Brexit and the future of the UK and EU, Dr Fraser Cameron, January 16, 2020
Dr Fraser Cameron, director of the EU – Asia Centre in Brussels, former British diplomat and EU official, assessed implications of Brexit and the recent British general election for the future unity of the UK.
Sea Ice, Professor Pat Langhorne, February 19, 2020
Sea ice (frozen ocean) is a critical part of the climate of the Southern Hemisphere. Every year, the sea ice around Antarctica expands from its summer extent of almost nothing to cover an area that is nearly twice that of Australia. While satellites tell us about the ocean area covered by sea ice, we know very little about how thick it is. In contrast, in the Northern Hemisphere, we know Arctic sea ice mass has halved since the 1970’s. How long until Arctic sea ice disappears completely in summer? Why is the behaviour of sea ice around Antarctica so different from that in the Arctic? Why is our knowledge of Antarctic sea ice so much poorer than Arctic?
Then Covid closedown ‘til…
Power to the People, Max Rashbrooke, 29 July 2020
Kiwis’ democratic action should not be limited to exercising our vote once every three years for both local and central government, says democracy author, journalist and academic Max Rashbrooke. Different models – like participative budgeting, citizens’ assemblies and consultation – have different outcomes, inputs, costs and time consumption. Going higher up the ladder of participation and deliberation, in turn, empowers people and makes the decisions wiser, as they become more informed of different viewpoints, context and information. The higher the level and quality of discussion, the more trade-offs and conciliation is made on the way, creating higher public trust in the process, politicians and resultant policy. Forms of participative democracy are practised around the world and have proven to have greater legitimacy and endurance than the shallow consultation process that traditionally takes place. Taranaki’s codesign of an economic plan entitled Taranaki 2050 is a case in point, Max says.
European Green Deal, EU ambassador Nina Obermaier, August 27, 2020
Despite Boris Johnson’s continuing claims to the contrary, there are no European Union laws about the required curve of bananas – that was a fiction he triggered as a journalist back in the day. But there are rules about cucumbers being straight, due to retailer demand to standardise the number of cucumbers per container, Nina says. The EU is not a super state of 450 million people and can only act on an issue if it has cross state impact, and through negotiated consensus. Extensive green policies agreed – including the aim of increasing organic farming to 25% of total and 33% of annual EU budget having to be spent on climate change mitigation. Brexit has strengthened the EU, through showing other states the benefits of being a member – such as coordinated health systems, free Internet roaming and being able to study and live and work where they want to. “That was very much taken for granted, now it’s more appreciated.” The need for consensus between national states over issues like LGBTQ rights and judicial independence means negotiations are slow, “but it is dialogue between friends”. Common goals between EU and NZ include the rules-based global order, climate change mitigation and an NZ – EU free trade agreement.
Your Votes – 2020, Southland Electorate Parliamentary Candidates And Cannabis Referendum Speaker, September 3, 2020
All five Southland electorate parliamentary candidates gave a stump speech – varying in quality and content – before Q and A. To maintain our political independence, we won’t try and summarise them! Professor Joe Boden, Chief Science Advisor’s Expert Panel on Cannabis, said the proposed legislation would ensure everything was regulated from production to retail, with no advertising allowed. Research points to 80% of New Zealanders having tried marijuana under current prohibition, of whom about 15% have developed problems of cannabis disorder – compared to 50% for alcohol. Netherlands, where marijuana has been decriminalised for 46 years, found no evidence of marijuana having a gateway effect for harder drugs, largely because users don’t have to visit a drug dealer to buy it. Addiction potential of marijuana is less than both alcohol and meth. 85% of those caught and criminalised for cannabis use either continued or increased their usage. Prosecution rate for Maori is three times higher than Pakeha, having significant subsequent socio-economic and life option consequences. Canadian research showed that use among 15 to 18-year-olds decreased from 19 to 10% in the year after legalisation and in US states where cannabis was legal from 2014, youth usage rates went down consistently to 2019. After legalisation in Canada, use only went up among middle-aged males. In New Zealand, research shows 5% of 13-year-olds have tried cannabis and this number rises to 50% by 18 years. In terms of health, the main priority of policy should be to get cannabis out of the hands of 18 years old and under.
