tonypcollins

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If "cycleway" was the answer, what was the question again?

As we conclude the second decade of the 21st century, let me review Dunedin’s major project of the decade, the great cycleway network. 

Background: In line with a national and international trend, increased use of bicycling was being strongly promoted by the cycling fraternity in Dunedin as a preferable alternative mode of transport to private motor vehicles.

The rationale behind the cycleway project was in three parts: a) Increasing cycling in Dunedin will help reduce the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution as our contribution to the global fight against the greenhouse effect and sea rise.

b) That the existing situation which integrates cyclists and motorists is so dangerous for cyclists that it discourages recreational cyclists from using their bikes for commuting. A safer cycleway would, in the DCC calculation, lead to 10% of residents (13,000) choosing cycling as their primary means of commuting.

c) The central SH1 carriageway should be for the passage of traffic, not for stationary parked cars. Removing the parked cars on one side of the SH1 provides ample space for a cycleway thereby safely accommodating all moving traffic. Car park buildings are a far more efficient design for parking than along the SH1 route.

I am not a cyclist (hills and weather) and consistently challenged the logic behind the project but, in the end, the politicians managed to get their ‘public consultancy’ process to agree with them and they did what they always intended to do. Now that the cycleways are well up and running right through the centre of the city it is appropriate to review. So as I recall :

In Dunedin city, the elected councillors began with a cycleway network around the southern suburbs of Dunedin city. The objective being that within ten years, 10% of residents would choose cycling as their primary mode of travel.

The next priority of this plan was to create a separated cycleway along both of the one way streets in Dunedin which are also the State Highway 1 bypass for heavy transport vehicles and cars avoiding the main street. This is now done and as a bonus the recently introduced e-scooters were allowed to share this space, a privilege denied to the mobility scooter users.

At the completion of the project (at least I hope it is the end) I would like to review the situation:

a) It is far too simplistic to put forward cycling as a solution to pollution. The Netherlands is the planet’s poster-country for cycling with a total of 16,500,000 bikes representing an exceptionally impressive 98% of population. And yet on Yale University’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index ranking  for average exposure to PM2.5 (dangerous fine particles in the air) the Netherlands ranked 152nd worst out of the 178 countries; New Zealand ranked #1 for clean air in the same survey. If our cycleway logic was based on being a contribution to the planet’s reduction in carbon in the atmosphere, then it was a pathetic gesture in the true sense of the word.

b) The need for investment in cyclist safety quoted the three cyclist deaths over the last 16 years which have occurred on the State Highway 1. Two were in collision with large trucks, one of which was at the intersection of Anzac Ave with SH1 another was a cyclist swerving to avoid a collision and the third was when a motorist mistakenly turned the wrong way at an intersection. The cycleway was proposed as the solution to avoid accidents. Three fatal accidents in sixteen years, while tragic for those involved, is hardly an epidemic; and nothing will ever prevent genuine accidents.

Subsequent to the completion of the city inner city cycleways, a 2019 survey published in the ODT 14/12/19 showed that cyclists are the largest source of vehicle accidents presenting at Dunedin Hospital ED, with e-scooters, the other user of cycleways as the second highest category. If safety was the objective, the cycleway solution has been a failure and the reason was always obvious. As with the Dunedin experience, the national statistics show that over 70% of cycling accidents occur at intersections where safety is dependent on all road users obeying the road rules.

As for the assumption that the cycleway would result in 10% of commuters (13,000 people) adopting cycling for commuting, that is as wrong as it could be. The official NZTA cycleway statistics, published in August 2019 showed: a) Great King St,  the jewel in the cycleway crown running through the heart of the university precinct, recorded a zero increase. b) The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway: a 7% decrease. c) Daily average cycle count in July was 130 from six different counters around the city; that of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, lets be generous and say there were 65 cyclists on average a day during that month.

c) The DCC observation that car park buildings are a more efficient parking option than roadside parking on SH1 may be valid, but that is purely academic since they have not built, nor do they have even preliminary plans to build, any car park buildings to replace the parking space conceded to the cycleway. The impact has only being to push commuter parking further out from the city and create a new residential parking problem. 

In summary, the Dunedin cycleway ‘project of the decade’ has made zero impact on both local and global carbon levels; has not increased use of cycling nor made it a safer option; and it has not provided more efficient parking solutions for motorists. All of these outcomes were predictable and publicly predicted at the time that we were being ‘consulted’. So as we sign off the decade, we can only ask,’if cycleway was the answer, what on earth was the question?”

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Build it and they will come.

The Dunedin City Council is betting another $60 million on the gamble that nearly half of us will switch from cars to buses and bikes within five years. But is that sending good money after bad?

The DCC 2013 Transport Strategy document sets their goal that, by 2024, 40% of us (51,000 people) will be commuting either by bike, bus or on foot as our main mode of transport (P.30 Strategic Approach-Overview). The proposed $60 million conversion of the Central Business District’s main thoroughfare into a single lane for motor vehicles and a dedicated cycle way to allow a larger pedestrian zone is the next stage to prepare the city infrastructure for this target(click to enlarge).

On foot realistically means those residing in the inner city, mainly students plus a few inner city apartment dwellers. Cyclists would primarily be those living on the flat suburbs and connected by the cycleway network from South Dunedin to North and around the harbour. The bus network has the greatest catchment area of all the hill and outer suburbs of the city.

