Summer rerun: Deserted cities

Written By: - Date published: 8:28 am, January 11th, 2015 - 50 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Environment - Tags: ,

Is it too late for a summer holiday rerun? I read this stunningly depressing piece last night, and was pondering a post, when I realised that I’d written it already, or something very much like it, back in 2009. So in the spirit of recycling…


I think it is a pity that the currently dominant country / culture in the world, America, has had such a short history. Pakeha history in New Zealand suffers from the same limitation. All of our history has been about expansion and growth. “Progress”. It seems to us to be the natural state of affairs.

In many other countries people grow up in the shadow of a much longer history. Sometimes literally amidst the ruins of once great cities and empires. I visited a few many years ago. Vijayanagar, for example, was the seat of a South Indian empire from 1336 to 1646. The ruins of the city today are spread over 26 sq km. Temples, palaces, stables, tanks, siphons and pipework, chariots, markets – much of it still well preserved, much of it fading back into the harsh, red, rocky landscape.

Vijayanagar

Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of a Mughal empire, founded in 1570. It is a smaller site, and so perfect that it might have been abandoned just yesterday. This city was never sacked by war, it was simply evacuated by its people, abandoned just 15 years after it was built when the water supply failed. No water no people, just an empty city.

Fatehpur-Sikri

Such places impressed on me, in a way that growing up in NZ never had, that our civilisations and their works are both fragile and temporary. And I think the fact that too many people in the world today are missing this gut level understanding is one of the things that makes it so hard for us to address the global challenge of climate change. Too many people simply can’t believe, can’t even imagine, that the world that they see around them could suddenly and catastrophically change. It seems ludicrous, impossible, so those who say it is going to happen simply must be wrong. Because I have never broken my leg, my leg is unbreakable!

Well. Just rambling on a Sunday. But I wish that folk who can’t or won’t believe in the threat of global warming could spend time wandering in some of the ruined cities of the world. Or perhaps even just read Collapse (by Jared Diamond). I can’t help but wonder sometimes (when I am in a city) whether 500 years from now the people will be exploring our ruins. And if so, what they will think of us.

50 comments on “Summer rerun: Deserted cities”

  1. Jenny Kirk 1

    Hey – thanks for this ! Its a bit depressing as you say, but worth keeping in mind for when we’re ready to turn to more sobering activities after we’ve enjoyed our summer – which up here in the north – is worth celebrating about, right now. Its the best we’ve had for quite a few years ! (which is probably a reminder about climate change anyway).

  2. OhMyGodYes 2

    The meaning and the power we have given money has desensitized us to our own needs, the needs of others, and the need to care for the environment which sustains us.

    Our relationships with technologies have also disconnected us from each other and our natural environment.

    We are sleep walking our way into oblivion.

    What we are doing, and the way we are doing it, is in many ways utterly unsustainable.

    Our social fabric and our environment are increasingly being torn apart.

    When Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of western civilisation, he said “I think it would be a good idea”.

  3. Ad 3

    One of the points for comparison is New Zealand in the period 1974-1985. New Zealand responded to a series of crises with permanent results. The series of crises was in part from imported activist movements, in part form the oil crisis, and in part form reaction to Think Big and the Muldoonist state.

    Many different kinds of spatial order altered fast. Transistor radios, tape machines and amplifiers amplified and democratized aural space as never before. That includes Nambassa and other festivals.

    Motorways expanded massively enabling the quick acceleration of suburbanization in to the permanent periphery. Kawasaki motorbikes and other farm mechanization pushed the periphery of land use far deeper into the hinterland than ever before.

    Agrarian and feminist communes sprang up as retreats from the machine of the City.

    Civic activism itself became its more professionalized and effective, from the land marches, anti-war protests and Springbok Tour marches.

    Just to name a few. The major activist energies to this collapsed fast after the Lange government was installed in 1984 and after the blowing up of the Rainbow warrior in 1985.

    Our culture has shown in the past that it can respond to growing crisis, and take on wholly innovative forms in doing so. We don’t have to be pessimistic about the changes on our horizon.

    • Ad 3.1

      Also I forgot: every single car trip was regulated, through car-less days. Quite some National government!

      • Maui 3.1.1

        You’re talking about how we addressed single crises over that period. What we have to think about now is how we are living as a whole, which is exponentially harder. How do we change our food production, energy sources, personal transport, consumerism… This I think is a completely different ball game as we have to simultaneously look at all of these issues, and some.

        Also what change did we get from the 70s oil crisis, have car-less days become the norm today? No. It was a reactionary response. We still have the think-big projects in this era called the RoNS, showing us people at the top are quite willing to put our civilisation under threat, undoing any good work made by activism.

