“So how do you feel about your light bulbs being stolen?”

Arie Smith-Voorkamp was the face of Christchurch earthquake looting because of the media attention he received. He made it onto at least one of the <insert bad thing here> the [email protected]@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?

The loot

The story gets interesting when you find out what he is alleged to have stolen. Two light bulbs from an untenanted and vacant building. Police describe the nature of the offending as serious and say that there is a strong public interest in the case. Arie was in jail for 11 days.

Asperger’sEarthquake Damaged Building

Arie has Asperger’s syndrome which fuels his obsession for all things electrical, including old light fittings. “Sometimes I get that excited about it sometimes I can’t sleep.” He had walked past the building many times, and became fixated on a switch in the shop. Once inside he found that the switch was too modern, but found two light bulbs that he thought he could clean up and display in his house. He says he was not thinking about theft, or the danger he was placing himself in.

Sunday programme

The Sunday programme ran a story about Arie last week, which seemed to excite the Police. Canterbury Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus suggested to the building owners they call TVNZ to try to stop the story going to air.

“On Friday the Sunday programme received an email from Inspector Erasmus advising us that we were under criminal investigation in relation to our story. So we’ll keep you updated on that.”

The victims

Building owners Andrew and Irene Matsis didn’t even know about the “theft” until Sunday contacted them for the story. This seems to contradict the Police calling the offending serious. Surely in serious offending the victims would actually be notified.

“Well since Sunday interviewed the Matsis’ a fortnight ago, senior Police have visited the couple twice. The first time Thursday and again Friday. On Thursday in a press release Inspector Derek Erasmus, said the Matsis’ were now happy for the case to proceed to court, where the matter should be resolved. Sunday spoke to Andrew Matsis just hours ago, he’s happy for the case to go to court but hopes Arie’s name will be cleared.”

On the programme, Andrew says if he knew about the alleged looting he would’ve been angry at Arie for putting himself in danger, not for pinching anything.

Andrew and Irene say they would not have pressed charges if they were contacted by the Police. The interview resulted in the hilarious question: “So… how do you feel about your lightbulbs being stolen?” to which Irene replied: “We do not care about our lightbulbs, he’s welcome to them. And you can tell the Police, I mean we have more important things [to deal with, our] house is falling down and we’re going to worry about light bulbs? No.”

I know stealing is stealing (though is it in this case if the building owners say he is welcome to the light bulbs, abeit after the fact?), but common sense dictates there is a better use of court time and money than to make an example out of someone who offended as a result of a documented disability, who has an unblemished criminal record, and who has already served jail time just because he took a couple of lighting fixtures.

Andrew Matsis: You said you never had any other history of doing anything like that before?
Arie Smith-Voorkamp: No.
AM: First time with the Police?
ASV: Yes.
AM: And they make a court case. What a waste of money.

What do you think? Is there no excuse for looting, no matter the situation?

Image credit: Me

The Probability of Celebrities Gardening in the Red Zone

Red zone Christ Church CathedralProbability

Sue Wells “released” figures on her blog regarding the likelihood of another earthquake in the near future (23% chance in Canterbury within the next year, between 6 and 7 on the Richter scale).

Some people said that it’s horrible to release statistics because they thought the earthquakes were over. February’s quake taught us the importance of not being complacent. It also taught us that the Richter scale does not accurately measure disaster or loss of life, that it could be a 4 or a 5 earthquake that we should be concerned about.

Context should be given with statistics so people reasonably prepare, rather than worry. Sue Wells provided appropriate context for the statistics saying that she had no information on “Mercalli scale or g-force or depth”. The information was appropriately attributed to a CERA meeting at the top of the post and more specifically to Roger Sutton in the comments.

“Those figures might not have seen the light of day for at least another couple of weeks if Cr Sue Wells had not included them in her blog at the weekend.” Information is empowering and should not be held back behind closed doors.

Celebrities

Rachel Hunter, Russell Crowe, Kevin Rudd, Prince William and Julia Gillard have been allowed inside the Christchurch red zone.

Some people are unhappy and are calling it celebrity tourism. They’re angry that they aren’t able to see their city but “important people” are.

However all of these people had a reason for being in the red zone. Prince William spoke at the earthquake memorial. Rachel Hunter and Russell Crowe were both fundraising for the earthquake appeal. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard came to experience what their Australian personnel were dealing with over here.

It’s unfair to say they were just there to push past residents to have their little look.

