NEWSTALK ZB REVIEW: Climate change is without question a defining crisis but so is compassion



I was surfing through radio stations on my cellphone a couple of weeks ago while sitting on the bus and I heard the words “climate change refugee.” I stopped on the station from which these words rang out which unfortunately happened to be radio talkback station RadioZB.

Yeah, I know: why on Earth I did not change the station as quickly as possible–simply as a measure of self-preservation–is beyond me. I knew what I would hear: a lot of people ringing in to rant with RadioZB host Danny Watson, who I quite soon enough would find out is not fond of recognizing his own cognitive dissidence, talking about a deeply complicated and human crisis from a point of ignorance and xenophobia.

I was not disappointed.

The first caller swept the defining issue of climate change aside, suggesting that human induced climate chaos will not affect anyone in our lifetimes. In other words: this caller believed anyone claiming climate change refugee status is full of shit. The caller was responding to the case of Ioane and Erika Teitiota and their children, who have been living in Aotearoa since 2007 and applied for climate change refugee status in 2011. Teitiota and his family were recently denied this refugee status by our New Zealand supreme court. Ioane was deported back to his homeland of Kiribati on the 23rd of September and Erika and his children followed a week later.

The caller declared that “the climate change refugee needs to be sent back [home].” Not once did this caller who had phoned in to speak with Danny use Ioane’s name, preferring instead to refer to him as “that climate change refugee” or “the climate change refugee.” This was an act of dehumanisation. It is easier to condemn people to suffering and hardship when we do not know their names or their stories.

I kept listening while others called in to name Ioane and his family as “overstayers” echoing the position of our current colonial National PM John Key. Journalist Morgan Godfery in a recent email to me, wrote:

“The indication from Key was pretty clear: he labelled them “overstayers” (the rhetoric is uncomfortably close to the days of the dawn raids and the stigmatising of Pacific peoples).“

Not once did Danny challenge any callers on their prejudice or stigmatising language and I am not sure why I thought he might. I guess hope makes me more optimistic than I should be at times.

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I decided to call into RadioZB for the first time ever and tell Danny and his listeners (who I swear are all old white dudes) the serious consequences and hardships that Erika, Ioane, and their children will face once deported to Kiribati. I know, it was a futile mission if ever there was one. I got on air with Danny and attempted to explain to him why the Teitiota’s should have been given climate change status. Paraphrasing from memory, I said:

In Island nations such as Kiribati which is the lowest lying country in the Pacific, ocean creep is destroying Kiribati’s groundwater supplies; the IPCC has predicted Kiribati will be devoured by rising oceans in our lifetime. In Aotearoa we have a responsibility to our Pacific neighbours to offer them climate change refugee status, and Kiribati is becoming uninhabitable. As the ocean rises, smashing over storm barriers, there is less and less land to live on so people are being forced, increasingly, into smaller and smaller living quarters. Poverty rates have exploded on Kiribati. This is no place to raise a family.

Danny disagreed, to say the least. He accused me of hyperbole and stretching the truth, telling me: “You will never win friends and influence people with that rhetoric.” If the types of friends I’d win by using a different “rhetoric” to the language of compassion I use in response to climate refugees would be people like Danny, I think I’d rather be a Nancy No Mates, thanks.

Danny even suggested we build a “climate change refugee camp” for people like the Teitiota’s. Interestingly, just last week climate activists from all over the Pacific staged a direct action outside of ANZ’s flagship bank on Queen Street, Auckland, assembling and then occupying a “future climate refugee camp.” As Pacific Scoop reported,

“The camp represented a future that the people of the Pacific are fighting hard to avoid. It aimed to highlight ANZ’s complicity in the climate crisis that puts all Pacific Island nations at risk, and to urge ANZ to divest from fossil fuels.

Pelenise Alofa of the Kiribati Climate Action Network demonstrates in front of the Queen Street branch of ANZ Bank. Photo / Alexandra Wimley


The very suggestion of a “refugee camp” as a solution for Pacific people who have been made homeless by the effects of climate change is exactly what many Pacific peoples are trying to avoid. But hey as always white dude commentator knows what’s best for indigenous people?