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          The change we got from 1970s and 1980s activism is a permanent understanding that whole cultural change is possible across massive fields of human activity and social structure. And we could do it in a different way to 1930s left activism.

          There is a distinct shorthand we have now when we say “that’s so seventies” that is both nostalgic and utopian. We still need the utopian impulse – the one where the Left gets to show clearly: this is what we need aim for together.

        • Murray Rawshark 3.1.1.2

          Carless days can backfire. In Auckland they didn’t worry me because I rode a motorbike. In São Paulo they have a rodizio, where you can’t drive at certain hours one day a week, depending on the last digit of your number plate. Those who were rich enough bought a second car for that day. Because they didn’t want to spend their hard stolen (not usually earned) money, it was usually cheap and polluting. Air pollution was a shocking problem.

  4. JMG series of posts is about to move into what WE can do.

    You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem. I know that those words are guaranteed to make the environmental equivalent of limousine liberals gasp and clutch their pearls or their Gucci ties, take your pick, but there it is; it really is as simple as that. There are at least two reasons why that maxim needs to be taken seriously. On the one hand, if you’re clinging to an unsustainable lifestyle in the teeth of increasingly strong economic and environmental headwinds, you’re not likely to be able to spare the money, the free time, or any of the other resources you would need to contribute to a solution; on the other, if you’re emotionally and financially invested in keeping an unsustainable lifestyle, you’re likely to put preserving that lifestyle ahead of things that arguably matter more, like leaving a livable planet for future generations.

    … An acronym I introduced a while back in these posts might well be worth revisiting here: LESS, which stands for “Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation.” That’s a convenient summary of the changes that have to be made to move from today’s unsustainable lifestyles to ways of living that will be viable when today’s habits of absurd extravagance are fading memories.

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.nz/2015/01/a-camp-amid-ruins.html

    “Too many people simply can’t believe, can’t even imagine, that the world that they see around them could suddenly and catastrophically change.”

    Yes that is true – this is the boiling frog stuff and the water is already hot. For those who can see it the time to change was yesterday and now the focus must be on creating resilience and community. Collapse is often slow and non-linear with periods of plateau before slides – any preparation is better than no preparation and the megadeath sudden collapse idea imo often creates a rabbit in the headlight explosion as “what the hell do I do, what can I do” stiffens us into inactivity.

    The Standard is a valuable resource for us to share ideas and create hope, create resilience and create community. Kia kaha

    • Colonial Rawshark 4.1

      Yep I reckon this will be a very important series of posts from Greer.

    • gsays 4.2

      you are right marty.
      a few years back when self employed in hospitality i learnt (after a while) that the more money you have the more you need. it was never quite enough.

      recently we have been trying to make do on one wage coming into the house. while building resilience in the house hold and community. (gardens, we are off-grid, heat our water with firewood and solar, volunteer community work etc).

      it is a long slow road but ultimately rewarding. the biggest hidden benefit is the other people and their journey and experiences.

      i think it was matt johnson of the the: only a rat can win the rat race.

  5. The lost sheep 5

    America has no awareness of the past, so we should read an American author in order to enlighten us on the lessons the past offers?
    Can’t help thinking you have undermined your own lead thesis there Anthony!

    But agree completely that ‘Collapse’ is an essential read for anyone with a genuine concern for the future.

    And as your post was prompted by a ‘stunningly depressing’ article you read last night, it’s worth pointing out that ‘Collapse’ is not a fatalistic work.

    Diamond not only discusses examples of successful cultural adaption to potentially lethal environmental factors, but his last chapter is entitled ‘Reasons for hope’, and in it he puts forward an optimistic view of our chances of avoiding catastrophe.

    Equally good reading for the ‘doom-sayers’ as the ‘deniers’ IMO.

  6. saveNZ 6

    Solar and renewable energy is so much cheaper and can be individualised (i.e. you own your own panels etc), it is no wonder the energy producers are fighting to keep the status quo. Here is an article about how the oil companies are fighting back…

    http://www.salon.com/2015/01/10/we_dare_you_to_stop_us_inside_big_oils_sinister_plan_to_derail_the_anti_carbon_movement_partner/

    extract …But this vision, like so much contemporary advertising, is based on a lie: in this case, on the increasingly bizarre idea that, in the twenty-first century, humanity can burn its way through significant parts of the planet’s reserves of fossil fuels to achieve a world in which everything is essentially the same — there’s just more of it for everyone. In the world portrayed by Exxon, it’s possible for a reassuring version of business-as-usual to proceed without environmental consequences. In that world, the unimpeded and accelerated release of carbon into the atmosphere has no significant impact on people’s lives. This is, of course, a modern fairy tale that, if believed, will have the most disastrous of results.

