Deprived or oversupplied?

April 15, 2009

The headline says New Zealanders holiday deprived

It’s a story on the annual vacation deprivation survey which found 42% of New Zealanders failed to take all the annual leave to which they were entitled and the report says:

New Zealanders received an average of 21 annual leave days from their employer in the past year, but took only 18 days, the survey found.

Of the surveyed countries, New Zealanders were given the fifth-fewest annual leave days by their employers.

Received? Given? What about requested?

There is a difference. Four weeks annual leave has been the minimum entitlement since April 1, 2007. If employers haven’t been offering their staff the legal minimum, or have prevented them from taking it,  they’ve broken the law.

But is that the case or have workers chosen not to take their full entitlement?

Half of New Zealanders said they wanted to carry over their holidays to use the following year, while a third said work commitments were too great to take a break.

Half of those supposedly holiday-deprived appear to have chosen to postpone their leave, presumably to have a longer break, the following year.

As for those who say work commitments are too great, is that their choice or their employers’ requirement because if it’s the latter, again the employer would be breaking the law.

The report doesn’t mention statutory holidays either. New Zealanders are entitled to 11 of these each year and if they are requried to work on a stat. day they get a day off in lieu so those who took only 18 days annual leave ought to have had a total of 29 days off.

Four of the stat. days fall over the Christmas-New Year period so it’s possible to have three weeks away from work but, taking in weekends and stat. days, use only 11 days of the annual holiday entitlement. Two come at Easter and if you add a couple of weekends plus Good Friday and Easter Monday you get a 10 day break that uses only five days’ leave.

Time for  quiz:

1) Are New Zealanders really holiday deprived or do they choose not to take their full entitlement?

2) Is it relevant that the survey was conducted by an on-line travel company?

3) If the answer to 2 is yes is the story an example of spam journalism: The spurious use of sensational headlines to add spice to an otherwise pointless article. (MacDoctor definition)?


Biofuels kill rain forests & increase carbon

April 15, 2009

Generating energy from crops which can be planted year after year sounds as if it would be better than using carbon based fuel from finate sources.

But what if rain forests are being clear felled to plant oil palms for biofuel and what if the palms grown generate more carbon than petroleum?

Because oil palms don’t absorb as much CO2 as the rainforest or peatlands they replace, palm oil can generate as much as 10 times more carbon than petroleum, according to the advocacy group Food First. Thanks in large part to oil palm plantations, Indonesia is now the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, trailing only the US and China.

Yet Indonesia aims to expand these plantations from 16 million acres currently to almost 26 million by 2015. If deforestation, which is due largely to oil palm, continues at the present rate, 98 percent of the country’s forest—one of only a handful of large rainforests remaining in the world—will be degraded or gone by 2022. And although Indonesia has strict environmental regulations and formally recognizes customary land rights, those laws are only as effective as the local bureaucrats enforcing them.

Cropping for bioduels is still in its infancy in New Zealand and no-one is clear felling forests to plant them. But another criticism of biofuel crops is that they are replacing food crops and so contributing to global food shortages.

Companies involved with biofuel here say they won’t be using land previously used for food crops but that doesn’t leave a lot of productive land and if it wasn’t already productive you have to ask why?

Could it be that the soils weren’t very fertile in which case a lot of fertiliser will be needed to produce good yields? What’s the environmental impact of that?

Even if they don’t need extra fertiliser, can we be sure that the energy required to cultivate the land, sow and harvest the crops and produce the fuel from them isn’t greater than the energy that will be produced in the end?

Hat Tip: The NZ Week


The King’s Breakfast

April 15, 2009

It’s not butter but bread, and not just any bread but Vogel’s sunflower and barley which is missing from our breakfast table.

My farmer’s looked and I’ve looked but not a slice have we found in three different supermarkets.

No-one has, to my knowledge, written a poem about that, but it did remind me of The King’s Breakfast  by A.A. Milne which is today’s contribution to poetry month.

It comes from When We Were Very Young  published by Methuen & Co, 1924. 

The King’s Breakfast

 

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?”
The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, “Certainly,
I’ll go and tell the cow
Now
Before she goes to bed.”

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told
The Alderney:
“Don’t forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread.”
The Alderney
Said sleepily:
“You’d better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade
Instead.”

The Dairymaid
Said, “Fancy!”
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
“Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It’s very
Thickly
Spread.”

 

The Queen said
“Oh!:
And went to
His Majesty:
“Talking of the butter for
The royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Marmalade
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little
Marmalade
Instead?”

The King said,
“Bother!”
And then he said,
“Oh, deary me!”
The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
And went back to bed.
“Nobody,”
He whimpered,
“Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!”

The Queen said,
“There, there!”
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
Said, “There, there!”
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
“There, there!
I didn’t really
Mean it;
Here’s milk for his porringer,
And butter for his bread.”

 

The Queen took
The butter
And brought it to
His Majesty;
The King said,
“Butter, eh?”
And bounced out of bed.
“Nobody,” he said,
As he kissed her
Tenderly,
“Nobody,” he said,
As he slid down the banisters,
“Nobody,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man –
BUT
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”

 

      – A.A. Milne –


Kyoto surplus by accident

April 15, 2009

New Zealand appears to have exceeded its Kyoto target, but Climate Change Minister Nick Smith is treating that news with caution.

