You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Many younger people these days might fail to get the allusion to a manual vehicle with gears, having been taught to drive automatic cars. But there is a pleasing rhythm to the saying, one which obviously still offers a good lesson for some, including voluble NZ First MP and coalition government minister Shane Jones.
What the maxim is suggesting is to think before you speak. That is clearly a difficult thing for some politicians to do, including the howler-prone Mr Jones, whose track record of making inappropriate comments is long enough to give him automatic membership of the Duke of Edinburgh’s gaffe club.
Mr Jones’ latest outspokenness relates to climate change, a subject he should be well-versed in as Minister of Forestry and Minister for Regional Economic Development.
Earlier this week, Mr Jones took serious umbrage with climate-change activists who think New Zealanders should eat less meat.
He accused them of “eco Bible-bashing”, compared them with “medieval torture-chamber workers” and railed against their kind of “absolutism”, which he reckoned had infected the debate about climate change.
“Absolutism is what we saw in the medieval days of putting people on the rack because there was an absolute sense of conviction that their perspective was the only perspective,” Mr Jones said.
‘‘I won’t be desisting from eating copious qualities [sic] of kaimoana [seafood] or meat — that’s how I grew up.’’
Despite that, Mr Jones maintained NZ First was interested in how communities adapted to a changing climate, while remaining “deeply suspicious of any scientist who starts preaching this gospel of absolutism”.
Mr Jones’ outburst followed the announcement by his government team-mate, Education Minister Chris Hipkins, that school children will be taught climate change in the classroom and how they can adapt to it and help reduce its impact.
Climate Change Minister and Green MP James Shaw also suggested children could do their bit to reduce emissions by eating less meat.
Mr Jones has a point that there are better ways of encouraging change than resorting to zealotry. But there is no evidence of such fanaticism here on the part of climate-change activists or his ministerial colleagues, just a desire to do the right thing — so why the nastiness?
Somewhat ironically, it was only last year that Mr Jones was extolling the virtues of being an “eco-warrior” through the Eco Toa programme — which actually means ecological warrior — to train Northland youth in pest and weed control and in planting and forestry.
Mr Jones does not, however, have the monopoly on unpleasantness when it comes to new climate change efforts in schools. A few days ago, MagicTalk radio host Sean Plunket gave Black Caps cricketer Jimmy Neesham a torrid time for defending Minister Shaw.
Mr Plunket was concerned the syllabus might affect students’ ability to question climate change. Mr Shaw replied the syllabus was ‘‘based on the science so you can dispute that all you like’’.
On Twitter, the cricketer praised Mr Shaw for his calmness. Mr Plunket then criticised Mr Neesham for speaking out on climate change while flying around the world and said his career as a cricket player was ‘‘completely pointless, yet burns up tonnes of carbon’’.
People like Mr Jones and Mr Plunket see themselves one way, but most of us view them quite differently. While they appear to think we are in thrall at their ripostes and their alleged quick-wittedness, we just see their behaviour as obnoxious, truculent buffoonery.
We are all hypocrites when it comes to climate change and are far from the ideal in terms of what we should be eating and where we should be reducing our carbon footprints. Education is a way of making us all more aware of where we are falling down and where we can make changes.
New Zealand has enough emissions to worry about without having to deal with Mr Jones and Mr Plunket’s hot air as well.