Thursday, December 15, 2011

the rain came

Golden Bay/Mohua, here at the top of the south is a most amazing area. But today, after the rain there are slips and people who have had water streaming through their houses, there have been evacuations and roads cut. The road to town has a massive hole in it and is impassable and probably will be for a few days.

Takaka township recorded 423mm of rain in a 24 hours period, making it "well in excess of a one in 100 year event", Civil Defence said. The previous 24 hour rainfall high was 256mm in August 1990.
Small communities have had their infrastructure lost and the cleanup has not even started yet.  I haven't heard of anyone hurt so that is good. A massive disruption just before the festive season. Yet on the world stage it wouldn't even rate a mention. Interesting to consider the macro and the micro - how a significant event for an individual is just that, same for a community too. When it all goes bad we will have each other, we will have community and connection and we will have to get on with the job, together. So we help pull people out of trouble - thanks mate, and we open our homes to people that need shelter, and we check up on people and make sure they are okay. We open up the marae and we hear about the people that have suffered loss and we prepare to help them. We are community.

We know about weather events related to global warming - they will become more severe, more random and more destructive. At every scale we will be going through more trials and tribulations and there is nothing we can do about that because the cycles and momentum of earthly change on ponderous scales have already started and they won't stop. But we can prepare and a big part of that is building community and connection. No doubt in calamitous times we are forced together but the more we practice, when we can, the better and we can learn from other communities about what works and what doesn't. Ultimately when it all hits the fan we do what we have to do to survive - we are all in this together.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

back to reality

A year and a half ago I decided to take up fulltime extramural study. Just got my latest results back and I am pleased to say that I passed all of the last semester papers. Whew! I’ve completed 12 papers now, focused on Māori studies, and I have learnt a heck of a lot. Over summer I am going back to a job that I used to do and I am amazed that it has happened. There are some areas that are so special and tapu, unique and pristine, wild and untamed, so natural that it fills the heart to be allowed to interact with them. Farewell Spit is such a place. This nature reserve is known as Onetahua (heaped up sand) and as you can see from the map it looks like the head of a kiwi.

There are two companies that take tours out to the lighthouse on Farewell Spit and I will be working for one of them. It is a good role for me as I enjoy meeting people, being in nature and interpreting what we are seeing and experiencing so that the interconnections become apparent. As you can imagine over a full 6 hour tour a lot of information can be covered, but it is maximising the enjoyment of the guest experience, not regurgitation of facts, which is the key. Everyone can connect with the spit in some way because we all have interests, and the subtle identification of those connections is part of the experience. So if you get to Golden Bay and want to do a tour, send me an email and we'll sort it out. It will be fun I assure you.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

doing as a doomer

John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and his blog The Archdruid Report is essential reading for anyone interested in the ramifications of peak oil and our society. His weekly postings lead the reader through layers of complexity via delightful writing. He weaves his narrative over many interrelated subjects and he doesn't flinch from the truth..As you can tell I am a fan.

His latest post really opened my mind to the interconnections of so many areas. This is the last paragraph - to see how this paragraph ties the whole post together please read the full post here.
I have begun to suspect that this will turn out to be one of the most crucial downsides of the arrival of peak oil. If the industrial economy, as I’ve suggested, was basically an arbitrage scheme profiting off the difference in cost between energy from fossil fuels and energy from human laborers, the rising cost of fossil fuels and other inputs needed to run an industrial economy will sooner or later collide with the declining cost of labor in an impoverished and overcrowded society. As we get closer to that point, it seems to me that we may begin to see the entire industrial project unravel, as the profits needed to make industrialism make sense dry up. If that’s the unspoken subtext behind the widening spiral of economic dysfunction that seems to be gripping so much of the industrial world today, then what we’ve seen so far of what peak oil looks like may be a prologue to a series of wrenching economic transformations that will leave few lives untouched.

I suppose i am a doomer. I do believe that peak oil has occured and the effects as the Archdruid explains, will affect us all. I also believe that climate change is happening and is having and will continue to have accerlating negative worldwide effects. I see Fukishima is still putting highly radioactive material into the sea - anyway the list of portents is endless. I do beieve we are heading for a major downgrade but i don't think it is a cliff necessarily. I enjoy the Archdruid's discussions on the topic because he is focused on the real issue and that is how it will affect people and communities. His viewpoint is very considered and compassionate. Whatever happens connecting people will be the best solution, building relationships and cooperation, building communities and looking after each other. And the time to start is now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Discussing a book and the Mana Party

