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Katharine Moody on environmental conflict resolution, towards a circular economy, banning the bag, what we can learn from albatrosses, ethics and environmentalism, Einstein & more

Katharine Moody on environmental conflict resolution, towards a circular economy, banning the bag, what we can learn from albatrosses, ethics and environmentalism, Einstein & more

Today's Top 10 (and a bit) is from Katharine Moody, a senior tutor at Massey University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences in Palmerston North, who comments on as "Kate".

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

We are keen to find some new Top 10 contributors so if you're interested in contributing, contact

See all previous Top 10s here.

1.  Finding shared meaning: environmental conflict resolution.

Our dominant way of working and thinking on matters of environment in New Zealand is framed by philosophic theory and knowledge grounded in 18th century European Enlightenment-thought.  

The 21st century’s emphasis on public participation in democratic decision-making, has led to a greater awareness of diverse views and perspectives and the need to forge a better path toward shared meaning, as Ken Homer, Founder of Collaborative Conversations explains;

Understanding is a marvelous thing. Metaphorically speaking, it can restore eyesight to the blind. It can sooth hurt feelings, assuage guilt, calm anger, activate deep compassion, and release enormous amounts of creativity and passion.

Understanding among and between people flows from the creation of shared meaning.

Shared meaning does not mean that everyone in the conversation sees things in the same way.

Shared meaning does mean each stakeholder in the conversation shares what is meaningful to them as it pertains to creating the desired future those in the conversation are seeking to create.

Shared meaning occurs when people understand each other’s perspectives well enough to accept them as legitimate in the context of exploring and realising a desired future.

2.  Global Mind Shift – All Is One.

To make sense of how ‘others’ might see things, I refer to a typology of narratives, or environmental ‘worldviews’ and in the below table, these and linked to what I refer to as the three principle ‘schools’ in the philosophy of ethics. 

I make a critical point in presenting this typology.  There is not one right or wrong way to view the world - no one narrative is fallible or infallible - no ethical approach is superior or inferior to another.  The intent of the model is to move beyond Cartesian-dualist thinking as a means to foster understanding on how to Get Along – in the spirit that the wombat decrees (And BTW, in my assessment, the wombat is of the environmental ‘systems and carrying capacity’ worldview).

3. Old certainties, old prejudices, old fears are losing their grip.

One of the greatest strengths in New Zealand environmental management is the contribution Te Ao Māori brings to our understanding of the environment as a ‘cultural conception’ worldview.  This is captured beautifully in Dame Anne Salmond’s most recent book, Tears of Rangi, reviewed by Kennedy Warne at E-TANGATA, who explains;

[The] picture of reciprocity and exchange is the book’s central image. Titiro atu, titiro mai — one glance directed at another, the other glancing back. I see you, and I am seen.

That principle permeates the Māori world. We see it in action at every pōwhiri, every marae encounter. One calls, another responds, and a connection is forged. The exchange shapes identity and generates life.

Te Ao Māori is contrasted with our dominant worldview;

One of the achievements of Tears of Rangi is how vividly Salmond renders the two cosmologies: one based on hierarchy, the other on reciprocity. One linear, the other circular. One focused on separation, the other on relational exchange… 

The European “Enlightenment” was epitomised in “I think therefore I am.” The Māori understanding is “I relate therefore I am.”

In Aotearoa, these two worldviews met — and are still negotiating their engagement. Hence the book’s subtitle, Experiments Across Worlds…

The good news is that the country seems to be in a process of recovery — and for Pākehā, discovery — of the Māori conceptual world. For Anne Salmond, this movement isn’t a cultural nicety but a social necessity.

“The old Cartesian dualisms and their fragmented dreams are no longer working — in science, in material matters, or in human affairs,” she writes in her preface.

Given the seemingly intractable nature of many of our environmental problems, I tend to agree. The time to give equal legitimacy to all environmental worldviews is long past its due date.      

4. Towards a “circular economy”: is it inevitable?

In the circular economy opportunity report released jointly by Sustainable Business Network (SBN) and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), the authors employ a ‘stock of assets’ methodological approach in estimating the value of adopting a circular economy in Auckland.

They quantify this benefit to be vicinity of $8 billion dollars;

Ateed's business, innovation and skills general manager Patrick McVeigh said the sharing economy, like Airbnb, Uber and clothing rentals were examples of businesses using the circular economy model.

Moving away from the traditional take-make-waste model to a more sustainable one could bring more than $8 billion to Auckland's economy, a new report says…

…Prefabricated housing, recycling and 3D printing within the construction industry alone could yield $2.5b… [and] Encouraging ride sharing, refurbishing commercial vehicles and reducing congestion could yield $1.8b. 

And, in answer to the question posed in the heading, yes, according to James Griffin;

SBN’s projects and advisory head James Griffin said businesses and governments around the world were recognising the circular economy – one which aims to lengthen the life of finite resources – was inevitable.

A ‘stock of assets’ is the most prevalent environmental worldview in my experience, and the circular economy on first blush, looks to be an extension of ‘stock of assets’ thinking. But must we justify all of our social choices in dollar (i.e., growth) terms (although it appears the circular economy frames this as ‘growth within’)?  Might we instead rely on our observations of the world around us as adequate proof, or rationale, for adopting a new policy direction or approach?  Or should we insist on more quantitative evidence before taking any action to say, change our consumptive ways in accordance with the principles of a circular economy?

I suspect it all depends on your environmental worldview.

For those ‘stock of assets’ followers among us, the full report on Auckland’s prospects can be downloaded here.

5. Banning the bag.

At Croaking Cassandra, Michael Reddell provides a compelling (or should I say scathingly effective) analysis of the Ministry for the Environment’s recent consultation document on the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags. 

