Doctors get prescription wrong

October 12, 2009

The doctors who are criticising the government’s climate change policy have got their prescription wrong.

Twenty-six doctors, mainly public health practitioners, have put their name to the article in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, which says the country “must rapidly halve its greenhouse gas emissions”.

A further 69 doctors are listed in support of the article. . . . The article argues for a much tougher policy than the Government has adopted, mainly to reduce the potential impact of climate change, but the authors note a positive spin-off would be to improve public health, such as through more cycling leading to reduced heart disease

Halving emissions by 2020 as they urge, would seriously damage our economy which in turn would substantially reduce the health services we could afford.

Some of the signatories are employed by the Minsitry of Health and their jobs would probably be among those at risk if the government followed their prescription.

It would also have little or no impact on the environment. 

If climate change is human induced it is a global problem. Reducing our tiny contribution of carbon emissions – about .1% – would take a huge effort and incur a great cost but have little or no impact on the world’s emissions.


Auction for some things money can’t usually buy

October 12, 2009

The book Shadrach Girl by Joy Cowley is dedicated to Elizabeth McCone and her daughter, Andrea.

There is a story behind that dedication.

An auction to raise funds to build a new, indoor swimming pool in Oamaru 10 years ago include a lot for something money can’t usually buy: the right to name a character in one of Joy Cowley’s books.

The highest bidder was then Waitaki District Council deputy mayor Elizabeth McCone who asked Joy to name one of the characters Andrea, after her daughter.

She also got a copy of the manuscript when it was sent to the publisher and the dedication.

The right to name a character isn’t one of the lots in the Storylines Fundraising auction but there are plenty of other things and experiences which money can’t usually buy.

They include: a Hairy McLary portrait signed by Lynley Dodd; a sketch by Ant Sang, one of the creators of Bro Town; Maurice Gee’s typewriter; lunch at Weta Workshop and a behind-the-scenes tour of WotWots production; lunch with Kate De Goldi; a collection of all Margaret Mahy books which are in print; a three hour sailing trip on the Spirit of New Zealand  with Tessa Duder and attending an orchestra rehearsal with her.

Hat Tip: Jim Mora who interviewed Tessa about the auction on Afternoons.


You can win with SST short story people’s choice

October 12, 2009

The Sunday Star Times Short Story Awards  has a new category for People’s Choice.

You can read a short excerpt from each of the 10 finalists then vote for your choice.

There’s a prize for the writer of the winning story and the chance of a prize for each voter.

The writer will receive People’s Choice Award at the awards evening and get $750 in cash, $250 worth of books from Random House, and their story will be published in the Sunday Star-Times alongside the judge’s choices.

Everyone who votes will go into the draw to win 1 of 3 ‘Six Packs’ from NZ Book Month.

I voted for The Concentrators but have to declare a bias. I’m doing a writing course this year, the author is one of my classamtes and I’ve read the whole story.


Monday’s quiz

October 12, 2009

1. What is the oldest airline still operating under its original name?

2. What is hartshorn?

3. Who wrote Jane and the Dragon?

4. Who said, I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.”?

5. What is the common name for alfalfa?


Aussie recession package helps SI

October 12, 2009

Anecdotal evidence that the Australian recession package has helped the South Island is supported by the August accommodation stats:

Guest nights in Otago were up by 22,000 (6%)  and in Canterbury they increased by 14,000 (4%). Regions showing the largest decreases were Auckland, down 32,000 (8%) and Bay of Plenty, down 10,000 (6%).

Southern ski fields have had very good seasons and skiers will have contributed to the increased guest nights in Otago and Canterbury.

Tourism and hospitality providers have noticed an increase in Australians, some of whom were spending the money which their government gave families as part of its recession-busting strategy.

Does such an unintended consequence qualify as foreign aid?


Tomorrow When It’s Summer

October 12, 2009

A collection of columns, subtitled The Wit and Whimsy of Helen Brown would probably not be a likely candidate for a life changing book. But Tomorrow When It’s Summer, changed mine.

 A friend who came to visit me a few days after our son had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder told me about the book and said I should read it.

It was some time later, months after Tom had died, that I came across it and started reading.

The tales of family life and domesticity amused me. Then I came to the column which dealt with the death of her son and its aftermath.

