All posts by sas164

Fresh water battleground

Speaking from the Kapiti Coast, Catherine Knight joins RDU to discuss the battleground occurring within New Zealand with fresh water and the challenges facing our rivers.

Listen to Catherine Knight on RDU.

Catherine Knight is the author of New Zealand’s Rivers: An Environmental History, a new book from Canterbury University Press that looks at our waterways through a series of lenses.

NZ rivers: an environmental history

Energy Released in all NZ Earthquakes

University of Canterbury Physics PhD student John Holdaway has calculated that the energy released by the M7.8 quake on 14 November accounted for more than 70% of the energy released in all New Zealand earthquakes of the past seven years combined – enough energy to power every home in the South Island for a year.

The M7.8 quake on November 14 accounted for more than 70% of the energy released in all New Zealand earthquakes of the past seven years combined. The energy released in two minutes during the M7.8 quake was around 32 quadrillion Joules – the equivalent of 8 million tonnes of TNT, or detonating 400 Nagasaki atomic bombs. To put that into perspective, the same amount of energy could power the city of Christchurch for three years – or every home in the south island for a year – or the whole of residential New Zealand for three months. It’s comparable to ten simultaneous Darfield quakes. The aftershocks alone from the first three days after the main event have already released another 800 trillion Joules – more energy than all New Zealand earthquakes in 2015.

Updated - Energy Released in all NZ Earthquakes, 2010-2016 (larger)

This graph was made using publicly available magnitude data for tens of thousands of quakes over the past seven years from the GeoNet database. The energy released in a large earthquake can be estimated from its magnitude using a formula developed by Båth in 1966, and the relative energy of an aftershock can be derived by comparing it to the main quake using another equation. To make the graph, I converted the magnitude for each quake to an energy value in Joules, then combined these energy values across different years. What you see in the graph is the annual sum of the energy released by tens of thousands of individual quakes.

It’s worth noting that magnitude scale is logarithmic – a magnitude 5.2 quake is twice as powerful as a magnitude 5.0 quake, and a magnitude 6 quake releases 32 times as much energy as a magnitude 5 quake. Because of this, the second and third largest quakes in the 2010-2016 period – the M7.1 Darfield quake in 2010 and the M7.1 Te Araroa quake earlier this year – are the most visually apparent in the graph after the M7.8 quake. If the data for 2009 were included, the M7.8 Fiordland quake would approximately match the size of the M7.8 Kaikoura quake. We were fortunate the Fiordland quake was centred in a relatively remote area; we were not so fortunate with the most recent seismic activity.

The 22 Feb 2011 Christchurch quake is not particularly prominent on the graph, despite being very damaging in a small local region. This is again due to the logarithmic magnitude scale – at M6.3, it released about 180x less energy than the M7.8 quake. The reason that the Christchurch quake was so damaging despite its relatively small magnitude was because of the combination of several unfortunate factors. Firstly, the hypocentre was very close to a major city and situated at the extremely shallow depth of 5 km. The fault also produced an unusually high peak ground acceleration – 2.2 times the force of gravity, one of the highest values ever recorded for an earthquake. It also combined uncommonly violent vertical jolts with the more typical horizontal shaking. The combination of these factors was simply more than many buildings were designed to withstand.


GeoNet database with the publicly available earthquake data used for the graph:

Quake energy release formula for large earthquakes (M5+) developed by Båth in 1966, where M is the magnitude of the quake:Quake energy release formula

Relative energy of an aftershock compared to the main quake, where m is the magnitude of the aftershock, and M is as before the magnitude of the main quake:Aftershock energy release formula

Policy Library tip: Linking to a UC policy

Did you know that you can hyperlink to a policy? Using a hyperlink to the official electronic version of a policy on the UC Policy Library (UCPL) is preferable to downloading and saving a policy onto your own computer or uploading it onto your web page, because once a policy is printed, or downloaded and saved or uploaded outside of the UCPL, it becomes an uncontrolled version and may be out of date. To hyperlink to a policy:

  1. Select the name of the policy that you want to display as a hyperlink.
  2. Select Hyperlink on the Insert tab or by right clicking.
  3. Copy the URL link to the policy by right clicking the named link to the policy on the UCPL and selecting Copy shortcut.
  4. Paste the URL link into the Address box in the Insert hyperlink box ensuring that Existing File or Web Page is selected on the left under Link to.
  5. Check that the hyperlink works by pressing Ctrl + left click on the link.

For more information see the Metapolicy or the FAQs section of the UC Policy Library, or contact the Policy Unit.”