The DCC transport survey of 2013 found that 14% (18,000 people) walked to the city as their main mode of transport. That is unlikely to change without a major jump in student population.

DCC Cycleway proposal had a target of 10% (13,000) using bikes for commuting. So that leaves a balance of 16% (20,000 people) as the DCC target for bus commuters.

In August 2019, after the route changes were made and bus hub completed, ORC General Manager Operations Gavin Palmer issued a media release stating patronage on the Dunedin network number of trips was now 2,500,000 pa for the year ended June. Converting that to equivalent regular commuter numbers you have to halve the figure because it includes the return journey for the same passenger. Then divide that by 260 (5 days a week for a year) and we currently have 4,800 full time commuter passenger equivalents pa. That figure reasonably aligns with the DCC 2013 transport survey above that says 4% (5142) use the bus to commute; however it also shows that no growth has been made in the past five years).

Also in August 2019 NZTA released the results of the cycleway usage. The jewel in the cycleway crown, Great King St running right through the heart of the university precinct records a zero increase. The Victoria Rd cycleway, the ‘visionary’ concept of linking south Dunedin to the city by cycleway recorded a 7% decrease. The daily average cycle count in July was 130 from six different counters around the city; the peak day in the survey was 236. That of course does not account for the same cyclist being recorded on two or more of the six counters on the same day. And with all cyclists at least making a return journey, let’s be generous and say there were on average 65 cyclists in July rising to a peak of 120 cyclists on the best day of the survey. NZTA concede that these results are ‘not startling”; that is an understatement.

Apparently the DCC is still confident, despite these actual results, of achieving their Transport Plan Goal since they have recently committed to the pedestrianisation of the CBD project. So we need to review the logistics they face in this challenge.

With the bus target of lifting from 4800 current regular commuter equivalents to 20,000 within five years, those additional 15,000 passengers will have to be transported from their suburb to the city during the 7:00 – 8:30am peak departure times. With an average 20 minute trip from terminus to CBD, that would require over 160 buses on the road during that peak time service. And again on the afternoon return journey. The good news is that they would have to be running convenient 10 minute services to achieve that; the bad news is that at any one time there would be 50 buses trying to get into the CBD bus hub which has only ten set-down bays.

And with cycling, the DCC still have to achieve a growth from around 120 cyclists on the best day of the current survey to a regular daily figure of 13,000 by 2024. And in addition to the increased usage, they would have to build bike parks to accommodate these 13,000 bikes within convenient walking distance to their individual destinations. And in addition the streets would still have to cope with the other 60% of residents in cars as well as delivery vehicles, emergency service vehicles, work vehicles and out of town vehicles.

The redesign plan for the CBD area is so the DCC can have the appropriate infrastructure in place for when the 13,000 cyclists and 160 buses carrying 20,000 people start arriving daily into the CBD Bike Park/ Bus Hub. The current Councillors are so convinced that this 2024 vision will be realised that they have now endorsed a budgeted $60 Million project to convert our main street to a town plaza in preparation for it. That is a big gamble based on the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy.

The DCC people involved are betting their jobs and their reputations on it, but of more concern is that they are using ratepayer money to buy the chips.

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twas the night after Christmas…..

and Santa was lost. Over the side, the compass was toss’d. “We’ll go up through the clouds, til we find the north star; then dasher and dancer will know where we are.”

 

Let me suggest that it was no coincidence that right after last Christmas an urgent meeting of geophysicists gathered to update the World Magnetic Model. As you no doubt know, the magnetic north is not located at the same place as the geographic north so navigation systems need to know exactly how far apart the two points are. As it turns out, the magnetic North Pole had moved further away from where we thought it was and that is no small matter for navigators and so the urgent meeting was called in January this year to correct our calculation model.

The unpredictable wandering of the North Pole has occupied the imaginations of scientists and explorers ever since it was first accurately located in 1831 by James Clark Ross in the Canadian Arctic. But in the mid-1990s it’s speed accelerated from around 15 kilometres per year to around 55 kilometres per year. By 2001, it was in the Arctic Ocean. It is currently on track for Siberia. Likewise in our part of the planet the magnetic south pole has now moved off the coast of Antarctica and is now even outside the Antarctic circle.

The iron core in the centre of the earth generates our planet’s magnetic field; if the inner earth motion changes, it affects the direction of the magnetic field. In 2016, Satellites tracked an acceleration of the magnetic field beneath South America and the eastern Pacific Ocean. 

Scientists are trying to understand just what is going on deep inside our planet and what affect various scenarios might have on earth’s magnetic field. It may be a result of geomagnetic pulses, like the one that happened in 2016, or it might be a result of hydromagnetic waves deep within earth’s core. 

But what scientists can tell us, from study of magnetic minerals in the ice core, is that it is all quite natural. Over the eons the poles have completely reversed on average every 2 – 300,000 years; the last reversal was nearly 800,000 years ago so they are saying we are actually well overdue for another switch. They also calculate that the process of reversal took over 20,000 years to complete so we do get time to change the order of the N-E-W-S letters on our compasses.