Gardening

There is currently a debate going on regarding whether people who are paid to care for plants should be caring for them in the red zone… A business owner, who I’m assuming was actually in the cordon accessing his business for a similar time that the gardeners were there, took a photo of City Care workers… working. Business owners are confused as to why City Care workers are allowed in an outside area that would’ve been approved as safe when they’re not allowed in their buildings that have either been deemed unsafe or that they aren’t able to access because of surrounding buildings.

The different parts of Christchurch’s recovery aren’t going to line up in a nice timeline and tidying up of gardens would have to happen eventually. The glass, food… still lying around the city and in businesses is likely to be around or inside buildings that aren’t accessible or otherwise would’ve already been cleaned up. “David Lynch, who gave The Press the photos, said the businessman wanted no unnecessary work in the red zone.” This seems like a selfish mentality of ‘if I can’t get into the red zone NO ONE [email protected]$%@[email protected]’. The recovery is in progress. What’s able to be done is being done.

A safe and carefully planned public tour of the city should happen and the media tours have shown that is possible, however that doesn’t mean that other recovery work should be hijacked until then. Issues around the earthquake are always going to have opposing views. I’m sure if a public tour goes ahead there will be business owners talking to the media about the security of their buildings.

“The Press could not contact Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button yesterday.” As a Stuff commenter put it, maybe she was tending to some plants. But it seems like some of the complainers should take up a hobby too.

Image by me

TEDxEQChCh

The people who made TEDxEQChCh possible.
The people who made TEDxEQChCh possible.
Rubble from demolished Christchurch buildings on the stage at TEDxEQChCh
Rubble from demolished Christchurch buildings on the stage at TEDxEQChCh.
The tweet cathedral: Kunst Buzz developed a piece of art of the ChristChurch Cathedral made out of #eqnz tweets on display in the lobby.
The tweet cathedral: Kunst Buzz (in the in the Netherlands) developed this piece of art of the ChristChurch Cathedral. Made out of a random selection of almost 1000 #eqnz tweets (approximately 98,000 characters) it was on display in the lobby.
There was a TEDxJapan poster for signing in the lobby to show our support for them.
There was a TEDxJapan poster for signing in the lobby to show our support for them.

More photos of mine from TEDxEQChCh are here.

Now today, you’re part of a truly remarkable global phenomenon. Around the world, thousands of people have been gathering in meetings to experience the power of ideas. The surprising thing about today’s meeting is that we here at TED have had almost nothing to do with it. We lent our name, our format, a few simple guidelines and some of our content. But the really hard work to make today happen has been down to your local organizers. And we’re truly in awe of the passion and dedication they’ve shown to make something like this work. Thank you to you too for taking the time out to come and be part of this exciting conversation about our shared future. Please write and tell us what you make of the event today. But for now, on with the show. -Chris Anderson

TEDxEQChCh was streaming live.

Kaila Colbin thanks the alcohol sponsors who’ll make sure everyone’s too sloshed to care if this all goes badly and admits that TEDxEQChCh is probably the most cumbersome event name ever. The event opened with a performance from Joe Castillo, who was beamed in from overseas, and Ariana Tikao.

Lessons learnt:

  • Change has to start on a grassroots level. That means every single one of us. CERA etc. are full of smart people, but they aren’t going to read our minds. Do we want decisions to be made for us?
  • Give the displaced residents control over condemned buildings. If they want to, we need to let them into their yellow and red stickered buildings for a short period of time if they sign a waiver. They need to be there when their building is demolished. People need to be able to go through the rubble piece by piece and recover what they want from their home or business.
  • Give the displaced residents control over their rebuild—phone numbers of builders and workmen working on their new home so it gets built or repaired quickly. Let them manage the process and funds themselves.
  • Let’s make sure we have a record of what people are feeling. People will want to look back on memories recorded in the years to come.
  • We want more green, people, pedestrians and trees in the new Christchurch. We want less traffic.
  • Fill in the gaps that have been created. They can be more than a Wilson’s car park. Some gaps will have to stay gaps because they can’t be built on again, but this gives us options for amazing green community spaces.
  • We don’t want to be a city of commuters and consumers. We want to be a city of communities.
  • The first thing to fix is the building codes. Can we retrofit buildings with rollers so they roll with earthquakes like San Fransisco did with their City Hall?
  • Christchurch and San Fransisco both saw neighborhoods band together. Let’s train rescue and recovery teams in all neighborhoods. Give them the skills they need to help each other get through.

