Growing up as a child in the mid 20th century in New Zealand, I learnt a common kiwi satirical saying. ‘I’m all right Jack’ referred to those us New Zealanders who believed everything was going well for them and they didn’t care how anybody else was managing. The “I’m all right Jack’ kind of guy would do anything he/she liked and didn’t concern himself with the consequences of their actions for others…Back then we lived in a relatively closed island community, shipping was the primary transport in and out of New Zealand and radio shortwave from the outside world, our society was a social welfare community; an understanding that our government and citizens had a responsibility to support and protect those who were more vulnerable than ourselves.
It was certainly not the perfect society; monocultural, intolerant of difference and non ‘white’ races, with hidden seams of family abuse and violence. Some things have changed for the better over the years, but the ‘I’m all right Jack’ culture-though no longer a phrased commonly used, is rampant as it is everywhere across the globe. It is an Ayn Rand socio/psychopathic kind of culture: I have a right to do whatever I wish, and to hell with the consequences for anyone else.
But today, more than at any other time in history, individual humans can no longer avoid the collective impact of their actions. There are simply too many of us on this planet – there is no other refuge, no unexplored wilderness, where we can go when things turn out badly.
The urgency for all humans, particularly those in the West, to dramatically change the way we live our lives has never been more immediate. Despite all the hype, we can not ‘grow’ our way out of our environmental catastrophe (climate change and biodiversity loss). Neither can we stop that catastrophe from ocurring; but we can at least even now limit the extent of the damage.
We must return to a simpler life; a happier more content life, and a life that celebrates all other living things. We can either choose this new direction or we will be forced upon us against our wills.
This planet will survive; the question is will humans and other species living here now, survive the cataclysmic changes to our world that are upon us?
All wars are, without doubt, pointless, tragic and foolish affairs that also play a significant part in destroying the remainder of our natural environment and a future for our children.
Western media are continuously playing a looped recording that Ukraine and its president Zelensky are defending the ‘free world’ – democratic ‘white” nations- against the evil Russian hordes. What is most interesting is that the language used in this messaging is consistent right across the Western media, regardless of the country you live in .
That the Kiev armies are undoubtedly shelling the former Ukrainian nuclear power plant near Zaporizhzhia: presumably to create more support for more weapons from the ‘white’ world.
That the Kiev government and its Western government supporters have been deliberately shelling civilian areas of the Donbass held by Russian speaking Ukrainians since 2014 , with over 14,000 deaths from shelling, and more recently with illegal ‘butterfly’ or ‘petal’ anti-personnel mines.
In the last few days we have also heard about the killing of the daughter of the ‘ultra-nationalist” Alexander Dugin. Dugin is, in my opinion, an obnoxious idealogue who has for many years promoted a Russia first meme. However nobody deserves to die because of their beliefs, (let alone their children) – be they Russian, Ukrainian or any other nationality.
What is however scary, is the identical use of language by Western media in describing Dugin as an ‘ultra-nationalist” – what exactly an ‘ultra-nationalist’ is, as opposed to simply being a ‘nationalist’, is somewhat unclear- but one is left with the clear understanding that only Russians can be ‘ultranationalists’ (or for that matter ‘oligarchs’) and never of course those Americans who have the ludicrous belief in the United States as the ‘exceptional nation’ who wanders the world doing good deeds for the benefit of those of us who are less enlightened.
Patriotism is one of the scourges of humanity; an absurd belief in the superiority of the culture and land to which you were accidentally born into. A scourge that blights and distorts the mind into believing that any action ; however intrinsically evil it is, is good as long as it benefits the country you were born in.
We see that evil in the blue and gold banners that enswathes everything in Ukraine, the United State’s ‘Stars and Stripes’, and the blue white and red flag of Russia, to name but three.
So now, as Westerners, we are told to hate all Russians, all Chinese, because they are a threat to our expensive lifestyles….And as true patriots, we should consume more, build more and destroy more , because we are the epitome of ‘civilisation’.
And all the while, we move ever faster into a new world where the climate is already more unpredictable and dangerous, where global warming and sea-levels continue to rise and rise for the next hundred, maybe thousand years, and where we ever more rapidly, destroy what is left of our living world.
And why?- because their media profit margins and their sponsors depend on more economic ‘growth’.
So it becomes clear that the only path to ‘de-growth’, and retaining some semblance of a live-able world for humans and other species, is one where Gaia herself creates that economic destruction.
When hurricanes, huge storms, enormous amounts of rainfall, oppressive high temperatures and sea level rise ( among many other ‘natural’ impacts), result in it being impossible to buy insurance for industry to sell your products or to have a market where people can no longer afford to buy your useless junk; only then will we start to see a return to a sustainable (but hotter) world where all species can live in harmony, and even some contentment!
Media have indoctrinated us all to believe that we need to consume more, do more, travel more – that we cannot live lives of contentment without all those things we need to buy and consume..
Pro-imperial thrust governed by decades-long membership in the Five Eyes, an electronic spying agreement between the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It has become apparent that New Zealand is getting more entangled in the U.S. Empire than ever before. Don’t be fooled that New Zealand and America’s longest war—Afghanistan—is over and ended in abject withdrawal and defeat by the Taliban in August 2021.
Or that New Zealand was not invited to join the new AUKUS pact between the U.S., UK and Australia, to provide the latter with nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarines. New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy might rule out any such subs using our waters but New Zealand, under this Labour government, has expressed keenness to be involved with other aspects of AUKUS.
The Waihopai spy base has been New Zealand’s most important service for the U.S. Empire for decades. In 2021 the Government announced that it will be dismantling and decommissioning Waihopai’s two most unmissable features, namely the giant white domes that cover the satellite-interception dishes within.