Danny even tried to qualify his stance on climate refugees by saying he had family/friends in Bali so they could claim “climate change refugee status because in 50 years a volcano might blow.”  This left me gobsmacked, mainly at Danny’s continued insistence on his sense of entitlement to an opinion defined by ignorance and his heartlessness.  

Unfortunately Danny’s very public views are not some aberration; his opinions on climate change are not in the minority in this country. Even as sea-levels continue to rise as the Arctic melts because the planet is warming and the dominant cause is greenhouse gas emissions, the NZ Herald reported that New Zealanders have some of the highest rates of skepticism over global warming in the world. Skeptic or not you cannot negate the mounting scientific evidence that climate change is without question the defining crisis of our life-time, but what also I learnt from Danny and his old white dude callers–other than calling ZB is a really bad idea if you want to disagree with the conservative host–is this: the lack of compassion within modern New Zealand society is also a critical issue; levels of compassion within our society seem already to be in crisis mode.  

It is important to note I started writing this political essay before the news came to light that Ioane had been served with an assault warning for pushing a female employer at his work place last year. Other employers have also come forward to report assaults by Ioane as OneNews stated last week. This assault warning was taken into consideration in relation to Ioane’s case for climate change refugee status as 3News pointed out. I have been assaulted and endlessly felt up by men at different workplaces as I work in the low-waged service industry; abuse is a daily threat I face and it is both scary and humiliating, and while it is obvious to say it should always be taken seriously by both employer and the police, they hardly ever do.

So, I ask: since when does National care about assaults against women, especially those in the workplace? Since before it slashed funding to rape crisis, or after? Since it cut all funding to the “It’s not OK!” campaign? Since John Key himself, over several months, harassed a young waitress at his local café and over and over again put his hands on her self without permission? Yeah, about that:

I guess gender-based violence and harassment of women is only taken seriously by John Key if he isn’t the one doing it, and if it serves his right-wing agenda. In this case John’s pathetic, desperate, scrabbling anti-refugee position and as Kanoa Lloyd pointed out on 3New’s “Newsworthy” if the man who perpetrated violence directed at a woman is a person of colour.  All that is actually happening here is another classic case of formalizing institutional racism.

If suddenly the National party cares so deeply about the welfare of vulnerable women why then wasn’t special consideration taken for Erika and her children? Why must they suffer for someone else’s actions? It is well established that it is women and children who are being disproportionately affected by climate change. However, the National government says nothing about this; no, not a fucking whisper. The ongoing hypocrisy of this government is breathtaking.

Journalist Taberannang Korauaba, indigenous to Kiribati, wrote for Pacific Scoop, “[Ioane] personally has no difficulty going back to Kiribati because he worked here and he can cope with life on the islands.” But there are fears for the welfare of his family once they are deported. Morgan Godfery explains these fears are not imagined; rather, they are more than real. In the NZ Herald he writes,

“If the Teitiota children are deported to Kiribati they will have to adjust to a new culture, a new environment, and even build up immunities to new diseases. They will most likely live on Tarawa, the main island, where dead bodies contaminate the freshwater lens, population density spreads disease, and ocean creep is poisoning breadfruit trees and taro plantations.”

While many living on Kiribati have labelled Ioane a “traitor” for speaking out about the conditions of the pacific nation and have accused him of “misrepresenting Kiribati” and wounding national pride as Public Address reported, there is, however, mounting evidence that Kiribati is becoming uninhabitable. This is a situation rapidly being compounded by the worst-case scenario effects of the onset of abrupt, catastrophic climate change. In his piece entitled “Exile By Another Name,” on Ioane’s plea for climate change status, investigative journalist Kenneth R. Weiss writes,

“since this case has come to light, Tarawa residents have been alarmed that 2,400 children fell ill and nine children died after picking up a rotavirus likely from sewage-contaminated water […] Other infectious diseases are taking advantage of the crowding in this island nation’s shanty towns. Tuberculosis is on the upswing. Leprosy is spreading.”