He notes the Prime Minister’s apparent partial justification of the proposed ban being that numerous school children had written to her on the subject, and opens with a delightful proposition;

There is a reason why we do not let primary school children make policy or vote.  They are children, precious and growing but prone to all the enthusiasms of children, easily influenced, and not responsible (as taxpayers or anything else) for their expressed preferences. 

Back to the task at hand, he laments the absence of any cost-benefit analysis in the MfE consultation document;

Surely that uncertainty [as expressed by Eugenie Sage in the preamble to the document] would then be reflected in the cost-benefit analysis for any regulatory intervention?  Oh, silly me.  That assumes there is a cost-benefit analysis, but in this document there is nothing even remotely resembling such a standard part of the policy analysis toolkit.   And that is even though they explicitly acknowledge of what evaluation they did do

This assessment was based on information from overseas experience,
which has many gaps in relation to these goals.

So what is the rush?  Why not do your evaluation rigorously and robustly, clearly identifying your assumptions when there is (as there always is) inevitable uncertainty?  And how about pricing the option of waiting, or incentivising the development of genuinely biodegradable bags?

And he is highly sceptical of the role a prospective transition towards a circular economy played in the proposed policy intention;

It isn’t about marine pollution or the potential toxicity of plastics, but a stake in the ground for a strategy which, if pursued, would up-end the way we do things across the spectrum of economic life, all based on the new dogma known as “the circular economy”.

The instrumentally-rational approach he applies to the analytical task is impeccable. For contrast, I commented taking a values-rational approach (an ‘our world’ worldview on the environment) - one that we all, as children, likely had those many years ago.

6. Spot the missing option.

Also considering our mountainous (and mounting) plastic waste problem, a recent Newshub article considered four potential options:

  • A money-back scheme for recyclables
  • Make the general dump more expensive to encourage recycling
  • Consumer pressure
  • "Moving away from our current economic model" - product stewardship

A point I would make here is, if we can’t recycle the waste locally (and we can’t export it for someone else to process), we ought to take care not to refer to these waste types as “recyclables”. That issue aside, the author applies a good example of options in incremental decision-making (a ‘systems and carrying capacity’ worldview). Initially, a radical, ‘one-off’ solution is posed, but then discounted as unrealistic to make way for the incremental options;

Obviously, the most effective way to reduce waste is to create less of it in the first place - buy foods wrapped in fewer plastics and say no to the straw. Realistically, though, we are going to keep using things that create waste, a large portion of which could be recycled far more efficiently than it is at the moment. 

To my mind, the missing option in the above analysis is regulation (ban) – or, in the language of a circular economy, we could ‘design out of the system’ all non(locally)-recyclable, single-use plastic via executive fiat.  

Given the sector have labelled the issue a “crisis” , there must be good reason a “ban”, similar to that proposed for single-use plastic bags is not one of the urgent actions listed as needed;

Actions that need to happen now include:

  • access to funding, to ensure recyclables aren’t sent to landfill
  • facilitating national communications to enable better consumer decision making, and
  • gathering better data on recyclable materials

7.  Reporting from the Green Party annual conference.

At the Green Party annual conference, Newsroom report that Associate Minister Eugenie Sage nailed her colours to the mast on the circular economy;

Sage said it was time for "a radically different approach".

"We must use circular economy principles to design waste out of the system," she said…

New Zealand currently has limited capacity to recycle most plastics. Of the seven types of plastic waste, types one and two can be processed on shore, whilst the remainder have to be exported.

Until the end of last year, New Zealand sent most 'type three to seven' plastics overseas to be recycled, mainly to China.

But rather than design those types of single-use plastics out of the system, the Ministry will commence an investigation into onshore processing of these plastic types, a ‘solution’ that can only be considered deliverable in the longer-term. The deliverable that seems to be most able to be expedited urgently, appears to be amendment of the Waste Disposal Levy.  In other words, an  increase to the cost consumers will pay to dispose of their (largely unavoidable) non-recyclable plastic waste. But, even in that regard;

Sage said she expects to expand the levy as well as the number of landfills on which it is levied. The changes will be in place by 2020 after a public consultation.

 The levy generates around $30 million annually, split between councils to help them fund waste minimisation activities and the Waste Minimisation Fund and its grant scheme.

The grants can be used by businesses and organisations to reduce waste.

So, perhaps in two years we will collect an additional levy/tax to use to increase the size of the Waste Minimisation Fund for schemes to further reduce waste.

Sounds like more of a circular money-go-round than a “circular economy”.

Hands up those who don’t find an increased levy/tax a “radically different approach”.

And despite all my reading, I have no idea what Associate Minister Sage’s environmental worldview might be.

8. GOOD GRIEF: What we can learn from albatrosses.

If you are not yet all that fired up about this plastic waste problem, New Zealand Geographic present an ‘our world’ reflection on artist Chris Jordan’s documentary, Albatross. 

The movie’s heartbreak lies in its documentation of the deadly toll of ocean-borne plastic on these ocean-spanning birds. We look over Jordan’s shoulder as, dead bird after dead bird, he photographs their stomach contents—kaleidoscopes of fatal fragments that they have mistaken for food.

The compendium of swallowed objects is appalling… Even more distressing is seeing a slurry of plastic being disgorged from a parent into the open beak of its hungry chick. The betrayal of trust is acute.

The filmmaker found himself grieving for the birds, but as the title of the article so aptly expresses, Jordan reflects on how grief can be good, in that;

“Grief is the same as love. When we surrender to grief it carries us home to our deepest connection to life.”

From that connection comes the impulse to protect what needs protecting and to confront what needs confronting: a fishing industry with a vast and destructive ecological wake; a consumer economy that is profligate with its waste.