Both dishes and domes have been declared obsolete 20th century relics that are no longer fit for 21st century spying. They will be removed in 2022. But the Government has no intention of dismantling the spy base itself; instead, it will be modernized to use more efficient (and less glaringly conspicuous) methods of spying.
All of this, from New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan to operating Waihopai on behalf of the U.S. National Security Agency, is governed by New Zealand’s decades-long membership in Five Eyes, the electronic spying agreement between the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (originally it was referred to by its formal title, the UKUSA Agreement; Five Eyes is a more recent name). But it is much more than that—Five Eyes is a de facto geopolitical bloc.
“The Price of the Club”
John Key explicitly cited the Five Eyes as the justification for New Zealand’s involvement in the the Iraq War: The New Zealand Herald reported: “Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand’s likely military contribution to the fight against Islamic State ‘is the price of the club’ that New Zealand belongs to with the likes of the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada in the intelligence alliance known as Five Eyes.”
More recently, New Zealand’s Five Eyes partners have tried to make it an actual geopolitical bloc, issuing statements about China’s various misdeeds, e.g., in Hong Kong, and pressured New Zealand to sign on. In some cases, the Government has done so; in others it has asserted the increasingly threadbare claim that New Zealand has an independent foreign policy.
“’We are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes,’ [Foreign Affairs Minister] Nanaia Mahuta said to reporters. ‘New Zealand has been very clear, certainly in this term and since we’ve held the portfolio, not to invoke the Five Eyes as the first point of contact of messaging out on a range of issues that really exist out of the remit of the Five Eyes.’”
But that sort of thing is merely a skirmish, a question of emphasis. New Zealand is in Five Eyes, boots and all.
And the U.S., under Joe Biden, is keen to use blocs like Five Eyes as part of his “Indo-Pacific” strategy, the central policy plank of which is to contain China (whilst simultaneously confronting Russia on the other side of the world). When he took office Biden said “America’s back!” Yes, it is—back to saber-rattling and warmongering. And it wants its traditional allies (or satellites, as the West used to disparagingly call the Soviet Union’s allies during the Cold War) all on board and on message.
U.S. Grants Perks to New Zealand Capitalists Because of Five Eyes
To sweeten the deal, the U.S. is prepared to make Five Eyes membership an attractive proposition. So, Five Eyes has been expanded from intelligence and political ties to also now being explicitly about money and access to markets. The message from Washington is clear: Be in our “club” and we’ll make it worth your while.
This was spelled out in a fascinating article entitled “New Zealand Investors Won Carve-Out From U.S. Foreign Financing Rules.”
“New Zealanders will now jump through fewer hoops to invest in American businesses and real estate, after the Government secured a temporary exemption to the country’s foreign investment screening rules. The U.S. decision represents another step towards more tightly binding together Five Eyes nations, with New Zealand’s intelligence-sharing relationship and defence cooperation cited as key factors for the decision…”
“The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency organisation which scrutinises the national security implications of investments into the country, announced earlier this month (January) that New Zealand had been added to its list of ‘excepted foreign states.’”
“In 2020, the Committee’s remit expanded beyond ‘control’ transactions, where a foreign investor would take controlling interest in a U.S. business, to cover investments in more sensitive companies, as well as the purchase of real estate near sensitive U.S. government facilities…While Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom secured exceptions from those expanded controls at the time, as well as a new requirement for mandatory filing, New Zealand did not, placing an extra burden on Kiwi investors….”
“In a fact sheet outlining the rationale for the change of heart, the U.S. Treasury Department cited New Zealand’s ‘intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and its collective defense arrangement and cooperation with the United States’ as among the factors which earned it an exemption…. While the addition of New Zealand showed some willingness to expand the benefits of the carve-outs to new investors, the fact the group remained restricted to Five Eyes members did not provide any clear sense of whether it would offer an exemption to countries outside of the intelligence pact.”
So, there you have it. If fighting American wars in other people’s countries is the price of belonging to the Five Eyes club, then the U.S. is prepared to extend exclusive economic benefits to its junior Five Eyes allies to make it more palatable. Older New Zealanders will remember the infamous “guns for butter” phrase of Sir Keith Holyoake, Prime Minister during New Zealand’s involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. It means sending our soldiers to fight in U.S. wars in order to, theoretically, gain trade access.
New Zealand never has succeeded in getting a free trade agreement with the U.S.—Donald Trump scuppered the former Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as soon as he took office and that was the closest New Zealand has ever got to the “holy grail.” The Biden administration is prepared to offer an economic sweetener to New Zealand as reward for being the most loyal, albeit most junior, of the Five Eyes.
Rocket Lab and Five Eyes
Of course, the newest U.S. base in New Zealand is that of Rocket Lab (which operates out of both Auckland and the Mahia Peninsula). I have written several Watchdog articles in recent years about Rocket Lab (most recently in issue 157, August 2021, “Rocket Lab. Campaign Against It Blasts Off,” http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/57/03.html).
We (both CAFCA and the Anti-Bases Campaign) have consistently made the point that it is a U.S. facility for a privately owned American company, operating for the U.S. military and spies on New Zealand soil.
Despite the best (worst?) efforts by Rocket Lab’s New Zealand political and media apologists to polish this turd, Rocket Lab itself makes no secret about what it is, what it does and who it serves. Nor is it shy to play the Five Eyes card. “In a 2008 profile published in Metro magazine, [Chief Executive Officer and founder] Peter Beck ruled out military work when discussing if there were payloads Rocket Lab wouldn’t carry.”
Beck is quoted as saying:
‘Of course, … we said right from the beginning if it’s involved in the military, we don’t want anything to do with it. The military can be quite a tempting cherry because a lot of money gets poured into it, but we’re about science, we’re not about killing people…’
His views have evolved, and he now believes military intelligence helps keep Kiwis safe.