I have just finished rereading a book that I really enjoy - Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. I’ve read it a few times now and it’s a good swashbuckling fictional (yet based on historical truth) account of the early life of Miyamoto Musashi. As wikipediasays
The long epic (over 900 pages, abridged, in the English version) comprises seven "books" detailing the exploits of Miyamoto Musashi, beginning just after the battle of Sekigahara, following his journeys and the many people who become important in his life, and leading up to his climactic duel with Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryujima (Ganryu or Funa Island). Musashi becomes famous during the course of the novel as he searches for both perfection in swordsmanship and in consciousness. Innovating Japanese swordsmanship, he invents the style of simultaneously wielding both the katana and the wakizashi, something unheard of at that time in Japanese history.
many of the important events depicted in Yoshikawa Eiji's famous novel Musashi have a basis in reality, to include his battle with the Yoshioka School, his defeat of the noted spearman Inei (chief priest of the Hôzô-in), and his duel in 1612 with Sasaki Kojiro, another famed swordsman.
This type of historical fiction is enjoyable reading and considering what we know about the past is as likely to be close to the truth as not. I spent some time learning the way of the sword in the past and I feel a great affinity for Musashi. I remember seeing a demonstration of cutting from a famed swordsman – it is impossible to describe the power, the mana involved to cut cleanly, with focus, to be in a place of oneness with the act, the action, and the intent.

Musashi was born around 1568 and fought his first duel at age 13. That is a wee while ago and his story has been recounted many times as befits the legend. Would he recognise his own story? Does it matter? The story in the book describes a man looking for his answers and not just with the sword – to perfect himself was to perfect every aspect of life and the arts were as important as anything – painting, poetry, calligraphy, the tea ceremony – these were the expressions of self, as much as the katana. The Japanese revere Musashi and his story is their story now. How does all this fit with us here and now?

How many of our famous stories are unknown to the general population I wonder. How many Māori heroes who worked to perfect themselves and help their people. How many famed warriors who developed their own techniques and pursued perfection. The general public sees very little of this and the little they do get is often interpreted for them by non-Māori. Don’t be under any illusions, the stories and histories are there, but they are kept safe because the environment is dangerous for them. The environment won’t be safe until we have true equality for Māori. When that happens imagine a great industry around telling the stories, film, television, plays, graphic novels, the list is endless and they would be our stories and they would bind us together.

Musashi’s story in the book is wider than just him of course, it covers many aspects of culture and human interactions. It discusses politics, leadership, friendship, honour, whakapapa, forgiveness, and love. It looks at a changing society and the breakdown of traditional values. It speaks to our times as it flows over the past. The Mana Party and Hone have a kaupapa that must be delivered, despite distractions and the disastrous direction this country has decided upon. They must be as steadfast and true to their vision and values as Musashi, and I believe they will be. They must cultivate all aspects of the way, not just the sword. As Musashi often kept his opponents waiting before the clash to unsettle and disturb them, so must Hone and the Mana Party hold the space and make them wait. Let us choose the site and time of the battle not them. Musashi often fought against multiple opponents at the same time and he developed a two sword technique not seen before but very effective. He stated that once you have learnt to win against one then you can win against ten. Mana can win against multiple opponents it just has to develop a two sword technique that cuts through the dross and I believe they can and will do it.

the deluded and the deranged

Danyl at The DimPost cuts to the core with this post about the revised treasury forecast. Already their unrealistic pre-election forecasts have been revised downwards - apparently they have decided to factor in the european economic crisis. As danyl notes the major parties fought the election with these unrealistic projections and that shows the value of all of their promises - vacuous and a waste of time.

Right. So just to recap: Treasury made these very optimistic growth predictions in the 2011 budget, and everyone said they were delusional. But Treasury stood by their forecasts, and a month out from the election they repeated their insanely optimistic outlook in the PREFU.
The government and opposition parties based all of their fiscal policies on the Treasury forecasts. Both main parties claimed they’d get the country back into surplus in a few years, because of all the additional revenue from all that economic growth. Jobs weren’t a big topic of debate in this election, because Treasury promised us that all the growth would create 170,000 new jobs!
Now here we are, just over a week after the election and whaddya know? Treasury has announced they were too optimistic. Growth is going to be less than they said it would a month ago – even though nothing substantive has changed since then. The European crisis didn’t just emerge on Sunday the 27th.
 All very true and this is what john keys says

'Forecasts are wonderful things and they are a prediction of what may or may not occur. We are the government and so we will get on and run the operation as best we can ... yup, it might all go to hell in a handbasket and if it does we'll manage it. ''But at the moment we are more confident than others.'' The Government is committed to getting the books back to surplus in 2014/15.
''If there is some catastrophe in Europe and the place melts down, that changes the global economic outlook, there are always things that are beyond our control. But we are totally committed to trying to get back to surplus,'' he said.
How exactly key will manage everything going to hell in a handbasket is not known, probably the same way he deals with everything else - smile and spin. Same with dealing with the catastrophe of the global economic collapse - she'll be right mate - have a beer. Is this responsible government? Is this what we want or need? Apparently the answer is yes, based on the election. This really is the deluded leading the deranged.