I’d read about death and grief before, but that was all academic. This was the first real account of the sheer awfulness of dealing with the death of a child that I’d come across. It made me cry but it also helped by showing me the raw pain, the confusion and despair were normal.

Then I came to the story of the first anniversary of her son’s death and it helped me believe I could find a way through those dark clouds which were enveloping me and I’d find the sun again.

Tomorrow When It’s Summer opened a door to the bereaved parents club for me, showing that learning about the experiences of other people could help and even better the book gave me hope.

 Helen has recently published another book, Cleo, how an upppity cat helped heal a family. I read an extract in Next magazine and have bought a copy but have not yet read it. Friends who have tell me it’s wonderful.

dairy 10007

Post 12 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah posts on Lynley Dodd’s The Smallest Turtle.


Wasted opportunities

October 12, 2009

The nine years from 1999 to 2008 were ones of wasted opportunities.

Successive Labour led governments squandered the surpluses, concentrated on redistribution rather than growth, created huge liabilities for future generations (ACC, KiwiRail . . . ) and turned middle and upper income families into beneficiaries.

In doing so they lost sight of their aim to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD.

The New York Times’ Economix blog has a post asking: What Happened to Argentina?

A century ago, there were only seven countries in the world that were more prosperous than Argentina (Belgium, Switzerland, Britain and four former English colonies including the United States), according to Angus Maddison’s historic incomes database.

 New Zealand was one of those former British colonies and we too have lost ground since then.

This week’s Idealog newsletter  points out that every country to the left of New Zealand on this graph was poorer than us in 1909, all the ones above us are wealthier than we are now.

 

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This is why we’re so disappointed that the previous government failed to see through its stated aim to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD, and why we’d like to see John Key’s government commit itself to achieving the task. This isn’t about wanting more toys, overseas holidays or dining out more often; it’s about being able to afford the education, health care, infrastructure and quality of life that we want for ourselves and our loved ones. We must reverse this slide.

This point was also made by Don Brash in a speech entitled New Zealand’s Economic Outlook: Can We Ever Catch Australia?

Far from raising New Zealand into the top half of the OECD, we actually sank back a rung or two over the nine years that Labour was in office.
 
This is extremely serious.  If we continue to languish in the bottom third of OECD countries – even worse if we continue to slide backwards – the things which have made New Zealand a pleasant place to live and work will gradually disappear.  We won’t be able to afford the healthcare which those in richer countries take for granted, nor the standard of education which richer countries take for granted.   Income distribution will become progressively less egalitarian – as we’re forced to pay our most skill
ed people some approximation of the lifestyle-adjusted incomes they can earn abroad – with all the social implications of that.   

Economic growth isn’t about wealth for wealth’s sake.

It’s about earning the money to afford the first world services and infrastructure we need.

Afford doesn’t mean borrowing to saddle future generations with debt. It means earning what we we need by increasing economic growth.

The difficulties we face in doing that are many.

Labour not only wasted the opportunities provided by surpluses when they were in power, they increased public spending to a level which isn’t sustainable. That is now adding to our debt and holding back the recovery.

Thanks to them benefits are no longer regarded as temporary assistance for people in need as most ought to be, they’ve become “entitlements” to which people feel they have a right regardless of whether or not they need them. Working/welfare for families, interest free student loans and paid parental leave are all examples of that.

Another of the barriers to growth is illustrated by the hysterical reaction to the suggestion by Gerry Brownlee that the government does a stock take of mineral resources under public land. Anyone would think he was suggesting clear-felling every tree and turning every national park into an open cast mine.

All he’s doing is sensibly suggesting that we ought to know what we’ve got. Once we do can we make intelligent decisions on what, if anything, we do with it.

Every centimetre of every part of the DOC estate is not pristine wilderness. Some of it  is weed and pest infested wasteland  – the weeds and pests on which threaten native species. Some might well be more attractive if it was mined and replanted than if it is left untouched.

We’ve had nine years of going backwards. We can’t afford to waste opportunities now and among the opportunities available is the mineral wealth which lies beneath the ground.

If it is possible to use some of that, without damaging the environment, we should do so to help foster the economic growth which will enable us to fund the first world services we need but can no longer afford.


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