“Beck had a very different reply from 2008 when asked if he had any qualms about sending U.S. spy satellites into space, given the intelligence they collect can be used in military operations. ‘You also have to remember that intelligence keeps us safe. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad actors in the world. I am a New Zealander, but you also have to understand that national security is a global thing.’”
“‘It’s not a singular country’s responsibility. New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes… it’s all very well to criticise national security until the very day that you need it.’”
Rocket Lab and “Classified Defense and Intelligence Business”
Since I last wrote about Rocket Lab (August 2021), there has been no shortage of new developments. That same month it debuted on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, valued at US$ 5.2 billion. In September 2021 it was reported that “Rocket Lab shares jumped nearly 9% to US$ 15.29 (for a $US 6.5 billion market cap) in early trading on the Nasdaq after the company finally confirmed a major tranche of funding from the U.S. military and entry into an inner-circle of companies approved for security and defence missions…The Kiwi-American firm secured US$ 24.35 million (NZ$ 34m) from the U.S. Air Force’s new Space Force division to develop the upper stage of its Neutron rocket.”
“Rocket Lab said in a statement: ‘The agreement signifies Rocket Lab’s commitment to becoming a launch provider for the National Security Space Launch programme, which launches the United States’ most critical missions’… Founder and CEO Peter Beck said: ‘We’re dedicated to building a next-generation rocket that will transform space access for constellations through to the most critical missions in support of national security, and it’s an honour to be partnering with the U.S. Space Force to develop Neutron.’”
“Rocket Lab, which won a key R&D [research and development] contract with U.S. Department of Defense agency DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] at a key time in its young life, has long had close ties to the U.S. military which, along with NASA, has been one of its two biggest customers. And in an investor presentation before its Nasdaq listing, Rocket Lab said Department of Defense space systems spending represented a ‘[US]$968 million opportunity over ten years.’”
“In a reference to Rocket Lab’s new Launch Complex II within NASA’s Wallops Island facility in Virginia, it said ‘a secure facility will be completed this year (2021) to support classified Department of Defense and Intelligence Community business.’”
And the fact that Rocket Lab is an American company becomes more and more apparent. “Rocket Lab’s centre of gravity has shifted further away from New Zealand and towards North America after it announced it would buy United States space solar tech company SolAero for $US80 million ($NZ118 million). Rocket Lab will take on 425 staff as a result of the acquisition, which is expected to be complete by the end of March .”
“That will take Rocket Lab’s total number of staff to more than 1100, of whom spokeswoman Morgan Bailey confirmed 525 were currently based in New Zealand. Rocket Lab, which is already headquartered in the U.S. and listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, will manufacture and launch its next line of larger Neutron rockets in the U.S.”
In February 2022 Rocket Lab announced that it will build a giant production and mission control complex in Colorado. This will be its fourth major facility in the U.S.—the others are in California, New Mexico and Virginia (from where it will exclusively launch its larger Neutron rockets). It has also expanded its facilities in both Auckland and Mahia.
New Zealand Government and Rocket Lab Join U.S. Drive to Mine Moon
The Government’s infatuation with Rocket Lab is taking New Zealand into some literally unearthly and legally dubious places. In mid-2021, New Zealand signed the Artemis Accords, which promotes the exploitation of the Moon and other space resources. “The legal status of space resources is contested. The world’s main space agreement, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, prohibits the ‘national appropriation’ of the Moon and other celestial bodies by any means. Some academics argue this rules out Moon mining for private profit. Others say it only precludes claims to land, not its resources.”
“This uncertainty aside, in 2015 the U.S. Congress passed a law allowing American companies to own and sell natural resources mined from space. In April 2020, the Trump administration declared that the U.S. doesn’t view space as a ‘global commons,’ denouncing the 1979 Moon Agreement, which sought to protect the moon’s resources as ‘the common heritage’ of mankind (although few states have signed up to it).”
“Announced shortly after Trump’s declaration, the Artemis Accords—which are advanced directly with ‘like-minded’ nations, rather than through the UN—seek to shape international law in line with this worldview, asserting that the extraction of space resources is not ‘inherently’ national appropriation under the Outer Space Treaty.”
Bypassing the UN
“The New Zealand Space Agency believes its participation in the Artemis Accords—an international agreement to send people back to the Moon—will significantly boost the space sector. The Government signed up to the NASA accords in 2021, and New Zealand will play an important role in the project when Rocket Lab launches the CAPSTONE satellite to lunar orbit from Mahia Peninsula, likely in March .”
“NASA’s CAPSTONE, or Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment satellite, will test the orbit planned to be used by a small space station that would act as a lunar gateway. The Space Agency noted that signing the Accords presented some risk to international relationships.”
“‘The Accords may be viewed by some nations as an attempt to bypass the UN Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space process and the UN treaty-making process,’” the Agency said.”
The reference to “some countries” is telling—neither Russia nor China has signed the Artemis Accords. But little old New Zealand has, jumping on board a Trumpian U.S. outer space resource grab (one which has not been reversed by the Biden administration), with a U.S. company standing to financially benefit from its involvement using its NZ launch site.
“There are some obvious reasons that New Zealand might want to side with the United States in this debate. Our relationship with the superpower is critical for our space sector, particularly Rocket Lab, which has numerous U.S. government contracts.” So, there you have it. And the answer to the question posed in the subtitle of that North & South article is: “Yes.”