The New Zealand Geographic reporter concludes that;

In these unprecedented times for life on Earth, it has never been more necessary to do this work of protection and confrontation on behalf of ocean life—especially in New Zealand, the pre-eminent seabird nation, with more species of penguin, albatross, petrel and their kin living in our waters than in those of any other country.

The full-length documentary, gifted by the artist to the world, is available free for download here.

9. But is New Zealand one of the ‘real’ problem ocean polluters?

A similar point is often raised in relation to New Zealand’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. So, how do we stack up on waste?

The answer to the question is yes, albeit indirectly.  The World Economic Forum reports on a study conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, which found that 90% of the plastic that ends up in our oceans comes from just 10 river systems

And of those, the Yangtze River, was the biggest carrier of them all, but perhaps not for long;

China has made efforts to curb waste.

For years the country had imported millions of tons of recyclable waste from overseas, but a growing recycling burden at home prompted the government to shift its policy.

Last year, it ended imports of “foreign garbage”. Recently it extended the ban to metals, saying stopping imports of foreign waste was "a symbolic measure for the creation of an ecological civilisation in China”.

And this year China has ordered 46 cities to begin sorting waste in order to reach a 35% recycling rate by 2020.

According to Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environmental Program;

“If there is one nation changing at the moment more than anyone else, it’s China ... the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous,”  

So, yes, our favoured export market for waste (much of which might have ended up in the Yangtze River) has been cut off at the pass – likely forever.

In my opinion, thank goodness we now have to own-our-own garbage.

10. Ethics and Environmentalism: Costa Rica’s Lesson.

In Kerry McDonald’s recent article on, titled Paradise Lost! Two decades of shocking failure in political leadership, he posits that,

“When the economic engine of a democracy fails, social and environmental imperatives become unaffordable”. 

This reflects a not uncommon premise reflected in the ‘stock of assets’ worldview, that being that only ‘rich’ countries can afford to pursue goals of environmental protection and enhancement, or put another way, achieving sustainability or sustainable development goals is a factor of ‘wealth’. The most commonly used denominator of ‘wealth’ is GDP.

This premise reminded of Costa Rica, which ranked 66/187 in the United Nations 2016 Human Development Index ; 1/140 in the New Economics Foundation’s 2016 Happy Planet Index ; and 30/180 in the Yale University/World Economic Forum 2018 Environmental Performance Index.

The International Monetary Fund ranks Costa Rica’s 2017 GDP per capita (PPP) as 76/187, whereas New Zealand ranks 31/187.

Costa Rica’s environmental policy achievements make a very relevant case study for a New Zealand audience, more so than say, Australia, the UK, the Scandinavian countries or indeed anywhere in Europe, to my mind.  Why?

Robert Blasiak’s 2011 article from the United Nations University, Our World publication will provide you with plenty of parallels and much food for thought.


and as a special bonus ...

11. Sustainability: Planning’s Saving Grace or Road to Perdition?

One of my favourite academic articles from Associate Professor, Michael Gunder of the University of Auckland.  Not available in the public domain, but the abstract provides context to the critical analysis, and this passage of text clearly illustrates the author’s environmental ‘systems and carrying capacity’ worldview;

The conflation of market and environment creates a risk that the desire for growth will trump the needs of the environment to sustain. Under sustainable development, the arguments of ecological sustainability often are subsumed as mere justifications or legitimizations for policies that are largely market oriented. Here, sustainability’s underlying message that we must change our consumptive behaviors to be consistent with the carrying capacities of the planet largely are overlooked, if not outright negated.

12. Albert Einstein: that enigmatic quote.

Despite the proliferation of images and web references purporting to quote Albert Einstein as having said, “"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them", the phrase, it appears, is but one of many reinterpretations of that enigmatic quote.


Notwithstanding, this ‘reinterpretation’ still resonates better than any other ‘quote’ when considering the need to better understand, and subsequently assign equal weight, or legitimisation to all environmental worldviews as a means to find shared meaning, and hence realise a desired future.

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I almost jumped with joy when I saw an entire article by one of my favourtite commentators. However after an initial reading it did seem tough going; it probably deserves a few repeat readings since it covers two of my favourite subjects - our finite fragile environment and ethics.

Maybe if there had been two fewer points it would have been a better top ten.

#2 ""no ethical approach is superior or inferior to another"" - that is not true. What you can say is you cannot prove one ethical approach superior in ethical terms but you can in results. The issue of different frameworks of ethics is covered in Pinker's 'better angels of our nature'. The typical hunter gatherer ethical approach would be "everything is shared by all members of my clan and outside of my clan nobody has any significance". The typical farmer approach is heirarchical with "I do my duty to those above me whether it makes sense or causes harm is not my concern". As businesses evolved they moved to religious ethics which transfers the authority from the king up to a higher level: God. Belief in God makes it difficult to compromise. And now we seem to be moving away from the inflexibility of male centred religious belief towards a utilitarian ethics but all those past systems of ethics have left their mark.

Apologies to everyone for getting my count wrong! Those that know me personally will laugh and think - well, that's typical of her :-).

I distilled normative ethics into those three 'schools', based on the classifications referenced in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's "three major approaches";

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach that emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

Consequentialism and utilitarianism being in the teleological school;

Teleological ethics, (teleological from Greek telos, “end”; logos, “science”), theory of morality that derives duty or moral obligation from what is good or desirable as an end to be achieved. Also known as consequentialist ethics, it is opposed to deontological ethics (from the Greek deon, “duty”), which holds that the basic standards for an action’s being morally right are independent of the good or evil generated.

