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1600 dead in NZ disaster!

This hits close to home.  New Zealand; island paradise, godzone, land of the long white damp….  Each year around 1600 people die in NZ from seasonally related illness.  This is almost entirely due to low quality, damp housing. Countries with much colder climates such as Sweden, Germany and and Switzerland don’t have this problem, even a country as vast as Russia is able to provide heating for its people.  1600 is 4 times the road toll.  I could go on about this myself but a great post has been written at the standard about this, below. My only original comment on this is that it is not only illustrates the failure of market principles, it also shows a failure of state welfare, and from a freerange perspective the silence from the design and architectural industry in NZ about this issue is deafening and this is shameful.

Each year and every year, around 1600 New Zealanders die prematurely because we live in cold damp houses. This “excess winter death rate” is four times higher than the road toll. They die, most especially the young, unwell, disabled and elderly, of respiratory illnesses, strokes and heart attacks because far too much of our housing stock is cheap, crappily built rubbish. By contrast, really cold countries like Russia have almost zero excess winter deaths.

Our welfare state is a miserly one. Our total social housing stock is only 5%, a very low provision by OECD standards, and much of it is old and in dire need of upgrading. Worse still the building regulations around heating, insulation and efficiency are effectively a sick-making joke. No form of heating is actually required, other than a 3-pin plug on a wall somewhere. Even the latest new building codes with marginally improved insulation and double glazing measures, are a feeble catch-up on world standards, and apply to new houses only. They do nothing for the 99% of houses people actually live in.”
The standard: 1600 dead again.

When life is better than art!

Some very observent people noticed that the soundtrack that played at the end of John McCains concession speech was the sound track from the movie Crimson Tide.  Amazingly this is from the final scene of the movie when the crusty old war veteran character concedes to the young black up start character about the nature of war, salutes, turns and walks into the distance.  Their is a quite remarkable youtube video here which compares the two.  You really couldn’t make this shit up!

hattip to:

blood gadgets

I stumbled across a suprisingly well written and interesting article on the technology part of the stuff website today.  It documents the illegal mining of a rare metal Tantalum in Africa and involves a classic plot of African Militia, ex-russian warlords and big spending consumer demand.  Its worth a read.

“Tantalum is an rare metal with unique properties. Chief among these is that with a melting point of 2996 degrees Celsius, it’s a superlative thermal conductor.

Almost two-thirds of the world’s tantalum production ends up in high-quality capacitors that are used in devices such as mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.

For much of the past decade, cheap supplies of tantalum derived from mines under the control of various rebel groups based in the north-eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have flowed into a long and complex supply chain.”

The blood diamonds of gadgets

Greening America

We may have had loads of fun watching America do its best to destroy it integrity in the last 8 years, but you’ve got to acknowledge when they get around to something they do it large.  I’ve recently started noticing a plethora of strong green initiatives emerging from the US, and with a President putting some serious money into the area I’d suggest some significant changes are on the horizon.  It may well all be too late, but we’ve got to give it a shot.

Below is a link to from Good Magazine; asking Who Will Be Left Behind By the Green Job Boom?

This is huge.

 The Copenhagen Climate Change meeting in december is being called the Most Important Meeting in Human History by found Bill McKibben.  There are some rare positive signals coming out internationally with China signalling the possibility of significant cuts due to the recent change in American policy.  This meeting in december appears to be the last chance to avoid the worst of the climate change threat and these recent political announcements are ever so slightly heartening.

read about the chinese moves here in the guardian.

sneakily outrageous!

Is the fantastic term coined by inventor/author/cartoonist/former urban planner Steven M. Johnson, a sort of R. Crumb meets R. Buckminster Fuller.   In discussing his often fantastical, sometimes silly, sometimes visionary concepts, he has said, “If I could use two words to describe what it is that I enjoy it is that I love to be sneakily outrageous . . . [It may be that] I have decided an idea has no practical worth and would never be likely to be adopted seriously (like most of my ideas), but I like it anyway.”

My favourites are the bike vests and treadarounds.

Go see pictures in the NY times article here.

McCully must go.

I’m really quite angry about this this.  I tend to try and reserve judgment of people with different ideologies until the real application can be tested and understood.   But recent announcements by Murray McCully about changes to NZ aid programme are a terrible idea from start to finish.   Aid and development are vast and burgeoning fields of knowledge.   With increased urbanization, increased population, and increasing numbers of man-made and natural distasters aid and development may well become some of the most important methods of allocating resources around the world.  In the best case this will be done in a sane and orderly manner that promotes long term peace and sustainability.

It is however a very difficult area.  It is young, under resourced and by its nature deals with disastorious situations.  NZ has previously maintained the noble goal of ensuring that our small contribution to the world of Aid is delivered effeciently and with the primary goal of poverty reduction.  Basically this means the money goes to simple things like providing clean water, safe accommodation, food. You know, all that stuff we completely take for granted.  This strategy has been widely praised and is inline with international best standards such as Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness that was signed in 2005. NZ has avoided much of the criticism and international scepticism that comes with aid from countries like the US and Australia who tie their Aid to their commercial and strategic interests.

New Zealand will now join those countries and make our AID programme responsive to our trade and political interests.  So first up we see NZ aid money been diverted to subsidizing flights to the pacific.  This is a fine idea and its great to be promoting NZ obligations to the pacific.  But lets be clear, this is money that would otherwise be helping people in the pacific deal with day to day issues of poverty.  Things like Maleria vaccinations, water pumps, grain, seeds…

Here’s two indepth articles recently published about this:

Josie Pagani:  If it’s not helping to reduce global poverty it doesn’t count as aid. 

Gordon Campbell: Murray McCully’s attack on New Zealand’s foreign aid programme