Thanatopsis – a view or contemplation of death; a meditation on death, as in a poem.
Not PC recounts a modern fairytale:
One crisp winter morning in Sweden, a cute little girl named Greta woke up to a perfect world, one where there were no petroleum products ruining the earth. She tossed aside her cotton sheet and wool blanket and stepped out onto a dirt floor covered with willow bark that had been pulverized with rocks.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Pulverised willow bark,” replied her fairy godmother.
“What happened to the carpet?” she asked.
“The carpet was nylon, which is made from butadiene and hydrogen cyanide, both made from petroleum,” came the response.
Greta smiled, acknowledging that adjustments are necessary to save the planet, and moved to the sink to brush her teeth where instead of a toothbrush, she found a willow, mangled on one end to expose wood fibre bristles. “
“Your old toothbrush?” noted her godmother, “Also nylon.”
“Where’s the water?” asked Greta.
“Down the road in the canal,” replied her godmother, ‘Just make sure you avoid water with cholera in it”
“Why’s there no running water?” Greta asked, becoming a little peevish.
“Well,” said her godmother, who happened to teach engineering at MIT, “Where do we begin?” There followed a long monologue about how sink valves need elastomer seats and how copper pipes contain copper, which has to be mined and how it’s impossible to make all-electric earth-moving equipment with no gear lubrication or tyres and how ore has to be smelted to make metal, and that’s tough to do with only electricity as a source of heat, and even if you use only electricity, the wires need insulation, which is petroleum-based, and though most of Sweden’s energy is produced in an environmentally friendly way because of hydro and nuclear, if you do a mass and energy balance around the whole system, you still need lots of petroleum products like lubricants and nylon and rubber for tires and asphalt for filling potholes and wax and iPhone plastic and elastic to hold your underwear up while operating a copper smelting furnace and . . .
“What’s for breakfast?” interjected Greta, whose head was hurting.
“Fresh, range-fed chicken eggs,” replied her godmother.
“Mmm,” said Greta.
“How so, raw?” inquired Greta.
“Well, . . .” And once again, Greta was told about the need for petroleum products like transformer oil and scores of petroleum products essential for producing metals for frying pans and in the end was educated about how you can’t have a petroleum-free world and then cook eggs. Unless you rip your front fence up and start a fire and carefully cook your egg in an orange peel like you do in Boy Scouts. Not that you can find oranges in Sweden anymore.
“But I want poached eggs like my Aunt Tilda makes,” lamented Greta.
“Tilda died this morning,” the godmother explained. “Bacterial pneumonia.”
“What?!” interjected Greta. “No one dies of bacterial pneumonia! We have penicillin.”
“Not anymore,” explained her godmother “The production of penicillin requires chemical extraction using isobutyl acetate, which, if you know your organic chemistry, is petroleum-based. Lots of people are dying, which is problematic because there’s not an easy way of disposing of the bodies since backhoes need hydraulic oil and crematoriums can’t really burn many bodies, using as fuel Swedish fences and furniture, which are rapidly disappearing – being used on the black market for roasting eggs and staying warm.”
This represents only a fraction of Greta’s day, a day without microphones to exclaim into and a day without much food, and a day without carbon-fibre boats to sail in, but a day that will save the planet.
Tune in tomorrow when Greta needs a root canal and learns how Novocain is synthesised.”
Apropos of which:
Late last year the National Farmers Federation set the laudable goal of increasing the value of farm production from about $60bn a year to $100bn a year by 2030. Good luck. The regulators and their enforcers have other ideas. Their intention is to limit the expansion of farming and, if possible, force it into retreat, turning farmers from food producers into unpaid stewards of native trees and grasses. – Nick Cater
From coronavirus to saving threatened species, absolutism, risk aversion and an absence of proportion are hallmarks of contemporary public policy. . . Ad hoc decisions are made in favour of assumed benefits without reference to the cost to farmers, farm output, export earnings or the cost of food. – Nick Cater
God deliver us from the hands of zealots. They exist in different guises in every age, lay claim to being the era’s moral guardians and demand no more than complete obedience to their ordained order. They only burn heretics in sorrow, for their own good and that of society. . . .Now the bureaucratic state dictates morality and the devil is discrimination, in all his endlessly evolving forms. The crime is giving any perceived offence. The weapon is the law. – Chris Uhlmann
The truth is, if I do have sad eyes it’s because I live in a world where people with very superficial analysis are constantly impinging on each other with higher taxes and more regulations than would otherwise be necessary. – David Seymour
A vote for NZ First has always been a vote for disruption, chaos and a nihilistic anarchy to disrupt the status quo without any vision about what to put in its place. – Damien Grant
One of the best ways to tell a lie is to embed it in the midst of high-sounding verbiage. This is so common a method that one is sometimes unsure whether a lie is being told or an untruth merely enunciated. – Theodore Dalrymple
Many people can say fine words. That’s easy, but who can understand the detail and the workflow that can actually deliver it for you? – Shane Reti
We are creating our own hurdles at a rate higher than any other primary producer in the world. For every dollar spent on food worldwide, the farmer receives on average, less than 10 cents. – Jane Smith
This is not Monopoly money, it’s money that our kids and grandkids will have to pay back. – Judith Collins
Despite the Tramadol the pain is getting worse. Comes and goes but spikes at probably an 8.5/10 on the pain scale. Now to be fair that is the male pain scale, so probably just a 2.5 on the female pain scale, but nevertheless was enough for me to be actually yelling out loud. – David Farrar
