A Letter to the Girl in Plaits

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An open letter, some things I have previously written about but to me it fits together.

Submitted: August 17, 2019

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Submitted: August 17, 2019

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Hi there

Greetings to you from a small, no-account island in the South Pacific. Here’s hoping you’re well and happy. I’m writing to you because I heard that you’re going to lead another climate strike sometime in September, so I wanted to congratulate you for your leadership, for gaining the following you have and for capturing the ears of some of the bigwigs in big offices. It’s encouraging to see young people having their say and being passionate about issues that concern them. We need people like you! I agree with you that as a species we’ve not respected our planet, and we should be treating it more responsibly, but I don’t believe carbon dioxide is the devil it’s portrayed to be. So if you’ll indulge me I’ll share my thoughts with you.

I’m an old bugger who’s had a career managing sustainable forests, protecting indigenous forests, producing millions of tree seedlings and part-time for thirty years, took weather readings that are now buried somewhere in the world weather data records. Young people may well see people like me as old fogies, but we’re experienced and because of my experienced, I question things that concern me. I was in London earlier this century and was told it was the coldest summer in fifty years, 1996 I dangled my legs over the Victoria Falls and they told me the Zambezi was at its lowest for fifty years. Fifty is a convenient number and I wonder if memories are as accurate as people think they are. I was present when a young American woman visited Momella primary school in 2000 and told the kids that within five years there would be no snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro. There’s still plenty of snow on the mountain, so I wonder what she was on about. Experience makes me a bit cynical and critical, especially when it comes to politicians and people who bask in their wealth. I’ve learned not to trust them and don’t forget the UN is a political entity. So I wonder, could the climate debate be a generated tactic to keep you and me focused on the debate, and not notice what other little surprises they have for us? The UN has passed a resolution called Agenda 21 and updated it to Agenda 2030 which basically plans to have everyone behaving like sheep, they want a centrally managed global society – whatever that means. It doesn’t smell very nice to me. So could they be using fear, climate fear to achieve their goals?

As a forester, I see the good side of carbon dioxide, you know as well as I do, without it plants won’t grow so we won’t eat. I find that because people like to fit us all into boxes, I’m categorised as a climate change denier, relegating me into the same box as people who deny that anything bad happened in WWII. Never mind, I have a hero. He’s Gilbert White. Gosh, I hope your hero isn’t Al Gore! Anyway, Gilbert White 1720 – 1793 was, among other things, the first real ecologist. I urge you to look him up. He reported on the effects of the eruption of 1783 – 1784 in Iceland which produced 42 billion tonnes of basalt lava and enormous volumes of sulphur dioxide that became known as the Laki Haze. Over the northern hemisphere, it killed 6 million people and temporarily changed the climate. Gilbert White kept a diary of what happened during that time. And a lot did! But here’s the thing, another volcanic eruption, the second largest in the twentieth century was the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, which continued for about a year, spewing out more pollution than the total mankind has ever emitted! It caused the Earth to cool by 0.5?C for two years. Nobody mentioned it, but then they were talking about global warming in those days, weren’t they? Do you find that interesting? And the lava isn’t completely cool yet. But hey, between you and me, I don’t know how you can have such a thing as a world temperature, it’s just an arbitrary number. Anyway, at least now you know, I do believe that the climate changes – I always have.

There’s a tide gauge at Fort Denison in Sydney harbour, which has been measuring the sea level since 1857. Fort Denison faces out to the mighty Pacific Ocean, a very large body of water. Since records began, the sea level has been more or less stable. Which why I want to tell you about my old and wise geology master. He told us to think of the Earth as an egg, a raw egg without its shell, you know there’s a membrane beneath the shell that holds the yolk and the white, eh? If you push it with your finger to make a dent, it will bulge out the same distance somewhere else, maybe even stretch a little. Well, that’s what the Earth’s crust is like – pliable. Remember, during the ice age twelve thousand years ago, over the northern hemisphere, the ice was two kilometres thick? It’s weight pushed the Earth’s crust down, but now the ice has gone, the crust is still popping back to where it was, it’s very slow but some areas of the crust are rising, and some are falling in response. Where you come from the land is still rising gently.

We’re told the Earth’s temperature has risen 1?C over the last three hundred years, which given its arbitrary number or may not be true. After the thirty years I took weather records, I tallied them up to find there was an increase of about 0.5?C. Why? When we started taking measurements the site was barren and exposed, but after thirty years we had changed the microclimate by planting shelter trees, so of course the site warmed. My question is, how many other weather stations around the world has a similar thing happened to? How can there be consistency? When it comes down to it, you can’t get past the fact that Earth’s temperature is affected mostly by the sun, which is by no means a stable body. When the sun’s angry, flames as long as the Earth’s diameter erupt out of it, other times it’s more peaceful. Earth’s temperatures reflect the sun’s eight hundred year cycles.

