Home' Greymouth Star : January 13th 2018 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, January 13, 2018
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uLetters to the editor
1419 - English force captures French city of
1759 - Marquis of Tavora and his wife are
executed in Portugal.
1842 - At the end of an attempted retreat
from Kabul, a British force of 9000 men is
massacred in the Khyber Pass.
1864 - Death of Stephen Foster, American
composer of songs such as Swanee River.
1898 - Emile Zola’s famous defence of
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, J’Accuse, is published
1910 - New York’s Metropolitan Opera takes
part in the first live radio broadcast of opera,
presenting Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana.
1915 - The town of Avezzano in central Italy
is struck by a huge earthquake in which 30,000
1921 - Fire destroys 11 buildings in
downtown Perth, Western Australia.
1929 - Death of US marshal Wyatt
Earp, famous for his role in the 1881
gunfight at the OK Corral.
1939 - Seventy-one people die in
Victoria’s Black Friday bushfires,
as temperatures in Melbourne reach a record
1941 - Irish novelist James Joyce dies in
1968 - US singer Johnny Cash performs live
at California’s Folsom State Prison, a recording
of which becomes a best-selling album.
2005 - Mark Thatcher, son of former British
prime minister Margaret Thatcher, pleads
guilty to helping bankroll a botched coup plot
in Equatorial Guinea.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Antoinette Bourignon, F lemish mystic
(1616-1680); Roy Cazaly, Australian Rules
footballer (1893-1963); Sir Joh
Bjelke-Petersen, New Zealand-
born former Queensland premier
(1911-2005); Paul Kelly, Australian
singer/songwriter (1955-); Julia
Louis-Dreyfus, US actress (1961-);
Graham “Suggs” McPherson, British
singer of Madness fame (1961-);
Mark Bosnich, Australian goalkeeper
(1972-); Orlando Bloom, British actor (1977-);
Liam Hemsworth, Australian actor (1990-).
“ If all mankind minus one, were of one
opinion, and only one person were of the
contrary opinion, mankind would be no more
justified in silencing that one person, than
he, if he had the power, would be justified
in silencing mankind.” - - John Stuart Mill,
English philosopher (1806-1873).
“The light shines in the darkness.” —John 1:5
What started as a
road builders’ camp
and became a motor
camp/motel in one of
the most romantic spots off the new highway
to Haast is on the market. The camp is near
Lake Moeraki and is being offered by the
Department of Lands and Sur vey. The 10-acre
site has a delightful setting, bounded on two
sides by the Moeraki River and Munro Creek
and surrounded by typical South Westland
The department, in offering the site, hopes that
it will be expanded and improved to provide
good standard moto and motor camp facilities.
Greymouth’s mayor Dr B M Dallas sustained
no serious injuries in his spectacular early-
morning plunge off the road in the Otira
Gorge yesterday. He will return to Greymouth
tomorrow — in a new car — he told the
Greymouth Star from Church Bay, near
Christchurch, this morning.
Dr Dallas said the accident caused some
cracked ribs, a cut nose and a knee injury, but
he was “okay”.
Clifford Peter (Bill) Hende, a Greymouth
yachtsman who has loved boats since he was a
baby, became New Zealand’s leading catamaran
skipper in Auckland yesterday. Three wins,
a second and a third placing ensured for the
Blaketown yachtie the 1966 title.
For Hende, the national title win climaxed
a fantastic three month rise to the top. Hende
stepped into his beautiful craft, Belinda, on
Labour weekend for the first time.
His great local rival Reg Skelton, sailing
Elizabeth, was an easy winner in the open
class division with wins in all three heats. He
finished less than a point behind Hende in the
uFood for thought
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Oceans losing their breath
hey are called “dead zones”
-- patches of ocean where
oxygen plummets to levels
so low that many animals
passing through them
suffocate and die.
In just the past 50 years, the amount of
water in the open ocean with zero oxygen
has quadrupled, while low-oxygen sites
closer to coasts have increased 10-fold.
The picture could worsen if the world
does not rein in climate change and
Despite its relative isolation on the
planet, New Zealand is not immune to the
“Oxygen is fundamental to life in
the oceans,” Dr Denise Breitburg, a
marine ecologist at the Smithsonian
Environmental Research Centre in the
United States, and lead author of a just-
published study, said.
The decline in ocean oxygen ranked
among the most serious effects of human
activities on the Earth’s environment.
“It’s a tremendous loss to all the support
ser vices that rely on recreation and
tourism, hotels and restaurants and taxi
drivers and everything else,” Dr Breitburg
“The reverberations of unhealthy
ecosystems in the ocean can be extensive.”
The new study, just published in the
major journal Science, was authored by a
team of scientists from the Global Ocean
Oxygen Network (GO2NE), a new
working group by the United Nation’s
It was the first to take such a sweeping
look at the causes, consequences and
solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in
both the open ocean and coastal waters.
