Opinions on geography, climatology and ecology.
Opinions on geography, climatology, ecology and red-light runners.
EAT YOUR GREENS
I am going through a chubby phase. Well, more of a post-menopausal, post- Christmas state of being ( Retrain Your Fat Cells and Lose Weight, March). I’ve read your informative articles, along with various diet books. I have a science degree, have my head around cholesterol, low GI, insulin response and I’m capable of wading through published papers. I still, however, subscribe to a summation of wisdom from two mentors: my mother and Madagascar’s King Julien. “Eat your greens, don’t be greedy, savour a varied diet, and most importantly, you’ve got to move it, move it!” JANN-MARIE ROSS, AUCKLAND
DOC TAKES STOCK
Mike White’s article on kaki/ black stilt ( Last Legs?, March) may have left readers concerned that the conservation of this special Canterbury wading bird was being impeded by the lack of an aviary, which was destroyed in a snow storm in 2015.
I want to assure New Zealanders that the Department of Conservation has a sound strategy in place to continue to build and protect the fragile black stilt population in the Mackenzie Basin.
Part of this strategy is to rebuild the lost aviary at Doc’s captive breeding facility near Twizel to ensure this programme can produce sufficient numbers of birds to continue to slowly build the population in the wild.
DOC is in talks right now with an external partner who wants to be involved and has also completed preliminary design work. The department is committed to having a new aviary in place in time for the next breeding season.
Meanwhile, this chick-rearing season is proving to be a good one. DOC has reared 142 young kaki this summer, which compares well with the 120 and 149 birds reared the two summers prior to losing the aviary. This captive management programme is world-leading and has saved kaki from extinction.
However, captive breeding is just one part of the strategy to save this species. DOC has been successful in raising black stilt chicks, but the main issue is their survival once they are released into the braided-river environment, where predators such as feral cats and stoats are the key threat. Currently only about 30 per cent of captive-reared young birds survive to adulthood in the wild.
DOC runs a trapping programme over 20,000 hectares in the Tasman Valley to reduce predators to protect kaki and other braided-river birds. In recent years, DOC has developed new methods to control southern black-backed gulls, which also prey on these birds. This programme has helped build kaki numbers in the wild from a low of 23 adult birds to more than 90 today. However, it’s not yet feasible to control predators over the entire area where black stilt range.
This is why the government’s Predator Free 2050 strategy is so important. Long term, this strategy is focused on making kaki habitat safer and one where they are more likely to survive. MIKE SLATER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL, OPERATIONS, DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION • Despite Mike Slater’s attempts to soothe public concern, it is inarguable that delays in replacing the Twizel aviary have significantly affected conservation of the critically endangered kaki. Staff have had insufficient space for rearing chicks and juveniles, have had to leave eggs in the wild where chicks have virtually no chance of survival, have had to release birds into the wild much earlier than optimal because there is no space for them, and have even had to release birds earmarked as crucial breeding stock, to make room for new arrivals. As stated by DOC staff in the story, 20-30 more adult kaki could have resulted from the most recent breeding season if there had been sufficient facilities. Given it has taken nearly 40 years to increase adult kaki numbers from 23 to 93, such an increase would have been dramatic. While Slater insists DOC has a “sound strategy” for the birds, it simply has not had the money to execute it – as explained by one of its senior managers in the story. It is heartening, however, to note DOC has now decided to bring forward the aviary’s replacement by at least a year. – Mike White
The article on the troubles faced by DOC and the kaki’s struggle for survival ( Last Legs?) was emotionally draining and actually took me a few days to finish. Between readings, I watched a television news item on Minister Maggie Barry’s visit to our Sub-antarctic Islands. She gushed about the experience and stated it was definitely “one to tick off her bucket list”. Maybe this tour was one of the reasons she was “too busy” to talk to North & South about the funding crisis facing her department?