Saving Our National Icon: One Egg At A Time, Emma Bean, September 15, 2020
25 million native birds are killed by predators each year in New Zealand, that is nearly 1 per second. Without our help, Kiwis could be extinct within our lifetime. The National Kiwi Hatchery manager said the most at risk were flightless, large, ground nesting birds with long incubation periods… Kiwi in a nutshell. Kiwi have marrow in their bones and two ovaries, unlike flying birds, with air-filled bones and just one ovary to make them lighter. They also have a sixth sense; sensory pits at the tip of the bill that pick up movements of invertebrates in the soil. Operation Nest Egg, which she runs, is the most effective part of the Kiwi Recovery Plan. The goal of this is to reach 100,000 Kiwis by 2030, by growing all five Kiwi species by at least 2% a year, restoring their former distribution and maintaining their genetic diversity. In the South Island, primary barriers to this include mountains, which make predator control and monitoring the egg-incubating males much harder, and feral cats. Kiwis are born ready to go, “they come out kicking, with a lunchbox in their tummy and they’re independent from a week or so old. They’re 300 g, with all the sass but no weight behind them.” It’s not until they are around 1 kg that their famously kicking legs can defend them against the terrifying stoat: one of the reasons only some 5% of kiwi reach adulthood in the wild – compared to 83% at the hatchery. Queenstown’s own Kiwi Birdlife Park also raises kiwi to release in the wild.
End of Life Choice Referendum Webinar, Dr Jessica Young, September 24, 2020
Dr Young’s extensive research, both in NZ and overseas, indicated that New Zealand’s End of Life Choice Act had such a narrow scope after making its way through the political process that it would only be able to give that choice to people for whom palliative care could not help alleviate the unbearable suffering of their advanced state of decline. People could not make this choice if they had dementia, depression or were in any other way not capable of making an informed decision. Neither advanced directives nor guardians could activate this choice. Doctors who conscientiously objected to taking part in any part of the process could choose to not do so. Her research showed nurses and the public were more supportive (over 70%) versus palliative caregivers and doctors (less than 40%) of allowing people to choose euthanasia. It also showed that those who supported euthanasia wanted it available as “an option of last resort”. She said one of the main arguments “for” the Act was to minimise the effects of those left behind when people felt forced to commit suicide to end their physical suffering. No state or country where it had been legalised had repealed the Act. If such Acts were extended, this had to go through proper legal process.
Covid 19 and the Emerging Global Order. Prof Robert Patman October 4, 2020
While experts disagree on whether the “new normal” forced by the global pandemic will be populist driven nationalist fragmentation or deep globalisation, Prof Patman believes globalisation is a structural change in society that cannot be rolled back. But Covid has confirmed the near breakdown of the international rules-based global order on which NZ and another 186 of the UN’s 193 countries rely. The UN Security Council is dysfunctional, largely because of the P5’s veto power – either this needs to change, or some other body/actor needs to evolve because the many “problems without passports” can’t be solved by nation states alone. Climate change, a slower but even more deadly force than Covid, requires this evolution to happen soon. He believes New Zealand will be much more forward leaning on the global stage in future decades, and should take advantage of the soft power gained through PM Jacinda Adern’s international reputation for her and her government’s response to the Christchurch Mosque massacres, Whakaari/White Island volcanic eruption and Covid 19. Twitter’s ban on political ads was a direct result of her “Christchurch Call” but on the Trump front, NZ was more likely to be able to speak up effectively against someone like Trump as part of a coalition of 30 or more liberal countries than on its own. We tend to be “too deferential” to big countries’ power, but were now at a time of “international transition” because the “great powers can’t deliver”.
Did eugenics rest on an elementary mistake? Lessons from history for today. Prof Hamish Spencer, October 30, 2020
‘Feebleminded’ people – who by their nature were more prone to immorality, drunkenness, pauperism and becoming criminals – were the primary targets of eugenics. They were also more prolific, with research pointing to four kids per family for ‘normal’ people versus seven for those with ‘feebleminded’ parents during the 1920s/30s. Sterilisation was the answer – even in New Zealand, where compulsory sterilisation and banning of marriage between two individuals on a register of mental defectives was mooted by a Royal Commission in 1925. There was little scientific questioning of either the principles or the science behind them. The 1928 election results put paid to that legislation, which died a natural death as the next four prime ministers had voted against it. Loss of support for eugenics since the heydays of 1870s – 1950s was due more to political and ethical paradigm shifts – factors such as a greater belief in patients’ rights in medicine, feminism and reproductive autonomy – than scientific progress.