New Zealand is now expected to exceed its Kyoto target by 9.6 million tonnes –

a surplus worth an estimated $241 million, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith announced today. 

 

Dr Smith today released the 2009 Net Position Report for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012). The results for 2009 are in contrast to 2008 which projected a deficit of 21.7 million tonnes (an estimated cost of $546 million).

 

The main reasons for the change are the drop in agriculture emissions caused by the drought in 2007/08 and improved information on carbon storage in forests. 

 

“It is good news that we may exceed our Kyoto target but we need to be cautious of these projections given their volatility.

 

“It is difficult for the Government to make sound climate change policy when projections have ranged from a 55 million tonne surplus in 2002 to a 64 million tonne deficit in 2006 and when the figures over the past year have varied by 31 million tonnes equivalent to $787 million.

 

It’s not just difficult to make sound climate change policy, it’s impossible when Kyoto commitments aren’t about reducing globabl emissions and what’s best for the environment. They’re based on politics and bureaucracy not environmental best-practice.

 The significant changes in projections include:

  • Deforestation emissions down by 9.6 million tonnes (Mt) due to new data showing smaller trees being felled in land use changes
  • Post-1989 (Kyoto) forests absorbing 8.2Mt more of carbon due to the trees not being thinned and being planted on better soils
  • Drought conditions causing significant reductions of 10.3Mt in animal emissions due to fewer cattle, sheep and deer
  • More accurate data on nitrous oxide agricultural emissions resulting in a 3.8Mt improvement

 

“There has been no significant change in emissions from the energy, transport and industrial sectors. There has been a minor reduction due to the recession in transport emissions but this has been offset by the reduction in the fuel price since the 2008 peak and the effect of the previous Government’s decision to defer entry to the ETS two years.

 

“These changes in projections highlight how difficult it is to measure natural processes like farm animal and forestry emissions which demonstrate the unique Kyoto challenges that New Zealand has.”

 

Difficult is an understatement. The reduction in emissions wasn’t deliberate it was because of the drought which reinforces the problem we face in trying to reduce animal emissions without destroying our economy.

 

Whether or not you think the climate is changing and that people and animals are causing it, the wide variations in predictions must cause concern.

 

We’ve gone from projections for a large surplus to a larger deficit and now back to a possible, but temporary surplus and all seem to be a result of accident not design.

 


Nightmare flights

April 15, 2009

Things you don’t want to happen on a flight come in two categories.

There’s the annoying: being seated next to people who take more than their share of the space, drink too much, make too much noise, have a cold or other infectious illness . . .

Then there’s the dangerous: passenger lands plane after pilot dies at controls.


What’s the point of pregnancy? – Updated

April 15, 2009

Our first child was born by emergency ceasarean after the placenta gave way at 34 weeks.

We hadn’t got to unusual events at ante-natal classes so I had no idea how dangerous this was for the baby and me and I had only the vaguest idea about ceasars.

That might have been a good thing because almost everything I read about them after the birth was negative. Women who’d had them had wanted to have “natural” deliveries and because they hadn’t been able to they felt cheated, they felt they’d failed, they felt guilty.

That was 24 years ago and I’d hoped that things might have improved in the interim but today I came across the story of a baby who died  after an unassisted home birth and the Did I cheat . .  . post at The Hand Mirror which in turn reminded me of Plan C,  from last year which included this:

I was very very unhappy with the caesarean black-out the midwife seemed intent on, especially as our ante-natal class facilitator had gone on at some length about the evilness of any intervention in the birth process, practically portraying the various drugs as Death Eaters and casting the C-section as Voldemort himself.

How can anyone who regards themselves as a health professional make a woman feel this way?

And why do women put so much pressure on ourselves and each other to have “natural” deliveries?

 

 Birth is a natural process but so too is death and you only have to wander round old cemetries with so many graves of young women and their babies to realise what happened when it was all left to nature.

 

The whole point of being pregnant is to have a healthy baby and if delivering one requires assitance from health professionals, midwives and/or doctors, then we should be grateful they’re available.

Rather than seeing this as a failure we should be thankful that we’re not like women in other times who didn’t have access to modern medical practices,  or those in other countries now who still don’t have the luxury of first world health services.

Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, every delivery is different. But pregnancy and delivery aren’t competitions and they shouldn’t be political campaigns either.

 

Hat Tip: Clint Heine  

UPDATE: In light of Sandra’s comment – the baby in the link above didn’t die because it was a home birth, it was because the mother refused any assistanace.

 

UPDATE 2: Azlemed posts on birth . . . why do women feel like failures.

 

 


Tea Party Protest

April 15, 2009

That cup of tea which David Lange infamously stopped for 20 odd years ago came at the wrong time for New Zealand’s economy.

But fortunately many of the structural changes necessary for economic stability had been made and in spite of the last government’s anitpathy to the “failed” policies of the 80s most have largely been left untouched.

But the recession brings a new threat and if the government isn’t prepared to cut its coats to fit the cloth available today we’ll be creating debt which will dog the country and stunt its growth for many tomorrows.

 It’s tea party day in the USA, when communities across the country will be protesting against excessive government spending.

It’s an opportunity for us to let  our government know that it must curb its spending too because if it doesn’t  future growth will be strangled by too much debt.

Unlike the 1980s this might be the right time to pause for a cuppa.

Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media. 


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