If looking at your examples;

The hunter-gatherer approach appears to be based on a "rule" (share only within ones clan) and the farmer approach is based on a "duty" (to share with those above/superior in social rank). I'd put them both perhaps deontological in nature;

As you say one rule/duty is hierarchical in nature and the other is social/communal in nature. Similarly, most religions are deontological in nature - what is morally right is that which is prescribed by the religion (i.e., based on rules/duties).

I agree with you about the prevalence of utilitarianism and consequentialism (teleological ethics) in today's society. I do a little 'knowledge blind' test with my students before presenting the material on the three schools - and my estimate would be that greater than 70% of them self-identify as teleological.

I like the term 'consequentialism'. Not sure I know the meaning of teleological and checking it on Google just leads me to more words that I can't grasp (extrinsic) and a separate issue deciding what is a final goal other than the end of the universe.
Ethics evolved; even apes have a strong concept of fairness. Pinker points out how our physiology is involved. When we are exposed to acts we think are evil we react physically (for myself even 12 years later I cannot read about the Kahui twins without tears and gut wrenching).

A normal person would not eat his/her pet when it dies; they would be sick at the thought but pure consequentialism would find no fault. Similarly most of us would if offered not wear one of Hilter's old jumpers. So the academic experts can discuss ethics using long preferably Greek and Latin words but in the real world instant gut reactions dominate careful consideration of pro and cons.

For a summary on the teleological ethics category;

I agree, the philosophy of ethics can seem/sound rather academic/elitist, but that's exactly what I'd like to see changed about the way we view the subject. I feel that if we taught about these three normative schools as part of the basic curriculum, future generations would become more aware/conscious of the moral decisions they are faced with on a daily basis.

I'm not sure it is best to rely on gut reaction in decision-making - as our gut reaction/initial choice when taking an action is often influenced by external factors, such as peer pressure, physiology (as you mention), etc. rather than a more conscious reflection/contemplation before acting.

#3 was somewhat of an epiphany for me. i jumped across and read the review, and had a bulb of understanding go on. So thank you very much Kate.

I work in an area where there is a lot of Tikanga Maori, and while Te Ao Maori is gaining traction, there is still a largely European based misconception about what it means.

You're welcome!

Yes, absolutely - and of course many (if not the majority) of those with Maori ancestry are themselves not familiar with to ao Maori either. It's just a matter of time and willingness to seek the knowledge and then consider its application to our modern world.

Hi Kate
I tried to put it in writing from my perspective and came up with this;

Anne Salmond clearly identifies that Te Ao Maori is one based on relationships. Relationships with the environment, as well as the people around you. And yes I had heard this before, but never truly understood what it meant. This relational concept is epitomised in the words Titiro atu, titiro mai – I see you, I am seen.

The European model however stems from the “I think, therefore I am” (Cogito ergo sum) concept from the enlightenment, placing the individual at the forefront. Thus the economic models the Europeans brought to New Zealand were about individual wealth above community or societal wealth, and usually at the cost of others. It is easy to understand therefore that the European view of Tetiro atu, tetiro mai is not one of equality, but from the addendum “but I’m all right Jack!” perspective of power over another.

This then has a big impact on how we view economic models and their impact.

Breibart really? even more unhinged than fox news.

only the carrier, he probably finds it hard getting traction in the MSM, did you even listen to what he is saying?

It's a very interesting interview - haven't finished it, but some of the stuff they discuss makes me laugh (their elitist, chauvinistic views can be quite hilarious), whereas other points made are worth thinking about.

USA cpi is showing inflation at %2.9 while 30 year bonds are %3 WTF.

"In short, the global bond complex has continuously rejected the idea that the economy is improving meaningfully anywhere. Sorry, Mr. President, the biggest, deepest, most complex and, most often, correct market in the world vehemently denies the US narrative. There is no decoupling, just variable shades of convergence."

#6 I am interested in the "TCO" of recycling or not. ie its pointless and maybe even worse for our eco-system if we recycle something and that process causes more environmental damage overall to do so than to dump it. The biggest environmental win is not to do something at all which takes us to excessive population something not on the Green's agenda and clearly not so when one of the co-leaders has 6 or so. Hence the likes of Eugenie Sage and GP continues to be deluded in thinking the latest idea "circular" etc will make much of a difference it is just a straw grasp for the latest fad to avoid making hard decisions.

PS one of the ever repeating themes I read from the recyclers is they need high quality material to re-cycle. ie it only makes sense for them to recycle "economically" if someone else has done the hard yards for them before hand. The new tax seems to be a way to get the "external" to happen but this is no guarantee its a sound method.

I couldn't agree more. Which is my point that we need to think about designing 'stuff' right out of our system.
Take the waste produced alone by the carbonated/soft drink category of foods (we shouldn't even call them foods of course). The product itself provides absolutely no nutritional benefit - to the contrary, it is a huge drag on our health expenditure with respect to its contribution to obesity and tooth decay.....

But try even suggesting that fizzy drinks be altogether banned, even though there is no positive rationale or human benefit to them. The arguments "for" them all relate to freedom of choice - but then tell that to the person who has to turn up to hospital 2-3 times a week for dialysis.

Thing is - it seems in many areas of modern society that relying on personal responsibility to solve our problems just isn't working.

So where fizzy drinks are concerned - I'd regulate that they are only able to be packaged in aluminium cans, as we know for a fact that these are a high quality recyclable material.

Not sure on the effect of regulation v the effect of cost ie my impression is taxing something (heavily) is more effective than other ways of regulating, bring on the sugar tax I say.

Taxing tobacco very heavily has hardly moved the statistics - although granted, that is an addictive product. And the sugar tax again, like tobacco tax will hit the lower incomes harder, I suspect. And yeah, both are products that we really don't need - at all.

I've always thought, if we want to become smoke free, just raise the age at which tobacco can be purchased by one year every year. That way, in the long run we simply design tobacco out of our economy.