But here is a thought. The earth’s magnetic field is one of the two powerful forces in our atmosphere, the other being gravity. In theory gravity is over 100 times stronger than magnetism but, for my money, if you pick a nail up from the floor using a magnet and it stays stuck to the magnet you would have to think that magnetism has won that arm wrestle. That’s all by the by; the main job of the magnetic field is to shield our planet from excessive galactic cosmic rays. So the real question is, could a shifting magnetic field have an effect on climate and weather patterns? Heatwaves, winds, storms, deluges, tidal surges, arctic ice-shelf calving; that sort of thing? It’s worth thinking about. Certainly there are some Danish scientists giving it very serious thought. Danish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark, professor in the Division of Solar System Physics at the Danish National Space Institute in Copenhagen, has been researching the link between galactic cosmic rays and earth warming for decades. In 1997 his study was published with the conclusion that: During the last solar cycle, Earth’s cloud cover underwent a modulation more closely in phase with the galactic cosmic ray flux than with other solar activity parameters. Further it is found that Earth’s temperature follows more closely variations in galactic cosmic ray flux and solar cycle length, than other solar activity parameters. The main conclusion is that the average state of the heliosphere affects Earth’s climate. More recently this claim has been supported by two Danish geophysicists, Mads Faurschou Knudsen and Peter Riisager using data drawn from stalagmites and stalactites found in China and Oman to compare our magnetic field with that of 5,000 years ago. The results of the study have been peer reviewed and published in the U.S. scientific journal ‘Geology’. 

Anyway, the increasing shift of the North Pole is a geological fact that nobody can deny and so there will have to be far more regular meetings of the people who are required to keep our navigational systems in working order. They will, of course, have to meet pre-Christmas just so Santa can set the auto pilot control and get home quickly after a busy night. As it happens the carbon alarmists also favour a pre-Christmas conference, so maybe the geomagnetic mob can make a big annual conference-style event of this and the two groups can join forces. The additional numbers might increase the incentives that big cities are prepared to offer to get an economic injection of 30,000 people, all on expense accounts, turning up a few weeks before Christmas.

Maybe they will fight over bragging rights as to whether it is man’s industrialisation or earth’s magnetic field that is having the greatest impact on the climate or maybe they will collaborate and decide that man is somehow affecting the earth’s inner iron core by mining coal and drilling for oil. Who knows? Not me, I am not a scientist I am just a Joe Blog and I am hoping Santa will bring me an Akubra and a pair of Redbands. Adapting to the environment has been the sapiens mantra for 200,000 years and so I will be tending my lettuces while the Court of Canute is ordaining their reincarnated Joan of Arc to lead us against the forces of the nature.

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A cosmic indian summer

Is the average temperature on earth higher today than it was a century ago when industrialisation expanded throughout the globe to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population? It is actually not as easy as you might expect to find the answer amongst the plethora of press releases from the climate alarmists. From all the micro data that the climate alarmists are extracting, analysing and dispensing, why is it so hard to find a simple list of actual seasonal temperature recordings over the last one hundred year period in any given location? Instead we get charts of variations of temperature from the norm (although rationalising what ‘the norm’ is and when the norm supposedly happened seems to be just ignored). They provide charts of ‘moving averages over years’ with the years selected to ‘prove’ a trend entirely at the writer’s discretion. And while the internet is absolutely overwhelmed with alarmist headlines, basic, actual temperature data over 100 years, separated by season is very, very hard to find. But I eventually did find one. It was from Britain. Have a look at these actual seasonal temperatures over the last hundred years in the country that birthed and led the industrial revolution and tell me where you see any temperature trends that would alarm you.

So as a brief scan, in Central England in 1912, the year the Titanic sank and the coal miners went on strike, the average winter temperature was 5.36, spring 8.53, summer 17.55 and autumn 10.39.

At the start of the ‘Boomer’ generation in 1948, winter was 5.13, spring 8.75, summer 17.50 and autumn 11.15.

In swinging 1965, the year Gen. X was born, winter was 3.28, spring 8.43, summer 15.71 and autumn 10.40

In 1981 the year the ‘Millennials’ arrived on earth, winter was 4.33, spring 9.17, summer 15.06 and autumn 10.12

And at the dawn of the 21st century winter was 5.35, spring 9.49, summer 16.45 and autumn 11.57.

I could take three summers spread over this period of 2000, 1948 and 1912, draw a connecting line and claim that the climate has since cooled by 1 degree over the century.  I would not do that of course, three points over a 90 year span does not make a valid data base. Yet the alarmists fill the media and internet with no more than micro data snippets to make their claims. So just look over the above 100 year chart as a total group or a random handful and just ask yourself, do these temperatures alarm me? 

According to the best astrophysics information we have, our temperatures are, unsurprisingly, linked with the natural orbit of the earth around the sun, which is a changing environment and by no means a perfect circle as we might have assumed. Milutin Milankovic, a contemporary of other mathematics and physics geniuses Einstein, Minkowski and Tesla, demonstrated the way our solar system works. Milankovic’s calculations remain valid today having been constantly reviewed with all the computing support to which modern astrophysicists have access. 

In brief, there are three cycles contained in the way earth orbits the sun: tilt, precession and elliptic; and the elliptical plane changes quite dramatically every 100,000 years. Not surprisingly, the glaciation of our planet also works on this 100,000 year cycle. 

During a glacial period the planet cools as the heat of the sun moves further away, the air dries out and water levels fall as liquid is transformed to ice. Land bridges start to become available and islands appear where before they were part of the sea bed.