ABC Webinar on Rocket Lab and Five Eyes
As I detailed in my August 2021 Watchdog article on Rocket Lab, there is now a campaign against it. As part of the January 2021 Waihopai spy base protest, Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) hosted a well-attended Blenheim public meeting. The three speakers were Ollie Neas, the journalist who has been writing critical analyses on Rocket Lab for years, Nicky Hager on Five Eyes and Green MP Teanau Tuiono.
This meeting was so successful and so well received by the good number of people present that ABC decided to host a Christchurch public meeting in September 2021 featuring those same three speakers, plus Sonya Smith from Rocket Lab Monitor in Mahia.
Alas, the ever-changing Covid situation ruled out a physical meeting but ABC replaced it with a webinar, featuring all four speakers, plus me, which drew many more attendees—including from overseas—than we would have had at an in-person Christchurch public meeting. Sadly, it is not available online, as the speakers felt that they could speak more freely if it was not recorded.
ABC looked to take that further with Sonya Smith and Teanau Tuiono among the speakers at the Blenheim public meeting, which was part of the scheduled January 2022 Waihopai spy base protest. But Covid buggered things up again, and the whole event had to be cancelled, for the first time since 1988, with just a few days’ notice.
NSO Spyware and Five Eyes
There is more to Five Eyes than Waihopai and Rocket Lab. Its tentacles reach into all sorts of areas: for example, the notorious Israeli Pegasus spyware sold to governments by the company NSO. It has been used by some of the worst abusers of human rights to spy on journalists, dissidents and political opponents, with all sorts of dire consequences, including murder. NSO is such an outrageous outfit (most recently, it has been caught spying on its own Jewish citizens within Israel) that the Biden administration put it on a blacklist in 2022—a very rare U.S. move against any Israeli entity. Moves were announced to sell it to a U.S. venture capital firm.
The plan outlines cancelling or restricting most of the company’s former clients, effectively bringing the company’s revenues to zero. Instead of the current 37 clients, the company will reduce its sales to only five clients: the Five Eyes Anglosphere intelligence alliance of New Zealand, the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Canada.
“The company would initially focus on defensive cyber products as part of its rebranding effort.”
New Zealand Has to Get Out of Five Eyes If It Is to Have an Independent Foreign Policy
Five Eyes will only continue to get more important in the geopolitical game playing—indeed, there is talk of it being expanded to include Japan and Israel. What is New Zealand doing in it?
If you are judged by the company you keep, then it does not reflect well on us. More and more, New Zealand is being sucked into the vortex that is the U.S. Empire, an empire that is increasingly using Five Eyes as yet another weapon in its quest to retain global domination. It is well beyond time for New Zealand to get out of it. There is no possibility of us having an “independent foreign policy” until that happens.
What’s More, Five Eyes Doesn’t Even Do What It’s Supposed to Do
Helen Clark was the Labour Prime Minister who ordered the New Zealand military into Afghanistan. Her reaction to the Taliban victory in 2021 was to call it “a catastrophic failure of intelligence in Western foreign policy.”
Yet, New Zealand is in the Western world’s self-proclaimed elite intelligence club, namely Five Eyes. Which proved to be absolutely useless in seeing what was going on in Afghanistan, a country which had been an adventure playground for Western spies for twenty years. So, why is New Zealand in Five Eyes, what use is it to us (or anyone else, for that matter)? Time for New Zealand to get out, time for Five Eyes to become four eyes. Or less if the other countries follow suit.
The war launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine yesterday is a tragedy. All war is not only ultimately futile in achieving the aggressor’s stated objectives but is a tragedy for all those impacted by that war.
Russia’s actions should be condemned and an immediate halt to that aggression called for.
Russia believes, like all aggressors, that its cause is just; the elimination of those who have been attacking Donbass inhabitants for the past 8 years with approximately 13,000 dead, and the termination of any possibility of Ukraine joining NATO and acquiring nuclear weapons, as Zelensky has recently threatened to do, and thus becoming a long term threat to Russia.
More war does not justice make; it creates new grievances and more wars.; soldiers and civilians killed, loved ones bereaved, homes and livelihoods destroyed, and enormous environmental destruction with animals and other living things forever lost…
There were many options Russia could have pursued to reduce those threats, but they chose the path of war.
That is not to say that this war of aggression is any way unique in the world since World War Two, as many foolish Western people ( included celebrated local professors of international policy) have attempted to claim. Just 23 years ago, Belgrade in Serbia was ruthlessly and bombed by the ‘liberating’ forces of NATO for almost 3 months. Nor must we forget the wars of aggression that have been conducted by so many Western countries against those of other ethnicities: in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Syria, to name just a few , let alone the support for genocide in Yemen and Palestine that continues today or the brutal sanctions of starvation on North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and many other populations.. Those wars are of course not tragedies, because they are ‘our’ wars, and therefore ‘good’ wars.
I for one, foolishly did not expect the Russians to pursue the path of war in Ukraine. I hope that the fighting can stop right now and mediation between Ukraine and Russia begin to resolve the points of conflict that have been steadily rising between these two Slav brotherly nations since the breakup of the Soviet Union, but have deep roots in their histories..
We will all be soon confronting the very real global impacts of climate change and species loss in all our lives. Us humans need to work together to solve our petty issues and create a better and safer world for all living things.
Great analysis of the lead up to the Ukraine war by Professor Mearsheimer at Kings College.
The COP26 conference in Glasgow has highlighted the mendacity of politicians and their hangers-on, let alone the big industries that fund those politicians. Endless pledges of CO2 reduction with minimal evidence of action undertaken thus far are not good signs for our future on this planet. But is it surprising a reduction in CO2 and other industrial emissions is so hard to do?
