Archive for December, 2007

Single-largest Biodiversity Survey Says Primary Rainforest Is Irreplaceable

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Let me count the ways I have no faith in how things are going and how mankind is reacting to the looming problems.

The destruction of the world’s rain forests has gone on decade after decade without abatement. The amount lost every year is well documented and much hang-wringing goes on but, still, the destruction continues.

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There’s money in that illegal logging and there’s land to farm under those trees. There are minerals out there, hidden in the jungle. Like a great swarm of ants loose in the cupboard, we just can’t seem to find the will to leave it all alone.

One thing is for certain – we are not short of persuasive reasons to leave it alone.

But, that’s one of the big reasons to be discouraged about all of this. Reasons – good valid, solid, scientific reasons are not enough for us. Most of us will only ‘get it’ when our own houses are burning down around our ears.

Even here in New Zealand, the govrnment cannot find the moral will or political capital to ban all wood imports sourced from illegal logging. So much for their self-appointed ‘clean and green’ image.


ScienceDaily (Nov. 15, 2007) — As world leaders prepare to discuss conservation-friendly carbon credits in Bali and a regional initiative threatens a new wave of deforestation in the South American tropics, new research from the University of East Anglia and Brazil’s Goeldi Museum highlights once again the irreplaceable importance of primary rain forest.

Working in the north-eastern Brazilian Amazon the international team of scientists undertook the single-largest assessment of the biodiversity conservation value of primary, secondary and plantation forests ever conducted in the humid tropics.

Over an area larger than Wales, the UEA and museum researchers surveyed five primary rain forest sites, five areas of natural secondary forest and five areas planted with fast-growing exotic trees (Eucalyptus), to evaluate patterns of biodiversity.

Following an intensive effort of more than 20,000 scientist hours in the field and laboratory, they collected data on the distribution of 15 different groups of animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) and woody plants, including well-studied groups such as monkeys, butterflies and amphibians and also more obscure species such as fruit flies, orchid bees and grasshoppers.

“We know that different species often exhibit different responses to deforestation and so we sought to understand the consequences of land-use change for as many species as possible,” said Dr Jos Barlow, a former post-doctoral researcher at UEA.

At least a quarter of all species were never found outside native primary forest habitat – and the team acknowledges that this is an underestimate. “Our study should be seen as a best-case scenario, as all our forests were relatively close to large areas of primary forests, providing ample sources for recolonisation,” said Dr Barlow.

“Many plantations and regenerating forests along the deforestation frontiers in South America and south-east Asia are much further from primary forests, and wildlife may be unable to recolonise in these areas.

“Furthermore, the percentage of species restricted to primary forest habitat was much higher (40-60%) for groups such as birds and trees, where we were able to sample the canopy species as well as those that live in the forest under-storey.”

These results clearly demonstrate the unique value of undisturbed tropical forests for wildlife conservation. However, they also show that secondary forests and plantations offer some wildlife benefits and can host many species that would be unable to survive in intensive agricultural landscapes such as cattle ranching or soybean plantations.


University of East Anglia. “Single-largest Biodiversity Survey Says Primary Rainforest Is Irreplaceable.” ScienceDaily 15 November 2007. 10 December 2007 .

Life and Death in Capitalist China

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

The Salt Lake City Tribune published a six part series recently about what the embrace of unencumbered Capitalism in China has meant for the workers there. This should be a wake up call for all of those who think that if Capitalism is unleashed, all our problems will be solved.

Their core idea that Libertarian Capitalism will solve everything because every time a problem arises, an entrepreneur will also arise to provide a solution – is deeply flawed. The only problems that get addressed are the ones that provide someone with a significant profit on the other end of the sequence. And the pell-mell rush to profit by the strong, using the weak as fodder, produces many problems of its own.

No, the political and governmental systems we devise must take the good of their people as their highest goal and limit Capitalism whenever its activities begin to impinge on that good. Capitalism is the engine of creation and advance but as an engine, it must be throttled and controlled so that it benefits all people and not just the rich and powerful.

