Paul Holmes on New Zealand
Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: Clouded thinking on change


My, but your humble columnist, the harmless drudge, has had a busy week and is run ragged and comes to you this morning wrung out.

Not as wrung out as the Duchess of York will be this weekend, probably, but never mind that.

I've done my columns; this one, and another weekly one I've been writing for my local paper, Hawke's Bay Today, writing my daily piece for the Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB, filling in for Leighton Smith all week, discussing and working on other projects, and making a Paul Holmes Extra Virgin Olive Oil presentation to a major retailer.

I don't remember when I last saw my wife. So often now, we conduct our marriage at the end of the phone.

Next week, Fiji.

Living and working as I do between Hawke's Bay and Auckland is quite dislocating. It had made me realise, perhaps for the first time, how gruelling the political life must be for out-of-Wellington MPs. And they live this life for years and years.

Imagine what it must have been like in the days before jet airliners and turbo-pops. Imagine being the Invercargill MP in the days of the steamers and the long, smokey railway journeys.

Imagine being the Northland MP before modern transport. Imagine being the West Coast MP or the Gisborne MP or one of the Hamilton MPs or one from Dunedin or Christchurch.

Of course, it must be hard for Bill English. At least I know where I live, Hawke's Bay and Auckland. Most of the time I do. This week has tested that certainty, but English has had similar problems. In the past he has seemed confused about whether he lived in Wellington or Dipton. Sorry, Bill. Cheap shot.

I've often wondered what a miserable life it must be being a United States Congressman from say, Alaska, or the Far West, the South West or Mississippi or Louisiana.

Even in the jet age those are five hour trips from Washington, home to those distant precincts and back, week after week, month after month.

And a Congressman has to keep very tight links with his people at home because he stands for election every two years. One minute you've won, next minute you're campaigning again. Now that must be dislocating. No wonder so many yield to carnal pleasures with the staff in Washington.

Anyway, I enjoy filling in for Leighton Smith very much. I love talkback. People ringing a host and telling him things about themselves is a true pleasure.

There must be an element of serious trust. It is a relationship with the people. And there is a great and mutual relationship between Leighton and his.

Unfortunately, and I am being honest here and hope I am not disrespecting his audience, his people and I do not really see eye to eye on a lot of matters.

Take climate change. Leighton does not believe there is a skerrick of evidence that any kind of climate change is underway around the world. Leighton is constantly quoting learned documents to support his conviction. And a large section of his crowd are emphatic that he is right.

Many of them are very informed about it. Except, it seems to me, and I do not wish to be provocative, that many of them are very smart people gone wonky at the top. They are angry about the scientists who claim human beings are now affecting climate.

More than that, they are outraged at the suggestion and the way governments are jumping on what they see as the climate change bandwagon and an evil conspiracy of world scientists who are motivated only by maintaining their foolish research grants.

And I happened to be filling in for Leighton in the week of the complicated Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

They reared up in fury at the scheme and the climate change proponents. They are almost a cult. One fellow this week gave a learned and incomprehensible dissertation on atmospheric science with such an obsessive and contorted complication of figures that I felt obliged to ask him why the International Panel on Climate Change had not come here to consult him.

One woman was appalled by me. She had always respected me, she said, but she could not believe that I had not read Ian Wishart's book on the subject of climate change. No, I told her, I have not.

And you know what, I told her? I didn't read his book on Helen Clark either. Because I've always thought that Ian was wonky at the top, too.

I once asked Helen, well before the last election, whether the traction and the almost biblical status the book was receiving among the people who could not stand her, worried her.

She replied in a voice that dripped with contempt. She said that when Absolute Power started to get some serious sales she sent a staffer to buy a copy and check it out.

She said the accusation contained therein - that she either strangled or ordered strangled some kittens because they didn't have room for them on the farm - was monstrous. The allegation being, of course, that she was on her way to becoming a serial killer or some kind of Stalin.

I DON'T KNOW why the people who are convinced that climate change is some elaborate international lie become so angry or so unable to discuss the matter dispassionately.

It seems to me that it is only obvious that we should take precautions with our gas emissions. It's simple, I would have thought. Until the Industrial Revolution, man had no effect on the atmosphere. We rode on horses, we lit a few fires and we killed our animals for meat and clothing.

We were only about a billion souls, vulnerable, loving, explosive little murderous creatures killing each other on a paradise planet. Then came the big factories and the vast, abandoned burnings of coal as factories moved across the continents and round the world.

Then came the automobile and the addiction to oil and then the petro-chemical industry that worked out ways for oil to make myriad products.

And more and more people could afford the cars and the myriad things like Tupperware and Frisbees. We had the massive rise of European and American industry, and now the rise and rise of China and India.

And now we are six billion people. Soon, before you know it, by 2050, we will be nine billion. And they will all be healthier and living longer. And, every day, each of those people will need to be clothed and fed, housed and transported, warmed and watered.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts by 2050 we will need to produce 70 per cent more food than we do today. Our capacity to produce enough food is already at a critical level. Getting to where we'll need to be in terms of daily human life and food alone by 2050, means massively more carbon emissions.

But how silly we are, apparently, for being the first country in the world to adopt an ETS. Well, as a food producer now, and learning the food game, the first question I find that people ask these days at the food shows is: "Is it organic?"

Across the world, there is a mass move towards the natural when it comes to food. If we are to counter the Greens in our international markets, we have to be able to counter the food miles argument.

So with all of the above, it seems obvious to simple old Paul Holmes from Haumoana that some prudence may be required in all nations to preserve the planet to keep us alive as a species. In any case, why not try to look after the planet? I mean, who's ready for Mars?

But I am ignorant, under-researched and part of the conspiracy. Apparently.

Anyway, we're off to coup-addled Fiji for a week with some old school friends. At least Leighton's people will be pleased Holmes is politically incorrect.

- Herald on Sunday

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