Oil and Coal are the foundation of first world ‘prosperity’- (i.e. predominantly the production of inanimate things)- from its beginnings in the British coal fired industrial revolution . With the accessibility of a cheap energy source all things became possible, but specifically the capacity to more rapidly destroy our natural environment to produce inanimate things from which money could be made. They included the rapid development of more intensive agriculture using oil based fertilisers, the development of plastics, more concrete production for building construction, tar for roads, and coal and oil fired boilers to run our factories and produce electricity. Without oil and gas our modern economy would never have happened, and might possibly cease to exist without it in the future.
As Zehner (2012) points out, renewable energy sources like wind and solar have considerable value and often do reduce overall emissions (but not eliminate them or reduce biodiversity loss) but they cannot completely replace our current first world energy needs, nor are they reliable when the wind stops or the sun doesn’t shine.
We can, as Zehner notes, reduce our energy footprint significantly with more efficient use of the electricity we produce with smart meters, more efficient machinery, collaborative and non coercive ways to reduce or eliminate population growth in all countries , combined with alternative energy sources like wind solar and hydro, but ultimately we need to reduce our consumption of ‘stuff’ in the first world.
But reducing our consumption when it is driven by massive advertising from big and small industries and strong societal needs to feel somehow better about ourselves, will be an uphill task. As with most human endeavours, we believe we constantly need more of everything; a bigger car, a bigger house, more things to put around ourselves so that we feel safe and important. As the human population explodes, that ‘more of everything for each of us’ threatens the stability of the world’s biosphere at an ever increasing pace.
As just one example of the impact of surging populations, ‘foraging’ has become the in-thing for environmentalists- (taking our food from natural and not farmed places). However it is abundantly clear that if we all foraged, our natural world would be very quickly decimated. What were once ‘natural human responses’ to the natural world around us, are no longer viable because of intense human population numbers.
As has so often been said, we have pursued infinitely expanding needs on a finite planet- something has to give- and it is rapidly fraying at the seams right now…
This first world response to living- of mechanised over-indulgence of our world’s resources -has to change. We no longer have the options our forebears had; of moving on to other pastures to exploit it- we have nowhere else to go.
The numbers of humans on the planet mirror the the ‘hockey-stick graph of CO2 in our atmosphere. However we also need to acknowledge that most of that CO2 has been produced by a relatively small percentage of the global population- the ‘developed’ Western world, and also that most of China’s CO2 production (highest per country but not by capita) is the result of Western ‘needs’ for cheap ‘stuff’.
Reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’ might seem a terrible place to go; particularly those of us more susceptible to the propaganda of advertising -no more latest smartphone, car , shoes or electronics …but it will inevitably lead to us returning to our human/primate roots: a real connection to our living world not based on products and selling inanimate objects, but through our senses- our touch, taste, hearing and smell. And with that return; an acknowledgement that we can no longer ‘naturally’ exploit the living world around us- there are simply too many of us.
We must build a new world based on respect for the other living beings we co-habitate this planet with.
We can either willingly and cooperatively start this journey home, or Gaia will make the decision for us.
‘Green Illusions’ Ozzie Zehner, University of Nebraska Press (2021)
On 3rd September 2021, a Sri Lankan refugee, Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, 32, living in Auckland New Zealand , stabbed 6 people with a knife he had just picked up from a supermarket shelf.
According to later reports the man had been once again seeking asylum in New Zealand for some years, but had been denied because of previous violent actions and an interest in ISIS literature, and had been released from a New Zealand prison 3 years before the attacks.
During the subsequent years from Ahamed’s release, he had been constantly followed by Police when out an about in Auckland to monitor his actions and keep others safe.
Auckland was in lockdown 4 at the time of the supermarket attack- masks required and no less than 2 metres between people in places like supermarkets. Within hours the New Zealand prime minister was announcing that this was a ‘terrorist attack’, and that the man was known to her. However Ahamed Aathill Mohamed made no known statements about allegiance to ISIS immediately before his death, and no terrorist organization attributed the stabbings to themselves.
The terror, trauma and physical danger to those he attacked is beyond question, and this blog does not in any way endorse his or any other person’s violent behaviour to others.
With 60 seconds of his knifing of 6 people in the supermarket, he was fatally shot 7 times by Police with semi automatic weapons, who had been following him.
While we acknowledge that every violent incident is different and must necessarily be handled differently by Police, it does seem strange that a man in an enclosed supermarket aisle with a kitchen knife, could not be subdued without fatal consequences, by a number of police officers who were presumably wearing protective clothing.
Police subsequently noted that their policy is to shoot for the largest body surface area (i.e. the torso) so that they don’t miss the target, but clearly other options than shooting the attacker dead were possible, or alternatively those seven shots could have immobilised him in that enclosed space, without causing his death.
We know that Ahamed’s life history before his arrival in New Zealand as a young man was incredibly traumatic- witnessing his father being kidnapped and almost killed, and himself being tortured by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
The Spinoff notes that Ahamed ‘had been in New Zealand since 2011 when he arrived on a student visa. He made a claim for refugee status soon after, but was declined. He appealed, and was granted the status the following year. The prime minister said on Friday that his claim was based on a fraudulent document’
We also know that Ahamed had been on remand (i.e. charged with an offence but not convicted in court) in New Zealand for threatening activities for some years before his conviction – during which time he was held in prison, but was not able to access any supports that might have reduced his risk to himself or others because he had at that stage not been convicted and the government was attempting to deport him. Additionally once released from gaol after his conviction, he was constantly tailed by armed Police; actions which would not have helped his fear and paranoia.
It is clear that Ahamed was acutely distressed because of his trauma, but did not receive the necessary supports by New Zealand authorities to reduce the impacts of that trauma and distress. Instead, he was immediately labelled a ‘terrorist’ by the New Zealand prime minister and the New Zealand media after his death, and there was no call for an independent review into his death.