Looking into Brian Tamaki’s world view

In the wake of Brian Tamaki’s claims about earthquakes being linked to homosexuality, Associate Professor Mike Grimshaw, takes a closer look at the origins and problem with Tamaki’s world view, prejudices and beliefs, and why, in Brian Tamaki’s world, every event is the result of divine action.

One of the great concerns when the Bible was translated from Latin into the common language of a particular people was that individuals would come to believe that that by reading the text they could interpret it for themselves. This has been a central tension for protestant Christianity in particular for over 500 years, as literacy spread throughout societies and individuals picked up their bibles and believed it gave them direct, unmediated access to God.

As the long history of biblical scholarship proves, the Bible is anything but a simple book. In fact it is not a singular text but rather a collection of texts composed by humans across varying times and places, never intending that their texts would be collated together into a single document we call the Bible. Furthermore, there is no singular, definitive text we can call “the Bible” – and there never has been.

Each Bible translation and version is an interpretation of the scholars who put that particular version and translation together. Also, the Bible used by Protestants is seven books shorter and organised differently to the Bible used by Catholics. Protestants divide what are 24 Old Testament (Hebrew) texts in the Catholic Bible into 39 texts and also do not include seven extra texts from the Septuagint (a Greek translation from a different Hebrew authoritative collection or canon).

We then have to acknowledge the different genres, or literary styles of writing contained in the what we now term the Bible; be able to acknowledge the centrality of the Jewish intellectual and theological practice of interpretation, argument and commentary; be aware of Hebrew and early Christian history including the process by which myriad texts and versions of texts were circulating and then chosen from to form canons of authoritative texts;  the intellectual tradition of biblical criticism and scholarship and then the wider, disputatious traditions of intellectual theology. This is why the Christian Church and the Jewish people have both placed theological and textual scholarship as central to the practice of their faiths and traditions.

In short, there has always been the acknowledgement that religious texts – including most centrally what we came to call the Bible – were too complicated, problematic and difficult to be properly engaged and understood without the guidance of learned religious scholars and teachers.

Brian Tamaki represents a different tradition within the histories of Judaism and Christianity.  In particular, he is the personification of what can be termed the protestant problem: the literate individual who, on reading their Bible, believes that they have a direct access to what they claim is divine truth.

In the fundamentalist world, there is only literal truth in the Bible, a literal truth that is in fact a mixture of selective texts and reading reinforcing existing fears and prejudices. The fear is two–fold; on the one hand it is a fear of the modern world, a world that challenges their identity, prejudices and beliefs. On the other hand they fear God, they fear that if they do not speak out against that which they fear then God will also punish them.  Tamaki’s comments about the connection of earthquakes and sin is a continuation of his obsession with and fear of homosexuality. It is evidence of a crisis of masculinity and identity for him and his followers.

In Brian Tamaki’s world, every event is the result of divine action. How to explain the catastrophic events of an earthquake? It is simple: God must be very upset about something and so has decided to use creation to express his displeasure. What is God upset about? The answer is sin. What sin in particular? The sin that Tamaki is obsessed with, that of homosexuality. How can this be expressed? By selectively reading the Bible for passages that can be seen to speak of divine displeasure being expressed through earthquakes.  As we can see, there is a particular simplistic, personal logic at work here.

We also have to understand that Tamaki sees himself as a prophet whom God has called – and rewarded.  For this is religion as morally and socially conservative, religion claiming the right to offend, to discriminate and to experience godly-given material rewards.  We must also be clear that Destiny is not a cult for it does not seek to shut out the world; rather it seeks to radically engage with the world on its own terms.  Disconcertingly for New Zealand, it is a political church of charismatic leadership and Apostolic authority. It is also the church of the socially, economically and culturally marginalised.  This is why it is a church that takes an interventionist, providential God very, very seriously.

It is very clear for all of us who disagree with him that Brian Tamaki is wrong in his science, his theology, his biblical knowledge and understanding, and his prejudices. But we have to understand two things. The first is that he does not care and the public outrage is just confirmation that God has called him as a prophet to correct an ungodly society. This is the easy thing for us to understand.

What is far more important for us to remember is that Tamaki’s homophobia and prejudices (if not his selectively literalist, wrong-headed science) and discrimination are in fact widespread in mainstream Christian churches and also in other religions – and, let us not forget, also amongst those who are unchurched.  For it is too easy – if understandable – to just get outraged by Brian Tamaki; let’s not forget the homophobia, prejudice and discrimination that happens elsewhere, every day.

UC Sociology Associate Professor Mike Grimshaw has previously taught theology and specialises in issues of religion and contemporary and popular culture.