    Someday, it will also be seen as one of the more striking lies on whatever’s left of the historical record. In fact, follow this vision to 2040, burning through whatever fossil fuels the energy companies and energy states can pull out of the earth and the ballooning carbon emissions produced will ensure planetary warming far beyond the two degrees Celsius deemed by scientiststo be the maximum that the planet can safely absorb without catastrophic climate effects.

    In fact, those dreamy landscapes in the new pro-carbon version of the planetary future will, in reality, be replaced by burning forests, flooded coastlines, and ever-expanding deserts. Forget the global rise of the middle class, forget all those cars and trucks and planes and resorts, forget the good life entirely. As climate conditions deteriorate, croplands will wither, coastal cities and farmlands will be eradicated, infrastructure will be devastated, the existing middle class will shrink, and the poor will face ever-increasing deprivation.

  7. What a staggeringly pointless summer brainfade.
    For a start the US does not have a short history.
    It began as a colony of European powers, specifically Britain and France.
    The current US territory also included part of a Spanish colony, Mexico.
    The settlers came into collision with indigenous peoples who originally migrated from Asia with a history going back millennia.

    If you are going to throw into your speculative meanderings the Mogul empire and Jared Diamond, then at least have an attempt at evaluating his historical overview and look for a general pattern in the spread of civilisations and their capacity to survive.

    The problem with Diamond’s theory is that he focusses on effects and not causes.
    If he puts up a cause its is overpopulation.

    However overpopulation is an effect of social organisation.

    The most parsimonious theory of long-term societal change is Marxism.
    Societies organise to produce to meet their needs. This becomes increasingly efficient (saving of labor time) as new technology is invented. The ability to create a surplus avoids extreme dependency on ‘nature’ (though humans are also part of nature). It also allows population planning as labour becomes more productive (the demographic transition).

    The accumulation of surplus into the hands of a ruling classes introduces exploitation, inequality and hence imposes a relative scarcity on the producers with some of the effects Diamond lists (having more children to subsist, intensive exploitation of nature, scarcity of resources and so on) none of which are ‘natural’.

    This class exploitation of humans/nature puts a limit on growth and motivates the historical revolutionary turning points when they remove the existing ruling class.

    The whole of the recent history which passes for ‘history’ of the mindless variety, is the history of capitalism. Capitalism imposes an artificial social barrier to the efficient reproduction of humanity/nature because it subordinates it to the profit motive. The 1% lives in fantastic luxury while most of the 99% barely subsist.

    This social determination of life as we know it today manifests itself in an existential crisis of ecological disaster and human extinction.

    One would think that this would induce a pessimistic torpor if it were not for the long history of revolutionary changes that enabled humanity to respond to crises of ‘breakdown’ by rising up and throwing out the parasitic ruling classes and so take control of the means of subsistence.

    I don’t see the masses who are protesting the destructive drive of capitalist breakdown lying down and submitting to extinction do you?

    Revolution is our task and cause for optimism today.

    • r0b 7.1

      What a staggeringly pointless summer brainfade.

      Yeah I know, but that’s kinda what I do here.

      The problem with Diamond’s theory is that he focusses on effects and not causes.

      I think you need to read the book again. He sets out his five-point framework of contributing causes in the prologue, and that thinking underlies his whole analysis. Chapter 14 draws together further thoughts about causes.

      Revolution is our task and cause for optimism today.

      A revolution in thinking is needed yes.

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        And indeed Diamond concludes that one of the most toxic ’causes’ of collapse – the one that inevitably results in the fall – is the presence of a tiny, privileged elite who are insulated from what is going on for the ordinary people.

        And for this reason, coddled in luxury and immune to consequences, they are utterly unaware of the warning signs until far too late. Their final remaining privilege is to be the last to starve – grim witness to their fecklessness.

        • r0b 7.1.1.1

          Thanks goodness that sort of thing couldn’t possibly happen in these enlightened times.

          • RedLogix 7.1.1.1.1

            Yeah – apparently this time it will be different.

            • Colonial Rawshark 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Their final remaining privilege is to be the last to starve – grim witness to their fecklessness.

              Actually, history shows that well before it comes to that, many members of the self-styled elite end up swinging from lamp posts, or dulling guillotine blades.

            • The lost sheep 7.1.1.1.1.2

              It is completely different this time around, as Diamond points out.

              The fact that we are conducting a world wide debate on this issue, at all levels of our societies, driven by hard science based predictions of the consequences of our actions is just one of those differences.

              There are many concrete reasons to be optimistic we are perfectly capable of a successful adjustment to the Climate Change issue.