Is it coincidental that 3 violent attacks were handled so very differently by Police; that a dark skinned man could so easily be deemed a terrorist and shot dead, but two white males, despite the acute violence of their attacks, be subdued without fatality?
We are informed that the New Zealand government, in a knee-jerk reaction to this attack, now wants to ‘tighten’ the responses around ‘terrorist activities’. Andrew Geddis has noted that the draft legislation’s proposal, allowing for people to be prosecuted for planning an activity, but not actually executing that plan , is currently an unheard of judicial procedure in New Zealand.
Listen to the University of Otago Peace and Conflict studies debate about the ‘terrorist attack’ below.
We need to acknowledge too, that no act of violence is acceptable; whether it be in a persons’ home, a random attack in public, a terrorist attack, or violence by the state.
The terror of those 2997 killed, and the trauma experienced by those many bereaved and the first responders to the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001, are very real and still raw. However the barbaric responses to those attacks by the United States and their ‘Coalition of the Willing’, defies both logic and humanity. Millions of people in Arab nations killed, economies and environments ravaged, and thousands tortured or drone murdered, with the rationale being suppression of terrorism, rather than the reality of more arms sales and theft of foreign resources, and the resultant creation of more angry terrorists.
As Chris Hedges notes,those responses are the work of evil killers. The fact that ex President George W Bush can stand up on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and be applauded in Western media for his demonic destruction of Iraq, and Afghanistan, defies belief.
In any sane and just society, such a man ( along with the deranged Tony Blair and their other neoliberal cronies)
would have long ago been locked away for their lifetimes – for the common good.
What we desperately need now is for ex-colonial states like New Zealand, to show global leadership in addressing terror threats, in the absence of leadership from the larger powers.
We need to undertake more research to explore opportunities to better respond to threats of violence, to implement strategies that reduce group and individual threats of terror; through acknowledging the genuine basis of the anger, trauma and fear that created those threats, acknowledging that often our state responses to ‘terror’ threats by ‘others with dark skins’ is a relic of our racist and colonial history, (as witnessed by New Zealand Police’s infamous ‘anti-terrorist’ raids into the Ureweras in 2007); and beginning to treat responses to terror threats as a normal and just and equitable part of our range of enforcement and judicial responses to violence, which respects everyone’s human rights, rather than something that needs to be responded to beyond the normal rule of law.
The United States has been fighting wars for 234 years of its 245 year existence since 1792. The United States is purely and simply a war machine- a country that profits by war: by extermination, destruction and torture of those who are weaker, for the purpose of extracting money.
The list of ‘foreign’ murdered populations, of genocide, of strangulation of countries through sanctions, blockades and ‘targeted’ killings goes on and on and on. This is a country defined by its barbarism.
Or watch Danny Sjurson’s account of what America stands for…
When, oh when, will countries that launch wars of aggression (which the U.S. is literally constantly doing) going to be forced to pay reparations for the trauma loss, destruction and theft they inflict on foreign ( usually non-white) countries?
Will the threat of reparations be enough to stop further senseless wars?
These are wars by common criminals, and should be responded to as such.
The invasion of Afghanistan 20 years ago by the U.S. and its co-opted ‘allies’ is a supreme example of the total futility, stupidity and simple evil of the United States . Now withdrawing, while retaining the right to continue bombing Afghanistan at will- despite its agreement with the Taliban not to do so- the U.S. leaves behind a country destroyed and many thousands of Afghan lives lost or injured; for absolutely nothing.
And can we choose to forget the other evils that the United States has committed, with genocide against the Japanese civilian population, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Serbs, the Libyans, the Syrians… to name just a few recent examples?
Who can put a stop to this relentless wild and brutal rampage?
But as with all bullies, there is a consequence; a payback for those who bully and murder at will. The United States is not the most violent nation on earth without reason- the culture of violence permeates everything in America – leading to more and more mass shootings in the U.S. and a grotesque sense that violence solves every problem: so sublimely portrayed in almost every movie that comes out of Hollywood.
And as Kelly Denton-Borhaug notes, the moral decay and sadly often suicide of those who manage this death machine for the U.S.- the soldiers, the drone operators the ‘intelligence’ officers…the acid that eats away at one’s soul….
Less than 150 years ago most of New Zealand was covered in indigenous forest with a predominantly bird and insect population and just a few species of mammals- (seals, bats and ‘native’ rats (kiore). Within a few decades of European settlement, most of the New Zealand landmass had been cleared of trees for agriculture, leaving a few pockets of native forest on private farms and some larger national parks. Native bird and other indigenous animal specie’s populations plummeted – largely because of habitat loss, but also because of the introduction of European predators like black rats stoats and feral cats along with European species of plants and trees and birds and accidental imports of insects.
With the introduction of beefs and sheep, large areas of New Zealand, including many parts of the mountainous “high country’, have been maintained in grasslands which are frequently sprayed in chemical fertilizers herbicides and insecticides to encourage grass growth. Soil fertility and water quality has consequently plummeted and erosion has become even more common. In many areas rainfall has also substantially declined with the loss of permanent forest, and often its replacement with North American pines for short -term timber production (pines which also dry and acidify the soil) and are then clear-felled, creating enormous damage to ecosystems.
As global temperatures rise, New Zealand as a southern Pacific island nation, is impacted significantly by ocean temperature and ocean current changes and the de-icing of Antarctica . As is occurring throughout the world, parts of the country, particularly eastern areas, are now more subject to both drought and sudden deluges.
As rain decreases overall, farmers rely more and more heavily on rivers and groundwater reservoirs to provide for their ever less sustainable farm management practices. Dairying, with its very high water requirements particularly, has exploded in recent decades in New Zealand.
In response, the New Zealand government has developed a rather half-hearted and inadequate response to the looming environmental catastrophe New Zealand and the world faces. The rural sector, by necessity, is one of the prime targets for changes to environmental processes in the hope that the inevitable environmental catastrophe can be at least delayed.
However, New Zealand’s comparatively rapid increase in human population and urban areas (from a very low base even 100 years ago) has also significantly impacted on the environment. Low land areas near the coast are particularly impacted by housing developments which totally destroy the natural environment and create major polutants, while draining areas of swamp and natural riperian areas with storm water drains – increasing the ocean’s toxicity
Naturally, the rural sector, mostly conservative by definition, rejects both the need for change and the changes themselves and see themselves as unfairly targeted by a predominantly urban voter based government. The proposed changes by this government will inevitably impact on their often substantial incomes by reducing stock numbers, changing to more expensive and holistic farming practice, and reducing the farming and fishing catchment.
Global markets will inevitably begin to retreat and collapse as the risks to global transportation exponentially increase with more frequent climate events, and their consequent insurance, become too costly. Countries will begin to retreat into their own internal trading milieu, state revenues will implode as ‘production’ begins to rapidly decline everywhere. Costs to national governments to preserve coastal urban areas from sea level rise, to relocate populations from at risk areas, and to compensate for more and more adverse climate events, will all impact on the capacity of national economies to ‘grow’ and a dawning realization that a steady state no-growth) economy is the only feasible option.
It is true that no matter what we do to reduce carbon emissions, we will see rapid increases in global warming. But we can start to mitigate the environmental destruction, loss of biodiversity and provide some cushioning from the ever increasing heat our living world will endure, by undertaking large scale plantings of indigenous forest which will not be logged, marine areas will not be bottom dredged and despoiled, but left to store carbon for millenia. And by holding on to our remnants of indigenous ecosystems for the future we ensure those indigenous forests will become precious storehouses of life and knowledge for the millenia ahead.
Farmers and others in the rural sector who simply see the need for the protection of our remnants of biodiversity as a short-term profit and loss equation that they are not prepared to face, are blind to the realities which confront us all.
Rather than face rapid and cataclysmic change resulting from unstoppable environmental pressures, because we think we can ignore the realities of environmental damage, we are all going to be far safer by systematically adapting to a rapidly evolving environment.
(Note: this is a slightly re-edited version of a NewAntarctica post first published in 2014)
Every year in this fair little country of New Zealand, we “celebrate” Anzac Day on 25th April. We remember our “glorious dead” who fought in all those wars for king and country; beginning way back then with the Second Boer War of 1899 in South Africa, supporting our British countrymen in the British Empire’s fight against the “evil” Boers, to ensure South Africa could become a safe place for English speaking white men to colonise and rule over the black man.
Since then we have had the First World War where 100, 000 New Zealand men (and some women) were shipped overseas, out of a total population of just over 1 million people. 18,500 New Zealanders were killed in that ‘war to end all wars’ and more than 40,000 wounded. Anzac Day “celebrates” the day New Zealand and Australian troops along with troops from other parts of the Empire, India, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, India, and Newfoundland as well as French forces invaded Turkey (a German ally) at Gallipoli ( or Gelibolu as the Turks call it).
The “Great War”, as it was once known, was initially at least, a European war to divide up the spoils of empire, with each countries’ soldiers the cannon fodder for money and power.
‘Only’ 2799 New Zealand soldiers died at Gelibolu attempting to break the Turkish defences in the harsh hills above the beaches, where 87,000 Turks died defending their homeland. Nothing in comparison to the many thousands killed and wounded in the trenches in Flanders and other parts of France; machine gunned, shelled and gassed by the “Hun” -the Germans.
Yet New Zealand collectively now glorifies Gallipoli; it was apparently (according to later New Zealand historians who should know) our “nation-building” exercise. Yet after that first world war to end all wars, every cenotaph
in every little town and city across New Zealand which named their dead, inscribed the lines “Lest We Forget”. In my imagination perhaps , it is ‘lest we forget’ those who died for nothing; the horror, the stupidity , the inhumanity to man of soldiers at war; not “lest we forget” our glorious war dead.
Let us not forget either, the many thousands of women and children who suffered at the hands of those damaged men returning from the wars; the family and community violence caused by the trauma of war and death.
The Send-off: a Poem by Wilfred Owen: -English soldier poet, 1918
And then we have the “good war”; the war against the Nazis and the Japanese between 1939 and 1945, where 140,000 New Zealand men and women were conscripted to fight overseas. Kiwi soldiers, while comparatively small in numbers, played a significant role in the European war against Germany and later against the Japanese in the Pacific. Could that war have been avoided without appeasement of Nazi and Japanese supremacism? There are many historians who say , that had the terms of the Versailles Treaty not been so punitive against Germany , German nationalistic fervour would never have produced such a cancer as the national socialists (Nazis). Similarly there are those who argue that had the Japanese also been able to obtain their Imperial “place in the sun” , Pearl Harbour would never have happened. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
New Zealand’s obligations for self-defence against the Japanese is inarguable; The Japanese were planning to invade New Zealand as part of their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, along with invading Australia. The evil of the Nazis is also inarguable, and the horrors committed by them; New Zealand soldiers helped to bring those horrors to an end. Ultimately 11,900 New Zealand soldiers lost their lives in the second world war. However New Zealand is implicated in the war crimes resulting from the bombing missions undertaken by the Allies against German dams and the firebombing of Dresden; Tokyo and Kyoto .