Yes, I'm a bit stuck on regulation - I know.

Not just design out but reverse pointless trends where fruit packaged in a container fetches a higher price on the shelves than loose produce. Bottled water? just why does most of NZ need this when tap water is of high quality? Maybe a look back in history say 30 years ago at what and how produce was packaged on shelves.

Only auckland and Wellington have safe drinking water.

I live in Hamilton, I drink water from the tap and I am still (pinch,pinch) alive

I found this pretty tough going too. Especially number 3. I must say I find the fashionable idea that all things Maori are wonderful ridiculous. You do know that after looking eachother in the eye, they'd often bash the other one's heads in and take others as slaves to be eaten later?

And this:

Given the seemingly intractable nature of many of our environmental problems, I tend to agree. The time to give equal legitimacy to all environmental worldviews is long past its due date.

What? So if my worldview is take all resources now, for me and my friends/family, with military force, then that should get equal legitimacy?

I did find other points interesting though, like the circular economy - which seems to make a lot of sense. And the Yangtze river being a major source of plastics - to send our waste overseas and pretend it's 'problem solved' was ridiculous. And of course reduction in waste in the first place has to be the way to go.

Thanks, Davo - sorry about the tough going - my son just read it and made the same point (called it some "intense reading").

I think history records that colonising forces killed far more indigenous peoples the world over than indigenous peoples killed one another. So that comment is rather meaningless about historical warring between indigenous tribes. Yes, disputes over resources and territories is a characteristics of nearly all human societies and cultures that I know of.

That example (about conquering another's resources) isn't an environmental worldview per se but does speak to morals/ethics..

If you include death by disease then you are right in the main otherwise you are simply wrong. Take the highlands of PNG - asking people how their pre-contact ancestors died results in one in three dying in an act of violence. It is still a wild place but I can assure you it is far safer than that ever since they came under a remote (Port Moresby) government control. maybe someone with better information can provide deaths in warfare pre-treaty of Waitangi and subsequent - whatever the figure it would be death by smallpox, cholera, measles, typhoid, diptheria that would swamp anything done by any armed force.
Pinker's 'Better Angels of our nature' quotes numerous statistics all of which prove a strong central force however ruthless (and invariably it is initially ruthless) saves lives in the medium and long term. The worst wars are civil wars; compare the deaths in the American war of independence and its civil war, compare the Taipai rebellion (up to 100m dead) with anything that happened during the wars with European colonial powers.
By indigenous do you mean the illiterate indigenous tribes because you are certainly right that most were wiped out or decimated. Most of the Americas north and south are proof and so are Maori and Australian aborigines. However it was mainly disease that did the killing so in Africa and PNG where it was the colonialists who suffered disproportionately from disease (malaria, dengue fever, etc) the descendents of the original indigenous people are now in charge.

Yes, indigenous as in;

Agree, disease was/is perhaps the biggest killer of the human species across all ages, but my point was more to do with direct contact/human against human, as opposed to bacteria/virus against human.

""culturally separate from the majority ethnic identity of the state that they are a part of"" - that defines it in a way that almost forces you to be right. So Igbo in Nigeria would be indigenous? To not be killed by the colonialist majority you have to meld in culturally?

From your link: "" Hernán Cortés waged a brutal campaign against the Aztec Empire, ruled by Moctezuma II."" truly a terrible colonial war but the majority of the Aztecs had died just before Cortes arrived. Just imagine the effect of a plague - my wife's Mekeo tribe lost 90% of their population sometime near the end of the 19th century (my wife knew nothing about it until I came across it in a book). The nature of random deaths doesn't mean 9 out of 10 die evenly - maybe you lose all knowledge of boat building.

As someone else commented -read 'Guns, Germs, and Steel'.

My point is sometimes colonial powers killed more than died before they arrived (eg Rebellion against German rule and genocide of the Herero and Namaqua) and sometimes they stopped or reduced warfare beween indigenous people (eg Papua). The current thinking is 'colonialism bad' without any nuance. Maybe because we are all atheists now?

It should be noted that Cortés allied with many indigenous tribes who hated the Aztecs for very good reasons.

And what happened to those tribes after that conquest?

Became slaves. It was the same in Mexico. Standard policy to divide and conquer. It makes the conquering of empires easy. The Japanese tried it when they invaded SE Asia. ISIS played one Muslim sect against all the other communities both Muslim and not. It fails when there place is already divided as the British discovered in PNG - all the tribes were already in a state of hostility to one another. And it doesn't work when the place to be invaded has a solid sense of unity. It some country invaded Stewart Island all Kiwis would be affronted. 80 years ago that applied in NZ when Germany threatened Britain. Even the USA which was a collection of immigrants from different places always had a strong sense of USA identity - that helped them win the war. Compare with multi-culturalism and bi-culturalism as expoused in NZ today.

They didn't all become slaves. Quite a bit of mixing went on to create the Hispanics we see today. From Wikipedia:

With the destruction of the superstructure of the Aztec Empire in 1521, the Spanish utilized the city-states on which the Aztec Empire had been built, to rule the indigenous populations via their local nobles. Those nobles pledged loyalty to the Spanish crown and converted, at least nominally, to Christianity, and in return were recognized as nobles by the Spanish crown. Nobles acted as intermediaries to convey tribute and mobilize labor for their new overlords, facilitating the establishment of Spanish colonial rule.

The Aztecs followed a similar practice to the Spanish prior to the conquest. A point I want to make is that Spanish, Aztecs, same difference, just another dominant group.

The Spanish did put an end to human sacrifice and cannibalism and were an improvement. For a long time Mexico was considerably more affluent than North America. They lost a lot later to a more advanced group.

