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UNPUBLISHED LETTERS BY JOHN MONRO

 

28th December 2007

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

Again, predictably, the massive spend up by “consumers” this Boxing Day is greeted as a bonanza, and everyone cheers the resilient market. But did anyone notice that last quarter our overseas indebtedness has now passed $200 billion – $50,000 for every “consumer”, or about $200,000 for a family of four, in this land? Our balance of payments deficit this year alone was $14.2 billion. So why are we celebrating all this excessive consumption, when we are obviously living dangerously beyond out means? Now we are promised about NZ$1.5 billion in “affordable” tax cuts. Who’s kidding whom? And this at a time when we face major increases in prices for food, oil, energy and other essentials, with a serious recession imminent. Shouldn’t we be paying off our debt? At $1.5 billion p.a. it should only take us about 130 years or six generations.

We live in a society obsessed with consumerism and diverted by trivia. Our society’s refusal to face reality, to understand that society cannot function when citizenship is abandoned for consumerism, is truly astounding. Our great, great, great, great, grandchildren will shake their heads in wonder, and sorrow, as they continue to pay for our folly.

Yours faithfully,

 

This was sent on the 5th January 08, not published

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

The news today is of oil at $100/bbl. You attempt a childish explanation as to why oil has doubled in price this year: you postulate oil speculation, increased demand, political instability in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, a cold snap in America, etc. Yet you entirely miss the elephant in the sitting-room, which is strange, because it is trying to sit on your lap. The elephant is peak oil, it is the economic juggernaut that will not speak its name, neither in the government, in business nor in the media. This inability of our society to understand a simple geological fact – that the world is finite, that the resources it contains are finite, and that extracting a resource will eventually deplete it – will be the cause of much sorrow, as we find the towering edifice of our economy falling to earth, when its foundations, abundant and cheap oil energy, crumble. Yet again, your paper, by avoiding the issue, does the community it serves a grave disservice, we are unprepared and vulnerable, and economic hardship and social distress are probably now inevitable. But such a salutary lesson is probably for the good, wisdom cannot flourish in a smug world.

Yours faithfully,

 

Also an unpublished letter in April 08

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellinton

Dear Sir / Madam

Today’s business section seems remarkable only for its ordinariness, but read it carefully for the unremarked absurdities of today. An Airbus executive predicts air traffic growth of 5% p.a. over twenty years, with an extra 24,000 planes. Another article tells us how jet fuel prices are up 70% this last year alone. Spot the contrariety. Japan is exploiting massive marine deposits of methane hydrates, another fossil carbon to add to gas, oil and coal, yet isn’t Kyoto in Japan? There’s the likely Chinese bid for Vector, and the denial of a Canadian bid for Auckland Airport, and elsewhere inflation from fuel and food price increases is predicted to reach 4%, ensuring continued high interest rates, even though these cost increases are actually deflationary. Other articles relate how banks, those bastions of freedom from government interference, are getting billions in public bail-outs. And the World section describes the growing food crisis in our supposedly increasingly wealthy planet. These contradictions are the true reflection of our times – of an unfettered, growth predicated, market-driven economy colliding with the realities of the finite planet it exists on and the fundamental needs of the people that it supposedly supplies.

Yours faithfully,

 

April 08 – definitely more about peak oil, not published

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

“Soaring prices put new fuel tax at risk” is your headline article today, and in it is contained all the stupidity, thoughtlessness, sense of entitlement and the sheer delusionality of our present condition.

Now hear this everyone.

OIL IS COSTING MORE BECAUSE WE ARE AT PEAK OIL. IT WILL NEVER GET CHEAPER, EXCEPT PERHAPS TEMPORARILY IN THE PROFOUND DEPRESSION THAT WE ARE NOW ENTERING. IT IS FUTILE TO BLAME ANYONE ELSE FOR THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS. IF ONE HAS EVER OWNED A CAR, TAKEN A PLANE TRIP, GONE ON A CRUISE OR USED A BUS, IT IS YOUR FAULT THAT WE HAVE ALREADY BURNT THAT OIL.

The entire world is now entering an unstoppable revolutionary change; global warming, water and food supply problems will be part of this dramatic social transformation.

One good thing that will arise from this state of affairs is the abandonment of our free-market, neo-liberal and monetarist global economy. If we are very lucky, we will replace it with something more ethical and sustainable, if not, we are looking to some very turbulent times indeed. And no-one will give a stuff about 10c on a litre of petrol. IS THIS NOW UNDERSTOOD?!!!

Yours faithfully,

 

May08, not published, I wonder why?

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

In the contentious climate change debate,two things are entirely predictable. First, you’ll keep writing leaders downplaying the problem, second I’ll keep writing complaining about your immoral position. Here we go again. You say because New Zealanders cause only 0.2% of global warming, this is a reason not to do anything. At what size of country would you say responsibility does apply? Would you agree with the American senator who said the US only causes 25% global warming, why should America do anything when the rest of the world causes the other three-quarters? You trot out the China bogey, but in outsourcing our industrial economic activity, we have been outsourcing the CO2 pollution, China’s CO2 is actually ours. You quote economists predicting by 2025 that households will be $3000 poorer, which is droll, as I can’t recall a single NZ economist predicting even a year ago our looming recession or oil costing nearly $120/bbl. Contrast this with your ignorant dismissal of the considered projections of thousands of expert scientists in the IPCC. Yes, the Dominion Post is certainly predictable, with your selfish and immoral stance on global warming arising from your smug and egotistic parochialism.

Yours faithfully,

 

May again – not published

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

When the world’s so comical, one can’t help writing to show one does get the joke. So when the government retreats at the first sniff of gunpowder in regard to a carbon levy on fuel, with the excuse that it would come at an awkward time for the populace, with high fuel prices and other cost stresses, one has to laugh. I mean, by what priceless logic does the government imagine that in two years time, when petrol will be nearer $3.50 per litre, do they think the populace will welcome the tax any more? Then there’s the swift denial of the introduction of a 90 kph road speed limit. Even though this would be by far the simplest measure to reduce our incontinent use of a fast-depleting and irreplaceable resource, drivers will be allowed to continue to pollute our planet and burden the taxpayer, many who don’t own cars, with our Kyoto obligations. That’s funny. Especially as oil depletion will force a speed reduction in the next year or two in any case. Eventually of course the maximum speed on the road will be nearer 5 kph, and cobblers will belong to a booming trade.

Yours faithfully,

 

Also in May

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington
New Zealand

Dear Sir / Madam

I was interested to see your picture today of the oil tanker, Torm Venture, berthed at Seaview, the largest to visit New Zealand and containing 81,000 tonnes of fuel. That seems a lot of fuel, but imagine that the water it’s floating on in Port Nicholson was itself oil. Indeed the whole of Port Nicholson, right out to Pencarrow Head, could be filled three times over each year and burned, and this would approximate to the near 30 billion barrels of oil the world burns each year. Imagine a mountain of coal eight times as large as Mt. Kaukau, and that’s the coal burned each year, and a gas holder big enough to contain the whole volcanic plateau, and 2,000 metres high, represents our annual gas emissions. Our atmosphere is finite, indeed if it were at sea-level density, what we humans are used to, it wouldn’t extend higher than Port Nicholson is wide. Now tell me why I am so odd to worry about carbon dioxide accumulation and global warming. I think the argument should be put the other way, would climate sceptics please prove to me how all this carbon dioxide pollution won’t poison our Earth?

Yours faithfully,

 

May, not published

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

Today oil reaches over $130/bbl and our oil import costs for the year will be about $10 billion. We are now poorer by this amount, as compared with a few years ago, by about $10,000 per family of four; no amount of tax cuts, state assistance, or financial legerdemain can alter this fundamental fact. We are all facing an overwhelming world-wide financial and economic crisis, but all we keep hearing is “tax cuts, tax cuts”. Our failure to completely misread our future is truly frightening, and bizarre – it is as if we were to have heard Churchill say, early in the Second World War, something like this: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat – but first we shall have tax cuts”. This failure of understanding is almost complete, afflicting as it does business, the media, the public and both major parties, and a vote for either of these parties in this coming election will be as irrelevant as, say, voting for the Whigs.

Yours faithfully,

 

An yet another, published, though edited, the last sentence recommending a light rail system was omitted, I wonder why?

The Editor
The Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir/Madam

Your leader today extolling the virtues of public transport is heartening. I could be churlish and say it would have been good to have read this a few years ago, when the cost of investing in public transport would have been so much less, but welcome aboard. Michael Cullen elsewhere is reported as refusing to countenance petrol tax cuts, which is good, but he spoils it all by saying “this would threaten road building … projects” thereby revealing yet again the absolute cluelessness of our leaders in regard to what is happening. Folks, are you reading this, there will be no road tunnels under the Waitemata, no fly-overs by the Basin Reserve, no motorways along Transmission Gully. They will not happen. Full stop. Get used to it, join with the Dominion Post in its new found regard for public transport, and support the urgent redirection of all our resources into a more sustainable future. And, please Dominion Post, let your next leader on transport issues support the installation of light rail from the station to Newtown, Kilbirnie and the airport, no other transport investment could provide more long-term value to our wonderful city.

Yours faithfully,

 

Written in June 2008, again not published.

The Editor
Dominion Post
Wellington

Dear Sir / Madam

Obviously the powers that be must read my letters in your paper, when I predicted recently that the Transmission Gully road would never be built, so, just to spite me, they have given the project “the green light”. But the things that make the Transmission Gully project the most pointless waste of money have not changed, neither it seems has the quality of intellect in the government. We are told the cost will be $1.025 billion, an increase of $40 million or 4% on the 2004 estimate of $985 million. Since 2004, steel prices have trebled, concrete prices have doubled, asphalt prices are rocketing, and oil prices have, as we all know, trebled. To estimate a 4% increase in construction costs is patently fraudulent. We are living now in an energy and raw material short world, we can afford to waste neither. We should all be extremely concerned about peak oil; that we are still determined to invest so extravagantly in a transport modality that guarantees even further reliance on a resource which depleting, is soaring in cost and causes global-warming, proves that we should be even more concerned about peak stupidity.

Yours sincerely,

 


Dear Sir / Madam

When Montezuma’s armies first saw the Spanish conquistadors on their horses, they thought they were seeing a monster – half man, half beast – and they fled in terror. I experience something of the same awful sensation observing the New Zealander and his motor-car, welded at the hip, as a minister of transport once observed. But now, a report from the New Zealand Transport Agency,“Transport Challenges when Oil Prices Rise”, proves that a monster slayer has at last arisen (Dominion Post 22/8/08). It recommends outlandish ideas such as reduced parking spaces, taxes on fuel inefficient vehicles, cycle friendly cities and a whole panoply of recommendations as only previously seen in Green Party manifestos. Jeanette Fitzsimons hopes this report will “inject a bit of reality” into transport planning, but I doubt a simple injection will do anything. The authors acknowledge these suggestions “might be unpopular with the public”, but I have this horrible feeling, just as the man/horse monster destroyed the Aztec empire, that the New Zealand man/car monster will destroy us all before yielding to such immoderate intelligence as in this report, and that reality lies as distant as ever, in this car-driven dystopia.

Yours faithfully,

 

Written a 23rd Sept. 2008 and pertains to our concerns about peak oil.

Dear Sir / Madam

There are things I don’t understand in Gareth Morgan’s three-instalment analysis of the “Credit Crunch”. Gareth is highly critical of the actions of central banks in promoting this crunch. Supposedly we’d worked all this out, separate the central bank from politicians, and at a stroke relieve countries of previous disastrous political meddling, but we now face the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, why? Gareth also sticks the knife in Keynes, but surely Keynes never meant to rescue crooked financial institutions or create galaxies of private debt, in the US being Keynesian could mean government investment in a functional rail system or solar energy. Finally, it is frankly astounding that Gareth can write almost 4,000 words about our tumbling economic edifice without mentioning, even once, oil. Cheap oil has funded our economic bubble for the last twenty years, the reaching of “peak oil” has burst the bubble, as surely as any corrupt banker, and peak oil is the reason that none of the Fed’s last frantic measures will work. Gareth surely is an economist when he can write so much about the world and never once acknowledge the physical reality that lies behind it.

Yours faithfully,

 

Published in the Listener.

The Editor
The Listener
Auckland

Dear Sir / Madam

I can take Bill Ralston’s musings about most things with a large pinch of salt, or should that be pepper, because I know, just like the Duchess’s little boy in “Alice Through the Looking-Glass”, he only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases. So when Bill admits he is a global warming denier, I know he really doesn’t mean it; that his negligent insouciance is a mere facade for a deep concern, which no self-respecting, blue-blooded conservative like him should deign to admit. It’s a peer pressure thing, which one would have thought he might have grown out of, but environmental matters are like that, you’re either for them, or against them, only wimps would consider something in between. Greens, according to Bill, label anyone who dares disagree with their view of climate change as some kind of nutcase, which is obviously a very bad thing, so I suppose when Bill implies that Greens are over-reacting, paranoid and wrathful chicken-littles and hysterical pseudo-religious lynch mobs who’s punitive policies will leave his children impoverished and homeless, he is merely indulging in a bit of playful banter.

Max Planck once observed“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” I bear Bill Ralston no ill-will, other than he is obviously a nutcase, but it seems we will have to wait for all the Bills of this world to die before we get a general acceptance of the truth, and perils, of global warming. As Bill is younger than me, I would consider waiting this time to be well worth it, the only problem is, will the planet?

Yours faithfully,