Dave Armstrong on Joy, purity and the environment

Columnist Dave Armstrong, writing in the Dominion Post, muses on the the environmental criticisms levelled at the government by Ecologist Dr Mike Joy.

An excerpt (read in full here):

‘100% Pure’ dissenter pays heavy price

Though we live in a largely democratic society, it can still be difficult to be a dissenter. It used to be worse.

In the 1970s, trade unionists, intellectuals, student radicals were demonised by prime minister Robert Muldoon. Some of Sir Robert’s “traitors” were pretty subversive. One was so Left-wing he went on to edit Cuisine magazine (“workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your pomegranate molasses!”).

The latest dissenting head to be raised above the parapet belongs to freshwater ecologist Mike Joy. He had the audacity to say that New Zealand’s “picture perfect” image as a clean and green nation was pure fiction. The Greens have been saying this for years, but Dr Joy’s war crime was that his comments were published in the New York Times. In our insecure nation, criticising New Zealand in an overseas newspaper is akin to a married couple having an argument in front of other people – it’s simply not done.

Dr Joy has been dubbed a “traitor” on radio. So infuriated was lobbyist Mark Unsworth that he sent a late-night email that made up for its lack of commas with extra vitriol, branding Dr Joy and his ilk “the foot and mouth of the tourism industry”.

I have sympathy for the larrikin lobbyist. Scientists can be highly irritating creatures. I have worked with a few of the species, trying to convert their tortuous turns of phrase and highly technical Latin terms into plain English. Getting scientists to say something definitive can be like getting dihydrogen oxide out of calcium carbonate. Ask some scientists to put something in black and white and they say “it appears that way”. Ask some to say an event is definitely going to happen and they’ll say it is “highly likely”; run a tourism campaign saying our country is “100% Pure” and they may reply that it “does not appear to be so”.

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