Age may be an imperfect proxy for maturity or competence; there will always be precocious children above, and incompetent adults below, the line wherever it is drawn.- Justice Jan-Marie Doogue
Whatever this is, it’s not journalism as I understand it. It’s a continuation of a long-standing trend whereby journalists see themselves not as mere observers and reporters of the political process, but as active players and agitators. – Karl du Fresne
Onslow would save an average of 300,000 tonnes of CO2 per year at a cost of at least $1300/tonne. The current CO2 price is $32. Keeping the aluminium smelter in operation could save 2,500,000 tons of worldwide emissions each year at a cost of about $100 million or $40/tonne and has the potential to significantly minimise the dry year problem. – Bryan Leyland
There is a pit of doom major parties in New Zealand can fall into, when their soft centre supporters abandon them for their centrist opponent and another cohort of voters on the fringe deserts them for a more radical and exciting minor party. This happened to National in 2002, and to Labour in 2014, and Judith Collins has spent her three months as National leader grimly hanging onto the edge of this pit, trying to claw her way out while Jacinda Ardern stamps on her fingers and kicks at her hands, all the time smiling beatifically while reminding the rest of us to be kind. – Danyl Mclauchlan
Ardern has learned from her first term in government that if she promises anything substantive her caucus and the public service will fail to deliver it, so best to promise nothing. – Danyl Mclauchlan
When politicians call for reform of the tax system, they are really saying there needs to be more taxation in order to meet their expenditure. The perpetually aggrieved present an implausible argument that is deficient in equity and logic, which is – the more you distribute other people’s income, the wealthier the nation becomes. – Gerry Eckhoff
This year has illustrated for me that we are not a nation of dissenters, we are a nation of conformists. Margaret Thatcher once said that “when people have freedom to choose, they choose freedom”. Well, apparently not in New Zealand. Like so many other years in our history, 2020 is yet another year of compliance and conformity, and deference by individual New Zealanders to the power of the state. Even motorway road-signs ordering us to be kind don’t seem to arouse any concerns among the trusting, dependent New Zealand public. I have come to realise that those of us in whom those signs aroused Orwellian visions of the future are a very small minority indeed. – Chris Finlayson
We are trying to live a five star lifestyle on a two star income. We spend like a fat cat and earn like an alley cat. We want the cake with all the trimmings but we can barely afford the flour and sugar. – Owen Jennings
We are becoming a nation of low performing advisors. Politicians from central Government to community boards cannot make decisions any more. They don’t have the gumption or the training and they don’t have the guts to deliver. They hide behind faceless consultants and toothless committees. Costs go up and productivity goes down. – Owen Jennings
Suddenly, the issues on which her government had previously been struggling to the point where election defeat looked more likely than not were totally forgotten. Two errant Ministers were got rid of, and, with the exception of a couple of overworked loyalists, the largely incompetent remainder were quickly put in the broom cupboard, until after the election. – Peter Dunne
Democratic values are under attack as never before in modern history. The breadth, intensity and viciousness of this attack is breathtaking. Where it will lead is impossible to say. That will largely depend on whether society recognises what’s at stake and has the will to dig in and resist it. – Karl du Fresne
Having realised decades ago that that the fight between capitalism and classical Marxist economics was lost, the extreme left opened a new front. They attacked liberal democracy’s soft underbelly: its values, conventions, institutions and philosophical foundations.Suddenly a whole range of bedrock values, from the right to free speech to belief in fixed biological gender, was under savage attack. The underlying purpose is to destabilise society and therefore render it amenable to radical change. – Karl du Fresne
Some woke ideas (most notably the belief that sexual identity is a mere societal construct, “assigned at birth” as if by some conscious and arbitrary human intervention) strike most New Zealanders as demonstrably barking mad, but that hasn’t stopped them being embraced by radical zealots and championed by sympathetic polemicists in the news media. – Karl du Fresne
We hear a lot from such groups about the need to embrace diversity, but the one diversity they don’t tolerate is diversity of opinion. Yet free speech is the currency of liberal democracy. Once we accept curbs on our right to engage in free and robust discussion of contentious issues (but stopping short of advocating active discrimination or incitements to violence, which present law rightly prohibits anyway), we risk becoming what might be called an illiberal democracy: one in which we may still be free to vote for the politicians of our choice, but without our votes being informed by full and open debate. Putin-style democracy, in other words. – Karl du Fresne
I never vote early. If your candidate is arrested you cannot get your vote back. – Richard Prebble
History has shown that government-led recoveries don’t work. Regeneration has to be driven by business growth, not 50 shades of tax. You cannot tax your country into wealth. Urban New Zealand, when regulators are determined to drive your farming, energy and manufacturing sectors into the ground – we all pay the price. – Jane Smith
Under the cover of Covid, I believe fear has overtaken free thinking, and we have forgotten that elections are not about the here and now – they are about deciding which pathway we take to protect future generations. – Jane Smith
Electioneering is short, consequences are long. Our leaders should be running a country, not an arms race. How can we promise $11.7 M to a wealthy overseas owned “green” school but have child poverty at an all-time crisis level? – Jane Smith
You don’t need a degree in telemetry to see that the myriad of policies touted on the electioneering circuit don’t add up, particularly the ones that not only bite the hand that feeds the country, but chop off both arms and legs – and then ask those food producing and manufacturing sectors to run an economic marathon. – Jane Smith
The great irony is that we were sold MMP on the basis that it made politicians more accountable, when the exact reverse is the case. It’s the very antithesis of transparency. – Karl du Fresne
Imagine someone scraping all the maddest bits from the carcass of Facebook — a reclaimed slurry of 5G alarmism, anti-vax propaganda and scaremongering about electromagnets — and turning it into a manifesto. That, very roughly, is the Public Party. – Sarah Ditum
Carve any subject down to its barest conflicts, and you won’t help people find enlightenment and resolution. Instead, you’ll make them feel attacked, embattled, inflexible. In a recent piece Amanda Ripley warned of the dangers of journalism that goes in pursuit of simplicity; and which has, unfortunately, the effect of making everyone more committed to the certainties they’ve already chosen. Instead, she says, they should look for complexity, arguing that “Complexity counters this craving, restoring the cracks and inconsistencies that had been air-brushed out of the picture. It’s less comforting, yes. But it’s also more interesting — and true.” – Sarah Ditum
But which aspect of inequality should we be worried about? There are inequalities of opportunity and inequalities of outcome; there is overall inequality and there is inequality at the tails of the distribution. Should we be more worried about absolute or relative positions – mobility or stability? What is really more important, the distribution of the economic pie or the level and growth of living standards? – Michael Boskin
It is time to start harnessing the power of the market rather than the government. That is how we will replace dependency with opportunity and upward mobility. – Michael Boskin
Well listen here people, and I say this as a Party loyalist and activist with a certain pedigree, I hold each and every one of you jointly and severally responsible for what happened last Saturday night. Put bluntly. You had collectively forfeited the right to govern and we (the Party) paid the price. – The Veteran
A caucus that leaks is not and never can be an effective opposition. – The Veteran
The way in which we value food is mysterious. As an example, if you look at the price of apples in New Zealand in April (peak harvest time) and compare them with a takeaway coffee, the takeaway coffee is consistently higher: over the past 10 years the price of a takeaway coffee was 50 per cent higher than a kilo of apples. Interestingly, both apples and coffee are considered beneficial in getting you going in the morning (but there are around 10 apples in a kilo compared with one coffee). – Dr Helen Darling
Bad ideas owe their advance into mainstream thinking not just to bad people but also to otherwise decent people going along with such notions out of cowardice or other weakness. The censorship of any thinking which conflicts with the orthodoxies of identity politics is increasingly destroying the western university as the crucible of reason, along with its core purpose to advance knowledge through the free play of evidence, ideas and argument. – Melanie Phillips
Some might think that not just Lord of the Flies but George Orwell’s 1984 are no longer fiction but have become, terrifyingly, our contemporary reality. Melanie Phillips
In no other country has the pendulum swung so far from traditional school knowledge towards more esoteric “21st century skills.” Today, while nearly every school leaver gets a certificate, many of them – about two fifths – are functionally illiterate and innumerate.
The dumbing down of our school system is a scandal. And while those responsible probably had the best intentions, the bigger scandal is that they now try to explain away this poor performance.
It frankly baffles me that when someone points out our poor education results, they are routinely criticised of elitism, Eurocentrism or other such nonsense. The truth is that teaching a broad, knowledge-rich and stimulating education would help precisely those children without elite or privileged backgrounds.
The education system’s pursuit of noble and progressive goals has tragically sacrificed the future of Kiwi children. In doing so, it is not just cementing but widening ethnic and class divides. – Dr Oliver Hartwich
The only Green Party we have had in Parliament has been a collection of political activists far more energised by social concerns and antagonism to capitalism than environmental projects. – John Roughan
Genuine Greens understand that environmental values can very effectively be priced into business and market behaviour through carbon taxes or tradeable emissions permits under a descending cap. Some of the Greens in our Parliament have no idea how markets work. – John Roughan
The risks, as they say, are almost all to the downside. The question must be asked, are we all completely mis-pricing that risk?
Have we convinced ourselves that we are living in a hermetically sealed paradise, where nothing can touch us and what is happening in the rest of the world has no bearing on our jobs and livelihoods? If that is the case, we might be heading for a rude shock. – Steven Joyce
So how does this all end? Well, no matter what anyone says, there is no such thing as a free lunch. As the economic damage of Covid-19 plays out, asset prices will revert to more sensible numbers.
The only question seems to be whether it will happen gradually or suddenly. We will also pay for this massive fiscal and monetary stimulus in increased taxes, spending controls, higher inflation, more sluggish growth or a combination of all four. – Steven Joyce
Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is people who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey