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Haere Ra: Goodbye


It is with considerable sadness that we announce this website now to be 'read only', for archive purposes, and will no longer be updated. Internal links will continue to operate, but over time, links to outside material will cease to function.


Dame Anne Salmond
Waitangi Day

the futureIn this Waitangi interview Dame Anne Salmond shares her childhood experiences that helped her to choose Anthropology at university so she could explore the Maori world in depth.  She shares her joy and excitement of what she has learnt in now being able to see the world from the perspectives of two great traditions. She recounts her unique experience of being part of Aoteaora New Zealand society as we learn to draw on the riches of both of our heritages and use the common ground between to find new ways to create a prosperous future for all New Zealanders in these very special islands.  We need to embrace the opportunities of our bicultural heritage with open arms rather than with angst and anxiety. 

Yvonne Curtis.


The world is reshaping: where do we fit?

Colin James 8 January 2013

the futureWe are more than five years on from the global financial crash. Economists and politicians talk still of "recovery", implying a return to a former state. Actually the global economy has been reshaping, along with global society and politics. We are not going back.

The short focus politicians, bank economists and central bankers favour is on the United States fiscal tangle and Eurozone debt. "Expert" forecasts for 2013 swing from expecting things to come right to apocalypse.

But whatever 2013 brings, the trek out of the mud the rich North Atlantic economies fell into in 2007 will be long. The Bank of International Settlements estimated last June that for rich countries' governments to get back to their average debt-to-GDP levels of 2007 they would have to run fiscal surpluses (net of interest payments) of 2 per cent for 20 years.

That would be a huge turnround from the past 20 years' deficits (New Zealand and Australia are partial exceptions). It would require big social and policy changes which can only partly be muted by modern technologies' massive expansion of available petroleum supplies, even in gas-rich United States.

And that comes on top of serious strain. For example median United States household income fluctuated around $US55,000 (in October 2012 dollars) for some years up to 2009, then plunged to fluctuating around $US51,000. That is a big financial shock. It has translated into volatile politics, only temporarily soothed by Barack Obama's re-election and pushback against the Tea Party. And deep-seated fiscal problems remain.

In Europe there is strain in France and serious strain in Italy, both too big to rescue. So far muddle-through (a skill imported from out-of-zone Britain) has worked, may go on working and in due course cement a more unified Eurozone and even Europe. But that is a long project. And facture cannot yet be ruled out. (One sideshow: Britain is mulling a referendum on European Union membership. Scotland is mulling one on whether to stay in Britain.)

Meanwhile central banks, pursuing "recovery", have gone delinquent from their duty of financial propriety. The latest to join in "quantitative easing" is the Bank of Japan under heavy pressure from the new government.

The saver for Australia and New Zealand is China, plus other rising east Asian economies. But is China stable?

This decade the new leaders will be tested by the expanding middle class expecting some freedoms (for example, on the internet which China fearfully controls, for now), by a working class demanding better wages, conditions and social support, by endemic corruption and by chronic pollution.

There is a real risk of military tension with Japan and some south-east Asian countries -- all allies of the United States, itself "re-engaged" (hence its much greater interest in New Zealand) but now on the long, winding, potholed road from undisputed top dog to first among equals, a route history says is seldom travelled in peace.

So the first stress tests of our still (just) independent foreign policy may come this decade. And, since Murray McCully (backed by John Key) has damaged our foreign ministry, we may not be equipped to navigate such turbulent and uncharted waters.

And is China's economy stable? Its mix of state and capitalism has worked so far. Maybe the technocrats will manage the adjustment without major disruption. But that will need proactive reforms: the new leadership is by reputation more reactive than proactive.

Three huge economic challenges loom over China. One is water (at home) and raw materials (from abroad), without which agriculture and industry can't go on expanding. Hence China's intensifying interest in our water, fossil fuels and minerals. How will we manage that interest? Just saying no won't work.

China's second economic challenge is demographic. The one-child policy of recent decades will bite in the 2020s.

Its third challenge is the changing nature of work due to rapid technological change and global rebalancing.

Some United States firms -- most recently Apple -- are bringing some production back home. New levels of computerisation and robotisation and cutting-edge technologies such as 3D are making some rich-country manufacturing competitive again.

But the new manufacturing doesn't need so many workers, as the United States is finding. How will that affect China?

Right now the global economy is going through rapid organic change. A very loose parallel is the transition from small local economies to national economies driven by the industrial revolution. But then there were national governments able to set national rules. Now global institutions are fragile and early-stage.

The frenzy of plurilateral (such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and bilateral trade talks are in effect behind-the-play. They are imperfect institutional catchups trailing the global re-formation.
This 2010s world is exciting and unnerving. It is not in "recovery" to a familiar past. Hang tight.


The Future State Project

Derek Gill, Stephanie Pride, Helen Gilbert, Richard Norman and Alec Mladenovic.

" While New Zealand was well served by its public management system in the latter part of the 20th century, the evidence suggests that the system is less well designed for the challenges of the 21st century." 

Read the full report here


It’s the end of the world we’ve known since WWII

by Fabius Maximus

Summary:  This is an updated status report about the end of the post-WWII world.  The global recession has accelerated the transition, revealing the current order’s weaknesses, and showing the people in the emerging nations that they have outgrown it.  The major nations continue to defend the current systems, a futile effort wasting time and resources that could be better spent adjusting to the new world now evolving.  This post updates previous posts in this series; links appear at the end.

See the full article Here


All Change: Destination Not Yet Known

Colin James

Greece is insolvent and voting whether to stay in the eurozone or not as its economy implodes.
Spain has unemployment of 24% overall and 51% for young people. Ireland's
gross domestic product is 11% below its peak. Japan is flat for the 22nd year running.
The United States' "recovery" is either elusive or illusory, still not generating more jobs
than the growth in working age numbers. There is some commentary which draws a parallel
between current conditions in Europe and the 1931-32 banking collapses in the
United States which tipped a deep recession into a world depression.

Read the rest of the article here


Emergency Action Plan for New Zealanders (and others)

New Zealand Fleeing Vesuvius Project Team

We believe that New Zealand, like all other countries, is about to enter a period of extended crisis. The severity and timing of the events that will unfold are uncertain, but the likelihood of major change is increasingly hard to refute.

Because the possible drivers of change are multiple and interconnected — including global warming, resource scarcity and economic collapse — it is not easy to plot a course that will completely protect us from the effects. There will be many surprises. But the combined effect of the ways we each respond will determine the quality of life we can expect. Maintaining our current behaviour is asking for trouble. It will be no use leaving things for the government to fix. Nor will individual survivalism get us far.

We believe it vital that we learn to respect and nurture living beings — including one another — and the world that sustains our life. How well we appreciate the importance of working for the common good will be most clearly reflected in the economic policies we apply. Acknowledging the possible sources of change and consciously preparing for it together will help us make life-enhancing choices.

Full article - it's worth reading: here


Energy and Money

Mike Gould

Making sense of today’s rising prices, European money crises, and general world turmoil, is hard work. On-going comment by experienced future-watchers suggests strongly, that to make sense out of it all requires a basic understanding of how depleting oil is interacting with the world's monetary system.

Many people (and you might be one of them) are still sceptical as to whether there is a depleting oil problem. If you are in this camp, read this recent article by Gail Tverberg detailing the latest state-of play. It's no-nonsense, up-to-date, well referenced hard data, and well explained by one of the most respected commentators today.  The main point made is that in spite of all the money poured into making 'oil', out of gas, methanol etc. the total amount produced over the last 6-7 years has plateaued, due to depleting fields of conventional oil in most oil-producing countries. The balance of probability is that for the forseeable future, there is going to be a static or (most likely) a reducing supply of energy available on a world-wide basis.

In the financial field, since the 2008 financial crash, economic, business and political commentators, worldwide, keep repeatedly telling us that 'the cycle' is due to turn back to 'growth'. Equally repeatedly, they have proven by time to have been wrong. The reason is that they are not taking into account (or possibly not wishing to take into account) how depleting conventional crude oil in particular is affecting the very system we use for creating money; the fractional reserve banking system. Not understanding how our money-creation system cannot work without continuing economic growth, and not linking this reality with the reality of depleting oil which ensures total world economic activity cannot grow, is the basis of the unfounded optimism about "returning to growth". Confused? You're probably in good company if you are.

Don’t be put off by thinking the monetary system is too hard to tackle. It isn’t, just too often made to appear so. There are a number of excellent books on the subject. My favourite is by John Kenneth Galbraith – “Money, whence it came, where it went” It’s a little old now, but amusing to read, as well as being insightful. A search around the Amazon website gives further wide choice of more up-to-date material.

If we want to try and make sense of rising prices and the financial and world turmoil generally, we have to do our basic homework on these two issues, and resist the shallow, muddled comment, often passed off as insightful truth in much of the media. We have to look for stuff that is based on factual hard data, and/or produced by unbiased, respected commentators. A basic understanding of these two issues and how they interact with each other, allows us to better understand why, when all the monthly bills have been paid, our bank balance isn’t as high as it used to be. Better still, it helps point the way to a few things we might do to make the future a better place for us than it otherwise might be. We'll discuss some of these in later postings.  In the meantime, good luck with your reading. 


Environmental and Other Brands -- and John Allen

Colin James

Last week Climate Change Ambassador Jo Tyndall briefed "stakeholders" on the global negotiations, in which New Zealand has an outsize role. Her briefing was clear, on both knowns and unknowns. That says two things about John Allen's reconstruction of his ministry.

The first is the value of specialist topic expertise, long a marker of New Zealand's international affairs brand in a number of fields. Allen wants to match that with deeper expertise in countries and regions; generic diplomatic skills are to be an underpinning, not the quintessence of the foreign service.

Tyndall's little team, which includes specialist officials from the Environment and Primary Industry Ministries, has skill and depth.

At the Durban summit in December Tyndall's predecessor, Adrian Macey, chaired the intensely difficult Kyoto Protocol track to a resolution which had looked out of reach. The forestry team got much of this country's special needs. Former trade negotiations expert Tim Groser was pivotal in unblocking the standoff between "developed" Kyoto countries and the rest.

The second thing Tyndall's briefing said about Allen's reconstruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is that if it damages morale too much, if there is too little buy-in and if too many more top people leave, that will undermine that international affairs brand of outsize performance as honest broker and with that our economic prospects. The two are linked.

Bothering about climate change, too, is about brand -- reputation in consumer markets. The words "New Zealand" on a product or service need to evoke some version of "fresh/safe/natural" if food and fibre are to play a strong part in keeping up living standards.

Giant global food processing and retailing firms see it that way. They want to own a fresh/safe/natural brand in Asia.

For national policy that implies treating ecosystems as part of the economic infrastructure, which logically farmers (for example) would maintain, not treat as someone else's business. In polite, careful language, that is part of the message from the natural resources state agencies cluster's post-election briefing to ministers.

There is some reason to think that message is starting to seep through to ministers. John Key is to launch National's Bluegreens' next policy paper at their hui on Saturday. Nick Smith says unfluffy Steven Joyce will join him to respond to the green growth advisory group's report. (Bill English joined Smith to launch it a year ago.)
This report is not likely to stampede green voters to National, which is nervous at how many of those who voted for National candidates in November party-voted Green. The thrust, as developed last year under Business New Zealand's Phil O'Reilly, is "greening GDP growth" (with multi-dimensional monitoring and environmental accounting of exports), not promoting altogether-new forms of economic development.

But that small step is nonetheless a step away from Key's habitual formula: that a bit more environment is a bit less economy and vice-versa -- the environment or the economy. Keeping the fresh/safe/natural brand implies talking of the two as mutually supportive: the environment and the economy.

This is one of the places where international and domestic policy meet and merge. Another is trade, which ministers too often think can be done without tending the whole of each bilateral relationship with the full range of specialist foreign service skills.

Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf underlined this linkage in a speech last June: to be prosperous in the modern "global village", domestic policy must have internationally competitive settings.

International has become the new domestic.

Domestic agencies are not separate from foreign policy (particularly the Treasury which, despite Makhlouf and to MFAT's frustration, has sent junior staff to joint meetings). The foreign service is not separate from domestic policy.

Allen's real challenge is not just to reorganise to get Austerity Bill's "more with less": for example, better use of modern technology, fewer routine reports from posts, folding into "hubs" more embassies in lower-priority countries, a flatter management structure and handling from Wellington run-of-the-mill support for citizens abroad -- most of which equals "cuts" in the public mind.

Allen's real challenge is get better "outcomes", in line with the real thrust of English's "better public services" drive. That means ensuring that the greater focus on regional expertise does not undermine broader skills and that his efficiencies don't devalue critically important personal connections (Groser's specialty) while at the same time making more porous the border between domestic and international policy.
And Allen must also keep delivering that outsize performance in global forums that is integral to the country brand abroad and invisibly benefits the "commercial" and all of us -- and which (here's the risk) can slip away without us knowing until too late.

The Future Report

This report from the UK makes for thought-provoking reading.  While some of the forecasts are based on a continuation of current trend-lines (always a suspect way of looking at the future), it nevertheless raises some interesting ideas of what might happen over the next decade or so.


e-Future Times

ISSN 2253-2668

journalistse-Future Times is a collection of articles allied to those printed in the hard-copy version Future Times but for which there is no space available. The latest edition, Volume 17, November 2011, is here. We are working on making previous issues available in the near future and these, together with future issues, will be able to be viewed at the new menu item “e-Future Times”.

Hard copies of the articles are also available from the NZFT office.


The Black Market

signThe 'unofficial economy', the black market; is it something likely to get bigger if times get tougher?  If so, what will it mean?  It's not something we'd usually dwell on, but here's what the influential 'Foreign Policy' magazine has to say on the subject.


