Archive for the Philosophy Category

A Climate Change Manifesto

[Some of the things I believe about climate change and our environment, arranged in such a way as to resemble an argument. Comments are welcome, if I find them suitably compelling I’ll publish a new version with them incorporated.]

That nature has no desire to keep Earth a nice place for humans to live.

That climate change has happened in the past and will happen again.

That climate change will result in changes that make our world a place less suited to human existence.

That the climate is a chaotic system and that we can not know what will happen with it next.

That the current predictions of what is happening with climate change are the best we have to go on and are worth paying attention to.

That there is a good chance that some sort of feedback loops will interfere with predicted climate change.

That the effects of one strong positive feedback loop overrides any number of negative feedback loops.

That human activities are influencing climate change.

That the modern consumer lifestyle directly contributes to climate change.

That people greatly enjoy the modern consumer lifestyle and that many people who do not currently enjoy it aspire to do so.

That individuals can reduce their personal contribution to climate change.

That those individual changes send useful messages to corporations and politicians that will influence behaviour in wider populations.

That these individual and collective changes in behaviour are insufficient to seriously reduce the human impact on climate change.

That there will never be the political will to voluntarily give up the modern consumer life style.

That humanity would rather ride the spiralling corpse of the current ecosystem down into the abyss than voluntarily give up the modern consumer life style.

That this is likely to happen.

That I don’t want it to.

That we can possibly develop new non-damaging technologies to both replace those that contribute to climate change, as well as ameliorate the effects of other technologies’ contributions to climate change.

That these technologies will need significant funding to be developed.

That commercial bodies may not see the benefit in funding the development.

That some form of collective funding (i.e. government) will be required.

That it is is better to spend more of our current resources on developing these technologies than to spend them on reducing activities that contribute to climate change.

That this doesn’t excuse us from trying to reduce activities that contribute to climate change.

That we should get on with it.


There’s been a few articles in the paper recently about patriotism. In particular, some people have suggested that we should be trying to increase the sense of patriotism in the young by flying the national flag at schools and encouraging the singing of the national anthem. I find this issue interesting because these arguments completely leapfrog two important questions:

  • Is patriotism good and should we be encouraging it?
  • Will flying the national flag and singing the national anthem instill patriotic feeling?

Is Patriotism Good?

As is normal in these arguments I’d like to draw a distinction between pride and patriotism. The New Zealand nation is a construct that we are all working on, and I believe that we can feel pride in what we have achieved together and the general success of the project to date.

But the word patriotism doesn’t make me think of this simple pride, instead it brings to mind jingoism, war, stereotyping and the division of people based on trivialities such as birthplace and location. Patriotism is a negative emotion that should be discouraged, and trying to promote it makes as much sense to me as promoting hate or violence.

But even being charitable and accepting that “simple pride” is the meaning that people are talking about when they say they want to encourage patriotism, what does it mean to promote it? Is it the state’s place to promote emotions such as love and pride? What other emotions and attitudes should we be genuflecting towards, should schoolchildren also sing odes to the greater glory of the family or motherhood? I think that we should be letting people decide for themselves and not compel them to indulge in nationalistic rituals at school.

The Effectiveness of Nationalist Symbols

Then we come to the second question, the effectiveness of using anthems and flags to promote patriotism, something to which I am opposed to on philosophical, aesthetic and practical grounds.

Firstly, flag-waving and the singing of national anthems seems far closer to the negative jingoistic version of patriotism. I know it’s a simple-minded comparison but they conjur up the Nazi’s use of imagery and ceremony to bind people together into barbaric fascism. (I find it interesting to note that the modern democracy I most associate with flag-waving and patriotic feeling is also the one that seems to be flirting with fascism.)

Secondly, while I don’t want to refight the flag issue in depth, I find the current flag to be ugly, obsolete, and too close to the Australian flag to be an effective symbol for the nation. And the national anthem is a dreadful dirge with a strong religious element that is innappropriate for our secular society.

Thirdly, would venerating the flag and singing the national anthem actually build feelings of patriotism? My Nazi example above obviously implies that I believe it can be effective, but that was in the context of a society dedicated to reinventing itself and I don’t think this applies here. Rather I suspect that it will just another meaningless ritual that we force children to suffer because it makes a few people feel good about themselves. I’d prefer that the time be spent learning about New Zealand history (the good and the bad) and letting them make their own minds up about how they feel towards the country.

Guy Fawkes

Once again another Guy Fawkes where the squawks of the fearful and timid are louder and more annoying than the booms and shrieks of the fireworks. Once again we have to put up with ever more restrictions, stern warnings from politicians and the whining of the Fire Service. I unashamedly support the Guy Fawkes celebrations and the fireworks that go with them.

  • I like the beauty of a roman candle shooting into the night.
  • I enjoy the community aspect as people flock to the big public displays or have a few friends around to the back yard BBQ/party.
  • I like the anarchic feeling as people indulge in the pseudo-dangerous activity of playing with decorative explosives.
  • I appreciate the absurdity of celebrating something so irrelevant to our modern lives (neither the Catholics nor Protestants seem like much of a threat to our society).

Some might argue that fireworks are dangerous and can cause people to be hurt. While this is undoubtedly true, I think it’s important to note that the number of injuries is generally low (and probably lower than other mass activities) and most are very minor. We don’t need the safety nazis interfering, for our own good, with another pleasure enjoyed by the mass of New Zealanders.

Last night Kim and I went for a walk. It was a still clear night and the sight of the fireworks sparkling in the sky against the lights of the city was quite beautiful. Parties were everywhere and people were having a good time. I thought it was wonderful.

Opposing the Electoral Finance Bill

Yay, I just made my first submission on a Bill before the house. Down with the Electoral Finance Bill! You’ve got until the end of the day.

I wish to state my opposition to the Electoral Finance Bill.

I accept that elections have special considerations when it comes to freedom of speech and that there are good reasons for imposing additional controls to ensure the fairness and transparency of the democratic process. However, the opposed bill goes far beyond this and unreasonably limits the legitimate political activities that political parties, issue groups and individuals are entitled to engage in.

The election period is one of the times when New Zealanders pay more attention to national politics and therefore it is important that all views can be put forward and robustly debated. The bill imposes far too many limits on political speech and will damage the quality of our national political debate. It is also an abhorrent affront to the peoples right to free speech.

The bill is majorly flawed and cannot be saved by just a minor patchup; it should be scrapped.