New Zealand’s role in wars since the second world war has (aside from several small UN peace-keeping missions) been less than exemplary. 4,700 New Zealand soldiers fought in Korea between 25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953, with 49 men killed in action. New Zealand (under U.N. auspices but without Russian attendance at that security council meeting ) was a party to the genocide committed largely by the Americans carpet bombing every North Korean town and city over that period.
Fighting as part of ANZUS, New Zealand enthusiastically supported the American pretext for invading Vietnam from 1963 to 1975 ( supposedly to halt the insidious spread of Communism (the ‘YellowPeril”) across Asia), while the New Zealand national government supported the bombing by the U.S. of cities and towns across Vietnam Laos and Cambodia, causing more than a million deaths. 37 New Zealand soldiers were killed in that war and many more afflicted by the impacts of “Agent Orange”, the chemical warfare “defoliant” sprayed by U.S. planes over the jungles and hamlets of South Vietnam. 33 New Zealand soldiers were also killed in the preceding Korean War where millions of Koreans were killed in that largely forgotten genocidal war.
Once again supporting the U.S., New Zealand inserted a small number of troops into southern Iraq near Basra during the second Iraq War. While for most of its service there, NZ troops were confined to base, it is highly likely that NZ troops were well aware of the wide-spread torture and murder of Iraqi civilians in that area by British troops . New Zealand is, by its support of that war, also implicated in the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died as a result of a war based on the pretext of Saddam’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.”
New Zealand continues its commitment to “freedom and democracy” by supporting the Americans in Afghanistan. Initially promoted to the public as an incursion to eliminate Al Qaeda as a threat after the 9/11 bombing of the New York towers, the war has dragged on since its inception in 2001 and morphed into the elimination of the Taleban (an Afghan Pashtun tribal entity with previous links to Al Qaeda). New Zealand troops have likely been involved in capturing Taleban fighters and sending them to the US Bagram air base in Kabul for torture. A rather dubious analysis suggest that up to 20,000 civilian casualties alone have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001- the mortality figures for direct war impacts are likely to be in the many many thousands. ( the U.S. doesnt “do headcounts” anymore.)
New Zealand continues to be a key member of the U.S. run western intelligence community “Five Eyes”, which attempts to maintain the U.S state’s power and control over most of the world, and while NZ has publicly been cast in the shadows of ANZUS because of its nuclear-free stance, it in reality maintains an extremely active role.
However , even with the huge amount of information provided by internet and phone tapping provided to “Five Eyes” intelligence ‘experts”, it is clear that those security operatives have over the years since the second world war, acquired a farcical level of incompetence and lack of intelligence and judgment. Their wild misinterpretation of other states’ and non-state entities’ intent and motives has resulted in massive suffering to millions of human beings. It is highly likely that incompetence is not going to be changing any time soon.
In summary, ANZAC Day; that tribute of poppies and wreaths and guns , celebrates not our glorious dead, but the utter farcical futility of war and the greed of the powerful.
Much has been said and written about the importance of economies getting back to ‘normal’ after COVID-19 lockdowns. Recently New Zealand, has reopened normal airline connections with Australia, its second largest trading partner (after China) and a major source of tourists.
The New Zealand government’s decision to re-open air links with Australia has been partly driven by humanitarian issues of families isolated from each other across “the ditch” (the Tasman Sea), but predominantly to prevent the collapse of New Zealand’s large tourism industry.
Little has been said however, on the impact the re-invigoration of New Zealand’s tourism industry will have on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Ironically the decision to create a travel bubble with Australia coincides almost to the day of the announcement from Moana Loa in Hawaii that their instruments have for the first time measured CO2 levels at more than 420 parts per million.
As an island nation, almost all tourists into New Zealand come by plane, and often from much longer distances than Australia (which is 4,163 kilometers away, or an air travel distance of 2,587 miles.). As Atmosfair notes, the burning of kerosene for airline engines is not the only major CO2 producer from jet planes. Jet plane veils and contrails, the build-up of the greenhouse gas ozone in a sensitive atmospheric floor, and the breakdown of methane, are also major factors in increasing CO2 levels and consequent global warming.
Suzuki notes that airtravel will continue to grow rapidly until 2050. If left unchecked, they could consume a full quarter of the available carbon budget for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 C. and …The global tourism industry is responsible for eight per cent of global emissions — more than the construction industry!’ and ...The total carbon impact of a single flight is so high that avoiding just one trip can be equivalent to going (gasoline) car-free for a year.
Tourism also has a significant impact on biodiversity loss; which, even more than climate change; is the greatest risk to this planet. While some have claimed (including U.N. reports) that tourism can increase biodiversity by encouraging humanity’s awareness of the natural world, and bringing human resources to play which protect species and prevent habitat loss; the arguments are clearly specious.
Providing humans with access to our remaining pristine natural environments necessitates environmental destruction and habitat disturbance. Roads, walking tracks, platforms, toilets, helicopters, boats, water and electrical utilities and housing are just some of the methods by which habitats are degraded by tourist activities.
And that is to ignore the impact of the introduction of pollutants like human sewage, supply waste and the accidental introduction of non-native microbes, weeds, insects and animals.
It is time for us all to throw away the ‘bucket list” and learn to be more present in the here and now, and be content with what we have. Creating mini-gardens, communal gardens and re-growing natural spaces in cities can help us all to understand the world in which we live and with which we are defendant upon.
Learning to observe, respect and value the small pieces of the natural world that are all around us, and to which we are inextricably (and often unknowingly) bound.
The natural world is not something for us to ‘experience’ and take a snapshot of; it is all around us: it is part of us, it is ‘us’.
It is more than time for all governments to demand that all products and services consumed, including tourism, are clearly packaged to show the devastating impacts they have on our ever dwindling natural world via biodiversity loss and global heating.
Then we will at last, know the true costs of our consumer society.