Why we are in inequality denial and climate change denial






We are a country in denial over our inequality and climate change.

Both issues have the same thread that runs through them. 30 years of neoliberalism has generated its own cultural narratives and myths. We have been taught that success is an individual pursuit, thus those who don’t succeed are personally liable for that failure. 30 years of neoliberalism has ignored the hegemonic structures of power within a society to explain inequality, it has sought the simplistic answer of personal responsibility. Such simplistic generalisations appeals to the deeply anti-intellectual nature of NZers.

Even though the latest OECD report proves that inequality driven by far right policy has actually impoverished us all, such ideas are simply too big for the average Nu Zilinder to grasp.


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The immediate gut response to inequality is best summed up when the debate on feeding hungry kids in schools comes up. It doesn’t matter that the benefits have been set lower than the required minimum adult calorie intake in the hope of  forcing hungry beneficiaries to find jobs. It doesn’t matter that no political party has rescinded the dreadful Ruth Richardson Mother of all Budgets benefit cuts. It doesn’t matter that welfare agencies are structured now to be as difficult and as unhelpful as possible with a mind to find any reason to disqualify people rather than help them. It doesn’t matter that this Government have borrowed billions in tax cuts for the richest while the poor rot. It doesn’t matter that our inequality and poverty have soared.

None of those issues matter, the answer from many NZers to hungry children is ‘it’s the parents responsibility’.

The problem isn’t empirical evidence based solutions, it’s cultural myths and lies we have convinced ourselves of. When a madness like Charter Schools can be adopted minus any actual evidence that they work, it’s clear as day that idealogical fantasies by the right trump actual evidence.

Likewise with climate change.

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The climate denial voices of whaleoil and Kiwiblog scream that it’s all some sort of socialist scam because for the Right, their achilles heel to rampant free market capitalism is that its greed goes beyond the ability of the biosphere to provide. Those who drive their large 4×4 in suburbs don’t want to accept that there may not be a tomorrow for their children. The Dairy interests don’t want to question the sustainability of shipping milk off to China, the coal industry wants to turn a blind eye as well and the gas and oil speculation around our coastlines don’t want to hear anything about global warming either. Those vested interests spend vast sums of money convincing people that human pollution causing climate change is a myth and those who never want to accept that the ride is over are eager to accept it.

The problem is cultural, and that places the responsibility directly at the feet of those who are in denial.

Inequality and climate change damages us all. The cultural denial that refuses to accept the evidence and solutions exacerbates that damage. For those on the Right who scream ‘personal responsibility’, they are actually taking none.






  1. The human ‘race’ has shat in its own nest! I was thinking about this the other day, as i see it the only way change can happen fast enough would be if all communities worked together like a commune. That would take down the whole rotten system over night, and i think people would be a lot happier and healthier. I stayed at the commune Karuna Falls many years ago and the kids there actually glowed with good health it was amazing i have never forgotten or seen anything like them since. What exactly are we ‘racing’ towards?

    • Humans are racing towards their own destruction through wars based on lies and religious prejudice. They suffer from the delusion of self importance, the vanity of belief in their own supremacy.

      Death isn’t the only escape from the human condition, it can be transcended by an understanding of how it came to be, i.e. through the politicization of religion though the union of the church and state.

  2. The future is pretty bleak for young people now,an expensive education huge student loans and no proper jobs to justify the expence.
    The preponderance of casual labour, min wage .no guaranteed hours, in some cases none for ages, but if young people get the so called jobs they are classed as employed.
    This is deliberate tactics on the part of government,keep people poor and dependant is the game.
    Lower expectations for middle income earners, get rid of threats from middle and lower income earners,and the top tier have everything their own way.
    As for global warming ,the people to blame for this false title is big business like the oil industry and businesses like Monsanto with their rotten chemicals , killing off the bees , enslaving populations, and they have cheek to blame ordinary people. Global warming is a badge of the
    people in power Al Gore made a fortune for promoting it.
    A union tried to stand up to one of the so called charities and the law has been put in place to defy unions,if there is a problem for the wealthy a law will be enacted to solve the problem , if poorer people have a problem its because they made wrong choices,its their own fault etc etc , no new law for them .

  3. Yes the problem IS cultural. as a consequence looking for solutions will only happen about half the time. This is a pattern we have to break. If we think we have all the answers we are kidding ourselves, but there is no answer that does not include the Left perspective on economics and Green perspective on climate challenges.

    The rat we will have to swallow – it is a rat to many of us – is that space will have to be afforded to the individualism ethos as well as the collectivist. And that space will have to be front and central on our invitation to the Right to join us in re-imagining our society. Sorry, we need to do that, (see paragraph one).

    There is much to like in individualized rights, it isn’t a zero sum game. And without this kind of rapprochement we are really screwed. The war on poverty and hopelessness has to be an all-the-time war.

    For instance, we hate charter schools because they divert resources away from the State system. But we are not really against tailoring schools to better serve their community, are we? So let’s make that easier to happen within the State system. And we can still, say we are learning from the Charter schools. Look what the PPTA did with Parata’s plans. They reinivented and restructured them until they were indistinguishable from a PPTA initiative, while all the time pretending that it was Ms Parata’s scheme they were introducing. Masterful!

    • The rat we will have to swallow – it is a rat to many of us – is that space will have to be afforded to the individualism ethos as well as the collectivist. And that space will have to be front and central on our invitation to the Right to join us in re-imagining our society. Sorry, we need to do that, (see paragraph one).

      This is a very insightful and excellent point. (Incidentally, have dead rats entered the zeitgeist?)

      The individualist ethos is threatened by climate change. Climate change by its universal nature invalidates the individualist ethos which is a reason (as distinct from naked self interest) why deniers are so vociferous and adamant as climate change invalidates their world view. Even when the water is lapping at their waists it’ll “not be happening” or “the climate always changes”.

      So you’re right, we have to find a way of reframing the issue in a way that the individualists can get on board. As evidenced, they see climate change as a socialist (communitarian) scam.

      The psycho-social issues of climate change are far more problematic than those of the physical science. Throwing more science at the deniers isn’t going to move them an inch. The individualists might have the answer, could we swallow that?

    • “The war on poverty and hopelessness has to be an all-the-time war.”

      Time for a better paradigm.

      Anything that’s played on a ‘war’ footing inevitably leads to loss – freedom, thinking and creativity, decency, trust. Not to mention inclusion and involvement.

      It’s why we’re in this mess already.

      Let’s NOT have any wars on.

      (Unless you want to lose?)

  4. Just sent this to the chair of the IPCC
    Dear Dr Rajendra
    I understand you mentioned me to a college in New Zealand, with regards to my question on the forcing factor of CH4/CO2, thanks for that.
    Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get my question answered via anyone associated with the IPCC, but that is par for the coarse so not unexpected.
    I will give you my thoughts anyway, I will be happy to be proven wrong.
    So here goes, if you are still there
    I’ve read several times that ‘we’ are at a worse point than we have ever been in known climatic history, and during that history it has been proven that parts of the planet heated up by 16C over as little as 10 years, if that is close to being true, and we are in a worse situation, then +16C could be just around the corner.
    Its the methane that is going to get us, as the last straw, you know better than me I’m sure how fast the CH4 content is rising in the atmosphere, (supposedly hit 1.910ppm) being about 1.85ppm at the moment (unless you know more?) and always increasing, so with that fact in mind what would the immortal effect of CH4 be compared to CO2?
    How about this question?
    If you have a tube of CO2 and you fire infrared light through it, what is the resulting blocking of infrared transmission (absorption and reradiation) per molecule or per gram of CO2 inside the tube?
    Then do the same thing with a tube full of CH4. How much more does CH4 absorb-reradiate than CO2? This was done crudely by John Tyndall 1859 with primitive equipment? What is the answer now that we have lot of very sophisticated equipment? That is what I cannot find out.

    I posted this on a blog site the other day, again I’m happy to be proven wrong.
    > It is looking like it will be all over within the next 10 years, currently the environment is the closes to a massive temperature rise of no less than 9C, it has EVER been, never before has CO2 gone up so fast, never before has there been so much CH4 trapped by the rapid thawing ice,never before (to the best of our knowledge) has CH4 gone from an 800,000 year average of .7 ppm to 1.85 ppm in as little as 100 years. NEVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    > http://www.planetextinction.com/documents/Methane,%20the%20Gakkel%20Ridge%20and%20human%20survival.pdf
    > Everything is pointing to us currently at about 1,000ppm CO2/CO2e
    > 400 ppm CO2
    > 400 – 600ppm CO2e as CH4
    > 100 ppm N20 (or some such? I isn’t that smart)
    > and someone calculated the negative feed back of the particulates (smog) acting like a curtain = about 60 ppm CO2e
    > Its the methane, and ‘they’ don’t want you to know, or it is so fucking bad they haven’t a clue of how to tell you.
    > WASF.
    So I think it is way to scarey a subject for you guys, or you are under political pressure to dumb down methane to maintain the bullshit shell game that is carbon trading?
    And you wouldn’t want your US masters, being outed for adding tons of CH4 to the environment via fracking. And of coarse everyone via coal.
    To tell the truth I gave up on the IPCC the very first time I read something you put out.

    Good luck
    Robert Atack

  5. If climate change was really all about CO2 and the greenhouse effect, then there wouldn’t be an imbalance in the ice levels of the north and south poles, with the Arctic ice retreating and the Antarctic ice increasing.

    What isn’t generally talked about is the role of geo-engineering and HAARP in climate change. HAARP pumps massive amount of energy into the ionosphere, with HAARP operation predominantly in the northern hemisphere.


    • Thats where people like UGLYTRUTH are wrong. Its not ALL about CO2 and the Greenhouse Effect.