I wonder if when her friend, John Key, gave her the job she misheard and thought she was becoming the Minister of Conversation, appropriate given her background in radio and gardening chat shows. Under her stewardship, DOC has been focused on tourism dollars and recreation, but that is in keeping with the whole “develop at all costs” position of recent governments. It is alarming that pivot irrigators are threatening kaki while, in Hawke’s Bay, DOC is working hand in glove with National Party supporters to appeal the court decision stopping the Ruataniwha dam.
I hope Barry’s trip down south doesn’t bring dairy farms to the Sub-antarctic Islands (Minister of Conversions?). KEITH SIMES, HASTINGS
Sarah Lang’s report on the dangers of running the red light made the point that cameras are a significant deterrent ( Seeing Red, March). This proves that red-light runners are perfectly capable of obeying the law when it suits them. But what of all the intersections where there is no camera?
The basic solution, which would come at no financial cost, would be to reinstate the former serious penalty for this, which worked brilliantly. Drivers were so afraid of losing their licence that one seldom saw anyone run a red light. That is, until April 1, 1981 when a breach of the red light was reduced to a category called, I believe, “technical infringements”, the only penalty being a small fine. Unsurprisingly, the red-light running commenced pretty well overnight, with an alarming increase in crashes at intersections.
At various times over the following years, I wrote to different ministers of transport, and the Land Transport Safety Authority, asking why a meaningful deterrent penalty was not being reinstated. I received not one sensible answer. Perhaps your publication might have more success than me in putting this question to those responsible for road safety?
With rafts of protective legislation over many areas of our lives, it is a mystery why innocent road users are not afforded the highest degree of protection by the law in this situation. Further, it is a reasonable assumption that getting away with something as basic as ignoring the red light must encourage a similarly casual approach to all other areas of road safety. BEVERLEY BLYTH, WHANGAPARAOA *LETTER OF THE MONTH
I would like to draw attention to the part played by my husband, John Drake, in helping Tirau’s rejuvenation more than 22 years ago, when he designed and built the first “corrugated creation”, the giant Sheep ( Iron Side, February). The building of the companion Dog information centre and toilet building, also on our property, was to have been undertaken by John but at that time he was suffering a rheumatic arthritis attack and Steven [Clothier] was persuaded to try his hand.
John has always been a handyman, but the shaping of corrugated aluminium was unknown to him, so when building the Sheep in 1994, he made a model as a guide and scaled up from there. He borrowed a redundant hand iron-bending machine and bent the sheets to the shapes required.
Steven, also being new to corrugated sculpture, was encouraged by my husband to build the Dog. Steven’s confidence grew and he undertook more commissions, including one from us in 2009 to build a giant Ram’s head onto our second barn, alongside our Sheep.
For conceiving and building the original corrugated sculpture in Tirau, though, I nominate John Drake as the Tin Man of Tirau. NANCY DRAKE, TIRAU
We’ve broken a journey in Tirau many times for a toilet stop at the Dog and a coffee at one of the cafes along the main road, but Castle Pamela is probably the only place of note we’ve visited. Your article ( Iron Side) has given us many more options to explore next time we are passing through.
One point I would like to clarify is the claim that Tirau is pretty much the dead centre of the North Island. This distinction belongs to the Pureora Forest, where the geographical centre of the North Island is to be found on the southwestern flank of Mt Titiraupenga, about 20km southwest in a straight line from Mangakino; whereas the distance to Tirau is approximately 62km. The point is marked by a small obelisk giving details of how the spot was identified and the name of the surveyor who located the point. DENIS HIBBS, MANGAKINO • Tirau’s Sheryn Clothier explains: “Denis is right – the geographical centre of the North Island is in Pureora Forest Park and is marked by an obelisk. Defining the geographical centre is best described as cutting out a shape of the North Island and finding the balancing point on a pencil. With an odd-shaped piece of land, this is getting the mass equal in all directions. However, if you draw a square box around the North Island’s extremities, and calculate the centre of that by drawing an X, you arrive at a GPS position of 38°0’17”S, 175°35’36” W (Latitude: -38.004722 |Longitude: 175.593333), which is across the Waikato River from Tirau, on the slopes of Mt Maungatautari.”
TRUMP TO GO?
Regarding your editorial The Trump Effect (March), I suggest President Trump exempted Saudi Arabia from his travel ban as he probably does business there, just like his ties to Russia. But I would not be overly concerned about his longterm effect on the world, including New Zealand, as I also suggest Trump may not live out his term of office – he may be taken out.
He would not be the first US
president to go this way. This is, in part, due to the strength and political force of the US gun lobby, and America’s widespread rights to carry guns at all times, in all places. Trump supports the current gun laws and will never change, regardless of the mass shootings that will surely happen during his presidency. A recent lucky escape was the arrest of two boys, aged 13 and 14, who were planning a shooting in a school gym: a copycat of the Columbine massacre. When will it ever stop? MURRAY HUNTER, AUCKLAND
ON NORTH & SOUTH’S Facebook page, Dean Sole wrote he was disappointed that the March editorial’s reference to the victims of the Holocaust – “the death of an estimated six million Jews, 250,000 disabled people, 200,000 Romani people and 9000 homosexual men at the hands of the Nazi regime...” – failed to mention “the five million others, mainly Slavs, who were killed by Nazi extermination squads”. • Duly and soberly noted. – Ed.
I’ve not yet read Jim Flynn’s book on climate change, No Place to Hide, so I don’t know what he says about how we got into this pickle ( Pulling Up our Socks, February). For what it’s worth, here’s how I would put it: in 1824, Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth received insufficient energy from the sun to be habitable. Since it clearly was habitable, he deduced there must be “something” in the atmosphere to make it so. In the 1860s, John Tyndall discovered what the “something” was – carbon dioxide. There was a correlation between the CO in the atmosphere
2 and the average global temperature.
In 1896, Svante Arrhenius sought to quantify the correlation. He calculated – by hand – that doubling the concentration of CO would result in
2 a warming of about five degrees. This was a little pessimistic, but not bad for a hand calculation. The current best estimates are in the region of three degrees. In 1901, Nils Gustaf Ekholm called it the greenhouse effect, which is not quite accurate as analogies go – a thermal blanket is more like it. In 1917, noting all the CO arising
2 from the coal and oil being burned, Alexander Graham Bell warned that too much of it meant the greenhouse would become a hothouse. But at that time, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was not accurately known. In the late 1950s, Charles Keeling decided it was time to find out. He established a laboratory to do so high on a Hawaiian mountain. After just a few years, he discovered that, apart from a seasonal variation, the concentration was gradually increasing – inexorably, year after year.
The conclusion was obvious: rising carbon dioxide, rising temperatures. In 1965, a fat report on the environment landed on US President Lyndon Johnson’s desk. Among other things, it warned that the continuously rising atmospheric CO was a threat
2 to the planet’s climate. He asked if the threat was serious, and was
assured that it most definitely was.
That was 1965. What has since been done about the threat? Absolutely nothing. Why? Because the fossilfuel industry and their supporters in business, politics and the media have waged an unrelenting, decadeslong and devastatingly successful propaganda war against climate science. They have bamboozled enough people into rejecting the science and thereby sabotaged any effective climate action. The fossil fools have put profit before planet. Their immense wealth and power depend on their ability to continue selling fossil fuel. But climate action requires a ramping down of fossil-fuel use. Therefore, this had to be stopped at all costs.
It might not seem too late to avert disaster, but this reckons without the inertia of the planet’s climate system. The concentration of atmospheric CO is currently just over 400ppm.
2 The last time it was this high was a little more than three million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch. The corresponding average global temperature was two or three degrees higher than today’s. There was not much snow and ice in the world; most was in the ocean. As a consequence, the sea level was some 25m higher than now. It will take us a while to get to this state, but get there we will. Meanwhile we won’t be stopping at 400ppm of carbon dioxide, will we? So it will get worse. Welcome to the New Earth, courtesy of the fossil fools. DIGBY SCORGIE, KAIAPOI