Two of our glaciers retreat and sometimes return, depending on the snow higher up the mountain, but when you think about it, to keep ice as ice, the temperature has to be below 0?C and our climate is a temperate one. The last ice age was twelve thousand years ago and since then the glaciers have been melting slowly, at least during summer, it’s a natural process and unless it becomes cold again, our glaciers will thaw eventually, yet people put this thawing down to climate change caused by carbon dioxide. It’s illogical. Which brings me to the computer models. Predicting what will happen depends on the data punched into the computer and whether the puncher is biased or not, the assumptions made will influence the outcome. I’ve not seen a computer model that tells us what the climate would have been like if the carbon dioxide level had stayed at 300ppm. Have you? It’s likely the climate we have, is the climate we were going to get anyway.

It’s a sad reflection on humanity, but some dishonest people are fearmongering about climate change because they make money from it. Others simply like to upset people. Some scientists are funded by their government and if they don’t keep up the pretence they’ll look silly and not have a job. Alternative energy equipment is making some people very rich too, and so does carbon trading. Our small country contributes 0.17% of the world carbon emissions and because we can’t meet our emissions reductions, we have to pay out 1.4billion dollars per year. Where does that money go? Have you seen a sea wall being built by the UN to protect low-lying Pacific islands?

Here’s an inconvenient truth for you to consider. It’s the fact that nothing to do with the Earth stays the same for ever. In time, even the world atlas will change. A few years ago a slice of our highest mountain fell off, so now it’s lower than it was when I was born. It’s the process of erosion. The backbone of the South Island is a high and beautiful range of mountains that were originally roughly where Australia sits now. Those mountains eroded into the sea to form silt on the sea floor. Geological pressures forced them up to become our Southern Alps, and ever since, they’ve been eroding to form alluvial fans and alluvial flats called the Canterbury Plains. Erosion is caused by water seeping into rock cavities, freezing and expanding, chipping off bits of rock. All mountains are destined to become flat by erosive forces. The causes of erosion includes frost, wind, rain, floods, landslips, moving soils and gravity. On the other hand the India plate is banging into Mount Everest forcing it upwards, but it will come down - eventually. The sea also erodes, chewing away at alluvial gravels and clays which wash away quickly or it gnaws slowly at rock. They all erode – it’s the way it’s always been. It takes a long, long time but it’s happening! And don’t forget, mountains influence weather patterns.  We have to remind ourselves; because of all these natural forces, some cities, towns and properties are vulnerable, even catastrophically so, but we can’t blame it on climate change. Violent weather, wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and floods are nothing new and are precisely what formed today’s landscapes.

I’m not suggesting you abandon your strike, I’m encouraging you shift your focus a degree or two, because there’s plenty that needs fixing. It’s a heavy burden that’ll need to be shared I’m sure. I suggest you focus on the environment. For example Greenpeace are telling us to stop eating meat because herbivores are environmentally bad. Maybe so if farmers are feeding them grain and palm kernel on feedlots, but herbivores were eating grass way before man walked this Earth. Eating meat is surely an ethical decision for the individual, but Greenpeace doesn’t the like the methane they produce. Well, when you consider that half of all food produced is wasted and when it rots, it produces methane, far more methane than is released by all bovines and baa baas on Earth! So what about fixing that? Wars are also incredibly bad for the environment, and not so good for humans either, so what about stopping wars? We create too much rubbish and don’t have an effective way of disposing of it, how about fixing that? Used tyres are a toxic blot on the landscape but where does the worn bit of the tyre go? A tyre wears out, but the roads aren’t black with tyre-rubber, so yes, it’s in the atmosphere, we breathe it in! What about fixing that? What about re-greening the planet? Everyone can help with that. Diatoms are fresh and salt water algae responsible for producing most of our oxygen. Damage our waterways, lakes and sea, and we damage diatoms. What about keeping chemicals out of our waterways, chemicals that are in personal hygiene products, beauty products and household cleaners? What about holding chemical companies to account? In every way, we have to run our lives in a sustainable way, perhaps do away with economic growth, how do we do that? I saw you boarding an eco-friendly boat all dressed up in your cosy water-proofs, which were probably nylon. Nylon’s basically plastic-derived, the same material as other synthetic clothing like polar fleece, all of which are non-biodegradable and are damaging to water creatures and plant life. Even I know how to fix that problem. Don’t buy synthetic, instead use natural fibres that are sustainable, such as wool, cotton, flax (linen), hemp, bamboo or (whisper) leather. Oh yes, and not much of Earth’s water is fresh and a lot of it is locked up in ice. What little we have needs to be kept pollution-free so we can drink it, everyone should be responsible. So what about cleaning up our water catchments?

Well now, I hope you have found food for thought here. I wish you all the best in your endeavours, and perhaps you can use your influence on all of us as individuals to do our bit to clean up the mess. Remember, in life there are doers and sayers

Usianguke.

Yours sincerely,

Moa

 


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