If we just look back 400,000 years we have scientific consensus from both sides of the climate debate on the temperature cycles as per the chart below. And all agree that the cycle started to cool down again about 6,000 years ago. What we don’t have consensus on is ‘where to from here?’ As below, the alarmists little arrows project, with no mathematical base that I can see, that the temperature heads rapidly due north towards a hell on earth scenario. They state that the cooling of the planet over the previous 6,000 years suddenly u-turned just 100 or so years ago when industrialisation, motorised transport, steam ships and smoke belching trains started to take hold around the globe.

They ignore, of course that even today, with a population passing 7.5 billion compared to 2.5 billion in 1950, human generated C02 represents only 3% of total C02 which was confirmed in this EPA document (click to enlarge). 

As a brief history of our climate in this current ‘inter glacial’ period, when the last glacial episode officially ended Canada was still under 2+ kilometres of ice and it was possible to walk across the Bering straight from Eastern Europe to North America. Aborigines could also island hop from South East Asia to Australia as could the Celts cross from Europe to Britain. Our planet had been in that ice age for the previous 100,000 years. Over the first 6,000 years of this inter-glacial phase the ice mountains melted  and the oceans rose dramatically, submerging islands and causeways and possibly even a small continent if the legend of Atlantis has any basis in fact. The sea height has levelled out since then. 

Basing projections on historical patterns, which are linked to the orbit of the earth around the sun, we are in fact right now coming towards the end of a cosmic Indian Summer and we will gradually move back towards a much cooler planet and in about 90,000 years we will again have Canada, Northern Asia and Europe all underneath kilometres of ice sheet.

The reason for the heightened anxiety of the alarmists is that today our scientists are micromanaging data and constantly tweeting bite size doomsday headlines that simply are not supported by the bigger picture trends. The climate works in tens of thousands of years, not in months. The last time humans went through this climate cycle they were blissfully unaware of the fact that there even was a cycle; it was a pleasant and warm time and they probably just enjoyed it; a few hundred generations later the climate was comparatively much colder, but they did not know it was colder because they had no records to analyse; it just was what it was. Too much micro analysis of climate data on a month by month basis is just creating hyper anxiety and panic.

But ‘getting it wrong’ is not the reason I speak up against the climate alarmists. It is because they have the right problem for the wrong reason and that makes them counter productive to solving our environmental challenges. It is because, even as they march on their Friday strikes and fly around the globe in their thousands to attend conferences and draft resolutions, they are just plucking temperature levels and deadlines out of the air about when we may reach the point of no return which target seems to be a  shifting landscape. In 2008 the tipping point was predicted to be 1 August 2016; in 2016, following the Paris Agreement which set 2 degrees as the tipping point, IIASA (science institute) policy brief said we had until to Dec 31 2020 to keep warming under 2 degrees; as that date approaches the 2019 climate summit in September says we can still get under the 2 degree tipping point within 12 years so that takes us out to 2031. Prince Charles is a little more optimistic and thinks we have until 2050. And now there is another big pre Christmas conference in Madrid, delegates from 200 countries, they apparently need to tidy up some details from the 2015 Paris Christmas party, oops I mean conference, and maybe review the next tipping point date.

Fossil fuel over-use is not a problem of climate, it is a problem of health. Instead of talking about the ‘invisible demon’ C02 and the inevitable ‘Mad Max’ scenario, all because of the industrial sins of our forefathers, we need to be talking about investing in better technology to reduce lung-damaging air pollution in our cities. We need new technology to prevent pollution of our farming soils and our waterways that poison our food and water sources. When we get rid of the climate doomsday message and focus on health solutions then we might start making some progress. Right now the climate alarmists are only creating a climate of doom and hopelessness. And that carries the risk of being a self-fulfilling prophesy.

 

References:

1) Vostok ice core: a continuous isotope temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,00 years): Jouzel, J., C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, C. Genthon, N.I. Barkov, V.M. Kotlyakov, and V.M. Petrov. 1987.

2) Extending the Vostok ice-core record of palaeoclimate to the penultimate glacial period.: Jouzel, J., N.I. Barkov, J.M. Barnola, M. Bender, J. Chappellaz, C. Genthon, V.M. Kotlyakov, V. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, D. Raynaud, G. Raisbeck, C. Ritz, T. Sowers, M. Stievenard, F. Yiou, and P. Yiou. 1993.

3) Climatic interpretation of the recently extended Vostok ice records.: Jouzel, J., C. Waelbroeck, B. Malaize, M. Bender, J.R. Petit, M. Stievenard, N.I. Barkov, J.M. Barnola, T. King, V.M. Kotlyakov, V. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, D. Raynaud, C. Ritz, and T. Sowers. 1996.

4) Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica.: Petit, J.R., J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, N.I. Barkov, J.-M. Barnola, I. Basile, M. Bender, J. Chappellaz, M. Davis, G. Delayque, M. Delmotte, V.M. Kotlyakov, M. Legrand, V.Y. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, L. Pepin, C. Ritz, E. Saltzman, and M. Stievenard. 1999.

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Faith moves mountains (of garbage)

In indignation at the snide disrespect being shown to my generation (via the ‘ok Boomer’ social media catch-cry), I published my previous blog stating at the outset that I did not want to take the bait and fuel the animosity and then I proceeded to swallow the bait whole and throw gasoline on the debate (if you will excuse the awfully clumsy mixing of metaphors) with graphs, pictures and commentary.