Ah the oft-repeated noble savage, colonialism evil, paleolithic cultural superiority mantras. Really just flag waving to other self-haters indoctrinated by Sophist pedlars of Marx inspired conflict theory, vacuous post-modernism, moral relativism, and most recently intersectionality in ever more left wing academia. While more grounded educated do-ers of the world look on with bemusement and increasing horror at the stupidity and intolerant prescriptive authoritarianism they are working to re-establish in the world. It is plainly obvious that this is just the latest in a long history of efforts by various groups to up-turn society and place themselves at the top - like all revolutionaries they are just wannabe aristocrats rationalising their misanthropic aspirations with 'greater good' arguments.

Paleolithic life was nasty, brutish and short, in fecund areas typical death rates from violence were 1-2% per year. They were never great stewards of the land, like all animals - they simple took as much as they could until carrying capacity of the land for their style of life and culture was reached and they started to die from famine and warfare to hold it in check. Much of the worlds megafauna was wiped out by paleolithic man as he spread. Including all large animals in NZ. Their necessarily militaristic cultures held fighting men high at the expense of all others - fit only to serve as slaves and toys for those men. (Eg read F E Manning's old New Zealand). That has been reality for most of the 100billion humans that have ever lived.

As such colonialism was easily the best thing that ever happened to the colonised paleolithic cultures, the diseases were always going to get them eventually, and it's amazing that they weren't simply wiped out as in paleolithic times (like 1830's Maori invasion of Chathams). Their standard of living has been lifted immeasurably, lifespans increased, death through violence, disease and famine has all but been wiped out. Their children mostly survive childhood with good nutrition to fully develop their brains. Women are have massively increased freedom, and are no longer condemned to brutalised servitude and high probability of death through uncontrolled fertility.

And then of course there is the ridiculousness of passing moral/ethical judgement on the actions of peoples and cultures from 200 years ago, living in an entirely different world with different economic, technological and social pressures. You may as well judge a lion harshly for eating a zebra. Religion, ethics and morality before modern times were dictated by economics and survival necessities of competition with other cultures. Survival was the only rule - because if you made the wrong choices you died through violence or being impoverished to people who made better choices, how's that for moral relativism and subjectivity? (Eg Religious veneration of heads in Maori and Aztec's culture was because they were cannibals who would otherwise get prionic diseases like Kuru from infected brains). 'Intrinsic' Human rights as we view them are modern inventions.

"Colonialism evil" is certainly not my point.

To my mind, it is important is to get away from that sort of binary discussion (i.e., was colonisation good or bad) - the point being there are other 'ways of knowing' (aside from Enlightenment-thought) and that these other worldviews can add to our 'ways of working' toward a desired future.

And indeed if you read Dame Anne's book - you'll realise that neither was that (i.e., colonialism is evil) her intent at all.

Fair enough Kate. I will counter that there is a market place of ideas at operation in the world whether we like it or not. And enlightenment ideals have been shown to be the ''fittest'' in this dog-eat-dog competition where civilisations are pitted against each other (though perhaps China's autocracy is in the process of beating us). Whereas 'other ways of knowing' have not shown themselves capable of creating individuals or nurturing talent and ideas in a way that brings human and civilisational advancement or widespread freedoms that we enjoy in the same manner. In fact quite the opposite, the demotivating effects of the collectivism common to paleolithic/tribal cultures writ large as communism has been shown to be a fast route to societal failure in the 20th Century, enabling the most evil leaders the world has ever seen and killing 100million in the process. The tribal model favoured by Maori and other 'colonised' peoples throughout the world is an obvious dismal failure that aids a small cozened elite to the detriment of everyone else.

Agree, Foyle. To your catalogue of megafaunal extinctions we can add the destruction of most of the original forest cover on the East Coast of the South Island (Reference 'Tangata Whenua', map P88).

It's also worth noting that the South Island had only 3% of Maori population. The relationships to the early Pakeha - sealers, whalers, and sailors - was both harmonious after a few inital WTF moments and symbiotic: one look at the way Pakeha handled the four essentials - food, shelter, transport and security - and the local chiefs promptly cemented relationships and thus access to these technologies: metal, warmth, ships - by encouraging intermarriage. The history of the deep South is thus totally different to that which played out further north.

I grew up in Southland with, and went to school with what I now realise must have been descendants of these early interactions, and to this day I cannot see them as 'Maori', different, or anything other than 'other kids'. How different to the identity politics of today and the acrimony of points north.....

There is a lot of ex post facto recasting of history in all things cultural - history written by victors etc. Caution advised....because the fabled 'relationship to the environment' has only been a late-comer: the early relationship was - quelle horreur - Exploitative. Vide moa, Haast's eagle, all those forests - a long list of stuff that got Eaten, Burnt, or (apex predators) starved. So it's quite possible to argue that the late change of heart was forced on the proponents because they had burnt too many bridges to take any other POV.

Required reading:
Tangata Whenua

So it's quite possible to argue that the late change of heart was forced on the proponents because they had burnt too many bridges to take any other POV.

Nonsense. You need enlightenment of the small 'e' variety :-).

I do agree there is a lot of ex post facto recasting of history in many things cultural. There are some interesting quotations in here from the written records of some of the first Europeans to visit these shores;

Yes, guns germs and steel right? I agree. And I'm the first to admit my ancestors from the UK went around the world killing everyone they could, taking everything they could (cutting down all the trees, killing all the whales [although actually the Soviets did the most damage in the 40s and 50s], killing all the seals, penguins etc.)

The UK was a super power because it was the best at these sorts of things. A time that has thankfully past.

I guess though, we have to be careful to not say "Everything white and westernised is bad, everything before that i.e. Maori is good.) Just look at what we have now: Equality between men and women, very little violence, animal rights etc.) And of course pretty amazing healthcare and literature, music, arts etc.

So our societies started off extremely violent, but are now very stable. Perhaps more stable and more safe than any time in history.

I'm not sure going back to animism is a good move.

But again, I say, I did like your top 10 at 10. More interesting than most which are often about economics, GDP etc.

Thanks again - I agree, human progress never ceases to amaze me, but as Rachel Carson famously said;

We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature.

Now, I truly believe, that we in this generation, must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.

I've often wondered whether the important questions of today are not about what we need as a human race, but about what we don't need. Which is why I like virtue ethics as a moral framework - as it is all about finding a 'golden mean' - the midpoint between excess and deficiency.

Great to see another of our commentators "come out". I don't think I could do the same.

I do not know what a putative circular economy is, or how it differs from a putative non-circular economy. Regardless, the circular economy diagram is curious. It doesn't seem to me to depict an economic model, just where all the materials flow. This could be better renamed "material flow in putative circular versus putative non-circular economies".

I note there is no place for plastics to go in the circular economy, other than underground, which is where they come from. Sequestering plastic underground would be similar to underground storage of nuclear waste. Given the way plastics dis-aggregate over time, into smaller and smaller pieces, affecting the biosphere and turning male polar bears into female polar bears, I'd say that nuclear waste and plastic waste are comparably dangerous. In this vein, I do not think that recycling plastic is worth it, because it creates a need for more plastics in order for recycling facilities to remain viable.

Thanks for the tip of the Anne Salmond book, sounds like essential reading for contemporary NZ thinking. I believe everything is interrelated in this way, and that classical economic theories are woefully incomplete.

With a comment like that you should "come out" :-). Very thoughtful contribution. Couldn't agree more about plastics. Where there are alternatives (and there are for so many if not all related to single-use plastic packaged goods) to my mind they (the alternatives) should be used - which I think might only be able to be brought about by regulation.

Plastics need as near 100% recycled as possible - the problem is the energy it takes to collate, sort and (usually) re-melt. Energy can be saved, however - especially in to-landfill distance, by locally-processing. We have some archaic rules re non food-contact for recycled plastic - time they were re-visited.

Dame Anne also wrote the last essay in the Penguin 'The Big Questions'. It's the most cogent of the lot.

Circular economy: "Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist,"
by Kate Raworth. I have been stuck about 30% through it for the last 4 months - one of those interesting books that is a mix of new concepts and irritation - just needed a good editor so that a non-student of economics could finish it.

Plastics are hydrocarbons. The way to deal with them efficiently (and most landfill by weight) is incineration at large power producing facilities with flue gas treatment - as is done in more enlightened western countries where irrational Greens haven't taken control. We nearly got this established in NZ 20-30 years back. Shut down by the usual small fringing group of zealots.

As the owner of the cleanest combustion system in the world (capable of zero emissions) I get asked a lot if it could be used for plastic. Of course it could, but that misses the point of creating the garbage in the first place. Recovery of the energy from incineration has it's losses also, unless using co-generation.

Great top 12 - I've mentioned growth too :) It'll take me tonight to do it justice.

Ellen Macarthur does a lot in the Circular Economy arena:
Clear-sighted lady (likes sailing too - can't be bad.....)

Plastic bags is an education/herding thing - ignore the bleating and let the dogs out of the ute, it's time to up the ante. The Laysan albatross tend to have trouble with toothbrush stems and suchlike - the museum at Hilo has a great display of what stays with the carcase:

And Jared Diamond does a great line on hunter-gatherer:,_Germs,_and_Steel

The difference this time is that we are sapient enough to think our way out of the predicament, and this time it's global:

Just in case you think the TT list is a bit thin on it :) Great top ten Kate.

Thanks. Love it: "ignore the bleating and let the dogs out of the ute, it's time to up the ante" .

Must find a spot for it in a lecture ... perhaps alongside Einstein :-).

We live. We eat. We kill to eat. We grow to eat. We live in shelters. We take from the environment to build our shelters. We clothe ourselves to keep warm. Or we die.
None of this was an issue 10,000 years ago. It is an issue today because we are grossly over-populated. We seem to have a quantity approach over the quality approach which capitalism naturally plays to. We are quite simply too many at once, with the consequences written in chapter and verse above.
It is an issue. A serious issue. And one that deserves a serious answer. It's bigger than waste, although we are talking about it in waste terminology. We are simply too many. And the paddock is running out of fresh grass, let alone where do we discreetly put our wastes. It is perhaps the key issue of our time.

And one that deserves a serious answer.

Yes, waste is a manifestation of overpopulation, but our profligate/disposable ways are another big part. 'Things' don't get made to last anymore - quite the opposite, I think we design products now specifically for a more limited shelf life - it seems to be where capitalism has taken us.

On the population control front, I linked to this somewhere else;

Not enough money/effort put into it though.

Kate did you see this article?

That feedlot has up to 18,000 cattle equivalent waste to a city of 130,000 ish and they only have a few settlement ponds at the end. I think I know why they built it in an area with sea views.

David Parker has hinted - if they're capable of getting hints - that they're on borrowed time.

Makes a stark contrast with O'Connor, and his farmer-placatory bleats a couple of days ago.

This is part of a groundswell conversation now - trying to call them 'vegans' as if they're minority wierdo's, is yesterday's strategy. Too many of us eat meat, want to eat ethically, environmentally raised meat, and see the mantra for what it is. Or was.

I did on the news last night - I nearly choked - initially I couldn't BELIEVE I was looking at footage from New Zealand.

If the RMA allows that kind of development - then we are in serious, serious, serious trouble.

The RMA is predicated on the Brundtland definition of sustainability.

