Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

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The Home Leaving

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Chapter two -My first Adventure - Thoughts as I leave Home

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BLOG Chapter two #1


April 25 2005 ANZAC Day



“War! War! What is it good for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing!” So goes the song. So goes the truth? I don’t know. What is war? It seems a good question to ask today, ANZAC day in New Zealand, as we commemorate our “fallen warriors”, with especial focus on the those who died “nation building” as we attempted to invade far-off Turkey via the cliffs of Galipolli.


 Google links me to the Princeton University definition:



The waging of armed conflict against and enemy, “thousands of people we killed into the war”. War is conflict, between relatively large groups of people, which involves physical force inflicted by the use of arms.


Stanford University is not much more helpful:


One apt definition of war is this: war is an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities… War is a phenomenon which occurs only between political communities, defined as those entities which either are states or intend to become states (in order to allow for civil war)…. The onset of war requires a conscious commitment, and a significant mobilization, on the part of the belligerent communities in question.

These definitions do not make much sense to me. More people die from famine and disease in conflict than ever die from bullets. The fact the elite of America has this limited definition of war perhaps explains why they are so oblivious to the misery their policies inflict on billions of humans.


I widen my search. Ah there is hope in America yet. makes a lot more sense. It links me to Wikipedia and my suspicions are confirmed that it forms a far greater source of wisdom than our universities. Check the discussion out the at


“Throughout history war has been the source of serious moral questions. Although many ancient nations and some more modern ones viewed war as noble, over the sweep of history concerns about the morality of war have gradually increased. Today war is almost unanimously seen as unfortunate and morally problematic. Many now believe that wars should only be fought as a last resort. Some, known as pacifists, believe that war is inherently immoral and no war should ever be fought. This position was forcefully defended by the Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi (called "Mahatma" or "Great One".)


The negative view of war has not always been held as widely as it is today. Many thinkers, such as Heinrich von Treitschke saw war as humanity's highest activity where courage, honour, and ability were more necessary than in any other endeavour. At the outbreak of World War I the writer Thomas Mann wrote, "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" This attitude was embraced by many societies from Sparta in Ancient Greece and the ancient Romans to the fascist states of the 1930s. The defeat and repudiation of the fascist states and their militarism in the Second World War, combined with the unquestioned horror of nuclear war have contributed to the current negative view of war.


Causes of war


There is great debate over why wars happen, even when most people do not want them to. Representatives of many different academic disciplines have attempted to explain war”


Wiki goes on to illustrate the thinking in these different disciplines:


Psychological theories.

Anthropological theories.

Sociological theories.

Marxist theories.

Economic theories

Information theories.  “A popular new approach is to look at the role of information in the outbreak of wars. This theory, advanced by scholars of international relations such as Geoffrey Blainey, argues that all wars are based on a lack of information.”


That’s interesting. Recall my failed attempts, detailed in my last blog ,to widen the information base of the SCION (Science Conference) being held at Wellington College of Education this week. Recall how I waited in vain three weeks for a written response confirming SCICON's refusal to my request to give out a simple leaflet. Are such exclusive activities the cause of war? I’ll post the latest correspondence below and simply comment now that it is not important what ideals an education institution espouses. Its what it does that counts. Walking the talk is the true measure.


Back to defining war. I am not too concerned what school my views belong in. I am just happy they are part of a wider definition. My idea of war is any activity that kills, maims, starves and promotes needless disease and misery for other human beings. There is little difference between the act of firing a gun or catapulting a diseased cow carcase into a besieged castle or destroying access to food and clean water or signing the trade deal that results in the above.


I see little difference between a “Coalition peace keeper” guiding jet fighters to bomb an Afghani wedding party to ensure access to cheap oil and gas and a pacifist liberal flying above or driving a car down the highway running parallel to a half empty train. Either way the latter person is increasing the demand for “cheap oil” at least a thousand fold then by not using the train. The needless use of oil sets the seal on the warrant for the launch of the jet fighter.


Recently a Wellington City Councillor justified shaping the city around an annual V8 car race to me by saying “You have to have a sense of humour and have some fun.” I searched hard to find the humour in it and finally found it: what funny hilarious old beings we humans are to think we can set themselves above and beyond the energy flows and balances that enable life on our planet. Like old Wile.E Coyote (my all time favourite animated cartoon)  we wage war on ourselves, limping back from near oblivion again and again to try and find some other way of obliterating our latest civilisation. This time it’s an explosive oil binge.


Who knows? In the context of the wider scheme of things it might not be true war ain't good for nothing. There may be reasons beyond the existence of humans for life to exist on this planet and our wars may be way of ensuring it continues regardless of us. We run counter and ignore that greater force at our peril.


Its 2002. I start drawing Chapter two of the cartoon journey of Bonus Joules. Already I have read on the web how and why the US will invade Iraq in the third week of March 2003 to control oil trades. I still face a year of lies and deceits in our media down playing the White House plans.


I just sort of trust art to reveal the way through the cartoon journey. I haven’t a clue where I am going or how I will get there. I may get there and find I have already arrived. Maybe I will never arrive. Maybe it is all in the journey. I am well aware a journey through the  “energy world” is risky. Already I have experienced some of the greed, violence, deceit and hatred that lurks there.  My main companion (or so I think) is a cartoon character I have created. I commit myself to follow Bonus Joules wherever it takes me. Yes, wherever.


Its 2001. Things are looking real dicey. I have been working for Negawatt Resources Ltd for over a year now. The hours are often long and the work is varied. In the course of a day I may work designing an “energy efficiency advice” call centre, bashing bits off my head squeezing under low joists dragging insulation under houses, being the company receptionist and perhaps sitting till midnight with Roger Steele, the publisher, editing drafts of education resources.


Energy Action is a visionary education resource. It brings all the great environmental issues together: our understanding of energy; our need for strategies for making best use of energy; and it provides a unique focus on our impact on the atmosphere. What is breathtaking is that this is crystallised into 80 integrated lessons for primary schools and, through them, their communities. Indeed the original major funders of the resource were communities in the form of municipal and regional community-owned electricity and gas distributors. This is grass roots education at is best.


I work with some Australians to convert the resource for their conditions. In New Zealand we use valuable energy forms such as electricity more for heating. In much of Australia they are more used for cooling. Either use affects global atmospheric balances. The Government’s Climate Change Office contracts Negawatt Resources to summarize the 2000 Climate Change Impact Report for 10-12 year olds and I create two posters and teaching booklets that complement the revised Energy Action beautifully.


However it is the 21st Century now and these are hostile times for such endeavours. Grant is taking great risks with his little company. Government agencies such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and the Climate Change Office (CCO) are little more than funding streams and publicity opportunities for the large multinational corporations that now govern us. Bureaucrats and politicians concerned for the environment spend their days looking nervously over their shoulder, fixated on signals of disapproval from the corporations.


The Electricity Reforms of the 1990’s disenfranchised communities and forced them to give away control of their local electricity and gas distribution networks. A North American transnational company called TransAlta has inherited the community assets, including Energy Action.By 1998,it has formed the largest electricity retail company in New Zealand. I worked for it and witnessed the corruption that formed its edifice.  Arthur Andersen and Co and it’s shiny platoon of amoral MBAs had a remarkable ability to destroy real value. As early as 1996 I see in this a recipe for failure. I try to warn Grant but it is hard for anyone whose has not been there at its creation to believe that such a giant structure could ever collapse. At this time Enron reigns supreme too.


TransAlta bogs over the rot, flicks the lot and skips out of the country with a nice profit, thank you generous Wellington people. Australian Gas Light–Natural Gas Corporation (AGL –NGC) buys the gleaming hulk and its managers continue to pretend to an interest in sponsoring Energy Action into 2001. They stall and stall. I feel deeply for Grant as he pours his meagre reserves into the resource and yet part of me is relieved. Energy Action is about sustainable living, the antithesis of their cultures and I cannot believe they mean well for it.


Mid 2001. The whole OnEnergy structure collapses and NGC takes the opportunity to rip the rug from under Energy Action. Now primarily a gas company and owner of nearly half the main switchboards in New Zealand, it does not wish to invite unwelcome public awareness of its activities. It transfers sponsorship to our Karori Wildlife Sanctury. Associating with birds and trees poses no such risk to their core activities and the Sanctury is easy to exploit.


The loss of the promised sponsorship is devastating for Grant. He is passionate about making our communities more sustainable. He cares for his staff. He has committed his company reserves to the project. I see the writing on the wall. The new owner of much of the gutted remnants of OnEnergy is the New Zealand Government.


I watch the Government company, Meridian Energy, pour million(s) into the launch of the Lord of the Rings film. The message is writ large. This is a clear sign that the hat of the Minister of Hobbits (Its true, folks, we have one) is bigger than the hat of the man who wears it, the Minister of Energy (Its true, folks, we have such a divine being.), who is also the man who wears the hat of the Minister of Science (Its true folks and he does not understand the First Principle of Energy). If you have trouble imagining that sentence, that is a good sign. You may be blessed with some sanity.


