Global Warming and the domino theory
10/31/2007 4:09:54 PM

Ever noticed that opposing sides on the global warming debate are likely to be split along political rather than scientific lines?

Schoolteachers seem totally consumed with the fate of Pacific atolls. A friend’s ten year old son came home from school the other day and told him he should ride a bike to work. The boy’s teacher had informed the class that big business is opposed to the Kyoto Protocols for entirely selfish reasons, and that whole islands will be drowned because noxious exhaust emissions are polluting the atmosphere. Interestingly a recent field study by Flinders University in Adelaide established that, if anything, the atolls are rising. In fact as recently as last week (Oct 26) I heard someone on the radio from Tokelau Islands – much touted by pundits as being in imminent danger of submersion - say there had been absolutely no change in sea level, despite global warming hysteria whipping up the waves, wishing it were so. Ice in the West Antarctic may be melting, but the East Antarctic ice sheet is growing and that contains twice as much of the frozen stuff!

Fortunately there is considerable comfort for climate change skeptics from a growing body of scientists and climatologists questioning the assumptions of the global warming doomsayers.

How strange is the changing nature of our fears. When I was ten years old I wasn’t worried about the rising sea levels, but I was terrified of a communist Chinese sea-borne invasion. With strife in Malaya and Vietnam and the Korean War a not too-distant memory, I had become a youthful disciple of the Domino Theory. You may recall this notion - it had the countries of South East Asia and the Pacific falling one by one to the rapacious imperialism of the communists.

My fears had been further fanned by Dave, a red-neck from Gore, who was labouring on my uncle’s farm at the time. The farm is a few miles up the Riwaka Valley at the foot of the Takaka Hill on Highway 60. I was staying with my cousins during the summer school holidays.

Each morning we meandered down to see Dave in the bottom paddock – carrying the tea billy and scones for smoko - then listened to one of his rambling diatribes on the Domino Theory - he managed to persuade us that the Chinese communists weren’t content with South East Asia, they were going to swarm ashore in their teeming millions, from motorised sampans converted into landing craft, the most likely invasion point being Kaiteriteri Beach, not far from the farm. I nodded sagely at Dave’s Domino prognostication, because I had read about the theory in the Saturday Evening Post.

Beyond any shadow of doubt, State Highway 60, connecting the thriving metropolis of Nelson with the fertile valleys of Takaka and Golden Bay, would be a major strategic objective for the invaders. After all, Transport Nelson trucks, heavily laden with mysterious produce and, most probably, gold bullion, constantly rumbled over the hill, brakes hot and diesel motors growling, as they strained up or engine-braked down the zig-zag. What rich bounty they would provide for peasant soldiers from the paddy fields.

We decided to take defensive action ourselves.

Under the loading bay in the packing shed we found part of a rusting plough, or some such agricultural device. It had wheels and a long shaft. If it was turned over and you squinted your eyes you could imagine it was a machine gun or small cannon. It quickly assumed heroic capability in our minds and morphed into a ‘Rapid-fire, 50mm, tank-smasher’

There was a knoll on the hill behind the farmhouse with a commanding view of the highway. Unfortunately the ‘Rapid-fire 50mm, tank-smasher’ was very heavy. We couldn’t lift it. I think John and I were 10 years old, Graeme, 8 and Steve was about six. We tried to turn Dan, the sheep-dog, into a husky. Rigging up a harness from calico and baling-twine we said ‘mush-mush’, like Johnny Horton in North to Alaska. Unfortunately Dan didn’t understand. He just sat down in the dust and panted, looking at us forlornly. He thought we had tied him up for the day. He had no concept of the dog as a beast of burden.

Aunty Phyl came down to the yard and asked us what we were doing with “that dirty old thing?” and said to come up to the house for lunch, but women don’t understand military logistics. We bolted down our sandwiches in conspiratorial silence and ran back to the shed.

Our lack of preparedness for the imminent invasion had by now taken on a sense of desperation, when along came Dave with the tractor and trailer. Naturally we couldn’t reveal the true nature of our top-secret mission, even to Dave, but he was happy enough to put the ‘Rapid-fire, 50mm tank-smasher’ on the trailer and take it up the hill for us.

Our gun-position would have made any artillery-man proud. We had an unobstructed field of fire through 270°. I seem to recall John and I appointed ourselves generals, Graeme a colonel and Steve got to be a corporal.

In front of us, from east to west, rows of tobacco plants, raspberry canes and corn shimmered in the heat haze. The quietly grazing sheep on the hill behind us seemed ruminantly unaware of their peril. The chuckle of the stream to our left, the distant phtt-phtt-phtt of irrigators and an occasional dog bark were the only sounds punctuating the lazy silence.

Suddenly, we were on alert. From behind the willows lining the riverbank drifted a pall of smoke. Was this the start of the invasion? We watched intently for a while. There was no gunfire. Graeme reckoned they were using bayonets and killing silently. John said it was probably just Bruce Heywood burning off some stubble.

We maintained our vigil until afternoon tea time. Aunty Phyl came to the back gate by the creek and called out to us. We couldn’t reveal our position to her, in case she got captured and gave it away under torture, so we hid silently behind a bank and sent Steve down to the house for pikelets and orange cordial. Then we made him go back to the orchard for some apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin has been my favourite ever since that dark and desperate day.

Now we had enough supplies to last till nightfall. We would have made it too, if mutiny hadn’t broken out in the ranks. Graeme got tired of making machine gun noises as we aimed the ‘tank-smasher’ at every vehicle coming down the road. He wanted to go and read comics, which he was sure had arrived courtesy of the rural-mail man. (The mail-man had been totally oblivious to the fact that we had him covered at all times. It was lucky for him he was on our side.)

Steve said he was sick of being a corporal - because they never got to make machine-gun or explosion noises - and stumped back down the hill in a huff, calling us names as he went.

John and I stayed until late afteroon when Aunty Phyl came out again and called us down to tea. It was obvious by then the invasion wasn’t going to happen that day. Besides it was now low-tide and we figured the sampans wouldn’t get close to the beach.

We didn’t keep watch the next day, nor ever again actually. It was too dangerous. Our cover had been blown.

But from that day to this the Riwaka Valley has remained free of the yoke of communist oppression and I guess we’ll never know if it was the threat of the withering fire-power of our ‘rapid-fire 50mm, tank-smasher’ that caused the communists to call off the invasion.

Athol Rowling, who was always out fishing in Tasman Bay, said there never was a massed sampan fleet off Kaiteri beach that summer, but it was only his word against Dave’s.

There is, however, a lesson here for those who are alarmed by the global warming/climate change pundits. Be careful who you listen to. Check if their motivation is, political, dispassionately scientific, or fuelled by the research gravy-train. Predictably enough, one of the major web-sites supporting the Kyoto Protocol, Cool Planet ( has a page entitled ‘Anti-Corporate’.

An increasing body of research tells us that the Kyoto Protocol is based on poor science and flawed computer models. More recently, a Judge’s ruling in Britain said exactly the same thing the same about Al Gore’s movie.

While no sensible person could want anything but reduced pollution and a sustainable future for our planet, the most recent evidence suggests that the major contributors to climate change are as likely to be due to naturally occurring phenomena such as increased solar activity, forest fires and volcanoes rather than man-made emissions.

So if they can’t find a way to ban fires and volcanic eruptions, before we let the global-warming lynch-mob hang the motorcar from a tree in the nearest rain forest, maybe we should try and convince them that there is reasonable doubt as to its guilt.

comment by: Andrew Clements
11/2/2007 9:31:40 AM Hutch - as a failed accountant type with no artistic or scientific skills I have decided keen observation and dexterous dressing is my best defence against the tyrannical forward march of global warming. This is best represented by my summer vacation strategy which I think is deceptively clever: 1. I note each year how far the biggest tide has come up the beach and if it looks like getting close to the seat I have on the sand dunes - then I will move the seat back! (So far, the high tide mark doesnt seem to have changed at all, but then the seat has only been there 5 years so it's probably not statiscally significant). 2. As temperatures rise I will wear less clothes (of course with due respect for discretion and good taste). Sadly, far from taking off my kit, I have had to take more jerseys and track pants to the beach as the temperatures have failed to keep up their end of the bargain. Indeed, I find I have to wear wet suits to go surfing as the water temperatures are resolutely cold. My 14 year old son has no such problems: perhaps he is more attuned to global warming than me. Maybe it's the education he's getting? Cheers Clem
comment by: Ross Goldsack
11/5/2007 5:30:12 PM Hutch, I was almost moved to tears after reading your blog comments about Global Warming. I stress the word 'almost'. Could you explain a few things for me? The haze that sits over most of Auckland every fine day (as it does in Chch) - which species of the animal kingdom is responsible for this? (I don't think it was a volcano erupting - I think I may have noticed this!) And the dirty mud colour of the Whanganui River - which dastardly species is responsible for this? And the smog over Shanghai?
comment by: alan galbraith
11/26/2007 8:28:05 PM You are a shit stirrer Hutch. But your point is well made. Unlike Ross Goldsack – yes Ross, we see smog, we see mud, we see haze over Auckland and Christchurch. But does a bit of extra earthly crap spell impending doom? It's a giant leap – maybe you've been in advertising too long Ross. Getting back to you Hutch, as you know, I too was living not far from the shadow of Mount Arthur at the time of which you speak. I also remember the red threat and can reassure you that it was very real. My Dad told me, and he was in Singapore during the Japanese invasion, so he would know. So I would now like to personally thank you for effectively preventing this catastrophe. So would my dad if he were still alive.

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