Read the following to see just how very wrong things can go.

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Salt Lake Tribune Special Report:
Chinese workers lose their lives producing goods for America

By Loretta Tofani
Special to the Tribune

GUANGZHOU, China — The patients arrive every day in Chinese hospitals with disabling and fatal diseases, acquired while making products for America.

On the sixth floor of the Guangzhou Occupational Disease and Prevention Hospital, Wei Chaihua, 44, sits on his iron-rail bed, tethered to an oxygen tank. He is dying of the lung disease silicosis, a result of making Char-Broil gas stoves sold in Utah and throughout the U.S.

Down the hall, He Yuyun, 36, who for years brushed America’s furniture with paint containing benzene and other solvents, receives treatment for myelodysplastic anemia, a precursor to leukemia.

In another room rests Xiang Zhiqing, 39, her hair falling out and her kidneys beginning to fail from prolonged exposure to cadmium that she placed in batteries sent to the U.S.

“Do people in your country handle cadmium while they make batteries?” Xiang asks. “Do they also die from this?”

‘Big problem for Americans’
With each new report of lead detected on a made-in-China toy, Americans express outrage: These toys could poison children. But Chinese workers making the toys — and countless other products for America — touch and inhale carcinogenic materials every day, all day long: Benzene. Lead. Cadmium. Toluene. Nickel. Mercury.

Many are dying. They have fatal occupational diseases.

Mostly they are young, in their 20s and 30s and 40s. But they are dying, slow difficult deaths, caused by the hazardous substances they use to make products for the world — and for America. Some say these workers are paying the real price for America’s cheap goods from China.

“In terms of responsibility to Chinese society, this is a big problem for Americans,” said Zhou Litai, a lawyer from the city of Chongqing who has represented tens of thousands of dying workers in Chinese courts.

The toxins and hazards exist in virtually every industry, including furniture, shoes, car parts, electronic items, jewelry, clothes, toys and batteries interviews with workers confirm. The interviews were corroborated by legal documents, medical journal articles, medical records, import documents and official Chinese reports.

And although these products are being made for America most Chinese workers lack the health protections that for nearly half a century have protected U.S. workers, such as correct protective masks, booths that limit the spread of sprayed chemicals, proper ventilation systems and enforcement to ensure that their exposure to toxins will be limited to permissible doses measured in micrograms or milligrams.

Chinese workers also routinely lose fingers or arms while making American furniture, appliances and other metal goods. Their machines are too old to function properly or they lack safety guards required in the U.S.

In most cases, U.S. companies do not own these factories . American and multinational companies pay the factories to make products for America. From tiny A to Z Mining Tools in St. George to multinational corporations such as Reebok and IKEA, companies compete in the global marketplace by reducing costs — and that usually means outsourcing manufacturing to China. Last year, the U.S. imported $287.8 billion in goods from China, up from $51.5 billion a decade ago, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Those imports are expected only to increase.

Never even visit the factories
Worker health and safety are considered basic human rights. But in the global economy, responsibility to workers often gets lost amid vast distances and international boundaries.

“This is a big-picture problem,” said Garrett Brown, an industrial hygienist from California who has inspected Chinese factories that export to America. “Big-picture problems don’t have quick or easy solutions.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) publishes international standards for workplaces. China agreed to many of those standards and also enacted a 2002 law setting its own rigorous standards. Under Chinese law, workers have the legal right to remain safe from fatal diseases and amputations at work.

But the law has not been enforced, Chinese and international experts agree. Economic growth has been a more important goal to China than worker safety.

Even the World Trade Organization, which maintains some barriers to trade to protect consumers’ health, does not concern itself with issues of workers’ health. As a result, enforcement of health and safety standards has been left to the governments of developing countries and the companies that outsource to those countries.

Often, smaller companies never even visit the factories where their products are made. Larger companies try with only limited success to audit operations, often complaining that their efforts are failing. Records are falsified and unsafe machines are used after audits. Safety guards are removed so workers can produce faster.