As ocean levels rise around Kiribati, those living on the islands are being forced into smaller and smaller living quarters; it is common knowledge that condensed populations can become the source for outbreaks of disease. Already on Tarawa there are 50,000 people packed into overcrowded shanty towns, and this is where Erika and her children, now, must live. As rising oceans continue to devour Kiribati, these deeply problematic and life-threatening issues are likely only to worsen.

People like Danny and other global warming skeptics believe they will not live to see the true and absolute devastation of abrupt climate change in their lifetimes, or, they at least make a “choice” not to acknowledge it. And why should he or others care about the welfare of those who will bear the brunt of human induced climate chaos? After all, he thinks that the metaphorical volcano of climate change ain’t gonna blow for at least another 50 years, give or take.

But, it is exactly this kind of irresponsible and compassion-bereft attitude–that states climate change is somehow a non-issue and a problem for our next generations to deal with, held by Danny and our politicians such as John Key–that has, in part, led to so much widespread national inaction over such a defining and earth shattering issue.



  1. A few facts to spoil your day Chloe:

    1/ The court agreed with 1ZB listeners. He was simply an over-stayer.

    2/ Pacific islands aren’t getting any smaller due to sea level changes. This has been well researched and so I suggest you read up on how coral atolls behave. (This is but one myth spread by climate alarmists.)

    3/ The population of Kiribati has more than doubled in the last 30 years and this is the real cause of their overcrowding and environmental degradation. If you wish to assist – send in contraceptives!

    • 2/ Pacific islands aren’t getting any smaller due to sea level changes. This has been well researched and so I suggest you read up on how coral atolls behave. (This is but one myth spread by climate alarmists.)

      You say it’s “been well researched”? Feel free to provide this “research” you refer to.

      Anyway, the Union of Concerned Scientists would disagree with you, Andrew.

      Global warming contributes to sea-level rise in two major ways: through melting of glaciers and ice sheets and expansion of ocean water as it warms. During the twentieth century, global mean sea level rose at an average of 0.07 inches (1.8 millimeters) per year.5 However, from 1993 to 2003 the average rate of sea-level rise increased to around 0.12 inches (3.1 millimeters) per year.6

      With most of its land only a few feet above sea level, Kiribati has already seen growing damage from storms and flooding. Some of the nation’s uninhabited islets have even vanished beneath the Pacific.7 (By the way, the numbers 5,6, and 7 are references. The kind of thing you never provide.)

      I think scientists are a tad more clued up than you, don’t you think?

      • Always appreciate your back up frank! You said:

        “I think scientists are a tad more clued up than you, don’t you think?”

        This statement pretty much sums up one of my main talking points in my writing that so often people go against science, yes they comletely deny hard facts because they want to have some bullshit uninformed opinion based on nothing more than “I think”.

        • “…yes they comletely deny hard facts because they want to have some bullshit uninformed opinion based on nothing more than “I think”. ”

          Indeed, Chloe.

          When deluded people deny the growing science behind climate change (caused by the mega-tonnes of CO2 and other greenhouse gases we dump into the atmosphere), I also invite them to step of the roof of a ten story building.

          Gravity is only a theory, after all. I want to see them deny it with practical steps. (Two steps forward, over the ledge, should do it.)

          • I used to employ minimising language around climate change three years ago until I got off my ass and started doing alot of reading and research into the issue. But to out right deny climate change means you not only deny massive amounts of scientific evidence but you also deny justice to those suffering the brutal effects of climate change.

            I really struggle to understand how high levels of arrogance have to be to tell 90% of the science community that they are wrong on climate change?

            • I guess it’s a kind of anti-intellectualism, based on massive inferiority complexes. When deniers attack scientists – who have spent decades conducting reearch; invested millions in data gathering (eg; ice core samples at Vostok and NASA satellites); and worked through the issues – it is their attempt to elevate their own ignorance above people who have achieved through their own efforts.

              Which, when you think about it, is the same argument neo-liberals use to elevate the 1% – they made their wealth by “achievements through their own efforts”. But they deny scientists the same kudos.

              Ah, the inconsistency of the Right.

    • 1/ The court agreed with 1ZB listeners. He was simply an over-stayer.

      *snort!* You’re kidding, right?!

      3/ The population of Kiribati has more than doubled in the last 30 years and this is the real cause of their overcrowding and environmental degradation. If you wish to assist – send in contraceptives!