It is clear this Government lives in a world of tax streams and corporate screams rather than one of knowledge streams and community dreams. Nothing is more apparent as I sit stalled in the broken down trains and in the traffic jams of new SUVs that clog the byways past Parliament.  I am assailed by the smell of our clean green country dissolving into a Clean Green Image. 100% Pure, of course. Pure PR Spin.


But Grant is up against something worse: The Green Party; The New Zealand Association of Environmental Educators; The Universities; The Ministry for the Environment; EECA. Slowly it is dawning on me that these institutions are the ultimate obstacles to a sustainable civilisation. These are the unwitting cannon fodder of the spin merchants of the huge corporations. Lost in a vast slog of trenches full of impossible deadlines, sporadic funding, Greenwash and public derision they fight the Good Cause and know not whom they most serve. Survival is an achievement and many a fine spirit and intellect burns out.


This is the world of NZ Education Politics I ventured into in 2000. At first I am perplexed at my reception. What history does Energy Action have that causes reaction I encounter? What on Earth can explain the reception I receive? I enter into a twilight world of mistruths, innuendo, studied dismissal, back-biting, bitterness, shifty silences, unspoken agendas and outbreaks of unexplained hostility. This is not the world of inclusiveness and love of knowledge I learned of at The Wellington College of Education. This is not the way of a sustainable society. Hmmmm.


December 2001. Even working the last three months with a pay drop of 40% cannot save my job. I am made redundant (again). I will go on the dole and carry on the work till Negwatt Resources Ltd recovers and funds come through. Both Grant and I will have to be sustained by our dreams for a long time. 


April 2005. Finally I have received a response from the Science Conference organisers.  Clearly I still have to rely on my dreams to nourish me. The letter reveals a most miserable practice of Science: it will cost me $400 if I wish to hand out a leaflet for an hour or so. Yes, the barriers Bonus Joules faces are many and various. The cartoon was prophetic.


Further correspondence re. Bonus Joules being present at the Wellington College of Education for SCICON


Tuesday, 19 April 2005 1:44 p.m.


Hi Dave
Thank you for your interest in the primary science conference.
This conference is for science educators and teachers who are interested in promoting primary science. Those attending have paid a registration fee of $250. If you wish to attend you can register in the normal way see the conference website. If you wish to promote your ideas you can become a trade sponsor. For $50 you can have a single A4 leaflet inserted in the conference bag. There will not be any opportunity for you to display a billboard unless you take out a sponsorship contract These are available  for $400. Please advise me which of the options you would like to accept. If you do not accept one of these options you will have no rights to be present at the conference venue.
I look forward to receiving your registration whether it be as trade or as educator.
Yours sincerely
Ian Milne
President NZASE
National Conference Director


Saturday, 23 April 2005 3:20 p.m.


Hi guys,
Thanks for response.
I must say I am having increasing difficulty understanding how the promotion of science and the knowledge levels of our children are served by your policies.
 Indeed I am now more able to understand why, for instance, our schools are turning out plumbers, builders, electricians etcthat have very confused understandings of basic scientific principles. I can more easily
understand why we have the most energy inefficient dwellings in the OECD, high SUV usage, an increase in CO2 emissions of 39.7% since 1990 (projected to rise by 82% by 2012) and other indicators of a failing society.

It is clear there is not category that includes people like myself ie concerned citizens who are passionate about science and do not seek to make
personal profit from it.


I have posted more thoughts on your decision on my website. Your letter did
not arrive in time to include it in my inital posting on my website. I hope
to include it in my next blog. You may be interested to read my comments at

Your letter has been included on the  SCOOP News posting of my blog

Bonus Joules Is Banned From The Welly. College Of Ed.

Thank you again for your letter, Ian.

Yours sincerely
Dave McA

Energy is Eternal Delight -William Blake.
Join the journey of Bonus Joules at
(in search of sustainable images of energy.)


Saturday, 23 April 2005 3:38 p.m.


Good Afternoon Dave
I believe you have made some rather major assumptions in your response below. I would like to talk to you at some stage. I am not really sure that you have an understanding of what the goals and aims of this conference are and of  the policies of NZASE the body promoting these conferences.
With regards your banning from Wellington College of Education you need to make it clear that you were not banned from participating in the conference. You could have registered and shared your ideas in a constructive manner or you could have registered as an exhibitor and promoted your ideas.
Be assured that you are not the only concerned citizen who is passionate about science. This conference is all about motivating young children to become informed and interested in science. It may be useful for you to visit the ministry of education assessment exemplars in science  website on TKI and look at the goals of science and the indicators stated.
Have a good day

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