Thursday 30 May 2024

Communication Breakdown.

Inadequately Equipped: Forget the loud-hailers Minister, what you need is TikTok. Shane Jones marches into Blackball preaching the gospel of “Mine, Baby, Mine!” the old-fashioned way.

IT ALMOST WORKED. “Matua Shane”, local supporters in tow, advanced down the main street of Blackball. Had the Minister for Resources, Shane Jones, been supplied with a full-sized loud-hailer to amplify his pro-mining slogans, then the photo-op would have been an unqualified success. Unfortunately, the Minister’s loud-hailer was not full-sized, truth-to-tell it was comically under-sized, and the “optics” of that were not great – not great at all.

What that tiny loud-hailer, that mini-megaphone, signalled to the world was that the Minister’s message was similarly under-sized. Worse, in a world grown accustomed to the demonisation of fossil-fuels, where young people, in particular, are encouraged to respond to “climate-change deniers” with undisguised contempt, Jones’s inadequate amplification equipment completed the picture of a politician deliberately placing himself in that most dangerous of places – the wrong side of history.

Worse still, the unintended symbolism of the mini-megaphone, had alerted viewers of the One News item to other tell-tale signs and omens. The greatest of these was the age-gap between Jones’s “Mine, Baby, Mine!” enthusiasts, and the Forest & Bird-led environmentalists lined-up behind their banner.

“How many of you are even from the West Coast?” A rheumy-eyed old-timer who appeared to have seen too many West Coast winters, demanded of the protesters.

It was an old trick, which worked well thirty years ago when those who came to “save” the West Coast’s rain forests were, indeed, the sort of people acutely vulnerable to the accusation of being “outside agitators”. In 2024, however, about half the crowd of young-to-middle-aged protesters raised their hands. The old-timer was momentarily non-plussed.

“Bugger all.”, he eventually muttered, inaccurately, before making his way into the community hall where upwards of two hundred miners, granted a day-off by their employers, were helping to swell the Resource Minister’s audience.

That so many of the protesters were residents of the West Coast indicated how dramatically attitudes have changed in 30 years. Back in the 1990s, angry – event violent – clashes between “Locals” and “Greenies” were not uncommon. Those were the bad old days when, in many parts of New Zealand (usually a long way from the cities) environmentalism was still, very much, a minority sport.

Certainly, some of the tales told of those times carried with them more than a hint of the American Deep South in the 60s. When, in the event of “trouble” with the locals, it could take more than an hour for the Police to arrive, it was very easy to feel paranoid. Not least because, if you were a long-haired Greenie from Christchurch or, even worse, the Coromandel, many of the locals really were out to get you – including the local cop!

Those “Easy Rider” vibes were recalled on Saturday (25/5/24) when, with the Minister safely installed in the hall, a Police officer barred Suzanne Hill, the West Coast convenor of Forest & Bird, from joining her fellow locals in the audience. Not even her official ticket to the Minister’s announcement of the Coalition Government’s Draft Minerals Strategy could get her past the constable. By the time the matter was sorted out, Newsroom’s Lois Williams later reported, “they’d locked the door from the inside”.

The symbolism, seemingly, was in no hurry to call it a day.

So, is Jones being Quixotic, or shrewd? Is the “Mine, Baby, Mine!” faction actually a great deal bigger than the environmentalists have led themselves to believe?

Part of the answer to that question will be provided on Saturday, 8 June, when Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, Communities Against Fast Track (CAFT), Coromandel Watchdog, WWF-New Zealand, and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining will lead a protest “March For Nature” down Auckland’s Queen Street. It may be confidently predicted that the Resources Minister, and a great many other people, will be watching extremely closely to see how many people follow them.

If similar environmental protests (against genetic engineering, against West Coast coal-mining) offer any guide, then well in excess of 30,000 marchers may be expected. By the time the large number of communities and interest-groups aggrieved by the Coalition Government’s policies are factored into the turn-out calculation, the number of demonstrators could quite easily rise to in excess of 50,000.

In addition to the banners and placards of the environmental groups, a forest of Tino Rangatiratanga and Palestinian flags are certain to be in evidence, along with trade union banners and the colours of the left-wing political parties. As the first potentially huge political protest to be organised since the Coalition Government took office, the “March For Nature” offers National’s, Act’s, and NZ First’s growing list of opponents a welcome opportunity to make themselves heard. What must not be forgotten, however, should the numbers turning-out to be truly spectacular, is that it is the environmental cause that provides these occasions with the critical mass of bodies on the street.