“Through auditing tours, we can make good improvements and changes, but those changes are not sustainable,” complained Wang Lin, a manager for IKEA based in Shanghai. “Chinese government law enforcement is greatly needed,” added Wang. “Without that, companies cannot sustain a good compliance program.”


071209 – life is good

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Life is good here in New Zealand. it’s 75 F outside and a light breeze is blowing and there’s all the sunlight and beauty anyone could want. Good friends, good tennis and, of course, my beautiful, beloved and very patient wife at home who is holding down the fort for me at the nursery – deep in the midst of the Washington winter – and all so I can be here enjoying all of this.

I am blessed – there is no doubt.

A good friend of mine here in New Zealand sent me a wonderful article this morning:

Forever young: understanding the true presence of Christ helps us become elders, not just elderly.

The truths the author talks about transcend any particular faith but I found them beautiful to read cloaked in Christian clothes as they were.

The essential truth that underlies all faiths can still find expression within them when the faithful seek substance over form and meaning and significance over dogma and conformity.

All faiths wither away over time under the onslaught of those who seek to explain and own their deep truths. But still, still, the light can shine forth from the midst of the edifice occasionally revealing the clear light of those who began the dance.


My motorcycle adventures continue unabated but I’m at peace with it all. It is all winding up towards a good completion and I am content to wait until all the wheels turn at their own pace.

When I last left off telling the saga of the motorcycle, I’d just been offered $300 USD by the shipping company as compensation for the trouble caused when they lost my title. And, I was wondering what my options were as $300 seemed almost an insult compared to the size of the inconvenience and expenses I’d been cast into.

Well, my decision was to carry the battle to the next level. I requested and obtained the E-mail identity and name of the V.P. at the shipping company who’d decided that $300 was fair compensation and I’d gotten clear on how the shipping company was organized (it’s actually five companies gathered together as one) and I’d determined who the top corporate officers were.

I told the lady who I’d been working with, who was also the individual that misplaced my title, that I was going to carry the matter to a higher level as I thought the $300 was completely inadequate.

My intent was to write to the top officers explaining my problem, mention the V.P. by name and inform them that I intended to setup a website which would appear whenever anyone searched for anything to do with any of the five conjoined companies. A website which would detail, at great length, my altercation with them and how badly I’d been used in the entire business. In the end, the bad publicity would far outweigh the cost to them of having done the right thing by me in the first place.

So, I was sharpening my knives. But, it never came to that because the very next morning, I received a voice-mail from the lady at the shipping company saying that my title, after three weeks of being lost, had been found and was going to be winging it’s way to me via DHL before the day was over.

The title shipped from Los Angeles on December 6th and as of this moment, I know that it is through customs in Auckland and winging its way from Auckland to Christchurch and will probably be in my hands by tomorrow. It’s Sunday here now.

So, that’s all good.

I had the brakes on the m/c inspected last Thursday and they were good so I will have all the paperwork together at last to register the machine here on Monday or Tuesday and be legal on the New Zealand highways. Yahoo!

But, there’s more saga yet…. (No, no, my readers scream!) Yes, yes, I smile. You may all think you saw the fat lady stand up but I assure you, she has not sung yet.

The other day when I was out riding my m/c (quite illegally, I might add), I stopped and when I tried to start it again, it would not start. After a lot of fussing, I got it going again and thought it was just a fluke.

Then, the next day, I drove out to customs by the airport and when I came out, the battery appeared to be dead again. So, I pulled the battery and walked to the local garage and got it recharged and put it back into the m/c and boom – it started right up.

And then the day after that, on Thursday, when I took the machine into the motorcycle place down in New Brighton to have the brake inspection done, I asked the mechanic to check out the alternator to see if it was actually recharging the battery or not. He said the alternator was fine but he thought maybe the battery was bad.

I wasn’t to sure of this as I knew the battery had been replaced within the last six months so I decided to take that under advisement and took off. And, when I took off, my m/c started right up – so I wasn’t worried.

I should have been worried – because 20 minutes later, after picking up something I’d bought on an on-line auction (ironically, a battery charger of all things), I walked outside to depart and the battery appeared to be flat yet again. The m/c would not start. It wouldn’t even turn over. Damn!