      Go read some more about methane, about the trend towards more EXTREME weather patterns, about changes in ocean currents and circulation due to increased warming, about solar cycles about the interactions between these and a host of other factors – some but not necessarily all of which appear to be largely anthropogenic.

      • I said “if”. Of course climate change is more complex than just the greenhouse effect.

        They only thing that you said that was even relevant was methane, since there’s more land mass in the northern hemisphere.

        And unsurprisingly you completely missed the point that HAARP and geoengineering are not factors in the public debate about the causes of climate change.

  6. Martyn’s assertion that we are in inequality and climate change denial is absolutely correct but the identified causal factors are incomplete.
    With respect to climate change, as with the probably even more critical issue of population control, ignorance is secondary to how our species instinctively reacts to threats. As the elites have long recognised threats that can be attributed to “outsiders and/or others” are potent unifier and bring out the best in people. Where the threat is intrinsic to our nature / behaviour such as the by products we produce in our everyday lives or our desire to perpetuate our genes then control / identification of the causes are very difficult. This problem is exacerbated when you have a highly educated population that is at the same time very ignorant due to that education being narrowly focussed in areas of economic functionality and other areas of knowledge being downgraded.
    Our difficulty in resolving these denial constraints are not insurmountable as we are a very behaviourally plastic species however as Martyn notes;
    “30 years of neoliberalism has generated its own cultural narratives and myths. We have been taught that success is an individual pursuit, thus those who don’t succeed are personally liable for that failure.”

    Unrestrained neoliberalism as envisaged by Mises, Hayek, Friedman, Mt Pelerin Society is underlain by extreme emphasis on self realisation that has effects beyond the economic. Our species is highly social indeed its success is largely due to cooperation and much of our fulfilment is linked to others. Extreme libertarian ideas totally ignore the actuality that one person / family on their own will be incapable of a standard of living beyond that of a hunter gatherer.
    However evolutionary drivers of necessity give precedence to the sustenance and reproduction of the individual. Neoliberalism by exclusively focusing on the self undermines the weaker evolutionary social drivers. e.g. altruism expressed via compassion, redistribution, community and many others.
    Given the challenges arising from our technological success the bleak ethos arising from neoliberalism has the potential to destroy civilisation and perhaps life on this planet.
    One hesitates lapsing into millennial type rhetoric but our window of opportunity to mitigate the oncoming catastrophe is rapidly closing.

  7. Part of the reason people are questioning both the level of inequality and the contribution of mankind to climate change is because of the sort of nonsense material that forms the headline of your article.

    The graph that purports to show rising inequality is seriously distorted. As an example, the time spacing between each axis point is 2 years, until the final point when the spacing is 1 year, yet the size of the gap on the graph is larger for 1 year than for 2! What is worse is that the graph you have used is totally inaccurate. Here’s the real one… http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Standard%20of%20living/income-inequality.aspx. If you compare the 2012 points, you will see there is something very, very wrong with the graph in your piece above. You will also see that from 2011 though 2013, income inequality declined, yes declined, and is back at the same level as 1993.

    How can you expect anyone to buy in to any cause when the data you are presenting is so flawed?

  8. Right on Martyn .. and arguing about what it is or what its not is counter productive . a lot of very qualified people have a lot of answers and they also say time is of the essence .. we are into critical now and the government that has been voted in they cheer when the greens guy points out we are way off target with carbon credits .. well howdie doodie . far out . can you all belive that .. Is that thick or is that what ? looks to me like this labour green government thing better happen real fast .

    And whats wrong with being a socialist any way ? ever thought about that ? this is not uncle joe or chairman mao its simply putting people and the planet first before holiday homes in exotic locations .Thats all ,simple really.

  9. My concern,with debt pushing $93 billion and braindead Bill having utterly failed to learn any lessons from 7 years of non-performance, what fiscal atrocity will he perform to cover his worthless arse when the wheels come off? Sell our hospitals? Sell our schools? Sell everyone under fifteen to human-traffickers? He is neither clever enough nor moral enough to do anything better.

  10. “Personal responsibility” is ambiguous, since without context the intangible aspect of the person is undefined. The word “person” originates from phersu, meaning mask – a person is a representation of something, eg a man’s person being his physical substance.

    Ignorance of the intangible nature of things is a characteristic of the state’s secular approach to life, which focuses on the concrete aspect of things rather than the unseen. The state is not competent to consider intangible causes, especially the intangible causes of nature, and consequently the politics of AGW is fundamentally misinformed of the nature of the problem, if you’ll excuse the pun.

  11. The most fundamental problem we face is the fact that all the levers of power are in the hands of psychopaths. If you want evidence of this, watch the YouTube 3-part documentary “September 11 – The New Pearl Harbor”. This video, plus David Ray Griffin’s books, will open your eyes to the brainwashing and conditioning we have all been subjected to. Orwell was so far-sighted!

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