Quotes of the Year

December 31, 2019

You can volunteer to take life seriously but it is gonna get you, they are going to win over you, it is harsh, but you can either break down and complain about how miserable your life is or have a go at it and survive. I think that is the basis of it all. – Billy Connolly

Working for Families is a policy that satisfies few on the Left or the Right. Compromises rarely do. They are imperfect by their nature. They are necessary, however, because people are imperfect and always will be. If things were otherwise, we wouldn’t need government at all. – Liam Hehir

The greatest threats to our native wildlife – and our rural economy – may yet be science denial and conspiracy belief. – Dave Hansford

Those elected to positions of authority need to understand that the human condition rarely engages in deceit and halftruths as much as when rehearsing or inventing the science behind their personal environmental concerns.Gerrard Eckhoff

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous. Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.  Todd Muller

People have a choice with how they respond to adversity in their life. Creating a positive attitude gives you more control over your circumstances. By staying positive, it means you can make the most out of your life no matter what gets thrown in your direction. – Emma Barker

Being part of a baying mob, for that is what much of our modern commentary has been reduced to, isn’t brave and nor is it radical.

Standing up to them is. – Damien Grant

It is stupid and dangerous. But, we are on private property and we’re just having a bit of fun.

No-one has got too hurt yet … we are not stupid about it. – Patrick Ens

The first challenge is that urban New Zealand does not understand the extent to which our national wealth depends on the two pillars of dairy and tourism.  Yes, there are other important industries such as kiwifruit and wine, and yes, forestry, lamb and beef are also very important. But rightly or wrongly, our population has been growing rapidly, and the export economy also has to keep growing. There is a need for some big pillars.

Somehow, we have to create the exports to pay for all of the machinery, the computers, the electronics, the planes, the cars, the fuel and the pharmaceuticals on which we all depend. . . Keith Woodford

Believe passionately enough in something and you’ll be shouting at the younger generation well into your eighties. – AnnaJones

We realise that Pharmac has a budget, but there seems to be a never ending open budget for welfare. New Zealand surely isn’t so broke that we have to pick and choose who we let live and who we let die. But that is currently where we find ourselves.Allyson Lock

The problem with numbers is that they don’t fudge.They’re definite. Exact. Numbers don’t lie. But people lie.People fudge. People lie about numbers. People fudge numbers. But numbers are the truth.  . .

I think there’s a political lesson here for this government. Watch the numbers or your number’s up. – Andrew Dickens

My take away from all this is that referendums do have a place, even binding ones. But it is best to call on these when the issues are clear and easily understood by everyone in the community. Brexit or not might have seemed clear at the time, driven as it was mainly by fears of uncontrollable immigration across the Channel. But it was not of this genre. As Oscar Wilde remarks: ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. In such cases, perhaps best leave it to parliaments. That way we’ll know who to blame it if all goes wrong.Professor Roger Bowden

All kinds of wild ideas that are untested and are demonstrably bad for them and demonstrably wrong – these ideas can spread like wildfire so long as they are emotionally appealing. Social media and other innovations have cut the lines that previously would have tethered the balloon to Earth, and the balloon has taken off. – Jonathon Haidt

Pettiness is on the increase, too, in the constant calling-out of sometimes-casual language that was never intended to offend or harass, and even may have been written or uttered with well-meaning intent. – Joanne Black

Why then did I leave Greenpeace after 15 years in the leadership? When Greenpeace began we had a strong humanitarian orientation, to save civilization from destruction by all-out nuclear war. Over the years the “peace” in Greenpeace was gradually lost and my organization, along with much of the environmental movement, drifted into a belief that humans are the enemies of the earth. I believe in a humanitarian environmentalism because we are part of nature, not separate from it. The first principle of ecology is that we are all part of the same ecosystem, as Barbara Ward put it, “One human family on spaceship Earth”, and to preach otherwise teaches that the world would be better off without us. Patrick Moore

There were rituals, prayer every night, communal eating, some adults staying at home looking after children while others went to work.

Looking back, it was one of the sweetest memories for me. It was a very secure, loving home with lots of uncles and aunts, and no shortage of cousins to play with. There wasn’t a lot of money, but an abundance of aspiration. – Agnes Loheni

We need to be 90 per cent women. Not 46 per cent women. – Jill Emberson  (speaking on the inequity of funding research for ovarian cancer)

These messages of envy and hopelessness—messages that lead to an insidious victim mentality and that are perpetuated by those who say they care more and are genuinely concerned for the communities I grew up in—lead to an outcome that is infinitely worse than any hard bigot or racist could ever hope to achieve. To take hopes and dreams away from a child through good intentions conflicts with the messages of aspiration, resilience, and compassion that I and my Pasefika community were exposed to as we grew up. That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions.

Hope, resilience, compassion—these are the only messages that have any chance of succeeding and changing our course toward a better New Zealand. These values are not exclusive to my migrant parents; they are New Zealand’s values. They fit hand-in-glove with our Kiwi belief in hard work, enterprise, and personal responsibility. Agnes Loheni

Politics is an odd kind of game that sometimes requires a ruthless self-interest and at others altruistic self-sacrifice. It’s a patchwork of ideals and deals, virtue and vice, gamble and calculation. – Tim  Watkin

Small business would pay the costs, large business would spend thousands avoiding the costs and tax advisors and valuers would have a field day. AndrewHoggard

 There are limits, even to the immodesty of the self-proclaimed First Citizen of the Provinces, the wandering bard with the bag of pūtea, bestowing largesse on the forgotten hamlets of Aotearoa. – Guyon Espiner

Once we recover from our grief, do we slide back into being passively a “good” country? To simply “not be racist” when what is required of us is to be outspoken “anti-racists”? I don’t want thoughts and prayers. What I want to see is bold leadership, standing up and uniting in this message: that hate will not be allowed to take root and triumph here. And to then act on that message. I need us all to be courageous and really look inwards at the fears, judgment and complacence we may have allowed into our hearts, and look outward to demand a change in the conversation. And to be that change. Saziah Bashir

Words matter because when we isolate groups of people who don’t make up the majority of those we see, we turn them into “others”. And when we turn them into others we dehumanise them and make it easier to commit harm against them. – David Cormack

Being right wing to me means believing in free market ideals, open immigration where skills are needed, free trade and access to international markets, as little government intervention as possible and having the best people in your country to help your country become better. It means more opportunity for hard working immigrants. Quite often we ARE those bloody immigrants!

It’s not about closed borders. It’s not about denying people opportunity to build their businesses if they’re hard working and wish to contribute to a country. It’s not about wounding and killing people in places of prayer or on the streets. – Cactus Kate

New Zealand can never succeed, on any measure, by cowering behind a wall. Not just our economic destiny but our national identity depends on us maintaining the sense of adventure that brought us all here and extending manaakitanga to those who want to join us, visit us, do business with us, or take a holiday or study here.

Those of us who believe in these things should no longer reject the term neo-liberal, so often used as abuse, but reclaim it. What is the alternative: to be old conservatives? The political right needs to get back on track. – Matthew Hooton

We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us.

To the families of the victims your loved ones did not die in vain, their blood has watered the seeds of hope. – Gamal Fouda

We like to tell our food story and we have terms like market research and consumer behaviour that help us as we pick what to produce and how. Put simply, what we’re really doing is asking what does that person want and how can we make them happy? We’re seeking understanding. We’re listening to people we don’t know as much about. We could use more of that in our everyday lives right now. – Bryan Gibson

Wise politicians pick no unnecessary fights that focus people on differences instead of on values they share.StephenFranks

The way I’ve looked at married life is this – You make your bed, you lay in it.

“You get married and you think everything is a long tar-sealed road that is beautiful.

“And after a few years, you get a few potholes. And if you don’t fix the potholes, they get bigger.

“You have to keep fixing them. – Jack van Zanten

NZ First feels like the stumbling, drunk boyfriend that the cool girl brought to the party. She’s too good for him, and everyone can suddenly see it.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan:

 It was never clear to me whether anyone was doing anything useful or just pretending to do stuff to feel better about ourselves. How do you actually make the world a better place? – Danyl Mclauchlan

Social media and the changed nature of other media have obscured the capacity and need for real conversation. Ideas are not contested civilly, rather people are attacked, falsehoods multiply. Our evolution as social animals required mechanisms for group consensus and group rules. Democracy is a manifestation of that social dynamic and works best when publics are informed not manipulated,and can have a civil contest of worldviews, values and ideas informed by robust evidence. –  Sir Peter Gluckman

I worry there is a drive to sanitise life. When the end gets difficult, we are saying, right, that’s enough, let’s cut it short. There are alternatives. There are other choices to ameliorate suffering of all types. Assisted death is not necessary.

How we die says a lot about our society. Having held a few hands of the dying, I know that those moments are sacred. I didn’t swear the oath of first doing no harm, to then participate in an activity with multiple harmful effects to both the living and the dying.  – Hinemoa Elder

Reasoned communication is the way across the divide of difference. It requires leaving the past and its animosities behind. But this is very difficult. The past gives us a sense of security and belonging. The institutions of modern society which unite us don’t have the same pulling power as the rallying cries of the isms. No wonder ethnic nationalisms, nativisms, and populisms with their ‘us not you’ and ‘our culture not yours’ are winning out. Unexamined belief is more satisfying than reason – and its easier.  – Elizabeth Rata 

People’s wellbeing, even their lives, are at risk while well-meaning people make statements based on inappropriate and flawed research. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Only around 20 per cent of the population lives in the countryside, and decisions are being made about them and for them by predominantly urban people, many of whom have little understanding or empathy for their rural neighbours. – Dr Margaret Brown

Such is the far left’s belief in their own moral superiority that, while they point the finger of blame at others with alacrity, they appear to lack the self-awareness and self-reflection that would lead them to at least wonder whether they themselves are complicit in contributing to a divisive and hateful society. – Juliet Moses

I want to turn to our Māori people, because I believe it is time to switch your political allegiance back to yourself, to your own tino rakatirataka. The political tribalism of saying we only vote for the party is not doing us any favours. You must demand on every politician that walks across your marae ātea that they show you the proof of their commitment to working hard for you before you give them your vote, because talk is cheap, whānau. Actions, ringa raupā—the callused hands—those are what spoke loudly to our conservative tīpuna, and it is time to demand politicians show you their calloused hands, their ringa raupā, as evidence of what they have achieved for you. – Nuk Korako

However, the real danger to meddling in our sound and proven speech laws is that institutions, agencies and interest groups with their own social and political agendas will likely have a disproportionate influence that is not in the national interest. There will be some whose sole intent is to undermine the free speech we already enjoy. – Joss Miller 

It’s easy to take it for granted that we are mostly led by politicians who are motivated to do their best by us; one look around the world today shows us how easily it could be different.

Politics in New Zealand has undoubtedly become more tribal since I started but beneath the rhetoric the differences are really not so great.

I leave here firmly believing there are no good guys or bad guys; the various parties may have different solutions to the same problems but fundamentally there is the same will to solve the problems. – Tracy Watkins

I realised two things that day. I would never, ever, let anyone I cared for enter a life of politics – and that politicians bleed, just like the rest of us. In the years since, I’ve tried to remember the power of words to hurt. – Tracy Watkins

My clear thrust in politics has been around … actually what we’ve just seen in Australia, what ScoMo called the ‘quiet Australians’, they’re here in New Zealand too. All they really want from a government is a strong economy, good public services and for us to get out of the way, and let them get on with their families, and that’s what drives me – Simon Bridges

I don’t think we do anyone any favours by pretending it’s easy, because it isn’t. I don’t think you can have everything all at once. – Linda Clark

It is the private sector that will do the heavy lifting. Nothing will happen unless and until the owners of companies take the decision to invest more, hire more people, and take a risk on economic opportunitySteven Joyce

The more you pay people, the fewer people you can afford to pay. Unless of course you sell more, and you only sell more if people feel good about buying. – Mike Hosking

I am living the way my forefathers lived, who left the footprint for me. It was good enough for my people, for my parents, my grandparents, who bought the house in 1887 – it is a tribute to them. – Margaret Gallagher

If I won the lottery, I would still live here. I am a rural rooted spinster. – Margaret Gallagher

Preachers of tolerance and inclusion must no longer seek to silence and condemn those with opinions that make them uncomfortable but are nevertheless opinions based on another person’s own beliefs and values systems. While we need to stay vigilant and investigate people who post offensive material online, we need to be equally concerned about any move in this House to restrict freedom of speech, a move which has all too often been used by those in power to silence those with differing opinions or ideas. This doctrine, peddled by those who pretend to be progressive, asserts that the mere expression of ideas itself is a limitation on the rights of others. This is preposterous. We must always run the risk of being offended in the effort to afford each citizen their freedom of expression, their freedom to be wrong, and, yes, unfortunately, even nasty. We must let the punishment of those with hateful messages be their own undoing.  Paulo Garcia

 It’s a blunt instrument that doesn’t always work, but parents love and understand their children. They are uniquely placed to make them see sense and not rush off with some jezebel or fall pregnant to some ageing lothario.

Welfare is a merino-covered sledge hammer that smashes these traditional bonds. Teenagers are freed from the financial constraints of their family and can turn to a new parent, the state, who will not judge, lecture, or express disappointment in their life decisions. . .

When you design a system that disenfranchises parents and undermines families you are rewarded with a cohort of lost children and will, in a few short years, find yourself taking babies off teenagers who are unfit to be parents. Damien Grant

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk. – Nathan Penny

Kids are kids. PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences … and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do? Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest.

They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviours will be treated with kindness and compassion. For those “well-behaved” kids – they’re throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it’s safe. The kids flipping tables at school? They don’t have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they’ve ever heard ‘no’, been given boundaries, shown love through respect. – Jessica Gentry

In a nation like ours, immigration is a kind of oxygen, each fresh wave reenergizing the body as a whole. As a society, when we offer immigrants the gift of opportunity, we receive in return vital fuel for our shared future. – L. Rafael Reif

We should be very wary of underplaying the progress and successes we’ve already made as food producers and custodians of the land.  If we pay too much attention to the critics, it saps motivation and puts more stress on the shoulders of farmers and their families. – Katie Milne

The opportunities in the agri-food sector are endless, even if you live in the city. You just have to be passionate – James Robertson

The choice really is clear. Do we want to be remembered in the future for being the generation that overreacted and spent a fortune feeling good about ourselves but doing very little, subsidising inefficient solar panels and promising slight carbon cuts — or do we want to be remembered for fundamentally helping to fix both climate and all the other challenges facing the world? – Bjorn Lomborg

My starting point for this with public health is very simple, I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices. – Sylvi Listhaug

Pastoral agriculture is a pretty simple and slick system. We turn a natural resource that we can’t eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and milk) with grazing animals. The land we (the world) use to do this is, by and large, not suitable for the production of sugar or the other 40 ingredients needed for cultured meat. Or, for the ingredients required in the less-terrifying, but no-less-processed plant-based “meats”.

Some people can’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for their food. So be it. Let them eat cake… or felafel. But, when it comes to meat, there is no substitute for the simplicity and safety of the real deal. – Nicola Dennis

But at times like this the public more than ever look to the media for impartial coverage. Is it too much to expect that journalists set aside their personal views and concentrate instead on giving people the information they need to properly weigh the conflicting arguments and form their own conclusions? –Karl du Fresne

Governments who are put in place by voters to help those that have been missing out enact policies that ensure those people keep missing out.

And those same Governments store up economic imbalances that bring real risks for our collective future security. All for the sake of short-term policies that appear popular in the here and now. – Steven Joyce

The whole idea of tearing the heart out of a nation’s economy to reduce methane emissions from livestock is an unbelievable display of scientific, technological and economic ignorance. It goes far beyond simply not knowing or being mistaken.  It is profound ignorance compounded by understanding so little it is not even possible to recognise one’s own ignorance which is then made malignant by thinking it must be imposed on everyone else for their own good. – Walter Starck

Everyone that’s being fired and publicly embarrassed about a misdemeanor and being called a Nazi — there are real Nazis who are getting away with it. This must be amazing for real racists to be out there, and going, “It’s all right, everyone’s a racist now, this is a great smokescreen, we’ve got people out there calling people who aren’t Nazis, Nazis. . . . They don’t know the real Nazis from people who said the  wrong thing once!” . . . It plays into the hands of the genuinely bad people. – Ricky Gervais

I get the equality movement – it’s valid and important. But I also know the dangers, firsthand, that mindset can play if we encourage everyone to see themselves as the same, instead of embrace the differences God intentionally created us with.

I have been more successful as a professional, a wife and a friend once I learned to embrace myself as different, not equal.  – Kate Lambert

The creation of wealth should not be confused with the creation of money and the amount of money in circulation at any given point. – Henry Armstrong

For me, it was South Island farmer Sean Portegys who articulated best what so many farmers are feeling – he told me that in a drought, you don’t despair because it’s always going to rain. In a snowstorm, the sun will come out eventually. When prices are bad, and he said they’d just gone through a rough patch a few years ago, it’s always going to come right eventually. The problem is now, he said, the situation that farmers are facing is a lack of hope. He says he just doesn’t see a future in what he’s doing. And if farmers don’t see a future, then the future of New Zealand Inc looks bleak. –  Kerre McIvor

The problem is, if you propose a set of rules that are unachievable you don’t get community buy-in and if you don’t get community buy-in, you don’t actually make any progress,- David Clark

There are no perfect human societies or human systems or human beings.  But that shouldn’t stop us celebrating our past, our heritage, our culture –  the things that, by opening to the world, made this country, for all its faults and failings and relative economic decline in recent decades, one of the more prosperous and safe countries on earth. – Michael Reddell

The productivity commission says – in a much nicer way than this – that most councillors are a bunch of useless numpties with no understanding of governance of finance, and so really aren’t capable of handling the big stuff. – Tina Nixon

If you cannot even state an opponent’s position in order to illustrate the benefit of arguing with that opponent, then free speech is over. Because no dialogue then is possible. Professor Jim Flynn

Freedom of speech is important because it is a contest of ideas.

When you forbid certain ideas, the only way you can be effective is by being more powerful. So it becomes a contest of strength. If you shut ’em up, not only does that make it a matter of `might makes right’, you haven’t proved that your views are more defensible, you’ve just proved that you are stronger. Further, that must be the worst formula for finding truth that’s ever been invented. It’s either a contest of ideas or a contest of strength. Professor Jim Flynn

 A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people. And a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, coercing, cancelling or blacklisting their own neighbours. Professor Jim Flynn

People have to grow up. Being educated is getting used to hearing ideas that upset you. – Professor Jim Flynn

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. The Zero Carbon Bill does neither. So my government is wasting the elite political consensus that ‘something must be done”. Instead they’re conspicuously trumpeting their “belief” in climate change, and their intentions to act. If the law is enforced it will likely increase emissions overseas, and not influence foreign governments to mitigate the risk, who can affect the outcome. – Stephen Franks

The brute facts of New Zealand history suggest that if it’s blame Maori and Pakeha are looking for, then there’s plenty to go around. Rather than apportion guilt, would it not be wiser to accept that the Pakeha of 2019 are not – and never will be – “Europeans”? Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before Cook’s arrival. Would it not, therefore, be wiser to accept, finally, that both peoples are victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt?Chris Trotter

As I have gone through my horrible journey, I have realised why ovarian cancer support doesn’t gain the kind of traction that breast cancer does. It is because we are small in number, and we die really quickly, so we don’t have the capacity to build up an army of advocates. With breast cancer, there is a lot more women who get it, therefore they can build and build their army of advocates and they are able to raise more money, get more research, and get better outcomes, so they live longer. We need the support of breast cancer survivors. We need them to link arms with us to grow our army for ovarian cancer, which will then help us get more funding fairness. Funding leads to research, and research leads to longer lives. – Jill  Emberson

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting with may love their kids and share certain things with you. – Barack Obama

I can’t make people not afraid of black people. But maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human, maybe that work will pick away at the scabs of your discrimination. –Michelle Obama

In South Africa, pressure is not having a job or if one of your close relatives is murdered. In South Africa there are a lot of problems, which is pressure. – Rassie Erasmus

We shouldn’t subsidise the smelter.  Rather we should stop forcing Southlanders to subsidise Aucklanders.  We should also revert to a more gradual water plan that gives farmers time to adapt, and we should let Southland retain control of SIT.  Then we should get out of the way and let the sensible practical Southlanders get on with making a success of their province. – Steven Joyce

All of us face trials and tribulations. No-one always wins, in the end we all lose. We lose friends, marriages, money, get anxious, our bodies break down, our minds go, and then we die. Isn’t life great?

But actually, isn’t living also a lot of highs? Births, marriages, beaches, trips abroad, friends, sporting victories, pets, pay increases, leaves sprouting in spring, fish and chips on a sunny day. – Kevin Norquay

You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient. We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate. Kerry Emanuel

Knowledge in long-term memory is not a nice-to-have. Rather, it is an integral part of mental processing without which our working memories (which can hold only about four items at a time) become quickly overloaded. – Briar Lipson

None of it convinces me from my position that there is no “I” in meat but if you look closely you will find the words me and eat.  That should be good enough to convince tree huggers and hippies that they should be switching back to natural. – Cactus Kate

It [managerialism] undermines the ability of state services to help citizens, but empowers it to infantilise us.

We’re discouraged from acting on our own, and forced to bow to experts. Yet systems and fancy talk prevent experts taking substantive action for fear of career, safety, or arbitrary consequences for taking the “wrong” action. In these environments, there are no career prospects for heroes.  Mark Blackham

It used to be that people joined the Labour Party to make their lives better off. Now they join to make someone else’s life better off. – Josie Pagani

If all the new Tory voters wanted was more from the state and more lecturing on how to live their lives, they would have voted for Labour. These voters want a hand up, not a handout. If you give people things and make them reliant upon the state then next time they will vote for those who will give them more things. – Matthew Lesh

. . .It matters because the still-cherished principles of secular humanism, which continue to inspire the multitude of moral arbiters who police social media, come with provenance papers tracing them all the way back to a peculiar collection of Jews and Gentiles living and writing in the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago. Ordinary human-beings who gathered to hear and repeat the words of a carpenter’s son: the Galilean rabbi, Yeshua Ben-Joseph. Words that still constitute the core of the what remains the world’s largest religious faith –  Christianity.

It matters, also, because, to paraphrase Robert Harris, writing in his latest, terrifying, novel The Second Sleep: when morality loses its power, power loses its morality. Chris Trotter

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas DayJim Hopkins


Science when it suits

July 5, 2016

More than 100 Nobel laureates have written an open letter to Greenpeace, the United Nations and governments around the world urging Greenpeace to support science and end their campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The United Nations Food & Agriculture Program has noted that global production of food, feed and fiber will need approximately to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a growing global population. Organizations opposed to modern plant breeding, with Greenpeace at their lead, have repeatedly denied these facts and opposed biotechnological innovations in agriculture. They have misrepresented their risks, benefits, and impacts, and supported the criminal destruction of approved field trials and research projects.

We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against “GMOs” in general and Golden Rice in particular.

Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.

Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people, suffer from VAD, including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 – 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.

WE CALL UPON GREENPEACE to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general;

WE CALL UPON GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.

How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”?

The names of the 110 signatories, all Nobel laureates, are here.

L. Val Gidding, senior fellow at The Information and Technologies Innovation Center. He previously served as vice president for Food & Agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and as expert consultant to the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, USDA, USAID, and companies, organizations and governments around the world,  writes:

The website accompanying the release documents the global scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs (recently reaffirmed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, and virtually every other authoritative scientific body on the planet). It also documents the abundant and widespread environmental and economic benefits confirmed by the experience of more than 18 million farmers around the world, the vast majority of them small farmers in developing countries.

Other sections explain what GMOs are (describing them, more accurately, as a component of precision agriculture) and describe how scientists learned to make them by mimicking completely natural patterns of gene exchange found everywhere in nature. A section documents and corrects the false and misleading statements used by Greenpeace in its propaganda campaign to raise unwarranted fears and money to support its multinational organization, and the efforts of some governments to hold Greenpeace to account.

The Laureates’ website also documents former campaigners for Greenpeace and other environmental groups who examined the facts, discovered the truth, and broke with Greenpeace and other groups opposing innovation in agriculture, including Richard di Natale, Greenpeace Australia; Steven Tinsdale, Greenpeace UK; Patrick Moore, Greenpeace Canada & Greenpeace International; Mark Lynas, Greenpeace UK & the Soil Association); Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Catalogue & the Long Now Foundation; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and Bizarro creator Dan Piraro. Additional materials provide further information from credible and independent third parties.

The organizing force behind this project is Sir Richard Roberts (Nobel Prize, 1993, Physiology or Medicine).

It is clearly past time for Greenpeace and others opposed to GMOs to follow the data and adopt a truly “green” and science-based position on genetic modification. The challenges facing society require a shift from political correctness to scientific correctness. Governments and other parties should do likewise.

 

Greenpeace is not the only organisation guilty of going for emotion rather than science over GMOs.

Hastings District Council is promoting itself as GM-free.

And of course the Green Party, which urges everyone to back the science on climate change, ignores it on GMOs:

The Green Party says it will not soften its anti-genetic modification stance despite a plea from some of the world’s top scientists, who say opposition by green groups is blocking GM foods that could help reduce disease in third-world countries. . . 

The open letter prompted Act Party leader David Seymour to call on the Green Party to abandon its “outdated” position on GM.

“The Green Party needs to catch up with science, and modify its position on genetic modification, especially when Golden Rice has the ability to give sight to thousands of babies struggling with a lack of Vitamin A,” he said.

Green Party GM spokesman Steffan Browning said the party re-evaluated its GM policy regularly, but it would not be making any changes as a result of the open letter. . .

Science isn’t foolproof. New evidence can challenge and change what were thought to be facts and it is sensible to be cautious about any new developments.

But GMOs have been in wide enough use for long enough to make continued blanket opposition to them a triumph of emotion over science.

Using science only when it suits your prejudices and beliefs is at best hypocritical. In the case of continued opposition to  GMOs it is preventing developments which would be better for the environment and provide economic opportunities, and it’s costing lives.

 


Radical green agenda politics not charity

December 15, 2012

Quite how an organisation which spends so much of its time, and supporters’ money, on politically motivated campaigns can claim to be a charity rather than a political organisation is beyond me.

One of Greenpeace’s founders has no doubts about its agenda:

Canadian ecologist Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace International director who helped found and lead the group, says it appears Greenpeace’s major aim these days is to confuse the public about the nature of the environment and the place of humans in it “by spreading falsehoods and innuendo”.

“Since I left Greenpeace, its members, and the majority of the movement, have adopted policy after policy that reflects their anti-human bias, illustrates their rejection of science and technology and actually increases the risk of harm to people and the environment,” he says. . .

The distinction between charitable and political purpose matters because the former allows an organisation special tax status.

The Charities Commission ruled that Greenpeace’s primary purpose was political. The Court of Appeal decided that the organisation could appeal that ruling.

Greenpeace does do some practical work which might qualify as charitable but most of what we see of its public face is blatantly political.


Should it be Redpeace?

February 20, 2012

A criticism of many green parties and organisations is that they are watermelons with a green shell covering a red heart.

Dr Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, provides support for that contention in his book Confessions of  Greenpeace dropout: the making of a sensible environmentalist.

You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely  accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years  after I helped create it. I’d like to think Greenpeace left me, rather  than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.

The truth is Greenpeace and I underwent divergent evolutions. I  became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly  senseless as it adopted an agenda that is antiscience, antibusiness, and downright antihuman. . .

While it might be anti-business, Greenpeace is not above exploiting people or using dubious commercial methods to raise money and lure new recruits.

Those people, usually young, who badger you to join up in the street are on commission and only get paid if and when those they sign up don’t pull out within the few day’s grace period in which they’re permitted to do so after joining.

. . . During the early 1980s two things happened that altered my  perspective on the direction in which environmentalism, in general, and  Greenpeace, in particular, were heading. The first was my introduction  to the concept of sustainable development at a global meeting of  environmentalists. The second was the adoption of policies by my fellow  Greenpeacers that I considered extremist and irrational. These two  developments would set the stage for my transformation from a radical  activist into a sensible environmentalist.

In 1982, the United Nations held a conference in Nairobi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first UN Environment Conference in  Stockholm, which I had also attended. I was one of 85 environmental  leaders from around the world who were invited to craft a statement of our  collective goals for environmental protection. It quickly became  apparent there were two nearly opposite perspectives in the room—the  antidevelopment  perspective of environmentalists from wealthy industrialized countries  and the prodevelopment perspective of environmentalists from the poor  developing countries.

As one developing country activist put it, taking a stand against  development in his woefully poor country would get him laughed out of  the room. It was hard to argue with his position. A well-fed person has  many problems, a hungry person has but one. The same is true for  development, or lack of it. We could see the tragic reality of poverty  on the outskirts of our Kenyan host city. Those of us from  industrialized countries recognized we had to be in favor of some kind  of development, preferably the kind that didn’t ruin the environment in  the process. Thus the concept of sustainable development was born.

This was when I first fully realized there was another step beyond  pure environmental activism. The real challenge was to figure out how to take the environmental values we had helped create and weave them into  the social and economic fabric of our culture. This had to be done in  ways that didn’t undermine the economy and were socially acceptable. It  was clearly a question of careful balance, not dogmatic adherence to a  single principle. . .

It is rank hypocrisy for people from developed countries with all the benefits of first world economies and the first world infrastructure and services that supports to tell people in poor countries development is bad.

Sustainable development is the balance between economic, environmental and social requirements. Its proponents aren’t anti-business or anti-people and they welcome science because it provides evidence-based information and solutions rather than greenwash which might look fine but might do no good and at times causes harm to the environment.

An example of this is recycling. It certainly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but the environmental cost of transporting and processing is sometimes greater than that of dumping.

. . .  By the early 1980s a  majority of the public, at least in the Western democracies, agreed with us that the environment should be taken into account in all our  activities. When most people agree with you it is probably time to stop  beating them over the head and sit down with them to seek solutions to  our environmental problems. 

At the same time I chose to become less militant and more diplomatic, my Greenpeace colleagues became more extreme and intolerant of  dissenting opinions from within.

In the early days we debated complex issues openly and often. It was a wonderful group to engage with in wide-ranging environmental policy  discussions. The intellectual energy in the organization was infectious. We frequently disagreed about specific issues, yet our ultimate vision  was largely shared. Importantly, we strove to be scientifically  accurate. For years this had been the topic of many of our internal  debates. I was the only Greenpeace activist with a PhD in ecology, and  because I wouldn’t allow exaggeration beyond reason I quickly earned the nickname “Dr. Truth.” It wasn’t always meant as a compliment. Despite  my efforts, the movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the  mid-1980s, just as society was adopting the more reasonable items on our environmental agenda.

Ironically, this retreat from science and logic was partly a response to society’s growing acceptance of environmental values. Some activists simply couldn’t make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide  they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain  confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme  positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favor  of zero-tolerance policies. . .

We have only one world and most people agree on the importance of looking after it. There is however, disagreement on the how and finding a way to do it in a way which is not anti-business or anti-people is much more likely to succeed than the radical recipe promoted by red-greens.

To a  considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anticapitalism and antiglobalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and  being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army  fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.

I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of  power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the  public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this  day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a  host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to  both civilization and the environment. . .

Those perfectly useful terms are almost always used with negative connotations by radical environmentalists and their ideology is dangerous.

. . . The main purpose of this book is to establish a new approach to  environmentalism and to define sustainability as the key to achieving  environmental goals. This requires embracing humans as a positive  element in evolution rather than viewing us as some kind of mistake. The celebrated Canadian author Farley Mowat has described humans as a “fatally flawed species.” This kind of pessimism may be politically  correct today, but it is terribly self-defeating. Short of mass suicide  there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response. I believe we should  celebrate our existence and constantly put our minds toward making the  world a better place for people and all the other species we share it  with. . .

Unlike those he criticise, Moore is optimistic about the future of the world and people’s place in it.

He also has some suggestions on what we could do to protect and enhance the environment at no great cost to the economy or people:

• We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not  cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies  contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and  energy resource.

• Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric  energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is  nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.

• Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply,  especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has  proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.

• Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far  more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new  buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.

• The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is  to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no  fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and  hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome  regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.

• Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve  nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the  environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment  healthier.

• Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.

• Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of  our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take  pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of  people productively.

• There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is  always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse  than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be  mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.

• Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized  throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care,  sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to  everyone.

• No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever.  This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on  earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or  capture them humanely.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog and NZ Conservative

 


%d bloggers like this: