Monday, April 26, 2010

Listen To The Cree

Great Barrier Island New Zealand

The recently elected New Zealand Government is going ahead with a number of initiatives which I really don't like, but let me concentrate on one of their dumbest ideas.

One of the most idiotic ideas that anyone has proposed for years has been announced.
There is a proposal to take land off the schedule four list. Land on the schedule four list is land that is crown land within our National Parks. In tandem with this proposal is to fund a multimillion dollar investigation into a cost benefit analysis of MINING land within New Zealands National Parks. The areas being investigated are on Great Barrier Island, The Coromandel Peninsula and areas within our national parks in the South Island of NZ. Of course this will do nothing for New Zealands clean green image and many are saying that damaging our image will damage our tourism industry and 'Brand NZ' (whatever that money making dipstick factoid means) - Of course they are going to have a fight on their hands over this one.

The rationale for mining by this mammon worshipping government is that the benefits will increase the net worth of everyone and help us catch up economically with Australia which relies pretty much on being an open cast mine for much of its wealth - and if we have to rip the guts out of our National Parks to be like them - well, so be it. It makes me want to weep.

But! will mining our National Parks actually achieve this economic goal?
I recently read an article by Professor Bryan Gould, Vice-Chancellor, University of Waikato, New Zealand. He pointed out that countries that come across vast wealth may not in the long run reap the benefits that they envisioned unless they are very aware of some of the economic impacts this wealth has on an economy. He talked about an impact that happened in the UK and in Europe which is termed the 'Dutch Disease'.........

........The de-industrialization of a nation's economy that occurs when the discovery of a natural resource raises the value of that nation's currency, making manufactured goods less competitive with other nations, increasing imports and decreasing exports. The term originated in Holland after the discovery of North Sea gas. It is well documented that this happened in Britain which closed a lot of its manufacturing base because of the effect of oil riches on the British currency.

Apparently because of this effect the only country to benefit from North Sea oil in the long run has been the Norwegians who were able to 'ring fence' the riches from the oil and invest it on Norways behalf and keep that money from influencing Norway's currency. Britain and other European countries apparently have endured this Dutch Disease effect to the extent of having a nil gain overall economically. But surely these Norwegian riches were only able to be gathered because the mining company was owned by Norway? The move here is to open mining up to mulitnational companies with 95% of the profits going to overseas investors. Where is the wealth for New Zealand in all of this? - the jobs and infrastructure that come with this mining despoilation of our environment will only be transitory.

But putting aside economic arguments aren't there greater values at stake here? Values that are mistaken for intangible values when in fact they are very tangible - Values of the spirit. Values to do with our humanity. Values which honour our natural world, a world on which we all ultimately depend as a species for our very survival ?

I read something on a poster a few weeks ago that sums up in a more succinct way what I am trying to say here. It is an old Cree Indian Prophecy:

"Only after the last tree has been cut down,
Only after the last river has been poisoned,
Only after the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.



Janice said...

And I'm willing to bet that that prophecy was only given after a few million Europeans showed up in Canada. I am so sick of money being the driving force behind the insane things that we human beings do; it throws our whole world out of balance, and so very few benefit from it. When will we realize that the earth doesn't need us, but we need her, for our very existence. It's a lot like a child systematically poisoning its mother, with no thought for where sustenance will come from when she is gone. I hope the people of New Zealand fight this thing ferociously, until they win, because once it is gone, you can't get it back.

Seo Jong Do said...

hi! i'm seo from korea

i want to be your follwer

also i want you be my follwer

thank you

Alden Smith said...

Janice I hope we fight this issue ferociously too, as you say - "... once it is gone, you can't get it back"

Alden Smith said...

Seo I always like a direct approach, thats fine - but I have a problem. I viewed your blog and find that it is written in Korean. Would you please explain to me how I am expected to follow, read and comment on a Blog site that is impossible for me to read ??

Janice said...

Alden, you might find the words of Chief Seattle on the topic of the environment: interesting

Alden Smith said...

Janice, I found these words on your recommended website obviously theologically interesting, as I am sure many people would:

"Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us."

A just God? an impartial God? --- Is there in fact any God at all in any of this?

Thankyou for giving me the link. There is much that is poigniant in the speech, much that is universal in its concerns.

Natasha said...

That is so insightful, I love the quote at the end. Very nice blog, sir.


Alden Smith said...

Thankyou for the compliment Natasha, and calling me 'Sir' made me think - Sir Alden Smith, hmmmmm does have a nice ring to it - now let me invent a reason for my fantasy Knighthood.... ah yes.... Arise Sir Alden, your contribution to good humour and international relations through your Blog has at last been recognised by a grateful nation..... when your readership rises above the usual 5 people we may award you the Nobel prize for Blog Literature.

VenDr said...

"If it moves, privatise it. If it doesn't move, mine it" We are STILL paying for the economic fundamentalism of the National Government of the 1990s(one example amongst many: take a working, cheap, efficient electricity system, divide it up into 7 competing companies [ie 7 times the administrative overhead being funded by a fairly static income stream] for no other reason than an ideological one) and then sit around being surprised that instead of competing for the static customer base through lowered prices, the companies put all their energy into trying to take each other over. As the easily predictable result we have had steadily rising prices, brownouts and poor development of infrastructure. This mining of national parks idiocy is more of the same. Single solution economics. Whatever the problem, apply the same solution. ie fundamentalism.

Alden Smith said...

Kelvin you are right it is ideologically driven, which as you point out leads in this case to economic fundamentalism.
What I find difficult to understand is their capacity to fly in the face of international experience. Two examples:

The privatisation of prisons that is to go ahead in New Zealand has never saved the tax payer money anywhere in the world. It has always cost substantially more - Which stands to reason considering the whole thing is profit driven.

National standards in schools. Despite the plethora of testing that goes on in schools much of it national norm based testing this government is riding roughshod over international experience and introducing a system which leads to league tables and all the concerns and barriers to childrens learning that it involves - International experience is that it does nothing to raise standards - AND despite the fact that the international data shows that the country that scores highest in terms of numeracy and literacy is Finland, which has very little of this time consuming testing within its system.