        • dave brown 7.1.1.2

          Nevertheless for Diamond the role of elites is secondary to an environmental determinism.
          The historic role of ruling classes in actively exploiting humans and nature is reduced to biology motivating individuals in the market.
          Similarly solutions are to be found only by means of the profit motive. eg Chevron as the model of green capitalism.
          No mention of the need for the people to rise up and kick out the murderous bastards who are profiting from destroying the world.

          http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/JaredDiamond1.htm
          http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/JaredDiamond2.htm
          http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/JaredDiamond3.htm
          http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/ecology/JaredDiamond4.htm

          Which concludes:
          “If Chevron in Papua New Guinea is supposed to be a model for enlightened corporate management, then perhaps the fate of the earth is that which befell the Mayans and Easter Islanders. Contrary to Jared Diamond, the best hope for humanity is in the youth who threw a cream pie in the face of the Chevron CEO and the indigenous people of Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere who are resisting the incursions of mining and drilling companies. With their efforts and the efforts of working people in the industrialized world, a global struggle against capitalism has the potential to remove the greatest obstacle to environmental sustainability: the private ownership of the means of production.”

  8. The lost sheep 8

    “The 1% lives in fantastic luxury while most of the 99% barely subsist.”

    No overstatement there then!!!!

    • Paul 8.1

      Recommended read on this topic
      End Game by Derrick Jensen.

      From wiki
      ‘Endgame is a two-volume work by Derrick Jensen, published in 2006, which argues that civilization is inherently unsustainable and addresses the resulting question of what to do about it.’

      • The lost sheep 8.1.1

        All very well Paul, but the point I was making was that Dave’s claim that ‘ the 99% are barely existing’ is a gross exaggeration of the current reality.

    • Macro 8.2

      Not at all!
      http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/10/daily-chart-8
      read and learn.
      You might well be in the 1% – I know I am.

      • weka 8.2.1

        Yes, but surely those figures need to be understood in the context of the cost of living of different places?

        • Macro 8.2.1.1

          You obviously did not read the link! To suggest that NZ is representative of a cross section of the world’s population is nonsense. If you read the link you would be astounded to learn that NZers, by and large, would be represented in the top 10% – a “mere” $77,000, and many are 1%ers (Just $800,000 qualifies one for that).
          Half the world’s population have less than $3,700 in assets – now there are some in NZ, I will grant you, who fall into this category. But not half the population.

          When we talk of the 1% ers we are indeed talking about a world wide grouping. So yes NZers are a major part of the problem of world inequality and injustice.

          Yes costs of living do vary around the world weka, but not significantly in the western world. For instance, there is cheaper buying in the States than in Canada, but the Canadians earn substantially higher wages than the those in the States.

          • weka 8.2.1.1.1

            I did read the link, in the context of lost sheep’s comment,

            “The 1% lives in fantastic luxury while most of the 99% barely subsist.”

            No overstatement there then!!!!

            In fact I read the link a couple of times because I couldn’t make sense of it. What I saw were figures that talk about money as if money is worth the same thing everywhere.

            I am in no way disputing that there is gross inequality of wealth, and I haven’t said anything about NZ being representative of the world (nor has anyone else that I can see). The original comment by dave brown doesn’t appear to be about NZ either, so not sure where you got that from.

            What I don’t get is how that link demonstrates that 99% of the world’s population barely subsist. Your comment hasn’t made it any clearer I’m afraid.

            When I first read the lost sheep’s comment I went and looked for figures myself but gave up because I couldn’t find the analysis that put world percentages in the context of subsistence vs whatever is above subsistence. I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

            edit, ok, I’ve just seen the lost sheep’s comment below about NZ. That’s not where I was coming from at all.

            • Macro 8.2.1.1.1.1

              What I am saying is simply this:
              “You cannot extrapolate from the situation in NZ onto the rest of the world. We are a very unrepresentative sample.”
              Yes poverty exists in NZ. I’m not saying that.
              What I am saying is – from the figures given by a reputable economic source – a very high proportion of the world’s population struggle to exist. I think that is obvious from the figures given as to just how little the majority have when compared to the 1 %. But returning to NZ, even if one has $500,000 in assets (and that would put you close to the 1% ile) – it doesn’t mean that one is not struggling to make ends meet. Ask any food bank volunteer about the cross section of people who have turned up in need this xmas!

              • weka

                Ok, but I don’t know why you are saying that to me, because I’m not talking about NZ, and it still doesn’t address the issue I raised of wealth being relative to cost of living.

                Poverty isn’t about how little one has in relation to other people. It’s about how little one has in relation to one’s needs.