In reflection, when my indignation was appeased, I did have to accept that the millennial generation is not too dissimilar to we baby boomers in our youth. They are genuinely frightened of catastrophic pollution and the impact on their generation just as we were equally genuinely frightened of catastrophic nuclear war and the impact on our generation.

Of course we are not the only two generations to have our demons of fear. The generations prior to ours had the terror of another world war or another global depression or another global pandemic like the Spanish flu. And on and on it goes back in time right to about 12,000 years ago when the biblical flood, which is gaining increasing geological support, engulfed the known world and almost entirely wiped out humanity. Fear is the one common challenge that all humans have had to deal with throughout the generations.

We use the phrases ‘love’ and ‘hate’ so loosely that it becomes difficult to sit down and define exactly what we mean when we use them. In practical terms the states of love and hate are rooted in ‘faith’ and ‘fear’. The greater our fear is, the closer we come to this state we refer to as ‘hate’. And on the other side of the coin, the greater our faith is, the closer we come to the state of ‘love’.

When we have a fear of someone or something we move from a state of disliking that thing or person progressively through to a point where we are in terror and that is when we reach the state of hate. At the ultimate point of fear, we are facing our primal demon and we feel absolutely dispirited.

On the reverse side of the coin, when we have faith and trust in a person, an organisation, place or situation we grow in our love for that place, situation, organisation or person. At the peak of our love scale we feel a connection which we describe as spiritual.

The nuclear threat today is no less than it was fifty years ago, so why do we no longer angst so much about it? Why is it not first item on the agenda of every UN meeting, the lead story in all media? Quite simply because we no longer fear it. The threat technically is still as real as it ever was, the President of the USA even recently threatened it, but still we do not fear it. We have, over time, developed moderate to strong faith that no nation would ever use nuclear weapons on another because it would mean mutual destruction. That no one person would ever truly have complete control over a decision to actually launch global nuclear war.

Faith in human ingenuity, human survival instinct, human spirit or in a greater cosmic power that intervenes in the affairs of men all contribute to reducing the state of communal fear and allowing humans to embrace a cooperative and creative approach to global problem solving. For it is this very essential gene unique to homo sapiens that has distinguished us from our close cousins the great apes and the rest of earth’s animal kingdom, to which we fundamentally belong. 

Possibly the most authenticated case of a contemporary near-death experience is that of Anita Moorjani. In February 2006 Anita recovered from an end-of-life coma, during which all her organs were shutting down, and recalled her experience in that state of receiving a message to ‘go back and live your life fearlessly’. Within five weeks her stage 4 cancer had completely vanished. Anita now leads a full, positive and energetic life and appears to have attracted to herself tens of thousands of positive, life-affirming people; Anita has complete faith that all is unfolding as it should. A successful and joyful life is totally dependent on our decisions as to how to relate to others. We cannot help people who are living in a state of fear by joining them in that state. That only feeds the fear and accelerates the path to despair. The only help we can give is to be a living beacon for the other path. The path of faith leading to a state of love of life.

And today, even when ecological fear permeates the environment, there is a beacon of hope; and hope brings faith. A young man who is as fearless and creative as Greta Thunberg is frightened and helpless. His name is Boyan Slat and he was born in 1994, so he is a millennial, but just click here see what this young man has done. He established this “Ocean Cleanup” enterprise when he was just 18 years old and got it started with a $2million crowd funding effort. 

What a pity Greta Thunberg did not talk about Boyan Slat when she got the chance at the UN. Greta Thunberg’s speechwriters, who made such a big point about her sailing to that conference across the ocean as her ‘save the planet’ contribution, did not once promote Boyan Slat’s impressive entrepreneurial work to clean up the ocean that she had just sailed on. On the contrary she proclaimed, on behalf of the millennial generation, that solutions were nowhere in sight. The fear is turning to terror and that path leads to the gates of hell on earth.

Boyan Slat is a beacon offering the alternative path. He offers faith in the survival instinct and creativity of home sapiens to do what homo sapiens have done for 200,000 years. Solve the problem they face, clean up the oceans, clean up the rivers.

Boyan, from an old boomer, ‘I love you, man.’

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You’re ok, boomers

I watched Greta Thunberg, millennial poster child for the climate alarmists, speaking at the United Nations. What anger and venom was in that face and in the words she spoke. And the new darling set the stage by so publicly promoting that she sailed to the UN Conference on a multi million dollar carbon fibre yacht so that she would not make a carbon contribution to the climate. Oh how they cheered, the irony lost on the cheering audience that they had all flown first class to listen to her. And many of them possibly also numbered among the 28,000, the equivalent of 70 jumbo jets, who had travelled to the Poland climate alarmist conference the previous year and also among the 40,000 alarmists who had travelled to the earlier Paris alarmist conference. But they applauded the example that this child showed us by travelling on a yacht that not even the reasonably wealthy boomer, whose ‘wealth’ they despise, could ever hope to afford.

I didn’t really think there was any significant animosity between the elders of the 1950’s and 60’s and the younger generations, but someone certainly is trying to create a lot of animosity. The “Boomers” seem generally to be very happy with the way Gen X have taken up their responsibilities, despite not understanding their music; but the problems appear to be with an ‘alarmist’ sub-category of the millennial generation; these are 18-34 year olds born from the mid 1980’s to the early 2000’s.