“Approximately half of the oxygen on
Earth comes from the ocean,” Vladimir
Ryabinin, executive secretary of the
International Oceanographic Commission
that formed the GO2NE group, said.
“However, combined effects of nutrient
loading and climate change are greatly
increasing the number and size of ‘dead
zones’ in the open ocean and coastal
waters, where oxygen is too low to support
most marine life.”
In areas traditionally called “dead zones”
like those in Chesapeake Bay in the US
and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen levels are
so low that marine life can die.
As fish avoid these zones, their habitats
shrink and they become more vulnerable
to predators or fishing.
But the problem stretched far beyond
“dead zones”, the authors pointed out, as
even smaller oxygen declines could stunt
growth in animals, hinder reproduction
and lead to disease or even death.
It also could trigger the release of
dangerous chemicals such as nitrous oxide,
a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more
powerful than carbon dioxide, and toxic
While some animals could thrive in dead
zones, overall biodiversity falls.
In open ocean dead zones, climate
change was the key culprit, with warming
surface waters making it harder for oxygen
to reach the ocean interior.
Further, as the ocean as a whole became
warmer, it held less oxygen.
In coastal waters, excess nutrient
pollution from land created algal blooms,
which drain oxygen as they die and
In an unfortunate twist, animals also
needed more oxygen in warmer waters,
even as it was disappearing.
People’s livelihoods were also on the
line, the scientists reported, especially in
Smaller, artisanal fisheries may be unable
to relocate when low oxygen destroys their
har vests or forces fish to move elsewhere.
In the Philippines, fish kills in a single
town’s aquaculture pens cost more than
Coral reefs, a key tourism attraction in
many countries, also could waste away
without enough oxygen.
Some fiords of New Zealand were
home to dead zones, but these tended
to be naturally occurring, University of
Auckland marine scientist Professor
Simon Thrush said.
Elsewhere, New Zealand had problems
with prolific seaweed growth in some
harbours that could cause localised and
temporary low oxygen, and there had
also been cases of seafloor algal blooms
temporarily fuelling low oxygen zones.
Thrush, head of the university’s Institute
of Marine Science, explained there were
essentially two processes that led to the
formation of dead zones.
The first involved how much water was
mixed and moved around, which was why
fiords came to have them.
“Fiords are deep and have a shallow sill
that limits water exchange with the open
coast, Thrush said.
“Often the water in the fiord will stratify
due to differences in temperature and
salinity, further isolating the water deep in
the fiord. ”
As organic matter slowly sank to the
bottom, it was consumed by organisms
that also consumed oxygen.
“ Because of the low water exchange,
eventually, over months to years, a dead
zone will develop.”
The second factor related to how much
organic material was available in the
water, or on the seabed to be consumed by
“ When the overlaying waters are highly
productive or there are large blooms
of seaweeds there will be more organic
material sinking to the seafloor than can
be processed by the microbes and animals.”
All the oxygen was used up, causing the
This was the process of eutrophication,
often generated by too much nutrient
running off the land, and that linked to
the prominent dead zones in Chesapeake
Bay, the Baltic Sea or off the coast of
Prof Thrush said both processes were
important and inextricably linked.
What did the future hold for New
Zealand? “The strong tides and currents
around most of New Zealand meant so
far, there had not been had too much of a
“ But we are allowing more and more
nutrients to run into our coasts, harbours
and estuaries -- this is beginning to be a
problem in some places.”
It was particularly a problem where high
nutrient loads combined with relatively
stable and poorly mixed water bodies clear
enough to allow plants to grow.
“Climate change can increase the risk
of dead zones, with more rain bringing
more nutrient run-off and increased
surface ocean temperatures increasing the
potential for thermal stratification in the
water column. ”
Dead zones -- or temporary ones at
least -- could well become more common
around our coasts, he said.
“As the name implies dead zones are
something we do not want to see, it would
be a very clear message that we have really
badly treated our coastal zone.
“Apart from killing all of the animals, the
sediments will start to release hydrogen
sulphides and climate warming gases such
The authors of the new paper suggested
a three-pronged approach to tackle the
The first, obviously, was addressing the
causes of nutrient pollution and climate
change, through designing better septic
systems, stemming pollution, and cutting
fossil fuel emissions behind the wider
problem of global warming.
Secondly, they called for protection for
vulnerable marine life, which could involve
creating marine protected areas or no-
catch zones in areas animals use to escape
low oxygen, or switching to fish that are
not as threatened by falling oxygen levels.
Finally, low-oxygen tracking could be
While scientists had a decent grasp of
how much oxygen the ocean could lose in
the future, they didn’t know exactly where
those low-oxygen zones will be.
Enhanced monitoring, especially in
developing countries, and numerical
models could help pinpoint which places
are most at risk and determine the most
“This is a problem we can solve,” Dr
“ Halting climate change requires a global
effort, but even local actions can help with
nutrient-driven oxygen decline.”