                The problem with the 1% is that they acrue and use their wealth at the expense of other people and the planet. Plus the whole overshoot thing.

      • The lost sheep 8.2.2

        To ‘Barely subsist’ is to have the absolute minimum amount of the necessities of life. To suggest that 99% of NZ’ers are in that situation is complete nonsense.

        The analysis of world wide wealth is an interesting one indeed, because most drivers of the ‘inequality’ debate here in Aotearoa have been very careful to limit their concept of poverty to the comparison of wealth within individual countries.

        It puts a whole different perspective on things when you place an equal value on people regardless of borders.
        Many people on benefits here in Aotearoa would actually belong to the top 20% of wealth worldwide?

        • weka 8.2.2.1

          “To suggest that 99% of NZ’ers are in that situation is complete nonsense.”

          Who apart from you has made that suggestion?

          • The lost sheep 8.2.2.1.1

            Dave Brown said “The 1% lives in fantastic luxury while most of the 99% barely subsist.”

            I am saying that to say that of NZ is a gross exaggeration. (Nobody is claiming that poverty is higher than 20%?).

            Macro’s figures show that it is also untrue of the world as a whole. At least 20% are actually quite wealthy.

            So whatever the actual numbers might be on ‘barely subsisting’ in either Aotearoa or worldwide, and however you feel about that, Dave’s statement is clearly untrue.

            • Colonial Rawshark 8.2.2.1.1.1

              I think the top 1/3 of NZers do relatively OK. And many in the bottom 2/3 are economically sheltered by parents, friends, family members or spouses who do own their homes and have good incomes.

            • weka 8.2.2.1.1.2

              “I am saying that to say that of NZ is a gross exaggeration”

              Yes, but Dave’s comment is quite clearly about the situation globally (whether we agree with that or not).

        • greywarshark 8.2.2.2

          @ the lost sheep
          Many people on benefits here in Aotearoa would actually belong to the top 20% of wealth worldwide?

          It’s that sort of statement that sounds like a RW spreading the usual sort of misinformation about benefits.remembering that for rational discussion to ensue we must remember that poverty is relative, and RW like to argue the level of deprivation that signals the poverty label.

          If you had just pointed out that the comment about 99% barely subsisting is exaggeration and a load of poppycock and that Dave Brown (at No. 7) should supply a link to a reliable source of statistics it would have shortened your comment satisfactorily.

          • The lost sheep 8.2.2.2.1

            See that now Greywarshark.
            That was purely my point, but obviously I over complicated it.

  9. Murray Rawshark 9

    An interesting point of view, basically saying that the cultural hegemony comes from a country with a short history. I hadn’t thought of that before, but it makes a lot of sense. Of course, it can only happen when Native American history is ignored. Or in our case to a lesser temporal extent, Maori history.

  10. Macro 10

    I can’t help but wonder sometimes (when I am in a city) whether 500 years from now the people will be exploring our ruins. And if so, what they will think of us.

    Most of our major cities will be underwater by then Rob.

    Sorry – just saying. 🙂

    Last time the earth had 400ppm CO2 sea level was around 10m higher than today.

    The last time the concentration of Earth’s main greenhouse gas reached this mark, horses and camels lived in the high Arctic. Seas were at least 30 feet higher—at a level that today would inundate major cities around the world.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/05/130510-earth-co2-milestone-400-ppm/

    But I agree with your post – thanks.

  11. vto 11

    New Zealand peoples’ history is not short at all, it is exactly the same length as every other peoples …… all people go back to common ancestors don’t they, so this idea that we have short history is just bunkum, and it annoys me when others suggest such.

    The idea that we have short history is obviously due to a shallow thought that history is limited to geographical location or the currently existing culture. Those Indian cities you cited r0b are a good example of this – likely entirely different culture than today’s India yet still accepted as part of India’s history. We can apply the same – our past includes entirely different cultures than today’s NZ yet they are legitimately part of our history.

    The problem of course is our lack of awareness of such, which you allude to. Lack of awareness due to geographical reasons ….. funnily enough

  12. disturbed 12

    OhMyGodYes said on blog# 2,

    “The meaning and the power we have given money has desensitized us to our own needs, the needs of others, and the need to care for the environment which sustains us.”

    FJK is a money worshipper and has no God, so he is systematically polluting our entire society with his vision of a “Money God” using the MSM as his messenger.

    This reminds us of the fall of the Roman empire after years of absolute decadence and worshipping false Gods right?

    Funny how history is repeating itself again now.

