cohesion of the Parliamentary team. The complexities of balancing and meeting the demands caused by this virus is compounding many issues, and inadequacy in some areas is being laid bare as never before. Ministers are being asked to step up in a way that has not happened since World War Two. Now regions and businesses with competing interests are fighting for recognition and challenging the Government programme of elimination.

    Shrill voices and supportive stories from vested interests resonate with a portion of New Zealand who have always felt "on the outside". Now the outcome is protest by these groups, which could cause a surge of the virus before vaccination has reached helpful levels. Political weaponising of a pandemic is a dangerous road. The virus does not recognize politics. Our priorities may be dictated by emergency actions because of this.

    • Gezza 3.1

      I'm widowed & live alone, by choice. I sometimes describe myself as a happy hermit – when I'm happy. I even tend to be a bit slack on the comms with whanau.

      But in lockdowns, "meeting places" like The Standard become my main means of daily social interaction, conversation, & mental stimulation.

      • Patricia Bremner 3.1.1

        It is a good place to put ideas out there. If they are too far off the wall someone will pull me back from the brink of stupidity. I just cast my swine in front of the pearls lol Yes we all react differently. I had practice awaiting a hip op and was wheelchair bound. Wow that made me appreciate walking driving and casual coffees, then Lo.. Lock down came 6 mths later.

  4. Ad 4

    Not sure if Kauri was the right example there.

    But the point's still right.

    There's been multiple bloggers who have drawn up the list of unfinished government business that they already have underway, including (no order of prioritisation):

    – water reforms

    – RMA successor legislation

    – DHB nationalisation, nurse pay dispute, re-builds of hospitals and staff

    – climate change mitigation budgets across whole of government

    – housing shortage

    I would be amazed if more than one of them is completed this parliamentary term.

    Underneath those biggies are smaller-but-tough policy areas that aren't going away like:

    – reforming local government

    – funding transport, including replacing petrol taxes, light rail, congestion charging

    – China, Australia and defence and intelligence relationships. Rescuing the PIF.

    – counter-terrorism reform

    – reforming immigration

    – re-shaping whole large industry sectors for resilient futures eg tourism, public media

    Maybe two of that second list will get a good shove this term – no more than that.

    NZ government will take until Budget 2022 to stabilise to 90% vaccinated and get all the new regulations for successful functioning society in place.

    After that we are pretty much on the downhill run into the next election.

    • SPC 4.1

      I would add trying to organise a rescue of the WTO – Trump trashed it by not making judicial appointments and Biden is doing nothing about this.

      The UK is reliant on the WTO as hopes of a FTA with the US fade (little wonder they want in on TPP).

      It’s time to work with the UN/EU etc to end US control of the WTO if they are using their position to obstruct free trade in the rest of the world (as they move to isolation or bi-lateral deals they impose on others).

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    The kauri are indeed one cure for some of the ills of our society, but I think we need to be careful of transference when we start shifting blame to pests. In many cases, the greatest threat to indigenous life is habitat destruction, and we humans are squarely to blame for it.

    It would have been nice to have a government that actually carried our country forward for the first time in my lifetime. But as it is it seems we must dig in and outlast Covid first. We'll be dead before there's social justice – and that realization is fatal to the pretense of democracy that is Blairism.

  6. Hunter Thompson II 6

    I agree, we run the risk of having Covid look like the only game in town. Other health problems carry on.

    I was many weeks in hospital in 2018 and can attest to the great work nurses do. They don't do it for the pay, either.

    Businesses who moan that they want "certainty" from the government are dreaming. Who knows how many Covid cases will appear tomorrow, and where?

  7. RedLogix 7

    Good post Incognito. Your final para reads especially well:

    An integrated way of mātauranga Māori and Western science and of seeing both together could be the way forward.

    Could I offer an extension of this idea. There are three broad categories of knowledge. observational/artesian, material/scientific and philosphical/spiritual. In our history each has had it's dominant time and place – but I would suggest that a future humanity will learn how to integrate all three in a meaningful – practical – fashion. Just a thought.

    • Ad 7.1

      Artesian? Something to do with wells?

      Or artisinal?

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        The latter – it was 6 in the morning when I typed that. blush.

        • Gezza

          *artisinal – relating to or characteristic of an artisan

          (Thought I’d better look it up & not just assume its meaning.)

          RL said:

          “There are three broad categories of knowledge. observational/[artisanal], material/scientific and philosphical/spiritual. In our history each has had it’s dominant time and place…”

          Depends how you look at history, don’t you think?

          I would maintain that all three have always coexisted in the same time and place. One might only appear doninant depending on whose history one is reading. The artisans, philosophers, & the spiritual people continued to observe events from their frame of reference.

          Certainly from MY perspective, I am coming to appreciate how much mātauranga Māori embodies all three in meaningful & practical ways, but I’m someone who likes to look at issues from as many different perspectives as I can.

          Sometimes it’s a blessing being innately like this; sometimes it’s a curse. Because it makes me slow to decide matters as, where different viewpoints conflict, I sometimes agonise having to choose one over the other.

          This is where I think there can sometimes be practical difficulties trying to integrate all three modes of thinking into practical solutions.

  8. SPC 8

    Today David Parker said elimination of the trusts used by foreigners here was not a priority because there was little impact on our tax revenues.

    So much for multilateralism and being part of global solutions (how many Kiwis have money in offshore trusts …).

    • Patricia Bremner 8.1

      The Law saying the Principal had to be named and had to have one person in the Trust with a NZ address. Wow 2000 odd disappeared almost overnight. Nowhere to hide anymore. (Passed after Monseca?sp)

  9. SPC 9

    There are c10,000 Aucklanders shut out of New Zealand – given we have community spread in Auckland and no longer plan elimination – why are we not bringing those vaccinated back in via home isolation?

    These are people who would no longer in the MI queue used by others with homes in the rest of New Zealand.

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