I have started noticing how many of these millennial climate alarmists have started referring to my generation most disrespectfully with the dismissive phrase: ‘ok boomers’, which they see as a more clever version of patting granddad on his deluded head (and I use the word ‘clever’ quite incorrectly). We have apparently earned that disrespect because we are accused of being the generation that has left millennials with the unbearable anxiety and stress of having to inherit ‘our mess’. That we Boomers cannot fathom what it is like for these young people to live with such anxiety. I don’t want to take the bait, wade in and fuel the animosity, but we do need to do a bit of a fact check on the charges made by the alarmists against us as boomers. It seems such a silly attack because generations are not fixed date separations. The generational transfer is quite fluid and while there will be evolving cultural footprints exactly when they started and when they ended is very difficult to define. But let us look at a few key trends over the relevant decades:

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Coal burning, one of the big contributors to C02 in the atmosphere, accelerated dramatically in the decade 2000 to 2010, and primarily in China. This was entirely as a result of China becoming an economic ‘powerhouse’, building massive factories to feed the new breed of “superstores”. The economic powerhouses of the boomer generation were Europe and the USA whose coal consumption was comparatively very modest. The boomers were the ’boutique’ generation, millennials have become the ‘superstore’ generation. Boomers repaired appliances, millennials discard and buy new. And the flow on effect are the landfills and oceans clogged with discarded waste.

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Look at the trend in passenger air travel kilometres graph. No sign of the millennial generation trimming down on demand for air travel. Scheduled services have in fact accelerated 80% in just 8 years from 2004 to 2012. Those planes today are not filled with ‘Boomers.’ The Travel industry have their business antennae set for the the millennial market. A report by industry giant by Travelport says young people ages 18 to 34 are most likely to spend more money on vacations than other age groups. An Expedia poll shows also millennials travel the most; 35 days each year to be exact.

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But it is not just the airline industry that the millennials consume with voracious appetites. By 2010 the average boomer was 50-60 years old and had a limited demand for mobile phones and their contribution to mobile phone use is displayed in the left side of the graph attached. Shift along to 2015 – 2018 and just watch the impact on i-phone consumption by the millennials.

Every i-phone is a handful of rare earth elements (as are the mechanisms of wind power generators and electric motors, but that’s another story for another time). Rare earth elements are separated from the rest of the earth by a highly toxic chemical process. The millennials consider mobile phones to be disposable items to be discarded and replaced every time someone tweaks a camera setting in a new model. The very visible and tangible consequence of this vast consumption of mobile devices is, in a word, Baotou. That is a city in Mongolia that has grown to a population from under 100,000 when the boomers were born, to 2.5 million; based on the mining and processing of rare earth elements to satisfy the demands of the millennial consumers.

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One of the many waste pipes creating toxic lakes across China and Mongolia
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Baotou rare earth element mine

While Baotou is one of the major sources today of these rare earth minerals, and China has, up until 2013, supplied 90% of the world supply of REE, as demand has grown massively since 2013 other countries are getting in on the market. India, USA, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia and Brazil are all now mining rare earth elements. What started hidden away in ‘out of sight out of mind’ Mongolia and Northern China is now coming to a country near you, and all to satisfy the insatiable demand of the millennials to discard a 12 month old phone for the latest model.

The millennials are also the generation that has brought in the Uber Eats mentality because they do not think they should have to cook their own meals. Paying for cars to drive around and around the block, pouring emissions into the atmosphere so a car is always on hand to pick them up a burger when they feel the whim.

The alarmist millennials are spreading anxiety around the world like a virus all because the temperature has warmed by 0.8 degrees C since 1880 and the seas are rising at 1 – 2 mm pa. The reality is that the planet has been warming annually, and sea levels rising, consistently since the last ice age ended. In fact scientific ice core analysis shows that Antarctica warmed about 20 degrees in the years from 20,000 to 10,000 years ago (while the rest of the planet warmed only 4 degrees over that period), the ice age was coming to its natural end. That was a process of nature and processes of nature extend over tens of thousands of years, not over decades. Of course no alarmist is still reading because the official stance of millennia-controlled media is now to refuse to debate the issue. That decision exposes them as propagandists rather than journalists.

If you want to know how to handle global anxiety, you could do worse than talk to a boomer. We boomers grew up knowing that two men who represented two super powers that lived in constant paranoiac fear of each other, each carried a suitcase around with them everywhere they went in which was a button that could launch enough nuclear rockets to destroy the planet several times over in a matter of hours. When I was 12 we had the Cuba standoff crisis between these two nations that had us all just waiting for the minute that life-ending nuclear war started.

Technology development in the previous generation had introduced nuclear power. Nuclear power was seen as a clean and highly effective alternative to fossil-burning coal power. As indeed it is, in theory. The phallic atomic bomb came as a very unwelcome side product driven by the ambitions of Hitler, just as viagra was initially developed as a medicinal treatment for high blood pressure.

So we protested to our elders in our youth, as youth will do. We were the “Make love not war” generation and when we assumed our own democratic influence on the world we actually did something about the situation and we made the changes. The graph shows the dramatic decline in battle deaths from the 1970’s, the decades of the boomers in control.

And if the alarmists want something else to get concerned about, in the decade when boomers were approaching adulthood, well over ten million people had died from famine. Boomers were the “Live Aid” generation. We cared about the plight of the poor people of the world. The dramatic reduction in death by famine during our watch is demonstrated in the attached graph.