Hattip - DimPost

Monday, December 5, 2011

adversity binds us together

I have not really been too interested in who the next leader of the labour party will be – shearer of cunliffe. Both too similar for me but it has been interesting watching the twisting and turning I suppose, following the memes and the propaganda. The leadership of the Māori Party is also under review – who would have thought so soon after the voters have just spoken. It makes a mockery of the whole process and shows the personal issues relating to Hone’s departure because just who do you think would have won between Hone and Te Ururoa. Tim at Tumeke is of the same view. The coyness of Te Ururoa is not needed – he is the only other party MP who isn’t the co-leader – who does he think is going to get the role? So he will get to play with the big boys as a minister outside cabinet, but what will Pita do? The Māori Party say they are bringing out the new faces but I can’t see it and Tariana will retire this term too. So a heavy load for Te Ururoa to carry – I don’t wish him ill-will but I am not confident that the burden is carryable, still good luck to him.

I think Mana is in a good position to build the kaupapa and support. Hone is in parliament and can raise issues. The issues will have supporters from most parties and from the community. As the situation for people becomes much worse than it is now, they will look for someone with solutions to their real problems and Hone and Mana will be offering solutions and talking about the real issues. On one hand I feel sad about the hardships to come and on the other I feel optimism. Adversity binds people together. And we will need to bind together, as whānau, as communities, as people to ensure everyone is looked after.

I am looking forward to seeing the Greens make an impact. There are major environmental issues that the gnats want to go hard on, including mining and exploitation of our resources. The Greens will be holding the line and I wish them well. We need them to be strong and true.

Winston will be very annoying for the gnats and that will be good although I can never really trust or like him. And for the gnats and john key – a bit of a honeymoon period of congratulations, and then back into their agenda. This election has set this country on a dangerous course.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

underreported struggles 56

More essential underreported struggles from Ahni at Intercontinetal Cry this month.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a controversial "land swap" bill giving the UK-Australia mining giant Rio Tinto direct access to places considered sacred by the Apache and other Indigenous Peoples in southeastern Arizona. In exchange for the U.S. House of Representatives' "gift", Rio Tinto will hand over some other land that isn't mineral rich. That is, land to the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The World Bank is preparing to steamroll ahead with a new funding program that would virtually eliminate 26 of the Bank's safeguard policies, including those meant for Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Assessments, Physical and Cultural Resources, Forests, Natural Habitats, and Involuntary Resettlement. At this point, the World Bank has not consulted any Indigenous Peoples about the proposed "Program for Results (P4R)" - and it likely will not do so, unless the international community can pressure them into it.

An alliance of the Unist'ot'en (People of the Headwaters) and the Likhts'amisyu (Hereditary Chiefs) of the Wet'suwet'en Nation have evicted a group of pipeline drillers from their traditional territory, sending a clear message to Enbridge, Pacific Trails and the entire oil industry: "We cannot and will not permit any pipelines through our territory."

With the Wixarika People continuing to struggle against the threat of mining within their sacred landscape in the Mexican region known as Wirikuta, another area considered sacred by the Wixarika has been licensed out in concessions by the government. According to the Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), approximately 250 acres of beachfront property including the sacred area of Tatéi Haramara will now be developed for tourism.

The Tribal Council of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians has passed a resolution that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" on the North Dakota reservation. The resolution also calls for the council to protect "Mother Earth from any pollutants that may cause harm to its citizens, land, water, and air."

At least four Saami communities are standing up to mining companies that want to exploit their customary reindeer grazing lands in Northern Sweden. Last week, two communities warned that the British mining company Beowulf is in breach of its own ethical guidelines for failing to engage them meaningfully, while it pursues a new iron mine on the grazing lands. Meanwhile, two other communities continue speaking out against Scandinavian Resources' (SCR's) proposed iron mines in the Kalix River Valley, less than 200km away from Beowulf's proposed project.

Visit Intercontinetal Cry to read about these issues and many others. There is much connection between all of our struggles.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

a ramble on asset sales and Iwi

There are many people that oppose the sale of state assets, partial or otherwise. National have been elected and are forming the government and that government will be pushing the asset sale agenda. Iwi are beginning to come out with their views and Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere of Ngāi Tahu has stated the iwi position. I am opposed to the sale of any state assets and I also have doubts about Iwi buying into state assets. This post outlines some of my reasons for those doubts, please note it is a bit of a ramble and some of the thoughts need polishing.

Mark Solomon says that Ngāi Tahu have never advocated for the outright sale of state assets. And he explains that at a meeting in Feb 2009 with John Key and Bill English when Iwi leaders were told that the government books were rough and ‘cash strapped’ he suggested at that meeting, “When it comes to the settlements have you ever considered a shareholding in some of the SOE’s as part of settlement packages.” Solomon then says that “the government said that they would not consider it in their first term but they would put it up as a question leading into the next election, and have come back with their model of selling off 49% of the asset.”

My opposition to selling these state assets is that - they are already owned by the citizens, and that they are strategic assets which should never be sold, and that the price they think they’ll get is wildly overrated, and that they have already factored in the price they think they will get, and that overseas ownership is inevitable in this type of scenario, and that it leads to higher prices, and that it leads to further privatisation and commodification of natural resources which is designed to increase profit for shareholders, and that profit comes largely from price, but cost cutting is also there. So selling assets just doesn’t stack up, it doesn’t make sense. But that won’t stop national or their support parties.

Buying shares in these companies is an investment decision. As noted by Mark Solomon, “the returns – simple business decisions – good long term investments and allowing us to invest in our own country.”  At no meeting that Solomon has attended has their been any mention of Iwi having preferential shares. No added benefits to Māori like lower power prices because as Solomon says they would be buying a shareholding in a company and they would be a minority shareholder. It is a business deal. As a minority shareholder Iwi won’t be able to influence pricing decisions – or profit. They will reap the rewards and spread that reward amongst their beneficiaries, even though they are the same people that have paid the higher price to get the profit.

The argument is always put that if iwi don’t get into it, someone else will or why shouldn’t Iwi participate. My answer is of course it is up to Iwi to make their own decisions. And those decisions must be made after full discussion, with all points of view noted. For instance – if the benefits to Iwi members are just around the shareholding, why do it? why should generational striving for justice, paid out as a small percentage of the loss, be used to buy shares in companies, could it not be used in better ways. how is tino rangatiratanga advanced when we buy into the system and its values and place profit at a premium.

Māori should own the assets of this country, from within a Māori worldview and through the front door not the back door - through partnership not fakery and tokenism. Iwi that buy state assets will be minority shareholders and as more state assets are sold the more Iwi will dissipate their power, to ensure they have shares in those assets. This will bleed the power of Iwi and dilute their ability to do anything other than sit there and take their profits. They could sell but who to? Whoever has the money is the answer. There are other ways of growing the pūtea – the rebuild of Christchurch being one, anyway the investment team will decide – based on their objectives. I’d like to see the arguments framed around tikanga and illustrating the lessons from our ancestors and highlighting the benefits to the people and alignment with our values, not just the balance sheet.

If the decisions are investment decisions then that is how it will be assessed, no sense in trying to dress it up differently – there is no preferential treatment in allocation of shares or advantage for Māori in their power bills. There is nothing other than an investment decision – to my mind this is a pivotal point because the investment decision may disadvantage the overall group and therefore would be in conflict with our values. If you invest in a company that gets profit from a basic service like power, and if the price is raised then there is more profit but that profit comes from the higher prices paid by the consumers. They are worse off. The overall group has been disadvantaged. The investment decision assumes a position of dominance to the strengthening of the collective. Anything that assumes dominance against the benefits of the group is rejected, at least in my view. The counter is that the profit goes back to the collective but that profit has to come from somewhere and it comes from the collective itself. Another view is that it will happen anyway so at least some profit is made but that is defeatist IMO because it is giving away our power.

It may be that the Iwi has considered the small points I am making - it just seems to me that the debate must be widened. My opposition to Iwi investment is that the overall benefits to Iwi members cannot be guaranteed and that the decision is just a straight investment decision where other considerations relating to te Āo Māori do not impinge and because of that there is a dominance that does not align with our value of protecting and strengthening the collective, the community. When those reasons are added to the long list of other reasons for opposing asset sales, the case for selling and buying them thins out even more.

Now just to be clear I am a proud member of Ngāi Tahu whānui and I know that there are no clear right and wrong answers much as we would like them. I am not disrespecting the efforts to date to secure mana for the Iwi. I am simply putting up some counter views, constructively, so that wider points can be considered.

Everyone sees things differently, these are just some of my thoughts and I realise they may not attract much support but they come from an iwi member who cares.

Hattip - Pip and Maui St