Context

Bob Parker

Bob Parker is here at the Aurora Centre for the third time recently. The first two times were for memorial services because of the earthquake, but this time it’s for something optimistic. Ideas are being shared about how we will move forward.

Hugh Nicholson

“We need to grieve and acknowledge what we’ve lost before moving on. The hardest thing is seeing an empty city—it’s not buildings, cafes and cars that make a city, it’s the people that live, work and breathe within it. As Nicholson has been walking within the central city he’s had to look twice, it’s disconcerting that almost all of the buildings in the central city are unstable or on a lean.”

Hugh’s wearing the central city’s uniform—a hi-vis vest. Christchurch is the only city in the world where you wear a hi-vis vest so you don’t stand out. His love affair with brick is now over. He showed photos of behind the cordon. The photos don’t do the devastation justice. There is rubble on all sides of you, including underfoot. There’s the smell of rotting food. The central city is silent except for the birds singing. There are no people. A photo was shown of workmen busting out the windows of the Brannigans building because the glass was deemed too hazardous to stay.

About 10,000 people attended the Share An Idea community expo. 40,000 ideas were shared.

Christchurch citizens want: green—spaces; people—living, friendly; pedestrian—friendly; trees. Less: cars, traffic, concrete, buses.

Cameron Sinclair

How long should a building last? 100 years? What will be our perfect city in 100 years?

After Hurricane Katrina, Architecture for Humanity lived in the area and witnessed the issues around re-homing misplaced residents. In Biloxi, Architecture for Humanity got homes designed and built in six weeks. We need a community led design process. Even the craziest ideas are important, like solar powered camels. People care about the small things like: how do I get my business started, how do I get home? There needs to be transparency.

“Follow your heart, break the rules, get it built.”

Coralie Winn

There was already a problem with gaps in the city, but the earthquakes Christchurch had made it worse—“the gaps now are that much bigger and will remain empty that much longer”. Gapfiller proposes that we use those spaces well. Temporary solutions that fill those gaps. The temporary offers us innovation. What incentives could there be for landowners to offer up their land? Possibly a rates rebate. A travelling bar in Melbourne works out of a shipping container. Pallet art fills a vacant space overseas. In a Christchurch gap: 31 bands played, 12 films were shown. The gaps were filled by poets, circus people, galleries. The vacant spaces were used. Gaps were filled.

Marcus Spiller

The New Zealand economy is flexible and Christchurch is blessed with high value businesses. “We need to leverage innovations, skills, infrastructure and leadership.” “After the quake Christchurch will be better equipped, better skilled and still more innovative…”

James Howard (recorded talk)

James Howard Kunstler dissects suburbia. To make ourselves feel better we use nature band-aids. You know what the last sentence was at some design meetings—“fuck it”. Let’s build places worth caring about. There’s not enough Prozac in the world to make people feel okay about going down some blocks. We don’t have to have a craft fair to get people to come to good public spaces.

Opportunity

Rod Carr

We must remember our past. Acknowledge those who have created our world. What was it that caused us to want to be here? Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island. This city is still open for business. AMI Stadium will be functioning in February. The university has over 2000 running courses with 15500 students enrolled. We have the amazing revamp of our airport. Let’s not scare the world away, discourage tourists from visiting or define ourselves by what happened on February 22nd. Let’s define ourselves by our response. When our children look back, the defining moment should be us understanding the importance of what we can do for our city, not what the city can do for us.

Karen Blincoe

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. People have dreamt about creating utopia for their city. Masdar city in Abu Dhabi will be carbon free, totally self sustainable with people traveling around by electric vehicles. Using shadow of buildings to cool spaces. Planned to be completed in 2016 but now 2020/2025 costing $22 billion USD. “Cities are not the problem, they are the solution” – Jaime Lerner.

10 principles of sustainable cities:

  • Rediscover the city
  • Redefine city value
  • Involve everyday experts
  • Break down silos
  • Redistribute urban decision making
  • De-design urban planning
  • Promote corporate urban responsibility
  • Go global
  • Embrace chaos, crisis and change
  • Encourage passion in urban leadership

She wants to come back and say ‘I can use Christchurch as an example for a sustainable city’. Cities are like living entities with a soul, heart, mind, body. We need to react in the short term but plan for the long term.

Hugh Morrison

We all entered a world of uncertainty after February 22nd. But we also entered a world of opportunity. Huge collaboration and enormous leadership will be needed. Let’s have a clear and shared milestone. The uncertainty is around our homes and where we work.