But the millennial alarmists, rather than get on and do something about the state of the world, just want to fly around the globe from one conference junket to the next. And they skulk in the background, grooming their “Gen. Z’ children to demand that their grandparents start doling out their life savings, that they believe is their entitlement, to further feed their indulgences. So if you millennial alarmists just keep playing the blame game as the only contribution to humanity you are capable of, and if the 20/20 Generation do experience what your millennial poster child is predicting, either by natural means or as a result of your out of control consumerism, it won’t be the boomers that Gen. 20/20 will be pointing the finger of shame at, it will be the self indulgence of the millennial generation and the impotence of their alarmist sub category.

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Put the house on it….

So after England beat the All Blacks in the RWC semi final, Chinny, the born again Pom, sent me a text telling me to mortgage the house and put it on England to win the final. Indeed the England win over the All Blacks has resulted in a sudden media and fan driven anointing of the English, having won one game against the All Blacks, as the new world champions. But we heard all that a few weeks ago when the Aussies did the same to us in the first Bledisloe Cup game; in fact their 6-try, 47:26 win against the All Blacks was far more impressive than the English win. Media and fans suddenly proclaimed the Wallabies as the world champions in waiting. That only lasted one week until we took them down 36 nil in the rematch. If there was an England/ NZ re-match this week I would still back NZ to take that game. It is all to do with edge in motivation giving you the physical edge. That edge is always easier to gain as the challenger than to maintain as the incumbent. But what was important was that the Wallabies in Perth and the English in Yokohama actually beat us when they both played what we refer to as the All Blacks game. So exactly what game is that?

Over the period of five years from 2004 to 2009, a World Rugby project of ‘Experimental Law Variations’ examined the whole nature of the game of rugby union. The new ruck/ maul laws that came out from this great experiment might have referred to caring for the health and safety of Rugby’s ’employees’ (in respect of Rugby Associations legal exposure as employers), but also they were designed also to speed up and open up the game to make it more of a TV spectacle to attract new fans and more sponsors. World Rugby effectively converted the game of Rugby Union to being a hybrid Rugby League/ Union game. Rugby Union still doesn’t have the six tackle rule and still maintains genuine scrums but in this new age rugby union game, the basic strategy is to achieve the fast recycling of the ball through off-loads minimum, minimum numbers to clear tackled rucks and cross kick passing, just like League. Backs and forwards merge in roles; backs are expected to compete for possession in rucks and join rolling mauls; locks turn up as first receivers and midfield attack runners; front rowers are sea-gulling out on the wing. The objective is to keep the ball alive; the less time bogged down in set piece play the faster the game. The one little flaw in rugby union’s version of rugby league, let us call it rugby fusion, is that we still have 15 players, not 13 as in League, and so our defensive line gets too clogged up. Still, a few more rule tweaks can no doubt sort that out.

The French have always had a flare for this fusion style of rugby, but only when they could be arsed doing it, otherwise they were equally happy just squeezing opponents’ testicles in the dark depths of a ruck just for laughs. The Aussies sort of got it. I would even put a few bob on the possibility that Cheika was awarded the WR Coach of the year back in 2015 on a promise to deliver Rugby Fusion with the Wallabies. He probably meant well but I  think either Cheika’s heart or head was not really in this new fangled style of rugby. It came together for the team a couple of times but with nowhere near the consistency to keep him in his job. Japan is a team that has embraced the new fusion style of play and lit up the rugby world in the previous RWV with a win over South Africa and again in 2019 coming in top of their pool, beating Ireland, who had recently had world #1 ranking, along the way.

But without question New Zealand have adapted to this new high-speed rugby fusion style of play much better than other countries. At the same time the highly technical laws of scrums, mauls and rucks have become a major source of frustration to traditional fans and players alike. Much of the rest of the rugby world claim New Zealand gets preferential treatment by the refereeing establishment in their implementation of these technical laws, particularly in the scavenging role around rucks. Perhaps there is some truth at times, but if you are the only team that is enthusiastically adopting the new-age game, then those in rugby power who appoint the referees will be well pleased with you and may well be ‘encouraging’ (although they most certainly were not encouraging in the last Lions test).

The key to success in this new rugby fusion is extreme fitness and conditioning combined with high speed ball-skills training. Interesting to note that the ‘ball-in-play’ time today is 50% higher (average 40 minutes a game) than it was in 1987 when RWC began. Over the past ten years, no one embraced this physical challenge like the All Blacks.

England had defiantly stuck to the traditions of rugby; that it was a thug’s sport played by gentlemen, in contrast to football which was a gentleman’s sport played by thugs. But then England ‘got the memo’ when they were thoroughly embarrassed by not making it through the pool stages in the 2015 RWC on their home ground. Eddie Jones was brought in and has spent the past four years coaching traditional rugby union out of the English team and teaching them how to play fusion style. But it has taken him all of those four years to get his team’s fitness and conditioning levels to the point where they could execute this fast-paced style of game for a full 80 minutes. They first really got it right in the pre tournament match against Ireland, then followed up in the quarter final against Australia and then showed they could go back to back in the semi against New Zealand and, on their day, beat the best of the best at fusion rugby.  Now they face the big challenge.

After token efforts to adopt this new age style of rugby, South Africa has returned to the bastion of old school rugby (if they ever really left it) and the question will be asked whether England has the mental and physical conditioning to play one more of those high pace games against the black hole, brute force of South Africa.