UK Foresight Group Report

the futureThe UK’s Foresight Programme brings together key people, knowledge and ideas. The programme looks beyond normal planning horizons to identify opportunities that could arise from new science and technologies and explores the actions that could be taken to help to realise those opportunities.

You can read their interesting new report, just released, here.


Future of the Book

journalists"Writers, artists, and public intellectuals are nearing some sort of precipice: Their audiences increasingly expect digital content to be free."  Does this ring a bell with you?  If so, you might like to read the full article


New Zealand Educational Theses (NZET) database

computersThe New Zealand Council for Educational Research has shown the way by creating a website containing educational theses from New Zealand universities.

"Historically, it has been difficult to access information about education theses because they are held in individual tertiary institutions. Many theses focus on New Zealand education but are held in the overseas universities that provided doctoral supervision. Through creating access to a national database of New Zealand education theses the Iterative BES Programme is seeking to support cumulative knowledge building and collaboration in educational research in order to strengthen policy and practice in New Zealand education".

Congratulations NZCER, for blazing an important trail for (hopefully) others to follow.  Wouldn't it be a marvellous thing if a full set of free teaching plans and other shared resources for the NZ school curriculum were to be also available on-line?


Chris Skrebowski on Oil & Money

peak oil imageIf the on-going financial malaise seems confusing, you might like to read this article by Chris Skrebowski.  He explains the linkage beween the two vexed issues of the day; peak oil and money, and what we might reasonably expect over the next few years. The article is backed up by verifiable data, which makes it compelling reading. 


Extreme Weather- What’s Behind It All?

Jennifer Coote

arctic iceNew Zealand papers around 15 July 2011, were highlighting warnings from public presentations by New Zealand scientist Kevin Trenberth, head of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. He linked recent extreme weather events such as the heatwave in Russia, excessive rains in Queensland, heavy flooding in the Mississippi Valley, USA, high force hurricanes in the Caribbean and the flooding of the Indus river in Pakistan to increased global temperatures, which indicate a new climate pattern.

 His research team started from studies for the reasons for the Russian heatwave, and found a consistent linkage with all these other extreme events. There has been globally, over the past three decades, a steady and significant rise in temperatures, even adjusted for natural variability. Over the past decade this has risen sharply, again allowing for natural variability, and indicates a sharp shift in global climate for the longer term. It has marked effects on oceanic temperatures of about 0.55 degrees Celcius. Warm waters hold far more water vapour, about 5%, which means that when the clouds above rain, they deluge. This in turn intensifies the power of storms from the oceans, especially hurricanes, as well as intensifying the Pacific Ocean climate systems of La Nina and El Nino.

Over land, higher temperatures strengthen water retention in systems such as the South Asian Monsoon, which has greater attraction for water vapour in adjacent regions. The disastrous Russian drought and heatwave was the result of this drawing-off of moisture to the monsoon system in South Asia. Drought in parts of Australia could also be linked to the moisture draw-off to “the rains “ in Queensland. Similar patterns are observable in North and South America.


What has previously been acceptable in local government planning for once in 50 or 100 year extreme weather events, now needs to be revised. Such emergencies are likely to occur far more frequently, in greater intensity. Planning and civil defence organisations need to be prepared.

 From Report, Page A1 Dominion Post 15 July and Public lecture by Dr K. Trenberth, Wellington, 15 July.


How enterprise can flourish without growth-fixation

by Jules Peck


signA number of people have asked me what a flourishing enterprise might look like in practice, how they would incorporate change into their business and get shareholder backing. In this blog I will try to answer those questions.

Within the flourishing enterprise model of strategic change there are three key areas of value-creation; market changes, innovation and capabilities for flourishing. All three are critical and no company can flourish without real effort in each domain, and none can be done by a company on their own. A great deal of innovation is required within companies, much of which needs to be open and collaborative. Aristotle said that no individual could flourish without being an active participant in the flourishing of society and community, no company can succeed without being an active participant in societal and market changes.

Read more...


New wind blowing:
American decline becomes the new conventional wisdom

 By Clyde Prestowitz

the futureIf this is the view in the US, what does it mean for we New Zealnders?

Read the full article here


Joining the Dots

the futureEvery now and again an article appears that captures the essence of where we are in the world. In this article', David Korowicz, Feasta, The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, creates a mosaic by joining the dots of some major drivers of change in a way that is very believable.  The article is well worth reading.


A World to Big to Fail


the future


A fascinating insight into American foreign policy and how it works, and what it might mean for the future. This piece is written by a person in a highly respected position in the US, which makes it even mofre interesting.



Civil Service Reorganisation


Reduced government expenditure is impacting on government departments in many countries.  This Youtube video is a presentation given by Martin Donnelly, a UK senior public servant, who recently visited New Zealand, on his experiences in restructuring.



“Up-skilling or De-Skilling?”

This is the presentation that the late Graham Butler gave as one of four panellists to a NZFT Lunchtime Seminar on 7 November, 1991. (See Future Times 2012 Volume 4 p4).  At the time, New Zealand was going through an economic depressive period following the economic reforms of the 1980's.  We are now in a similar periiod as the realities of the limits of growth begin to bite deeper, and Graham Butler's thoughts are once more very relevant.


New Zealand society is poised to pass rapidly through the post-industrial (service) era to the post- service era, with further large changes in societal structure.

We have some major cultural decisions to make – it is important that they are recognised to be cultural rather than economic, and that they are made by the electorate, through the ballot box.

We will devise our own unique South Pacific mix of the Business-as-Usual, HE (super-industrial) and SHE (Sane, Humane and Ecological) scenarios.

This mix will inevitably give strong emphasis to lifelong education and learning.

The term “de-skilling” refers in part or in whole to the disappearance of jobs as a result of IT automated procedures etc., and there is no doubt that the transition from post-industrial phase to post-service phase will lead to this.

This emphasises the value of the SHE scenario approach to the individual organisation of one’s own work and leisure activity. The concept of own-work provides a bridge between traditional employment and leisure, which, coupled with lifelong education, will be beneficial to individuals and society.

Read the full presentation

e-Future Times

ISSN 2253-2668

Index – Volume 20 December 2012

Dr Graham Butler joined the NZFT when he retired as Director General of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in 1984 and contributed to the work of the NZFT as a Board member and researcher until his death in 2007.



The First Sir Paul Reeves Memorial Lecture

 by Dame Anne Salmond.

(The editors of this website regard Dame Anne's lecture as being one of the foremost perceptions of New Zealand and its future to emerge in at least the last decade)

Anne Salmond, academic historian and author, pictured in the library of her Stanley Point home. Photo / Sarah Ivey Anne Salmond, academic historian and author, pictured in the library of her Stanley Point home. Photo / Sarah Ivey

In this first Sir Paul Reeves Memorial Lecture, I wish to honour a great New Zealander. Thoughtful, robust and astute, Sir Paul lived a passionate life, inspired by a quest for the shared good and the common ground, and a deep and abiding sense of justice.

Read more...


A Bolt From the Blue

by Joanna Spratt

In my recent NZADDs Working Paper – ‘A Bolt from the Blue’[pdf] – I analyse the two major changes made in 2009 to the New Zealand government aid programme: the removal of NZAID as a Semi-Automous Body, and a change in policy focus from poverty elimination to economic development and growth. These changes dismantled New Zealand aid mechanisms and policies that promoted poverty elimination in developing countries, transparency and accountability.

See the rest of the article Here


New Currencies

The slow, chaotic demise of the international currency system  is prompting new ideas on how money could be created and distributed.  The latest e-future times contains an article by Diedre Kent, a well- known proponent of local currencies.  It makes for interresting reading.


The Future of Universities

If you're interested in the future of higher education, you will get food for thought from this article.  It's mainly about how on-line education is gaining traction in the US (and elsewhere), plus opinion on why this might be happenig and some of the possible ramifications .


Running on Empty, Element-wise

 Neil Curtis*

The media often has scare stories about problems, which will arise when we “run out of” something or other. Some things, which are present in finite amounts, such as coal, oil or natural gas, will eventually become exhausted as we “use them up”. Chemical elements, in contrast, cannot be “used up”, only “redistributed”.

 The elements that comprise our earth were formed during the violent deaths of heavy, early generation stars. Their debris was swept up into a gas cloud from which the solar system was formed. The inner “rocky” planets were largely stripped of lighter elements by radiation from the sun. The final composition of the earth was settled after the imbroglio that created the moon left the current earth as a molten mass. This differentiated into a metallic core (largely iron/nickel), most of the remainder as a dense silicacous mineral mantle, while the rejected lighter slag formed the continental crust which is the only portion of earth we can currently access. Most of the heavier metallic elements are down in the mantle or core and surface rocks are largely deficient in these.

The scarcity of heavier elements in the crust is both a good and a bad thing. Soil derived from occasional extrusions of the mantle (ophiolites) such as mineral-rich Dun Mountain near Nelson, are generally toxic to most plants, so would not form a useful basis for agriculture. On the other hand, many of the elements we would find very useful are rare in the crust, because they are mainly down in the core or mantle.