    Remember back in August 7th 2014 when the blog said what key was sending us to as he is relying to heavily on Dairy as the Money God?
    Here’s a reminder of the thread prediction of an 8% decline in a week in August Dairy has now slid to un-economic production levels now in Dairy prices.
    Quote’
    “Falling milk prices highlight danger of National’s economic strategy” Written By: notices and features – Date published: 7:11 pm, August 6th, 2014 – 39 comments
    Categories: China, Economy, election 2014, exports, farming, greens, International, national, same old national – Tags:
    dairy
    “This press release from the Greens pretty well sums up the situation that National have left the economy in.
    Once you remove the rebuild effects from the Christchurch earthquakes, our increasingly undiversified economy is looking in pretty poor shape for the decade ahead.
    ________________________________________

    Falling dairy prices are highlighting the danger of National’s economic strategy that focuses on the export of a few, simple commodities, the Green Party said today.
    Dairy prices are down 8.4 percent this week – a 41 percent fall from their highs in February. Whole milk prices are down 11.5 percent largely due to weaker demand from China.
    “National’s economic strategy has simplified our economy and concentrated our exports on a few, low-value-added commodities,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
    “National has bet the farm on the farm and it isn’t working. A growing reliance on one or two commodity exports has made our economy more vulnerable to commodity price swings.
    “Producing increasing amounts of milk powder also has huge, downstream environmental impacts. We need to build a smart green economy with much lower carbon emissions and water pollution.”
    “A smarter way forward is to invest in innovation and policies that support our manufacturing and ICT export sectors.
    “National is not building a strong, resilient export sector.”
    Unquote.

    .

  13. Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 13

    I can’t help but wonder sometimes (when I am in a city) whether 500 years from now the people will be exploring our ruins. And if so, what they will think of us.

    What they will think of us?

    They will uncover – from the earlier layers to the more recent – a series of large ruins from churches to palaces, then to banks and to shopping malls, stadiums, convention centres and casinos.

    Oh, let’s also not forget prisons.

  14. Anyone here know the poem “Ozymandias”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley?

    “I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    What’s the relevance? The ideas that civilisations rise and fall, that we are all mortal no matter how we try to deny it, that nature is more powerful than humanity and that we should look to our history and learn from it (but that we don’t). A meditation on human arrogance.

    Of course, it’s about other things too (the power of art), but this post and discussion line evoked thoughts about a lot of the things Shelley was thinking about 200 years ago. Maybe I’m being loose, too, but I prefer the word philosophical.

  15. Sable 15

    The US is a lame duck that is barely managing 5% growth and even then only be robbing everyone else. The real dominant country in the world today is China. I just got back and the growth there is phenomenal if very dirty. Currently sitting on 7% growth and showing every sign of rising In spite of US rhetoric to the contrary.