Dr Breitburg pointed to the continuing
recovery of Chesapeake Bay, where
nitrogen pollution had dropped 24% since
its peak thanks to better sewage treatment,
better farming practices and successful
laws like the US Clean Air Act.
While some low-oxygen zones persisted,
the area of the Chesapeake with zero
oxygen has almost disappeared.
“ Tackling climate change may seem
more daunting,” she added, “ but doing it is
critical for stemming the decline of oxygen
in our oceans, and for nearly every aspect
of life on our planet. ” -- NZME
Low oxygen caused the death of these corals and others in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
The communists are taking over in
Nepal, and nobody cares. Thirty years ago
it would have caused a grave international
crisis; 50 years ago there would even have
been talk of foreign military inter vention.
Today -- nothing. O utside Nepal, it has
barely made the news at all.
In the grand old Marxist tradition,
Nepal’s communists have split and
split again over fine points of doctrine
and strategy. Recently, however, the
Communist Party of Nepal -- Unified
Mar xist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and
the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist
Centre) managed to form an electoral
alliance that swept the recent national
elections, the first since 1999.
Various communist leaders have held
office in the revolving-door coalitions,
none lasting much more than a year, that
have governed Nepal since it began its
democratic transition a dozen years ago,
but you could not truthfully have said that
“the communists are in power”.
Now you really can say it. The CPN-
UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre)
ran a single joint candidate in every
constituency in Nepal, and won two-
thirds of the seats (174 out of 275). The
two parties are pledged to unite within six
months, and they will form a government
without non-communist members which
will rule Nepal, if all goes well, for the
next five years.
They are real communists, too, unlike
the namby-pamby “Eurocommunists”
who sought popular support in western
Europe by disavowing violent revolution
in the final decade before the collapse of
communist power in eastern Europe in
1989-91. Nepal’s communists fought a
10-year “revolutionary” guerrilla war that
killed 17,000 people before a ceasefire
was signed in 2006 and the democratic
Nepal is not some tiny, irrelevant
backwater. It is a country with more
people than Australia (although much
less land or money), and it takes up half
of the Himalayan border between China
and India. In the self-ser ving definition
of the world’s think-tanks and “strategic
studies institutes”, it is important strategic
territory. Yet Washington does not really
care that the Communists ar e taking
over, and neither does Moscow.
New Delhi and Beijing care a little
bit, because of their inevitable rivalry
as Asia’s and the world’s two biggest
countries (1.3 billion people each).
Both see their relations with Nepal as a
zero-sum game, and India’s traditionally
dominant influence there (all Nepalese
live on the Indian side of the Himalayas)
is threatened by the presumed preference
of Nepalese communists for fellow
communists in China.
But the lights are not burning late either
in South Block or in Chaoyang. The fact
of the matter is that communists coming
to power in Nepal in 2018 makes no more
difference to the rest of the world than
communists coming to power in South
Vietnam did in 1975.
Well, you knew where I was going
with this, did you not? South Vietnam
had about the same number of people in
1975 as Nepal does now, and it was just
as “strategic” -- which is to say, not very
strategic at all.
When the communists won in the
south and reunified Vietnam, it may even
have changed the lives of most South
Vietnamese for the better, although that
depends on what you mean by ‘better’.
It certainly did not change anybody’s
domestic policies elsewhere in South-east
Asia, or change the calculations of the
major powers in any way.
You cannot even blame the Cambodian
genocide on the communist victory in
South Vietnam. Cambodia, like Vietnam,
was likely to end up under Communist
rule anyway, because it had also been part
of French Indo-China and it was the
Communists who led the anti-colonial
But it was Henry Kissinger’s savage and
illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia,
not the war in Vietnam, that turned the
Khmer Rouge into genocidal monsters.
It was the Vietnamese communists who
finally invaded Cambodia in 1978 and
put an end to the genocide.
The whole Vietnam War, which killed
55,000 American soldiers and about three
million Vietnamese, was founded on
the delusion that there was a monolithic
communist bloc that threatened “freedom”
all over the world. (“If we lose in
Vietnam, California will be next ”).
Certainly there were Communist
fanatics who dreamed of spreading their
ideology (which prioritised equality
over freedom) all over the world, but the
reality was geopolitics as usual. The Soviet
Union and Communist China fought a
border war in 1969 to demonstrate that
fact, and for slow learners communist
China and communist Vietnam fought
their own border war in 1979 to drive the
Now, mercifully, the “domino theory” is
dead (or at least dormant), and the arrival
of communists in power in Nepal through
entirely legal and democratic means is
causing no panic whatever. Whether their
new government will ser ve the Nepalese
well remains to be seen, but Nepal’s
Communists are publicly committed
to respecting the rules of parliamentary
democracy, and a majority of Nepalese
clearly believe them.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Communist takeover in Nepal
The chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-
UML) party Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, also known as K P Oli, left, shakes hands
with the chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal
Dahal, also known as Prachanda, during a news conference in Katmandu.
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
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