Which is not to say that the Minister of Resources does not have an argument when it comes to the mining of gold, coal, and rare earths on the Conservation Estate. What cash-strapped government in its right mind is going to refuse the royalties accruing from a precious metal that sells for in excess of $2,000 per ounce? Nor should it be forgotten that the coking-coal from New Zealand’s West Coast is highly prized by steel-makers around the world. Why? Because high-quality steel, like oil, is critical to the survival of industrial civilisation. Similarly, with the so-called “rare earths”. They are vital to humanity’s ‘green energy’ future – not to mention the world’s billions of smart-phones.

But, these arguments cannot be successfully sold to younger generations except as part of a future in which mineral resources are regarded as necessary evils, tolerable only for as long as they remain critical to humanity’s transition from a civilisation powered by fossil fuels to one powered by the sun, the wind and the rain, augmented by safe nuclear power-plants and, eventually, the clean and limitless power of cold fusion.

This is the story that “Matua Shane” must learn to tell to young New Zealanders. That any future predicated on a great leap backward into a technological context indistinguishable from the Middle Ages will only provide for an existence that is, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short”. Humanity’s modern rights and freedoms simply will not survive transplantation into a pre-modern setting.

New Zealand may offer superb locations for making movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic tales, but any plans to transform the country into a Middle Earth of hand-looms and water-mills should be stoutly resisted. It is the technological magic of the Twenty-First Century science that offers the best hope of human survival.

Forget the loud-hailers Minister, what you need is TikTok.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 27 May 2024.


Little Keith said...

Ok, we protest against mining on the West Coast and stop it but we import lower grade coal from way over in Indonesia, by ship, to run power stations when renewables can't cut it! Why? So the protesters can keep their laptops and phones charged, not to mention their E bikes and Tesla's topped up and their heat pumps simmering away. It's utterly insane, but in their contradictory normality don't they feel smug and superior and oh so good about themselves.

And green protesters hanging out with the Hamas rent a crowd and the hateful racist TPM gig will only bury their cause by association.

I get a lot of the modern left simply do not like the fact the last government was booted out or even democracy all that much, but the now daily activism is wearing awfully thin with people who work for a living and do not spend their lives in pits of dystopia and depression, looking for a cause! And because of that, I don't think the government has anything to fear from the woke!

greywarbler said...

New Zealand may offer superb locations for making movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic tales, but any plans to transform the country into a Middle Earth of hand-looms and water-mills should be stoutly resisted. It is the technological magic of the Twenty-First Century science that offers the best hope of human survival.

I think that comment must be viewed in the fierce blaze of 21st century lighting technology. This is a time of unequivocal, yet confused breakdown of our past with an extended cold winter of discontent that can descend anytime with our uncertain climate conditions. And we 'always take the weather with us' because the cold has entered our hearts and souls, viewed by an appraiser who may write an appropriate price ticket, money being the universal measure.

We are repeating the Industrial Revolution which thinking people hoped we had learned from, but no. and now at a more intense and ubiquitous iteration. Having conquered the world, overcome the wisdom of millenia, the knowledge of education, thrown it into esoteric space exploration, it has been replaced with sly promises, confabulation, speedy coded interchanges and mind-altering processes (Aldous Huxley used mescalin when dying). The technological advances are poisoned chalices; used to provide new exciting methods and panaceas, then in a second wave, for treatment to clear or clean up the results of the first wave, each time at the material and often spiritual cost of society and the planet.

On second thoughts fewer years, and those spent working agriculturally for food, weaving, living with affability and comfort, may provide a glimpse of heaven on earth compared to the belligerence or vitriol from the 'sharps' and scientifically advanced. They wouldn't be many years as one would be prone to attack from the 'sharps'(

The Barron said...

Small megaphone, or just a big head?

CXH said...

'safe nuclear power-plants and, eventually, the clean and limitless power of cold fusion.' The first will never happen as it would require an admission of being wrong by the environmentalist. No way, ever, will that happen.

As for the cold fusion, yeah right. We have been sold that as being ready next week back in last century. Probably be the same next century as well.

In the end you can not sell an idea to zealots. They have their beliefs and will not falter. Unless it actually causes them real discomfort, no cars, no busses, no internet, no planes, no heat pumps, no money. Then they will find a way to justify using the very things they want banned.

John Hurrley said...


David George said...

Good points Little Keith.
It worth noting though that West Coast coal is too valuable to burn for power generation - we have lower grade stuff for that. It's coking (or metallurgical) grade coal that is vital for steel making and is exported for that purpose.

Jacinda's mad idea to close down our oil and gas exploration must surely rank as one of this country's worst mistakes. Not only did it jeopardise (or jepradise as she would say) our energy and economic security it introduced a political hazard for the country as a target for investment and development and achieved less than zero in it's idiotic "save the planet" intent.

The electrify everything "plan" (transport, home heating and cooking, industrial processes etc.) requires a massive investment at every level - generation, transmission, reticulation and end use. There was nothing.

Jonzie said...

How will those 8 June protestors get to Queen Street? Horse and cart? Bicycle? And those from down south will row and walk?....yes of course, they will resort to progressive means like ICE cars and planes. Armed with lithium powered cellphones and liyjoum charged loudhailers waving Dupont nylon flags.

Little Keith said...

Yep, oil got them there, right down to their synthetic inks on their synthetic placards and the oil based roads they travelled on!

greywarbler said...

Fascinating; imaginative deep thinkers gather here ..o..

Mark Simpson said...

One of the reasons why I enjoy Bowalley Road is the (90% of the time) intelligently expressed and rational responses. This includes my recent challenger, The Barron, who also spars eloquently. (For some reason, other political blog sites attract an abundance of asinine utterances.) The erudite way Chris expresses himself, often with pertinent and interesting historical perspectives, I suggest lend himself to readers' astute responses.

However, I will finish with a small brickbat. "truly spectacular" is an example of the sort of over-emphasis that is now commonplace for legacy media these days. "Truly" is particularly ubiquitous and inane. Chris, please desist!

greywarbler said...

Mark S
You sound like a university adjudicator! Here we are contemplating the end of our culture, the end of our society built on the backs of earnest, hard-working and sacrificial efforts of many people here and in the auld 'mother country', and then changes in climate that put our building structures, our financial structures and the very land we stand on, the food we eat at risk of immutable change. Also the sky and air around and above us, plus plagues that remind us of the old days of the Irish and earlier famines.

A bit of hyperbole and slang to keep us bothering to think and interested in a personal rather than distant, judicial manner is good to keep us engaged especially for those with nice ways and thoughts. So let us sling our problems on the barbie and grill those of us who utter platitudes, personal bias that will lay themselves and others low, and plaintive moans about someone not doing something right.

Kumara Republic said...

From Prostetnic Vogon Joyce to Prostetnic Vogon Jones.

Anonymous said...

"It is the technological magic of Twenty-First Century science that offers the best hope of human survival".

Spot on, absolutely correct. But that includes not only nuclear power, but genetic engineering as well.

Among the latest achievements of the genetic engineers is a cancer cure, achieved by engineering some of the patient's own cells to attack their cancer. Technically, under current New Zealand law, the patients become GMOs, and should be kept in a high level containment lab. In practice, they are simply deemed legally not to be GMOs, and left to go free. (In at least one case, to happily brag publicly they are now in fact a (cancer free) GMO!)

During covid, the scientific understanding of how genes work, and the technological ability to manipulate genetic material, gave us accurate tests, tracking in real time, of viral evolution, and, most importantly, safe and effective vaccines.

I'm a member of Forest and Bird, and attended the march on June 8 at their urging. It was certainly big, it did fill Queen Street. However, it was a complete break with the past in one respect. There was zero mention of genetic engineering. I looked around for GE-Free NZ, and couldn't find them. I was a bit disappointed, I wanted to tell them I support them being interviewed on Radio NZ. They seem to have been cancelled by RNZ,and I suspect their anti-vaxx views, and participation in the anti-vaxxer occupation of Parliamentary grounds, are behind that.

I was pleased, but also a little surprised, that New Zealand First signed up in their coalition agreement to a loosening of the laws on genetic engineering. Act and National both campaigned for such a loosening, but I thought that might be an area where NZ First would want to be a handbrake. However, given the antipathy between Shane Jones and the "greenies", he might have been for it just because he thought it would be another way to really tick his opponents off!

The irony there is that GE-Free NZ apparently joined the anti-vaxxers, while what currently passes as "left" is not only pro-vaccine but pro-mandates. This seems to have resulted in the "left" simply completely shutting up about genetic engineering.

That leaves Greenpeace in an interesting position. They supported vaccines for the "Third World". The Oxford AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine, that only needs normal refrigeration
for storage and distribution, was the best option for that. It's also a genetically engineered virus. Greenpeace remains adamantly opposed to genetic engineering in agriculture. So, in effect, they're for saving lives with GE vaccines, but against potentially life saving GE improvements in nutrition and food security for the same lives the vaccines saved. Despite the fact the agricultural improvements use similar technologies to the life saving medical ones? It's OK to inject them, but not to eat them?
This is "following the science"?!

That's why I'm a member of Forest and Bird, but an opponent of Greenpeace on GE. I want to see the maximum possible conservation of nature, while simultaneously preserving a functioning technological society. I'm OK with marching in an F&B contingent on a Greenpeace organized action as part of that. But I'm also happy to have attended a NZ First report back meeting, and taken the opportunity to shake Shane Jones by the hand and thank him for coming to the government party on genetic engineering law reform. But it's a sign of the current tribalism and polarization that I wasn't going to admit to that on the march.