      Aside from the childish stupidity of resorting to the old “send them contraceptives” argument , it is also not strictly correct;

      During 2015 Kiribati population is estimated to be increased by 1 305 people and reach 105 912 in the beginning of 2016. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 1 604. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be declined by 298 due to the migration reasons.

      Your argument so juvenile that it was one of the very first corrupt arguments I challenged in my 20s, as I moved from Right to Left, as it was just dumb. But more than just the dumbness of it, it illustrates that the Right (like you) are incapable of deep analysis, and simply parrot the simplest notion you can grab. It’s your way of denying the problem by blaming the victims for some perceived “character flaw”.

      Tell me, Andrew, when rising sea levels threaten our coastal towns, are you going to wag your finger at them and chide them for not using contraceptives?

      More important, will you get some guts and do it to their faces? Yeah, I’m sure you will… (note sarc)

    • Hey Chloe King here… ok so I talk with microbiologists, environmental lawyers, email journalists working in the pacific and all up work my ass off to make sure what i write is not only clear and concie but truthful. Yes Kiribati’s population IS exploding and thus so are poverty rates. However the sealevels in the pacific are rising, as every last climate scientist I spoke to told me. If you could direct me to some research that isn’t right wing spin and coporate propaganda in regards to rising sea levels, I’d really love to see it?

    • Contraceptives???

      That’s your answer to global warming and rising sea levels, Andrew? How old are you, Andrew, 16?

    • Well Andrew, that advice about contraception to address climate change was very helpful. Just as helpful as the Nigerian bloke who emailed me a few weeks ago offering me half of $50 million…

      Incredible really. Scientists and organisations like NASA spend millions on collecting data on anthropogenic climate change and scatterbrains employ all manner of self-deception to deny what is in front of us.

      Hardly surprising but. There are entire communities in the US that deny evolution and opt for something called Creation Science. Morons.

  2. +1 Brilliant writing Chloe! ( Not being a patronising ole dude! lol ). You are a keen observer of our dreary smugness, selfishness and contempt for others in need.

  3. A very thoughtful contravution again from you Chloe,

    If only the world was full of your human kindness as we used to have when I grew up during the 1950’s but today the world is full of selfish people emultating Shonkey and his ilk so we wont get far with our humanistic approaches while nthey remain in control.

    We need strong public affairs advocates such as NatZ have with their constant spinners everywqhere it seems, and until we match their MSM saturation of their selfish spin of “me first” we will wither.

    Companies that are used by US Hillary Clinton such as Podestra Group(PG) who have as their stated role (Quote)

    “We Are PG Government Relations, We are a bipartisan team of coalition builders, advocate cultivators, political navigators, issue framers and policy movers.”

    That sounds like what Labour or NZ First should have.

    The influence of powerful spin doctors is now entering the main stage everywhere and just a glace at Washington recently tells the story as there is PR powerhouse Daniel Edelman of “Edelman” the largest Lobbyist Advocacy Global Government Group now being headhunted with even Saudi Arabia who is now being engaged to clean up the Saudi Human rights tarnished image.

    The Koch Brothers are one of the most powerful influential movers in Washington & in July stole the Vice Chair of Edelman’s public affairs to go & work for them.

    “Dave Dziok, vice president for public affairs at Edelman, is leaving the firm after five years to join Koch Industries as director of communications.”

    So we need some real public affairs lobbyist to be engaged to assist the opposition to hit back at the tarnished NatZ image of careless indifference occurring here in NZ currently with your issue and the souring suicide rates that are resulting from NatZ selfishness toward the community.

  4. Hi Chloe, a very good blog, well researched (as usual!) and asking questions that really need asking.

    Human questions.

    There is no doubt that the compassion of Kiwis has largely evaporated but there is some small consolation that this seems to be a feature of those countries and cultures that have embraced neo-liberalism.

    It is a consolation because neo-liberalism is merely another “idea” and ideas come and go.

    It feels fucking permanent when you’re being ground down under its heel (I am a beneficiary so I have some expertise on that!) and all we can see is the blockheaded conservatism of muddle New Zild and the American hegemony but it is definitely impermanent.

    The only thing that might make it more permanent is a decline in opposition voices.


    As long as people like you (and to a lesser extent me and the people on this blog) keep throwing the facts back in the stupid smug faces of the Kiwi rednecks, (as you did on Talk ZB, a real Munich bierhaus of the right) they cannot claim to be established. And they hate that.

    They have all been squealing at Awstralia over the imprisonment and deportation of Kiwis in Oz, and yet they cannot see that their treatment of Ioane and Erika Teitiota and their children is just as high-handed and totally lacking in compassion.

    So we need to keep telling them.

    And take no notice of Andrew; he’s a well-known right-winger who haunts this blog in the belief that like Moses, he can convert us all and lead us to the promised land. It hasn’t worked yet and I don’t imagine it will but you know how neo-libs can get very messianic…

    So please Chloe,

    Don’t ever stop…

    Don’t ever shut up…


  5. Well written Chloe. It seems conservative right winger is a necessary job qualification at ZB nowadays.

    I had the misfortune to listen to Leighton Smith for a few minutes on Monday morning (I am in Wellington where we have a local morning host who is not quite so nutty).

    Anyway Leighton claimed, with a straight face, that POTUS Obama is a “Marxist”. What did he base this on? An audio clip he claimed to have heard (no other details supplied, age, who to etc), where Obama mentioned how the US was/is supposedly funding ISIS/ISIL. He did not back up the claim by actually PLAYING this incriminating clip. But, according to Leighton, this PROVES, beyond a shadow, that Obama is a MARXIST!

    I laughed out loud at my car radio and found myself wondering if he was going to follow that up with the other Fox Noise claims that he was born in Kenya, Mooslim, etc etc., but it was not to be. One claim a day is enough I guess.

    What a right wing cess pool that station is now. And I thought US nuttiness just belongs in the US. Guess I was wrong.

    • Yeah I always know when I accidently land on the ZB station because there is always some loud as white commentator saying horrible racist/classicist/sexist… things. Why ZB thinks it is ok to give these types of people a platform is beyond me.

    • Kia ora I have sub editors but they do miss typos, it happens. I find people who pick on spelling because they are unable to really engage in any meaningful conversation in response to what I have written.

    • Guy had to get into this conversation somewhere, especially as he counsels us that given the future we’re heading into we need to act with “compassion, courage, and creativity.”

  6. Atmospheric CO2 has just passed the seasonal minimum at about 398ppm, and with emission exceeding the photosynthetic rate during the northern winter, we are headed for around 406ppm next May (2016).

    The current atmospheric CO2 level is approximately 120ppm above pre-industrial normal (280ppm) that allowed current economic-social arrangements to develop, and is approximately 170ppm above the 800,000-year long-term average (230ppm) that fostered humanity.

    Additionally, atmospheric methane (with a global warming potential over 100 times that of carbon dioxide for time frames that matter) is now approximately 2000ppb, three times the baseline level.

    The gross geochemical imbalance that currently exists will continue to be exacerbated by continued burning of fossil fuels throughout most of the world, and the commensurate destabilisation of permafrost etc.

    Sea level rise (already gaining pace) will ‘go exponential’ over coming decades, as will the climate chaos associated with ever-higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    No government will do a thing to prevent the burgeoning catastrophe, and will actually do everything they can to accelerate the meltdown, the wants of money-lenders and corporations coming before people or a living planet every time.

    The disease that is industrial civilisation has much in common with cancer; the full effects will be witnessed after the initial ‘infection’.

    Climate change denier have much in common with those who visit a person with terminal cancer and say: “See, he’s still alive.”

  7. Over the past 400,000 years or so, each time CO2 reached 315 ish PPM, the earths environment sort of reversed and it went into ice age mode with the CO2 dropping to 220 ish, then back up again, and so on.
    Hence the Al Gore scissor lift, to reach 400 PPM
    400+ ppm CO2 in the past was the result of a climatic earth changing event, like an asteroid, or volcano, and millions of years of tectonic plate movement etc, 400 ppm was the extinction of most life.
    Humanity has done in 30 years what took 10,000 years last time, we are the disaster.

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