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    23 hours ago
  • New Zealand deeply concerned at developments in north-east Syria
    Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand continues to have serious concerns for peace and stability in north-east Syria. “Recent reports that hundreds of ISIS-affiliated families have fled from a camp are deeply concerning from a humanitarian and security perspective”, Mr Peters says. “While we acknowledge Turkey’s domestic security ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    23 hours ago
  • Government on high alert for stink bugs
    Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is warning travelling Kiwis to be vigilant as the high-season for the crop-eating brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is under way. “We’re on high alert to stop BMSB arriving in NZ. The high season runs until April 30 and we’ve strengthened our measures to stop stink ...
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    24 hours ago
  • Better protections for students in halls of residence
    The Government is moving swiftly to change the law to improve the welfare and pastoral care of students living in university halls of residence and other tertiary hostels. Cabinet has agreed to several changes, including creating a new mandatory Code of Practice that sets out the duty of pastoral care ...
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    2 days ago
  • New trapping guide for community and expert trappers alike
    The Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage has launched a new comprehensive trapping guide for community trappers to help them protect our native birds, plants and other wildlife, at Zealandia in Wellington today. ‘A practical guide to trapping’, has been developed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and was launched during ...
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    2 days ago
  • Widening Access to Contraceptives Welcomed
    Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter welcomes PHARMAC’s move to improve access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). PHARMAC has today announced it will fund the full cost of Mirena and Jaydess for anyone seeking long term contraception, lifting previous restrictions on access to Mirena. “I welcome women having greater choices ...
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    2 days ago
  • Major upgrade for Taranaki Base Hospital
    The Government has approved the next stage of a major redevelopment of Taranaki Base Hospital, which will deliver new and improved facilities for patients. Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced details of a $300 million dollar project to build a new East Wing at the New Plymouth hospital. It ...
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    3 days ago
  • Extra support for rural families
    Extra funding will allow Rural Support Trusts to help farming families, says Minister for Rural Communities and Agriculture Damien O’Connor. “I know that rural families are worried about some of the challenges facing them, including the ongoing uncertainty created by the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak. “Those concerns sit alongside ongoing worries ...
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    4 days ago
  • Howard Leaque Beekeeper programme graduation
    Thank you for the opportunity to be here to present certificates to the 16 graduates who have completed a beekeeping course delivered by the Howard League.  Let us start by acknowledging Auckland Prison’s Deputy Prison Director Tom Sherlock, and Acting Assistant Regional Commissioner of Corrections Northern Region Scott Walker - ...
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    5 days ago
  • Finance Minister to attend APEC meetings
    Finance Minister Grant Robertson leaves this weekend to attend the APEC Finance Ministers meeting in Santiago, Chile. Discussions between APEC Finance Ministers at the meeting will include the effects of the current global economic uncertainty, risks for APEC economies and sustainable development of the region. While at APEC Grant Robertson ...
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    5 days ago
  • Pacific languages are a source of strength, they ground us and build confidence
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says for Pacific people, language can be a source of strength. It can help ground us and give us confidence. When we speak them, our languages provide us with an immediate and intimate access to our identity and our story - and ...
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    5 days ago
  • Major boost to support disabled people in sport and recreation
    The Coalition Government has announced an action plan to improve the wellbeing of disabled New Zealanders by addressing inequalities in play, active recreation and sport. The initiative includes training to develop a workforce that understands the needs of children and young people with a range of impairments, advocacy for fit ...
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    5 days ago
  • More prefab homes to be built as red tape cut
    The construction sector is being freed up to allow more homes to be built more quickly as the Government cuts through some of the red tape of the Building Act.  “Every New Zealander deserves a warm, dry, safe home and old inefficiencies in the Building Act make building slow and ...
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    5 days ago
  • Further details of Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit to New Zealand
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed further details on the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s visit to New Zealand next month. Their Royal Highnesses will visit New Zealand from 17-23 November – their third joint visit to New Zealand and first in four years. They arrive in Auckland ...
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    5 days ago
  • O’Connor in Thailand to push for RCEP deal
    Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth and Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, heads to Thailand today to attend the final Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministerial meeting, as negotiations enter their final stages. “The RCEP Agreement would anchor New Zealand in a regional agreement that covers 16 countries, ...
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    5 days ago
  • Young Pacific people can access earning and learning opportunities in Hawke’s Bay, Otago and South...
    Pacific young people living in the Hawke’s Bay, Southland and Otago regions will have access to support services that have proved successful in helping young people find new earning and learning opportunities. “Tupu Aotearoa is about changing Pacific young peoples’ lives. Our young people are talented, they are smart, they ...
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    6 days ago
  • Protecting wellbeing – ACC HQSC Trauma Forum
    Introduction As the Minister for ACC I thank you all for the work that you do supporting New Zealanders in their literally most vulnerable moments. From those who hold people’s lives in their hands, to the people who research technique, technology and trends, your work is highly valued. A special ...
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    6 days ago
  • NZ economy in good shape – notes prepared for speeches in Christchurch
    Notes prepared for speeches in Christchurch – Wednesday 9 October 2019 Today’s topic, “trends and opportunities for the New Zealand economy,” is certainly one getting a great deal of commentary at the moment. Looking across the media landscape lately you’ll notice we aren’t the only ones having this discussion. There ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • World Mental Health Day a reminder of the importance of mental health work
    Minister of Health Dr David Clark and Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare say this year’s World Mental Health Day theme is a reminder of why the Government’s work on mental health is so important. “This year the World Federation for Mental Health has made suicide prevention the main theme ...
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    6 days ago
  • Cultural Ministers Meeting
    Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni will represent the government at Australia’s Meeting of Cultural Ministers in Adelaide this week. “This year’s meeting is special because New Zealand is expected to become an International Member of the Meeting of Cultural Ministers at this Australian forum,” Carmel Sepuloni said. “The meeting is an opportunity to ...
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    7 days ago
  • 608 claims resolved by GCCRS in first year
    The Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service has resolved 608 insurance and EQC claims in its first year in operation, Minister Megan Woods has announced. The government service, which celebrates its first birthday today, provides a one stop shop to help Cantabrians still battling to get their homes repaired or rebuilt ...
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    7 days ago
  • NZ economy in good shape
    Today’s topic, “trends and opportunities for the New Zealand economy,” is certainly one getting a great deal of commentary at the moment. Looking across the media landscape lately you’ll notice we aren’t the only ones having this discussion. There has been an increasing amount of attention paid to the outlook ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • NZTA to refocus on safety following review
    The Government is acting swiftly to strengthen NZTA’s regulatory role following a review into the Transport Agency, and Ministry of Transport’s performance as its monitor, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today. An independent review by Martin Jenkins has found NZTA failed to properly regulate the transport sector under the previous ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Joint Cooperation Statement on Climate Change between the Netherlands and New Zealand
    The Netherlands and New Zealand have a long-standing and close relationship based on many shared interests and values. We value the rule of law, our democracies, and multilateralism.  And we value our environment – at home and globally. Right now there are major global challenges in all of these areas – ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government putting right Holidays Act underpayment in Health
    The Government is putting right a decade’s worth of underpayment to nurses, doctors and other health workers, says Health Minister Dr David Clark.  Initial sampling of District Health Boards payroll records has found that around $550-$650 million is owed to DHB staff to comply with the Holidays Act. It’s expected ...
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    1 week ago
  • Government accounts show strong economy
    A strong surplus and low debt show the economy is performing well, and means the Government is in a good position to meet the challenges of global economic uncertainty. “The surplus and low levels of debt show the economy is in good shape. This allows the Government to spend more ...
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    1 week ago
  • Ministers approve application to expand Waihi mine
    New applications from mining company OceanaGold to purchase land in Waihi for new tailings ponds associated with its gold mines have been approved. Minister of Finance Grant Robertson and Associate Minister of Finance David Parker considered the applications under the Overseas Investment Act. Earlier this year, applications from OceanaGold to ...
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    1 week ago
  • Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla launches with tribute to tangata whenua
    New Zealanders in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa / Poverty Bay will witness Māori, Pākehā and Pacific voyaging traditions come together today as the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla assembles for the first time, Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis says. “Tuia 250 is a national commemoration and an opportunity for honest conversations ...
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    1 week ago
  • Visit to advance trade agenda with Europe and the Commonwealth
    Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker leaves tomorrow for Dubai, London and Berlin for a series of meetings to advance New Zealand’s trade interests.  In Dubai he will visit New Zealand’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 where construction is underway.  There he will meet Minister of State for International Cooperation, Her ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • More cancer drugs confirmed – even more on horizon
    Confirmation that PHARMAC will fund two new cancer drugs is further evidence of the good progress the Government is making to improve the treatment of New Zealand’s leading cause of death, Health Minister David Clark says. From 1 December PHARMAC will fund alectinib (Alecensa) for ALK positive advanced non-small cell ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Boost for women in high performance sport
    An additional $2.7 million has been announced for the Government Strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation on the first anniversary of the strategy’s launch. Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson gave the opening address to the first Sport NZ Women + Girls Summit in Wellington today, ...
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    1 week ago
  • Parent support to help retain skilled migrants
    As part of its work to ensure businesses can get the skilled workers they need, the Coalition Government is re-opening and re-setting the Parent Category visa programme, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says. The move will: support skilled migrants who help fill New Zealand’s skills gaps by providing a pathway for ...
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    1 week ago
  • Senior NZDF Officer to lead Peacekeeping Mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
    Minister of Defence Ron Mark has today announced Major General Evan Williams of the New Zealand Defence Force has been selected as the commander of a significant, longstanding peacekeeping mission in the Middle East. In December, Major General Williams takes over as Force Commander for the Multinational Force and Observers ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Nurses star as Govt rebuilds health workforces
    A record number of nurses are now working to deliver health services to New Zealanders as the Government’s increased funding and new initiatives rebuild key workforces start to show results, Health Minister Dr David Clark says. •    1458 more DHB nurses since the Government took office •    106 more midwives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New agricultural trade envoy appointed
    Farmer and former Nuffield scholar Mel Poulton has been appointed New Zealand’s Special Agricultural Trade Envoy, Minister for Trade and Export Growth, David Parker, and Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, announced today. The position supports key Government objectives, including raising the value of New Zealand agricultural goods and services. Mel is ...
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    1 week ago
  • Pacific and Māori voyaging heritage celebrated for Tuia 250
    New Zealand’s Pacific and Māori voyaging heritage is acknowledged and celebrated today as waka of the Tuia 250 voyage flotilla arrive in Tūranga / Gisborne. “Today we celebrate Tangata Whenua, the first people of Aotearoa, and the triumphs of the voyaging tradition that brought our ancestors here from Polynesia 1000 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pacific languages are a root from which prosperity will grow
    “Fijian Language Week starts on Sunday and the theme reminds us how important it is that we each have something to anchor ourselves to, something that can help us pause and feel in control in a rapidly changing world,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio. “Family, culture, faith, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • NZ Government establishes innovative, industry-focused Airspace Integration Trials Programme
    The Government is establishing an Airspace Integration Trials Programme to support the safe testing and development of advanced unmanned aircraft and accelerate their integration into the aviation system, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today. The Government will work with leading, innovative aviation industry partners to test and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago