|Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy|
New Zealand Heroes
We meet people who inspired my creation.
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Chapter one -Formative Experiences - New Zealand Heroes of my Youth
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Blog 20 April 2005
Banned from me
old alma mater. Yes, no room on the Ship of Knowledge for me. Left
sitting in the gutter in the cold outside the warm, cosy Home of
Education. And they made it sound so wonderful: "Awe
Wonder and Interest in Science Conference
Yes, I am excited when I encounter the website advertising SCICON 2005. I imagine it: a marvelous and magical variety show of wonderful science ideas. My heart sinks though as I learn you have to be rich to attend the lectures and seminars. I am excluded from them. They are only for the rich or those who could get someone else to pay their entry fee. Then I see there are to be sideshows of display stands of resources and ideas. Even to share the smell the candy-floss and hear the barkers cry is to know the fun of the fair. I just love science. I ring the phone number on the website.
“No, I am sorry, we run a tight ship here. You cannot give out a leaflet.”
I had thought I was ringing for permission simply as a matter of courtesy. The spirit of Science is one of inclusion, openness, tolerance, reflection, sharing, collegiality and discussion. This is not what I am hearing. I will have to pay share my questions and ideas. I am bemused. It seems I am dealing with a business corporation rather than a university. I explain my background may have enabled me to bring a new perspective to education and the communication of science. I emphasise my work is a labour of love and is freely available to all. To no avail. I have to pay.
For some reason the conversation becomes very humorous. Maybe I am being humoured as a crank. For my part I find the University’s concept of educating science very funny. I ask what will happen to me if I do go to Wellington College of Education and give out a leaflet – will they call the police? More laughter. I am intrigued how far this joke goes and suggest that I am so passionate about the ideas I am prepared to go to jail for them. Still more laughter. It is a good-natured phone call but at the end I am told, “No, I am sorry, we run a tight ship here…….”
I write requesting written confirmation of the decision. Each week for three weeks I write and as I write I still have no reply. I know my ideas are radical compared to what is being taught nowadays, yet really all I am doing is promoting the use of the great scientific principles. I reiterate my concern of the impact of "userpays" on our education levels. I reassure WCE I am not going to cause a riot. I know mini-riots have occurred in some of the great science academies in the past. However I feel certain few conference delegates will see beyond the simplicity of my ideas initially. Indeed, dear reader, I am sure you can see for yourself that there is little here that should scuttle a mighty ship like the College of Education.
XX SNIP SNIP from letter
I am writing to formally ask permission to wear a small billboard and hand out pamphlets at SCICON. The key ideas I will be communicating are the following:
I am a shy person and so will not attempt any form of public speaking except personal conversations.
I am a graduate of WCE
XX close snip XX - full correspondence below.
It is very clear I live in a very different world to the creators of SCICON. Maybe they never have time to reflect? Maybe they are just out of touch? This is possible. In my time at the WCE in 1998-99 not once did I hear mention of the issues of communicating the nature of energy, energy efficiency or climate. Not once. Indeed the awareness of this vacuum helped shape my future life.
The time at WCE was a visit to a hyper-world crammed with deadlines. Always we were exhorted to be "Inclusive" and to "Reflect! Reflect! Reflect!" The latter always raised a derisory laugh from the student audience already suffering sleep deprivation and struggling to maintain their sanity in amidst a welter of teaching, assignment, family and job demands. Invariably the lecturer would be forced to smile wryly and admit” Yeah I know, its hard to get time to reflect. But that’s the theory of what makes a great teacher.”
And now, when I have made time to reflect, the college excludes me. What is going on here? Indeed the question occurs:
Could it be that SCICON = Edcon?
This thought might read a bit mean. However my experience is that this rigid control of the flow ideas by some Educrats is not uncommon. I have witnessed display stands torn down and replaced by “competing” stands, rationale posters physically removed to shut down the discussion of ideas at Government meetings, doubtful funding arrangements and I been refused to permission to observe teacher training sessions on most spurious grounds.
I guess this is the dog-eat-dog world created by commercialisation, sponsorship and the scrabble for crumbs for Environmental Education work. Of course, egos and career fears take their toll on levels of science too. It is a world that the bulk of the wonderful, devoted people who sustain our education system are probably oblivious too.
So why do I persist in such a hostile environment? Well, beautiful ideas are, well, just that – beautiful. They entrance me. They make the world dance for me. It is a joy to share them.
And I am aware of being part of a wonderful and enabling New Zealand tradition.
Listen to the stories of New Zealanders who created new frontiers to humanity’s explorations and knowledge. They explored the farthest, largest, smallest, highest, coldest and most intimate reaches of our world in their time. They revealed new worlds in the galaxies, the solar system, on Earth, in DNA, in conductivity, in evolution and in atoms. Beatrice Tinsley, William Pickering, Ed Hillary, Maurice Wilkins, Alan McDiarmid, Allan Wilson and Ernest Rutherford. In their stories you will hear the music of the creek echoing in the hills and the Milky Way of their childhoods. It speaks of a world that at once humbles and empowers. See my earlier blog.
These pioneers all share one thing in common – a New Zealand childhood. Listen to Maurice Wilkins. Nearly 80 years later he talks of how though he spent only his first six years here, those years were “living in paradise”. That childhood of opportunity and variety awakened in him a life-long love of discovery and exploration that sustained him as a scientist. I understand this. Our crystal airs magnify and amplify. As a child I would climb on a fence post, stretch high and see if I could touch the stars with my fingertip. I was not surprised I could not touch them and nor would I have been surprised if I had. Nothing was impossible and that feeling remains. Everything is at our outstretched fingertips.
New Zealand is a new land of mountains, plains, volcanoes, cliffs, coasts, winds and waves that speak of creation at work on scale. It rises out of vast oceans and skies that humble the child and exalt the spirit. A journey by train can take you on a continental trip through ten worlds in a day. The soul quakes and even quails a little before the vastness of the ocean surrounding and the mountains looming and the Milky Way depths. It is easy to feel miniscule, to be aware of our Trace Being. Humility is the only salve for such moments and those that are privileged to enjoy it are liberated to know the awe of the immensity and complexity of creation.
Maybe there is an extra ingredient. Maybe our working class ancestors transplanted some of their love of literature and science here from Dissenter Europe. This was a time when people were excited by new ideas and discovery, when knowledge of poetry and science was just part of being a “whole person”. Libraries in New Zealand were not the exclusive to the drawing rooms of the landed gentry. The birth of a town was soon followed by a municipal library, no matter how old and battered its contents.
In New Zealand we grow up knowing we live in “Godzone” or “God’s Own Country”. The term was first used to describe our country in 1890 and politicians soon used it to describe us. However the reason it resonates is because it captures the sense of privilege and possibility we have living here. It seems no coincidence that the term was first coined in a poem by Thomas Bracken, a poet who arrived here as an orphan child from Britain. And politicians in moments of conviction and eloquence spoke of how it is the duty of a country so blessed to produce young people who can go out and bring enlightenment to the world.
And they have. In every field. And people the world over speak of finding in them a fundamental humility and down-to-earth humour that enables them to transcend barriers. I know not the truth of this but sense it is probable. It takes a certain strength to ask questions that that no one else asks. It takes a certain openness for the questions to occur. It takes a certain vision to face the answers. I see how our land supports these qualities. It is what enables me to ask the questions I do.
It even enables me to dream of cartooning one day. I am a child of war; my mother is a war bride. My father met her in London when fighting in the Second World War in Europe. Even as I was born in 1947 with the sound of tuis and bellbirds in my ears I was aware of deeply ominous sounds in the background. I heard of unspeakable monstrosity and malevolence in the shocked silences and the legends and the static-choked radio waves that surrounded me. The deep shadows of an epic battle between good and bad darkened my young world and people like David Low stood out like beacons. In his cartoons I saw courage and integrity and I took intense pride in rumours he was no 3 on Hitler’s hit list.
More than this, David Low awoke in me an awareness of the power of symbols and a knowledge that cartoons can go where no other media can. They can communicate and transform in a glance. At age 21 I graduated with a degree in Psychology and the knowledge it was so flawed I could not truthfully use it. It made nonsense to me and so how could it help others? Perhaps an element of devastation sharpens our senses. I read a statement that it is chemically impossible to create an ulcer while laughing. This was radical and resonated deeply. It transformed my understanding of Psychology and Physiology. I knew why I wanted to be a cartoonist. I had not idea where to start. I have no background in art and it was to be another decade before I learned it is possible to learn to draw, by which time my life was very much family and mortgage maintenance.
I still have to learn to draw and cartoon but that does not stop me. Now as I search for ways to reveal the nature of energy in a world filled with Energy Gobbledygook I find cartoons enable me to explore the insanity of our current images of energy in a way no other media can. Welcome to the search and enjoy the Journey of Bonus Joules in search of the Knowledge Economy. In Chapter Two we set out in earnest.
Thursday, 24 March 2005 1:50 p.m.
Thanks for ringing back. I was not surprised at your response. When I was at WCE five years ago the great messages were of the need and value of reflection and inclusion. I have noticed Victoria University has considerable difficulty understanding this. This might sound a bit snaky. I write without malice. The comment is simply born of my experiences in Wellington of the impact of activities of a range of its departments on essential city infrastructure and the natural environment as well as individual's lives. Don't take anything personal. For instance so called User Pays is a mechanism forced on the Consumer Institute, BRANZ, Met office, elements education system and a wide range of Knowledge Institutions to ensure those agencies best serve key industrial sectors. Fundamentally they are designed to limit community involvement. They can be seen as a control mechanism to exclude involvement and communication between sectors of society. As the SCICON situation reveals very clearly eh.
You are not alone - recently Vic Uni charged high fees for people to even sit in on a course on the impact of Human -Induced Climate Change over the summer break. There is something really sad and desperate in that act on such a crucial issue. You would think that people would be paying enough forsaking summer activities, holidays and earnings. I attended their one free session and the lack of quality thinking exhibited by students who attended the course was both predictable and concerning. It struck me they had fundamentally been left paralysing bereft of strategies by the university
I am writing to formally ask permission to wear a small billboard and hand out pamphlets at sci con. The key ideas I will be communicating are the following
bonus joules and junk joules as a tool for communicating energy efficiency practice
An antidote to the Greenwash, PR Spin and Energy Gobbledygook that permeates the teaching of science, social studies and environmental education in our schools - this takes the form of a simple index of effective science terms and an Energy Gobbledygook register.
An alternative strategy for communicating the science of how our atmosphere works for us that does not involve the use of greenhouse symbols.
The communication of the science of insulation and best uses of air using greenhouse symbols. I.e. a resolution of the existing conflict in our schools between strategies for achieving NEECS and Kyoto objectives.
A proposal for more scientific symbols for communicating climate issues.
There is a prototype all school education programme called Energy Action 2008 that uniquely communicates the nature of energy, strategies for best uses of energy, the human element of our environment (symbol use) and climate issues.
I am a shy person and so will not attempt any form of public speaking except personal conversations.
I am a graduate of WCE
I am passionate about the ideas that come through me as I know they come from a unique perspective and may help avert an apocalyptic collapse of civilisation.
I will copy you a link I read today that expresses my views about the impact of Post Cheap Oil. My expertise is the electricity industry and the outlook globally there is even more concerning. Whereas oil/gas supply shortages may cause disruption, the risk of this is minor compared to the probable collapse of key electricity grids and the immediate collapse of fiscal credit and personal security. The article does not factor in increased risk from climate changes either.
My work is a labour of love in that I seek no remuneration and it is freely accessible to all.
The site is http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0503/S00231.htm. If accommodating this perspective makes me seem an extremist then so be it. The future can reveal the truth of that. Close reading of my website I believe reveals I am a pretty positive soul.
Thanks again for your response
Energy is Eternal Delight -William Blake.
PS will you be putting the audio and powerpoints onto discs? These are a powerful and cheap way (50cents disc and 45 cents postage ) to reach people. I mention this as agencies like the NZAEE. PCE. Massey Institute of Renewable Energy, WWF and all those agencies supposedly involved in communicating sustainable practice fail to observe this most fundamental energy efficiency practice and persist in flying around the world gutting the stratosphere etc when the same can be achieved using electronic means. Please may I ask that you record the question and answer parts of key note sessions as these often reveal the most interesting information and also indicate there may be a much wider context to the delivery.
PPS This communication may be published.
PPPS My ability to attend depends on WINZ and other factors ie I may not be able to attend.
Friday, 1 April 2005 4:49 p.m.
Just wondering how the decisions are going
Look forward to hearing from you.
Kia kaha - go strong
Thursday, 7 April 2005 4:07 p.m.
Sorry to pester you - just contacting in case I have slipped off email list as I know can happen very easily
much obliged for a response
Friday, 15 April 2005 1:14 p.m
I would be most grateful if you could confirm the WCE -Victoria University decision whether or not I am to be permitted to distribute the leaflet (see below) advising of the Bonus Joules website at Scicon. I look forward to your response. It would most helpful for all it I could have the decision by Monday.