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THERE IS NO MORAL CORRECTITUDE ABOUT MAKING MONEY.
Parliament so that we can have good regional decision-making.
What we need in academia, civic leadership, business and the media, is the ability – via some kind of structured evaluation process – to mesh together all the bits that the specialists can contribute. Clearly such a mechanism can be applied at any level but is essential at the very highest level so it is over-arching.
At times the clash of specialisations will be stark, for example, when the assumptions of an agri-business professor come up against those of a water scientist. That mechanism is going to have to be long, wide and clear-sighted to put such disparities into meaningful perspective.
For a university, it should be easy. A representative committee could meet regularly, assess, and report. It may even be that they would end up with a separate group of people specialising in generalising (I’d love to write the job description for that one!) and over-viewing.
The useful inclusion of our elected leadership in this process would require quality research from the Public Service. This would have to be uninfluenced by ministerial pressure, or indeed any pressure. Given that the Public Service is also a collection of specialist outfits, it would be reasonable to again assume their need for a committee of assimilative generalists.
Business is a little more difficult – there is no moral correctitude about making money. Probably, business is best driven by those Public Service specialists, via regulation.
In the interests of avoiding duplication, it would be great if academia’s general integration panel was in turn integrated with the Public Service one. The nearest we get to this is the Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman.
Having come to these conclusions some years ago, I have followed the stance of Sir Peter with interest. For a start, he is a classic case of someone with specialised training – in his case, health – stepping into an ‘overview’ arena where comments are expected from outside their expertise.
Long-term readers know what I think: that all life, including us, requires energy inputs; that all economic activity, when you trace it back, does too; that the supply of stored solar energy (fossil fuels) and the supply of finite resources they bring us, had
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THE GLOBAL POLITICAL COMMUNITY HAS YET TO SOLVE THESE CONFLICTING EXPECTATIONS.
to peak; that because of this, exponential ‘economic growth’ has to cease.
When Sir Peter made a comment about economic growth, I challenged him, asking him if his Office had looked at the relationship between energy and money. There was no reply, so I made an Official Information request. His office – after waiting for the longest time allowable – replied in the negative.
I took this to mean our chief scientific advisor to the Government, expected to be a ‘generalist’, wasn’t able to produce evidence that he’d studied what he was advocating or what it was that underwrote it. He could, of course, have produced a reasoned rebuttal to my assertion.
I’m still all in favour of having a Chief Scientific Advisor, given the need for integrated thinking. When you read what Sir Peter was writing from early on, you realise that he is well aware of the issue too. Here are some excerpts from his 2009 offering on Climate Change:
“Understanding the complexity of climate science requires the involvement of many scientific disciplines, and this creates difficulties in reaching conclusions.”
“The problem that overlays all of this is one of economics.”
“The global political community has yet to solve these conflicting expectations.”
Last year, Sir Peter hosted the inaugural conference of the International Council for Science here in NZ. From the conference summary, we get this wee gem:
“A recurring theme of discussion at the conference was the need for multidisciplinary and, increasingly, multijurisdictional responses to the types of questions for which governments today would need (and ideally seek) science-based advice.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Go for multiple use
Everything we do on our blocks impacts something else, or indeed often displaces something else. Multiple-use allows us to do more. For example, Jennie and I have just planted a mixture of tree lucerne and flax on a slip-prone piece of ground. This will bring the birds and the bees, giving us infill-seeding between our plantings, and pollination, while also slurping up ground-water and providing shelter. Riparian zones reduce nutrients into waterways, decreasing weed growth, improving biodiversity and water quality, and providing a better environment for swimming and fishing for you and your community.