Herman Daly recons they knew thay could only lead the masses so far (early 80's) - shades of the dogs and the ute.... And that they'd tighten it up later. Prof Albert Bartlett does a snow-job on it:

And the Bolger Govt picked it up from Palmer who, well, anyway somewhere there it got the word 'economic' added to what the current generation can do. Which is essentially open-slather. No advocate for future generations, was ever present.

Remove 'economic' from 'present generations', remove the word 'balance' from everything (ban it's use in E/Courts, and differentiat between 'wants' and 'needs'.

Then of course you've got to deal with population.......


Do they pay the same level of rates a city of 130,000 would contribute towards waste disposal, one wonders?

If not - why is the waste disposal cost being socialised onto NZ taxpayers?

Who is the greater polluter, cows or people?

Daisy I said, will spread her waste naturally on the soil where it will be filtered and used by plants.

Yeah, right.

Who puts the fences around the cows, figure that one out and you'll have your culprit

Kate, be careful of being sucked into the modern Maori narrative. There has been an attempt to paint themselves as custodians of the land, when you acknowledge in comments above that they had no acted very sustainable at all pre-european times with regard to resource management. So I am with Foyle on this one. For a good read try Tom Conner's books "The Tides of Kawhia" and "The Paths of Taranaki". Fiction based on fact that does not pull punches on the culture of canabilism and associated resource wars.

Te Ao Maori uses as it's foundation the term Tangata Whenua. The translation being "People of the Land" is most likely a reference to the people that inhabited New Zealand when Maori arrived. There is a lot of evidence for earlier occupation of New Zealand. I have personally taken the effort to go and see the Tattooed Rock in Raglan, an interesting artifact.

Notwithstanding these comments, these do not undermine Maori land rights. They were lawful owner occupiers and have been denied the justice they sought when signing the treaty.

Careful of the academic speak, it doesn't help your cause in getting your point across. It might be a thrill to use an extended vocabulary that can come with academia, but it can just make you look pretentious.

Cheers, scarfie - but no worries as I expected the contribution of the 'cultural conception' worldview to be the most questioned/challenged. Thing is, it's a really common environmental worldview, most certainly not exclusively held by Maori in NZ, or indigenous peoples on the world stage.

Nick Smith demonstrated it in his decision-making on this environmental issue when Minister;

My view is that National Parks are amongst New Zealand's most special and precious areas. They are deemed by legislation to be places where nature rules, not man, and in my view this tunnel proposal runs counter to the intent of the National Park's Act.

So, all good.

The notion of special rights just because your ancestors lived in a certain place has got to be laid to rest. It's a kind of sad and limiting concept for a person to have really. Why geographical location should be important I don't know. Aotearoa was once divided up into many different tribal with the tribes being as alien and hostile to one another as any other racial or national group. The Ngāpuhi attacking, slaughtering and enslaving tribes living south of them in the 1820s was no different from other tribes like the British traveling from across the sea in sailing ships to impose their will. Just because the distance is a few more kilometres or there is a body of water in the way makes little difference.

Now please apply that to England and immigration and Nigel Farage and remind us why the invading hordes there are no good. Remember we all come from stock that did much the same as Maori did, only difference was time.

Invading hordes can still be no good and resisting invasion is perfectly legitimate in the here and now. Especially if the horde is primitive and wants to suck your resources dry and take away your freedom and womenfolk. If the invaders are bringing more freedom and fabulous technology and riches then that's an entirely different thing. They often try to paint immigration as bringing these things actually although we all know its kind of bullsh*t...mostly.

I perfectly well understand that, and am not in favour of mass immigration either, it is usually people trying to find somewhere better to live than where they are, technology or no, this is how it is today. When European settlers came to NZ (and other places such as USA and Australia, South Africa) they too were seeking to get away from conditions that were getting pretty intolerable where they were, There was zero nobility in it, the motivations were all the same but in order for it to succeed, the existing populations had to be replaced, one way or another. You need to stop trying to make out that because your (and my) invader ancestors were some how superior just because. It will not take anything from your life to understand that you actually are no more superior a human than anyone else, like the rest of us.Then we might start to get somewhere.

It will not take anything from your life to understand that you actually are no more superior a human than anyone else, like the rest of us.Then we might start to get somewhere.

Yes, exactly - and I'd add that not only will it (i.e., humility and understanding) not take anything from our lives, but it will add so much.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing.

The big issue is people looking at the actions of the past with a present day moral compass. Further to your comment on Ngapuhi, one narrative that's often pushed predominately on social media is that the English were invading tyrants that pillaged a peaceful native indigenous people of their lands. I suspect we wouldn't be having this conversation if it were the French.

The big issue is people looking at the actions of the past with a present day moral compass.

Thanks, nzdan. It's a really great point - which gives me a perfect opportunity to plug one of my 'bandwagons' ... we need to incorporate the philosophy of ethics into the NZ Curriculum.

Morals are of course that first-order set of beliefs and practices about how to live a good life - whereas ethics are a second order reflection on the adequacy of our moral beliefs. In other words, ethics provide the justification of our moral positions.

And yes, as our 'moral compass' changes over time - it is ethics (the knowledge which gives us the mechanism through which we can reflect) that leads to those changing morals/values.

Which is why I so wish we'd get ethics (as part of civics education) into the curriculum.

Thanks Kate for your Article and I think your last comment totally sums it up. Ethics morals and manners.

You're welcome. And thanks to for encouraging discussions of difference :-)!

Thanks for adding the word 'manners'. Much of the recent dispute about free speech -v- hate speech is really just summed up as poor etiquette or bad manners. Those who have little can complain about those who have a lot and the discussion is only a debate about the facts but it is different when the roles are reversed - whatever the facts it is bad manners to attack those who are less well off.