Sitting Next To Cousin Simon


EVERY FAMILY HAS ONE. You must know the sort. One of the Baby Boom generation, who desperately wishes he wasn’t. He looks in the mirror and sees more and more grey hairs. His face, too, is changing. Sagging, folding, failing: his increasingly unfamiliar features all appear to have given up resisting the relentless tug of gravity – and old age. But, even as his body surrenders, this guy’s spirit is goaded into ever greater feats of derring-do. The man may be getting older, but the ideas he espouses grow younger with every passing year.

If you’re especially unlucky you’ll end up being seated next to this guy – let’s call him Cousin Simon – at Christmas Dinner. Some small inkling of what you’re in for comes from the weird language he speaks. He talks about all sorts of important things happening “in this space” and promises to send the “deets” to your “device”. Far from being reproached by your furrowed brow, he delights in your obvious incomprehension. The two of you may be roughly the same age, but he, at least, remains tuned to the frequency of youth.

Watching him watching the rest of the family, you just know he’s waiting for some poor sod to say something requiring his beneficent intervention. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out who it’s likely to be. Your other cousin, Murray, has been a dairy farmer all his life and has a powerful set of politically incorrect views to prove it. To make matters worse, Murray derives obvious pleasure from winding Simon up.

“You’d be disappointed with the COP26 fiasco, Simon. With the atmosphere warming up, all that hot air was probably the last thing the planet needed! But, for my money, the best story to come out of the whole conference was the news item that Royal Air Force cargo planes had to make dozens and dozens of flights between London and Glasgow to ensure that all the big-wigs had suitably flash limousines in which to travel back and forth to the conference venue. That’s quite a carbon footprint!”

Simon’s brow furrows and he lets out a long sigh.

“Those are the sort of stories climate inactivists seize upon to discredit what is actually the incredibly important work of international gatherings like COP26. It is vital, when discussing Climate Change, Murray, to keep your eyes on the Big Picture.”

Murray’s grin should have warned Simon that he was walking into an ambush.

“Ah, yes, the ‘Big Picture’, you’re so right, Simon. Keeping our eyes on the Big Picture is important. The problem, of course, is trying to locate New Zealand in the overall composition. Because, if the Big Picture of Co2 emissions covers 1,000 square centimetres of canvass, New Zealand’s share of the surface amounts to just 17 square centimetres. You’ve got to get up real close to even see our contribution to the problem. So, even if we were to paint over all our GGE sins, it would take a pretty sharp-eyed observer to even notice they’d gone.”

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Simon shook his head in that infuriating ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ way he has perfected.

“But, Murray, that’s a bit like saying there was no need for New Zealand to have participated in World War II, because our contribution to the final victory over fascism was almost too small to measure. Regardless of our size, we did the best we could – we played our part. Doing our bit in the fight against Climate Change is equally important. Even the smallest of contributions counts for something.”

Murray put down his knife and fork and snorted derisively.

“No, it doesn’t, Simon. And, your comparison with World War II just doesn’t hold water. How long do you think New Zealand would have persisted – voluntarily – if its participation in the war effort was rapidly destroying its economy, throwing tens-of-thousands of people out of work, and causing its social fabric to disintegrate? This country did bloody well out of the War. The Brits took everything we could load into a freighter’s hold. But, when fighting achieves nothing but the destruction of everything people hold dear, well, then they stop fighting. How long did the Norwegians hold out? The Belgians? The Dutch? The bloody French? The damage we would have to inflict upon ourselves to make the slightest impact on our emissions is just too great. New Zealanders won’t stand for it.”

Simon stared hard at Murray. The table fell silent.

“So, what are you saying, Murray? That we should just give up?”

Murray sighed.

“What I’m saying, Simon, is that the idea we can “do something” is just nonsense. Our entire civilisation was built with the energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels. Take away its fossil fuel and our civilisation collapses. It’s just that simple, Simon. We simply have no choice but to go on doing what we’ve always done. You shake your head? Well, think about this. Europe is suffering from an acute fuel shortage – and winter is fast approaching. Without heating oil, without natural gas, and, yes, without that terrible stuff called ‘coal’, Europeans will freeze. Do you really think their governments are going to tell them: ‘Rug-up folks! We’re fighting global warming!’ Not a chance. They’re going to keep the lights on and the central heating working – no matter what.”

Simon, was having none of it.

“That’s just bullshit, Murray! Europe has made huge strides in bringing alternative energy sources into the mix. The technology is there – it’s being used right now!”

Murray let loose another guffaw.

“Europe? North America? Australasia? Oh sure. They can play at fighting climate change because all the industrial grunt work is being done in other parts of the planet. Take a look at what powers the machines of China, India, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa – it ain’t windmills and solar panels, Simon – that’s for sure! Don’t you get it? If these ‘workshops of the world’ stop using fossil fuels, then nothing gets made. You think we’ve got ‘supply-chain’ problems now, with Covid? Just wait until another thousand Chinese factories shut down for want of the electricity generated by coal-fired power plants! And then you tell me, Simon, when those factories are no long creating profits, how are the Chinese supposed to pay for New Zealand’s Milk Powder?”

Oh boy! This was about to get just a little too hot for Christmas Day. Thank God Murray’s wife was thinking the same thing.

“Come on everybody, that’s enough politics. Your Christmas Dinner’s getting cold. Murray, why don’t you go and get Simon another glass of chilled Chardonnay. He looks like he could use one!”



  1. Oh dear, Greater Auckland will burn you at the stake for such blasphemy.

    If we all just ride bikes and catch buses, but most importantly, ride bikes, the promised land is ours. Hallelujah!

    Cos the last thing we want to do is think too hard about it!

  2. This reads like you have been testing some of the better meth the 501’s are importing? By stringing a few irrational arguments together you make it appear that nothing should change however you neglect to mention the amount of energy the big ball in the sky sends our way each day along with the ever-increasing ability to transform it to something we can use. Change is not going to be rapid or easy in all things but just as horse power & steam power have been bypassed (mostly) fossil fuels will have less of a role as time unfolds.

    • Ah-ha, Bonnie, the “technological fix”! Well, in matters of faith I, like Queen Elizabeth I, forebear from making a window into men’s (or women’s) souls.

      It does strike me, however, that putting your faith in divine intervention might offer better prospects of success than pinning all your hopes on yet more man-made machines. After all, it was the “technological fix” – steam engines, the ICE, AC electricity, nuclear energy – that got us into this mess.

      What you can bet the farm on, Bonnie, is that human-beings will go on doing what they have always done, until they can’t do it anymore, and then they will do something else.

      Sad, I know, but true.

      • I feel privileged to get a response from you. Anyone familiar with my comment history will know that I believe divine intervention will be the ultimate solution to the world’s problems so your tongue in cheek response is interesting.
        I also base my belief in the reduction in fossil fuel use on the financial prospects as well, many big companies are transitioning away from fossil fuel so I guess time will tell if the divine intervention or clean energy arrives first.

  3. Murray is correct.

    Once the Europeans are squeezed by their EU masters into energy poverty, there will be an ugly overturning of the old order.

    Ditto the USA, only with assault rifles.

    • don’t you mean their russian masters, say what you will about putin but he’s played a blinder with the gas pipelines….

      • True, but bear in mind his opponent is the bewildered Biden government so its hardly a fair fight!

        Price hikes in fuels have been solely due to the Biden government. Since ‘winning’ the election he’s banned fracking on federal land, cancelled the Keystone oil pipeline and removed Trump’s sanctions against Russia over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

        So the USA is suddenly finds itself an oil importer and the international price of oil has risen as a result with the increased oil revenue propping up Russia.

        On top of that, the completion of Nord Stream 2 allows Putin to invade Ukraine. His tanks are massing at the border and unless someone wakes up fast, we will sleepwalk into a third European war.

        • andy I think you might find the pipelines pre-date ‘joe the disappointing’

          Remember putin acts in what he perceives to be the interests of the russian people…that’s HIS job,
          now if the west plays into his hands throwing aside caution for cheap gas, that’s hardly his fault is it…no it’s the ‘realpolitik’ western leaders like to talk about but are not so crash hot at…innit?

        • Andrew: “On top of that, the completion of Nord Stream 2 allows Putin to invade Ukraine.”

          As I understand the situation, the Nordstream2 pipeline bypasses the Ukraine (to that government’s annoyance, I believe). I’m not sure how that would allow Putin to invade, even were it likely, which it isn’t. What would be the point?

          We have extended family in that part of the world. Citizens there – especially the older ones – know full well the devastation which accompanies a military invasion. Americans are, of course, blissfully unaware of this, so they’ll provoke and provoke, with callous disregard for the affected citizens. Russian military is deployed near the border precisely because of provocation from the US, via NATO. But they haven’t forgotten the past: I think it was Stalin who said “Never again on Russian soil”.

          Putin will do everything possible to avoid an invasion of Russia, hence the troops near the border.

          It’s important to remember that the Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO. Not that that inconvenient fact stops the US from both having some troops there, and using Kiev as a tool for the provocation of Russia.

          Note the latest provocation a few days ago: the sailing of a Ukrainian navy ship toward Russian waters in the Black Sea. The Ukraine blinked first. Of course….

  4. Xmas lunches can be battlegrounds alright. We all have the choice whether to ignore the bores or deflect to other topics and guests, or engage with them. If I, very rarely, decide to engage I take no prisoners if some bumpkin fancies their chances. One of my extended group runs a rural “Fert” spreading business with a small fleet of 5 trucks merrily scattering who knows how much nitrogen into the countryside and ultimately waterways of Northland.

    We have a few shared interests and get on well enough, but if talk turns to Nashnull or how bright farmers halos are–I make sure to be prepared with some facts and latest arguments on where agriculture is heading. Reckons can be knocked down some times.

    The Murrays are often alpha males who cannot countenance the to and fro of genuine debate–“my way or the highway” types. Chris scenario really is just an extended version of “Greenies should swim to international meetings not fly”. Looking for minuscule contradictions while the planet burns and action is urgently needed.

    • Tiger Mountain: “Xmas lunches can be battlegrounds alright.”

      I grew up in a very large, Irish Catholic family: my late father was the youngest of 14. And, of course, politics was the heart and soul of that family: they all had opinions.

      My late mother told me that my grandmother liked nothing better than to have them around the dinner table, all shouting at each other. She would preside over dinner (or lunch),sitting at the head of the table and smiling beatifically as they argued, nobody listening to anybody else. Heh! I often wish that I’d been born earlier, and that I could have witnessed it.

      No talk of climate change in those days, but if it had been a topic for debate back then, they’d have had varying opinions on it, to be sure.

  5. Hard to know who’s side comrade Trotter is on sometimes.
    I always agree with you TM re the old guard protecting their looting and polluting, not wanting to change and the younger generations don’t matter, their continued wealth is the master of them.
    Climate change will not be addressed until this huge voting block diminishes with time. Time that the planet can ill afford, but hey, let’s just make some more money!

    • “Hard to know whose side comrade Trotter is on” ? or could it be that CT refuses to wear a political straight jacket and is capable of independent thought? Heaven forbid!

  6. You have been captured by the American – billionaire paid professional liars. You are just parroting their latest message – “sure the climate, m’kay, but really, we can’t do anything and we can’t replace fossil fuels”.

    Please read this blog Chris:

    There you’ll find many articles from actual researchers and policy makers who understand this shit. We can replace all fossil fuels over time with renewables. Most of it isn’t that hard and can be done in under 10 years, with the hardest being long distance shipping and air travel, but there are feasible pathways there.

    Something your generation doesn’t seem to get is we don’t need massive coal/nuclear plants powering everything. Shifting to electric propulsion removes at least 2/3 of energy demand, because that demand is currently wasted in heat and noise when burning fuels and moving physical fuels around.

    There is ample evidence we can shift to an electric/renewable world. We don’t need this snide denialist arguments paid for by American scum liars, blinding well meaning people like you to reality.

  7. I believe Chris is very much for change but his knowledge of history and our human nature leads to him to writing this blog. I believe we are and will change. I completely agree that the looting and polluting will continue but larger perpetrators will change in a relatively quick time. Might take ten years or longer. Those who say we haven’t got that time will be disappointed. The reality is, if everything was put right now, we still won’t stop the weather getting worse or the ice melting. In my opinion it can’t be stopped, it’s happening. The good part is that we are now trying to reverse it. If it works, generations to come have a future. If not they don’t. We all still have to try and exist in the present. Like Chris says if that requires burning coal that’s what will happen and those in the northern hemisphere will be warm for this Xmas at least. Meanwhile we’re watching for a possible cyclone hit next week.

  8. Brilliant and prescient, although I suspect we will somehow muddle through this crisis. What is often missing in these debates is that in a finite world the huge amounts of money being spent around the developed world on mitigating climate change could often be better spent else where. Think $8M for a km of cycleway in Auckland vs $8M for protecting victims of domestic violence at a local womans refuge. What people also often fail to register is that around 70% of emissions are now in the undeveloped world (inc. China/India) and we in the developed world can knash our teeth as much as we want to but they will want to keep on ‘developing’. As we abandon cars for bikes they will be desperately wanting to trade up from bikes to cars.

  9. There seems to still be a lot of modern denialists parroting lies paid for by US billionaires and the fossil fuel industry, convinced renewables can never work and we must keep burning coal etc.

    Sorry, you are wrong.

    Jacobson has done sterling work showing we can run a 100% renewable grid.

    Stop parroting lies and actually read what’s going on and what’s possible. Just look at South Australia – in the face of opposition from stupid fascist Nats/Liberals they are almost at 100% renewable generation now.

    The world has moved on, and you denialists haven’t. You are just parroting lies spread by billionaires who want you kept uninformed and helpless so they can make more $$$:

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