This is the game that will put them up against the toughest of the old school rugby exponents; a team that just squeezes the life and joy out of a game in order to get a penalty or drop kick shot at goal. For that is what New Zealand knew they would have to face and for which they were possibly pacing themselves. I do not really think Eddie Jones had ‘pace yourselves’ in his final briefing for the semi final; and that was probably the intensity difference between the two teams on the day. I am far from convinced that the English fitness and conditioning would be at such a level to enable them to repeat their semi final performance against the powerhouse defence of the Springboks. Even the All Blacks have struggled with that challenge over the past season.

But this is much bigger than a question of which team can last it out for the 80 minutes and win fair and square. England with 340,000 players is only marginally behind France as the two standout economic powerhouses of the northern hemisphere. This Finals Match is a battle between old school and fusion style rugby. A battle that World Rugby has a very, very vested interest in. If the very top level rugby required to win world championships reverts back to the old school union that we saw in the Springboks v Wales semi final, then TV and its sponsors will be switching their focus and money on more exciting sporting options like lawn bowls or cars driving around a track 50 or 60 times. South Africa at 650,000 players has almost as many as England and France combined. This is the Helm’s Deep of rugby.

For World Rugby, England adopting Rugby Fusion must be ‘encouraged.’ No one needs South Africa to stomp back to the caves of stone age rugby, golden cup held aloft, fee, fie foh, fen, brimming with the blood of the Englishmen.

If a ‘let the best team win’ outcome was the objective, I would have thought Nigel was the obvious choice for referee of the final, given his bias-free effort in the English-NZL semi final. It was odd that, given no one had a bad word to say about his refereeing, they have given the Final to Jerome. There was plenty to be said about Jerome’s refereeing in the other semi, and not flattering. You remember Jerome? Of the “Oui Jerome?” fame. Come on, you remember, third game of the Lions tour of New Zealand, final minutes, play stopped as officials desperately tried to figure out how to reverse the penalty that Monsieur Poite had already awarded the All Blacks; a series-winning penalty in front of the posts. A gimme. The evidence blatant, from all TV angles; even the offender conceded his moment of madness. But when, heads bowed, the referee, nearside touch judge and the TMO all agreed that the penalty just had to be awarded, unavoidable, a whisper from Jerome away across on the far pitch; an instruction secretly transmitted into the monsieur Poite’s earpiece and out came the game-saver “we ‘ave a deal……occidental offside, no penalty.”  A very creative referee is oui Jerome, just the man for the job and I would not be surprised if this appointment is just reward for that fine call two years ago. “Honest Nigel” apparently could not be appointed because of a sore leg gained during the first half of the semi final game. I didn’t see any sign of a limp, but nonetheless a sore leg wouldn’t stop them putting the world’s most experienced referee in the TMO seat. But the support refereeing jobs have gone to Jerome’s old partner of the Lions third game, Monsieur Poite, and a couple of under cooked NZ referees, both called Ben.

So my pick for the final? South Africa will be penalised out of the game or England will be under penalised into the game, or a combination. Things will be seen or not seen as required. It will be a famous victory for England and will inspire the northern hemisphere into the exciting new era of Rugby Fusion. South Africa will be sent back to sit in their corner and think about things for a while. And although the All Blacks should not need any support from the officials to see off Wales for the consolation prize, they have put our dear old Wayne Barnes in to keep an eye on things.

What forward pass? I didn’t see a forward pass?

You DO remember Barnsey, Cardiff 2007? Now there is a man who knows how to miss a forward pass from three metres away. This time hopefully he is there just to ensure that the other fine exponent of fast open rugby also comfortably sees off the Gatland-coached old schoolers from the valleys. The Taffies can also go away and have a think about themselves.

So I think Chinny could be right. My faith in my corporate conspiracy theory means  it would be well worth a punt to put the house on England to win, unless…………

Hello Mr Jones, I wonder if the team would like a nice cup of tea with some sandwiches for your meeting?

Eddie: “Why thank you Susie, very sweet of you, that would be lovely. Ok lads, grab a cup of tea and sandwich and gather round the whiteboard.”

Now I just KNOW you remember the ’95 final, just sayin’ is all.

Footnote:

South Africa won, convincingly 32:12. Penalties awarded 10 against England 8 against South Africa. I was wrong on two counts: clearly no referee bias in favour of England and South Africa did not take Rugby back to the stone age; they played as openly as anyone could expect in a RWC Final. I recall after the last RWC final in 2015 I wrote my blog pledging to never again raise the issue of referee bias. To be fair, the 3rd Lions test in 2017 did give me good reason to break that pledge, however now let me reaffirm my pledge to abandon my quest to seek out conspiracies and hidden agendas (until the next time). But I cannot leave off the subject without noting in the final a player found himself “accidentally offside” in identical circumstances to the All Black Lions situation and was immediately penalised by Oui Jerome. No hesitation this time, just sayin’….

The only credit I can now take is my claim that without referee ‘encouragement’ I did not think England could get up for another game like they played against the All Blacks; that they might have run the tank too low one game early, which mistiming probably cost us a NZ v RSA final. England fading in the last 20 minutes to concede two excellent tries confirmed that. Still, the All Blacks finished the tournament with a well earned consolation prize; we were given the chance to end as winners and took it. England finished the year as losers. They have to wait months to get another chance for a win. Winning the semi final has been totally eclipsed by their failure to finish the job. Fee fie foe fen….we are off for a braai with our African friends

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