Most elements are widely scattered in very low concentrations in crustal rocks. The continual reworking of crustal rocks by geological processes leads to the concentration of elements in minerals with higher concentrations of particular elements, which we refer to as ore bodies. These are mined, and the elements recovered, starting with the easiest to recover and work. As the easiest sources are used up, miners move on to the next, generally more expensive to utilize, and the price of the element rises. As the “best” sources of any particular element become exhausted other, poorer, sources will be found, prices will rise and alternatives devised. A new balance will be set, with the element becoming restricted to the uses for which it is most valuable, in a continually escalating process.

 The rare-earth elements are often in the news as a diversity of new uses for them are devised and they are often critical for the latest solid-state technologies. For examples neodinium and dysprosium are necessary for the strong magnets needed for the electric motors required for electric cars and computer hard drives (also lanthium and cerium used in electrodes for their nickel metal hydride rechargeable batteries), erbium for the optical fibres used for the world wide web, europium for the blue-red phosphors and terbium for the yellow-green phosphors which combine to produce acceptable light from compact fluorescent lamps. The fourteen “rare-earth” elements generally aren’t very rare in the crust, but are widely dispersed, so there are few economically viable mineral deposits. Most currently known ones are in China, and the Chinese are sometimes accused of attempting to monopolize the world’s current dwindling supply.

In summary, we cannot “run out of” any element, we can only scatter it about and make it less accessible. There will always be a lower grade ore available, somewhere, which becomes viable when the price reaches a “break-even” point. In the long-term, geological processes are creating new ore bodies; but there is a problem connecting the “Market” microsecond trading cycle with the million year geological cycle, since markets generally discount future shortages. Meanwhile, we can slow the steadily rising prices by using the least accessible elements more frugally and by facilitating their recovery and re-use.

There is one exception to all this, the gas helium. This is formed by the nuclear decay of uranium and thorium throughout the mantle. It is generally trapped in the source rocks, but some gradually works its way out towards the surface. Sometimes this finds its way into natural gas pockets in the crust, and is present in the natural gas extracted from some gas fields, notably in the USA and Russia. Helium has been regarded as a nuisance by the gas companies, and is generally vented to the atmosphere, where it slowly percolates to the top and is lost to space. Some is recovered from the gas, and used for filling blimps, party balloons and such like. However, helium has an essential technical use, for which there is no alternative. This is as a low temperature refrigerant, used, for example, to cool superconducting magnets used in medical magnetic resonance imaging equipment. When those gas fields are exhausted, there will be no more helium available, and no known alternative source.

 Abundance of elements in Earth's crust

 *Neil F. Curtis
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences,
Victoria University of Wellington,
P. O. Box 600, Wellington 6140,
Phone 04 463 6514.


Local Economies for a Global Future

by Jason F. McLennan

This article is about a simple, singular idea, yet the significance of the idea to modern society is profound and far-reaching. Here it is: In the near future anything heavy will become intensely local while at the same time the limits to things that are ‘light’, ideas, philosophies, information will travel even further than today—literally and figuratively. This is a new paradigm for humanity and it has huge implications for the complete reordering of society.

Environmentalists, economists, and sociologists agree: we are in an incredible state of flux, and this is simply the beginning. The planet is undergoing massive change and critical resources are diminishing, conditions to which the human race must respond. Population growth, resource scarcity and climate change will propel us, whether we like it or not, toward a new energy, food and resource paradigm. The world’s economies, based on cheap plentiful energy and the exploitation of people and the environment are starting to crumble. We are beginning an era in which the cozy assumptions of the last half-century are turned upside down, a time when the institutions and technologies that run our civilization are re-engineered. To understand how radical this new paradigm will be, let’s explore similar re-orderings in the past.

Read more...


The new term: Time for Strategic Policy

Colin James

"Some other strategic issues: modernising tertiary education so cross-boundary rigidities biodegrade; reframing environment and economic policies as mutually reinforcing, not as alternatives; settling employment relations law so it isn't get reworked with every change of government; doing the bits of tax reform Bill English left out; working out for the rest of the country the logic of the Auckland local body reorganisation.

It was a busy government in 2008-11, mostly focused on near-term need. The challenge for this term's busy government will be to focus on the 2020s"
See the full article here.



2005 - 2011

Eddie Robertson

the futureYouth unemployment has been much in the national and international news in recent times, as an increasing number of people realise how this issue is likely to impact on our futures.  This solidly researched statistical review by Eddie Robertson, a longstanding active member of the NZ Futures Trust, outlines how the situation has developed in NZ over the last few years.  It's a 'must read' if you're in the business of developing NZ social policies for our future, and a thought-provoking read for every other New Zealander.


New Zealand and Asia

the future"Managing the security of this country’s sovereign territory, its people and its interests abroad has required significant expenditure of effort, time and resources in the past. It will continue to do so in future."

Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Studies has just published a report, from whence the above quote has been copied.  The full report can be viewed on their website.  It's worth looking at.


Mapping our Future
Sir Paul Callaghan -- StrategyNZ

the futureThis Youtube video is worth looking at.  Some conventional myths about New Zealand are debunked and Sir Paul outlines a new way of thinking about our future.



Sir Ken Robinson on Education

the future This youtube video on education today and tomorrow is worth the 11 minutes it takes to run through.


Steven Ames

An interview by Christine Linnell

conference imageThis Interview in five parts was recorded when Steven Ames visited New Zealand in August 2011.

During his visit he talked about the ENVISIONING A "LIVING CITY" project that he is involved in Bend, a small city in Oregon, USA.

Five years ago, the City of Bend, a lifestyle- and recreation-oriented community of 82,000 located in Oregon's High Desert, was one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. and expanding at a breakneck pace. At risk was the city's vaunted quality of life and its special relationship with the natural environment. Then came the Global Financial Crises and real estate collapse, bringing the city's economy to its knees. It was clear Bend was on an unsustainable path and that a new vision for its future was in order.

Fortunately, Bend had prepared for that very possibility: In 2007, the Bend City Council adopted the new, citizen-generated Bend 2030 Vision and Action Plan, laying out a sustainable path for the community. Today, Bend 2030 is a non-profit NGO with 63 partner organizations that seeks new and innovative ways to advance the community's vision. One such initiative is the Bend Living City Design Project based on the work of the International Living Futures Institute. The Living City Design Project is attempting to take the notion of sustainability to the next level, transforming every aspect of living in Bend.

Steven Ames is a consulting long-range planner, futurist and principal of Steven Ames Planning, based in Portland, Oregon, USA. Steven has worked with local communities, cities and regions across the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in planning for the future. Steven speaks frequently on the topic of civic vision and its connection to growth, urban development and sustainability, and he conducts trainings in the community visioning process in the U.S. and Antipodes.

His visit was jointly supported by the NZ planning Council, Development Action and the New Zealand Futures Trust.


Negative Interest Money (Freigeld)

Mike Gould

For those who like to pay attention to these sorts of things, it is becoming more obvious by the day, that the short term (and maybe the longer term) future for many people is being played out in the financial arena.  Increasingly, it looks like the the system most of the world has been using for the last four hundred years (the fractional reserve banking system) has been dislocated so badly by the over-exuberance of the now largely unregulated banking industry, together with the interaction of the main drivers of change in today's world, that it can't be fixed.  There's more debt around than can be paid for from the real economy.  Limits to growth seem to have been reached in a number of important areas. The interest-based financial system can't cope with slow, or no, economic growth.  It's all messy, to say the least.

All spectrums of the political arena are proposing alternative economic/political nostrums, most based on aging economic dogmas, none of which today, appear to work.  More and more people are beginning to rebel as their leaders show they are unable to put matters right.  Things are starting to look decidedly dodgy, even in the so-called richer economies.  New ideas must be looked at, and if they look good, tried out.

A new approach to how we view and use money, has to be a good start.  Perce Harpham's 'Kiwi Dividend'  and Gareth Morgans 'Big Kahuna' are two very useful New Zealand contributions. Sacred Economics by Charles Eistein is also worth reading if you're interested in seeing the financial system in a wider, spiritual/ecological context.  Margrit Kennedy's 'Interest & Inflation Free Money', outlining the concept of negative interest is specially worth reading.  It's only 57 pages long, easy to read and easy to understand.  The idea also has a great pedigree, that suggests it's more than likely to work!

The biggest blockage to giving it a go, is likely to be the average voter's belief that money is something that has to be earned, not created. It's a misbelief that endures, even though official statistics indicate that over  the last decade, more than 90% of money has been digitally produced in the form of debt, by banks, out of thin air! 

My pick, for what it's worth, would be a marriage between the Big Kahuna and Freigeld.  It could result in a financial system that provided a minimum wage for everyone, (with opportunity for doing better for most of us if we want to) a continuous supply of money in the marketplace to keep business activity going, a huge reduction in the amount of social bureaucracy,  and a way of coping with the mega-drivers of change that are increasingly interacting to cause all sorts of mayhem around the globe. 

The unfolding major world financial crisis provides an excellent opportunity for a new financial system to be tried, and little old New Zealand with our relatively small financial political lobby, might just be place to give it a go. After all, showing the way in world social innovation is nothing new for us.


From Whence it Comes and Where it Goes.

signOne of the great myths of the modern age, is that governments and Reserve Banks create all the money we use.  James Robertson knows otherwise, and this chapter of his latest book outlines what really happens, quantifies the total mess the world's money supply is in, and offers what appears to be a sensible alternative.