So out comes the battery again and off I walk to the local garage for another hour’s worth of battery charging while I wait and drink coffee. Then, I put the battery back in and try it and I get … nothing. Now, I know the battery’s charged and I can barely get a click. Now I’m deeply worried and confused about what’s going on.

Now, over the past few days, as all this has gone on, I’ve made any number of attempts to push-start the bike without success. But now I’m really really stuck so I start thinking about why I haven’t been able to push-start it and I realize what a ninny I’ve been. Like some know-nothing beginner, I’ve been dropping it into first gear and popping the clutch when I’ve tried to start it and, Duh, the engine’s resistance is so high in first gear, all that happens is that the back tire just skids and the engine doesn’t turn over. And, if the engine doesn’t turn over -the m/c cannot start.

So, armed with this semi-profound insight, I push the m/c again and pop it into third gear and VROOM! it starts. Whew, that’s a relief as I’m back on a residential street in Burnside or someplace and I am miles from home and the garage. Thank you, Jesus!

So, back to the garage I go ready to step up and buy that new $99 battery they’d offered me awhile ago. I turn the machine in and they go to work and I kill time inspecting the various m/c’s out in the display room. They’ve got quite a lot of motorcycles there that I’ve never seen in the U.S.

Fifteen minutes later, the mechanic comes out and says, “We have a problem.” Oh, oh. Back we go to see what it is.

He connects the new battery up and shows me that the full required voltage is, indeed, feeding into the starter motor and nothing’s happening. He said he gets the same result with the old (suspect) battery – which may not be so suspect now.

He pops the end off the starter motor while I’m watching and out comes various chunks of what, at one time, were my starter motor brushes. It’s a real mess. He says he can’t understand how anything in that shape could have possibly been starting and I agree. And yet remind him that just this morning, I’d started it at this very shop and rode off. Very weird. Everyone shakes their head.

So, I have to leave the bike there. it’s Thursday afternoon and he’s going to look if he has the necessary brushes and, if not, it’s a simple thing to order them in from Honda down in Dunedin down the coast 100 miles or so. Off on the bus I go.

Friday, I call several times during the day. “Nope, Mate, they haven’t come yet.” Saturday arrives and I’m calling again. Now they are concerned. They are trying to trace the courier package. My brushes and some other parts they’d ordered up from Dunedin by courier seem to have all gone astray.

I mean – what are the chances? Dunedin is 100 miles or so south of Christchurch. These are the only two relatively large cities on the entire island. Surely the courier hasn’t forgotten the way? “Nope, Mate, they’re still not here, sorry.” 3:30 PM Saturday comes and goes. That’s the last possible time they could have been delivered until Monday by courier.

Ah well. it all seems to be part of a larger pattern swirling around this entire motorcycle shipping business. I don’t know what it’s all about but I’m going to go with it gracefully – mostly because I’d look pretty silly and ineffectual shouting and moaning about it, eh?

So, it’s now 5 PM Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day here. My starter motor brushes are, hopefully, somewhere out there on the South Island and I believe my title is in Christchurch by now in a DHL office somewhere in the city. Eventually, they will all creep and crawl their way here and all of this will come together. And, until then, I will wait and enjoy all the other blessings showering down on me.

Sometime, I’ll have to tell you how much fun I’ve been having playing tennis again after all of these years.

Cheers, from paradise.

071204 – Summing up three weeks in New Zealand

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Well, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much since I arrived here. I wrote up the trip and my arrival but nothing since then.

It’s been a busy three weeks. A definite flurry of getting reacquainted with friends I haven’t seen since last year. And there’s been a lot of tennis played as the weather, for the most part, has been excellent here.

But, I would say that preeminent thing that has preoccupied me since my arrival has been my motorcycle. I arrived on Tuesday, November 13th, here in New Zealand and my motorcycle was unpacked from its shipping container on Friday, November 23rd – about 10 days later. That’s not bad, considering there was a two week delay getting it aboard a ship in Los Angeles. The late Friday arrival however, meant I couldn’t begin my part of the activities until Monday the 26th.

Bringing a foreign vehicle into New Zealand is not for the faint hearted. Early Monday morning, I was on a bus headed out to near the Christchurch Airport to visit the NZ Biosecurity office there to process paperwork for my motorcycle and to arrange an inspection. Then, with papers from those folks in hand, I went over to the Customs House which is a mile up the road, quite close to the airport, proper. More papers were given and received there.

A lot of the paperwork shuffle was mysterious to me but I gathered that when the entire process was done, Customs would have been assured that Biosecurity had signed off and then customs would sign off as well.

By early afternoon Monday, I had a Biosecurity inspection scheduled at the Hilton Haulage Yard, where my motorcycle crate was, for 9 AM Tuesday morning.

Bright and early Tuesday, armed with all of the previous day’s papers and with a fully charged electric screwdriver for disassembling the crate, I arrived at the Hilton Haulage Yard and was issued with a bright orange vest and taken out to where my crate was. A very nice fellow from Biosecurity was already there looking at other imported goods and after a brief chat and a few photos of the crate prior to unpacking, he allowed as how I could disassemble it and then he’d do the Biosecurity inspection.

The crate is sprung a small amount on one seam

The crate was intact. It was sprung just a bit along one vertical seam but essentially, it weathered the trip well.

I employed the electric screwdriver and in about five minutes, we were ready to lift the crate’s top off the motorcycle and see how it had survived the trip. And … the answer was pretty well.



Several of the tie-down ropes had come loose so it was obvious that there had been some serious shaking at some point but with the wheel chocks and the crate so snug around the bike, it had apparently survived undamaged. That was the cause for some smiles.

The Biosecurity inspection was passed with no problems and this then had to be communicated back to the customs folks so they could sign off. Both customs and Biosecurity had to sign off before Hilton Haulage would allow me to remove my stuff from their premises. I called customs and he was working on my paperwork and asked that I come back out to the Customs House to sign more papers and to bring the Biosecurity clearance.

So, another bus ride from southeast Christchurch to downtown, a bus transfer and then out to northwest Christchurch where the Customs House is. I had to sign a paper at customs agreeing that if I sold the motorcycle within NZ for the next two years, I would owe NZ customs duty which had been waived as the machine was my personal property. Papers were shuffled, papers were given and papers were taken away and, at some point, I was back out the door, confused and with different and more papers than I’d had when I’d gone in. Then onto the bus again to return to Hilton Haulage to reassemble my motorcycle. The ladies there accepted all my paperwork and gave me a release to remove my stuff.

The reassembly went well. It took about an hour. In spite of the fact that I’d packed a small set of tools selected to aid in the reassembly, I’d still forgotten to pack a number 8 metric wrench so it was a bit of a tussle with my Leatherman all-purpose tool but, eventually, it was all together. During this, several of the guys that worked at Hilton dropped by to see the assembly and to visit. One of them, Dion Leen, was a motorcycle rider and after awhile, he told me about a fellow named Ian Templeton at “Just Bikes” down in New Brighton who is the guy to know if you need a good reliable motorcycle mechanic. That was a piece of good luck and I wrote the information down.

It was getting around to about 4 PM when I got everything assembled. During this time, the fellow, Trent, I’d sold my motorcycle crate to on TradeMe (New Zealand’s equivalent to EBay in the US), had come by to collect the crate which I’d disassembled for him into all flat pieces. Trent was quite nice and gave me a ride to a local gas station and back so I could fill my small gasoline container (shipped for just this purpose) with fuel so I could put it in the motorcycle which had been drained for shipping.

Finally the moment came. Had I connected the battery right, was the battery charged, had I jiggled the wrong wires, had I blown any fuses, had I connected the fuel lines correctly. Do you think I was worried about any of these things? Naw!!! I turned the key and cranked it with three of Hilton’s finest standing as witnesses.

And it cranked, and it cranked, and it cranked. I knew it’s a hard-starter after being off for a few weeks. And, I’d had to re-add the gasoline as well. But, I was beginning to wonder if it would catch before the battery expired. Finally, it coughed. Then it ran a few licks twice. And, then it caught and ran. Hoo Ya! I’ve got to tell you, the alternatives were not pretty.

I had a lot of stuff to carry. Sharon’s helmet, a box of books we’d shipped in the crate, the little gas container and my bag with all my papers. The luggage compartment was already full with rags, ropes, tools and manuals. So, after a lot of strapping down and checking, I put on my coat and helmet and waved a goodbye to Dion and the other guys there and took off for my first motorcycle ride on the other side of the highway from what I’ve always known.

And, it wasn’t bad. When you drive a right-hand drive car, it seems very weird because everything in the car is reversed as well as everything outside. And, you have to keep very clear about the fact that NOW, most of the car is to your left so you don’t sideswipe vehicles, bicycles or people as you drive. With a motorcycle, much of this goes away. The motorcycle, itself, is the same as you’ve only known so all you have to deal with is the fact that you are on the other side of the road and that’s really not much of a problem.

The truth was, I was a lot more worried as I began my ride home in a light rain, that I wasn’t legal to be on the New Zealand roads. You see, I’d been through Biosecurity and Customs but I hadn’t yet dealt with New Zealand Land Transport. Those are the folks that issue license plates,isues registrations and verify the road-worthiness of all vehicles here in New Zealand. So, riding down the road with Washington State license plates on the back, I felt like a big target that was flashing, “Here I am, illegal as hell, riding down your highways – come and get me.”

But, the trip went well and in 20 minutes, I pulled into the garage space under our building and two days of fun were done.

But, there was more, much more, fun to be had in the near future.

Prior to my departure from the U.S., there were rumblings that my motorcycle title had been mislaid by the shipping company. I’d had to FedX my original ownership title to Global Transport in Seattle, the company I’d contracted with to do the shipping. They, in turn, had sent it down to Los Angeles where Conterm, who Global had contracted with, would show it to U.S. Customs who needed to see it before they’d allow the motorcycle to be shipped out of the country. Apparently, it made it to U.S. Customs and then back to Conterm. But, after that, the trail gets hazy.

At first there was a delay getting it back, and then there was a claim that it had been sent by mistake to the New Zealand associates of Conterm and then, after I arrived here and continued to press them to find the lost title, it was finally admitted that it had, indeed, been put into the wrong DHL packet somehow and shipped off – and now no one could find it.

Well, this has turned out to be a enormous problem for me. New Zealand Land Transport absolutely will not allow a newly imported vehicle to be registered here unless they see the original title to prove that the importer owns the vehicle.

So, here I am, in New Zealand for three months with a motorcycle I’ve shipped half way around the world and I cannot legally drive it here until I come up with a title. The U.S. authorities in Washington State where we’ve applied for a duplicate title, estimate six to eight weeks. New Zealand Land Transport, where I’ve applied to to allow me to circumvent this problem on this end, say nothing can be done in less than four to six weeks.

Just today, Conterm, who has admitted in an E-mail to losing the document and with whom I’ve been going back and forth for over a week regarding compensation for my losses here, have finally allowed as how they will pay my expenses – wait for it… – up to $300 US. Whooo-ee. Now that’s a generous deal. Just today, I paid $60 NZ to get a paper notarized here as part of sorting this mess out.

I’d asked then to consider reimbursing me for what it would cost me to rent a motorcycle or a car here for the period I cannot ride the motorcycle and this was their response. Motorcycles rent for no less than $150 NZ per day here. Cars can, perhaps be found for $25 to $50 per day. Meanwhile, I am sitting here with a machine I cannot use while my three months in NZ are ticking away. NOT GOOD.

$1500 US to ship it. Many hours to make the crate. Tons of planning and now I have a 450 pound steel and aluminum nick-nack in my garage here and no transport. And Conterm in a Multinational Corporation – and they can offer me $300 US. Amazing. I am wondering what my options here are.