Signs of Change

conference imageSigns of Change was a national e-conference (held in seven centres simultaneously in late 2010) showcasing a transition to sustainability.  People active in sustainable projects in many places and in different fields each had 10 minutes to showcase their work.  This link has presentations and videos generated during the two days.  The stories are of local community and individual initiatives, based on sustainable resource use.


Dr Richard Slaughter in Wellington

conference imageDr Richard Slaughter interviewed by Christine Linnell when he was in Wellington in March 2011.

Dr. Richard A. Slaughter, Director of Foresight International, visited New Zealand and spoke  at several seminars arranged by Futures Thinking Aotearoa. His presentation, ‘Navigating the Anthropocene’, argues that humanity has entered a new era in which booming populations, climate change, peak oil and economic crises pose major threats to civilisation. Rather than accepting an ‘overshoot and collapse’ scenario, however, Dr. Slaughter is exploring options that will help us adapt to the challenging times ahead.

His most recent book, The Biggest Wake Up Call in History, serves as the background for his presentation.

See the interview here


From 'Science' and 'Nature'

by Jennifer Coote

jennifer1From NATURE

3 February, 2011

Social Science poses its biggest challenges for the future, as noted by the US National Science Foundation.

1. How can we induce people to look after their health?

2. How do societies create effective and resilient institutions, such as governments?

3. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom?

4. How do we reduce the ‘skill-gap’ between black and white people in America?

5. How can we aggregate information produced by individuals to make the best decisions?

5. How can we understand the human capacity to create and articulate knowledge?

7. Why do so many female workers still earn less than male workers?

8. How and why does the Social become Biological?

9. How can we be robust against “black swans” (rare events that have extreme consequences)?

10. Why do social processes, in particular civil violence, either persist over time, or suddenly change?

24 February 2011, pp 479-485

A A Hoffman, C M S Gro (Australian scientists), report on research into climate change and evolutionary adaptation.

This evolution can be rapid and help species to counter stressful conditions or to take advantage of ecological opportunities arising from climate change. The challenges are to understand when such evolution will occur, and to identify potential evolutionary winners and losers, for example species lacking evolutionary adaptive capacity living near physiological limits. Evolutionary processes need to be incorporated into managerial programmes designed to minimize biodiversity loss under rapid climate change. These challenges can be met through realistic models of evolutionary change limited to experimental data across a range of species.

From SCIENCE 2011-

14 January, p 36

An innovative technology developed by a Norwegian group, Sahara Forest Project, is being set up by the Red Sea, which utilises sea water, a giant greenhouse and natural breezes to crow crops, for irrigation, and drinking water. The potential from many countries with arid environments is huge. The seawater greenhouse trickles water over a grid, which is ventilated by the natural breezes, and evaporates. In the resulting cool, moist atmosphere, crops grow well. The air leaving the greenhouse is warm, but as it passes over pipes bringing in cold seawater, moisture condenses on the pipes. The resulting water can be used for drinking or irrigation. The demonstration plant is due to be completed by 2015.

11 February, Special Section, from p 692 onwards, Dealing With Data

The deluge of data is a major and increasing headache for scientists worldwide, yet, if properly organised, it is incredibly valuable. This special section provides an enlarged collection of contributions from experts, who explore in more detail the challenges involved, the range of emerging opportunities, and possible solutions. It will take great efforts, not only from the scientific community, but from funders, learned societies and journals, from educators and the lay public, to provide the necessary stewardship.

Science has also teamed with its sister publications, Science Signaling, Science Translational Medicine and Science Careers, to provide a broad look at the issues surrounding the increasing influx of research data, which is online

Recommended Reviewed Books

Engaging the General Public in Climate Change: Behavioural Change and Communication. Eds Lorrainne Whitmarsh, Safffron O’Neill, Irene Lorenzoni. Earthscan, 2011.

Experts from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, examine what works, and does not work, and why. Best practices worldwide, which get the message across, and effect results, are highlighted.

Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature, Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier. Roberts, 2011

Although designed primarily as a textbook, this can be profitably read by those already established in the field, and by interested lay people. It encourages a rethink of assumptions and out-of-date learning. Humans are increasingly disconnected from the natural environment, with consequent diminuation of support for conservation. A strategy which balances the needs of humans and nature is necessary. The writers combine sound, informative text, with suggestions for group projects, with case studies and with potentially provocative essays to raise issues for reconsideration.


World Energy Outlook: 2011

peak oil image

What are the likely impacts arising from changes in the world enery equation? This analysis by Gail Tverberg, a highly respected independent analyst from the United States, makes for thought-provoking reading.  Her comments on the future of tourism and the development of agricultural economies are especially relevant to the NZ economy.





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