Christchurch has about 190,000 homes. 5,000 with no insurance. There are homes over the $100,000 ECQ cap. 60% of those homes will be rebuilt. 40% repaired. There has been just under 300,000 building claims, meaning there’s been multiple claims because of the earthquake—it’s reached every house. Hugh Nicholson’s house (previous speaker) is ruined, but he’s still going. Questions homeowners have: will my house be rebuilt? Is the land okay? If I get relocated, where do I move to?

Building owners, tenants, workers and visitors are all linked.

Old data – 4,300 buildings in the city. 1,000 red stickered, 1,100 yellow stickered. Rest green. 42% of Colliers clients said their buildings were either demolished or red-stickered. Catching up on the fine print of insurance isn’t a happy time or conversation. Insurance and financials are complex for building owners. Without a city plan business owners can’t move forward.

How to create certainty? When is this going to happen? What’s the framework to put my framework around? A programme for building certainty should cover the home, workplace and playground.

10 step programme to building certainty

  • Land retirement decision – July 2011
  • Rebuild or repair decisions – December 2011
  • Residential zoning plan – February 2012
  • Deliver on ‘Project Restart’ – end of October 2011
  • Central city plan – February 2012. Probably the most critical plan ever developed.
  • Demolition penalties post – June 2012
  • Charter of seed CBD property owners – 2012 build
  • Government tenants commitments – 2012 build
  • Government contribution to QEII facility – February 2012
  • Government contribution to Arts & Entertainment precinct – February 2012

Majora Carter (recorded talk)

Greening the ghetto. In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx — and shows how minority neighborhoods suffer most from flawed urban policy.

Daniel Cullum

Wants to mobilize the young people in the city to rebuild Christchurch but maybe not in the usual way. The human spirit in the city is still strong but has taken a hit. The young people now have an opportunity to rebuild the human spirit of Christchurch.

Barriers for young people to help rebuild:

  • Isolation. We need to be connected.
  • Time. On top of school, job etc. It’s difficult for young people to get involved with the community.
  • Expectations (of themselves). It doesn’t have to be massive.

Dan’s one year t-shirt challenge challenges young people to wear the same shirt for a year (Dan has an ‘I am Dan’ shirt), get sponsored for doing it and donate money to the causes they care about. The city is being rebuilt for young people and the generations after. Even if your idea is simple—like wearing the same t-shirt for a year, run with it.

Humanity

Grant Schofield

Grant explains what walking is to a passing car who thinks he and his kids were walking because their car must be broken down. Kids of today are used to sitting—the new normal. Sitting in front of the TV, in cars—to school etc. Children are 30% less active on weekends.

Grant’s children’s school is putting a fence around the school to keep predators out. They’ve never had a problem with predators. They have a staggered end time because of the huge amount of parents picking up their kids in cars.

Kids need to be outdoors and in constant motion. When you confine kids they suffer badly in all ways. Our kids might be the first generation in human history that was a shorter life span than their parents do. The paradox of this risk aversion is in the long run they’re less able to handle risk. The prefrontal cortex develops during childhood. When is risk better developed? When a kid is six and climbing up a tree, or at 15 behind the wheel of a Subaru. Five when they’re having a fight with the kid next door, or learning about fighting when they’re 25 at a bar. When there’s a huge benefit from a risk, it’s a no brainer. Successful parenting should be based on the number of band-aids used that week, not how many activities you’ve taken them too. The kids are up for it. The parents should be too. It’s easy—hang the car keys up, open the backdoor, kick the kids out and open a bottle of chardonnay. Free range parenting is essential for kids’ health and development.

How did we get here? We became car dependent and built cities for cars and not people. We can redevelop Christchurch where local living is normal. Where kids have a place and permission to range around the neighborhood. We saw this immediately after the earthquake. The children came outside because there was no TV, computer. Neighborhoods connected when utilities were off. Let’s re-imagine Christchurch as a city that doesn’t have just physical change, but social change too. Let’s lead New Zealand into this change. We’re not building the city for us, but for our children, their children and their children again.

Grant Ryan

“Let’s compare San Fransisco to Hamilton”. If our vision of Christchurch is like Hamilton with a smaller river people won’t want to come here. It’s worth being iconic rather than boring. Grant compared Wollongong vs the Gold Coast and Leicester vs Oxford and said that “cities that are innovative, creative and iconic thrive whereas those that are boring do not”. Some cities are such great places to live that people choose to live in the city and commute outside it for work. Grant asked who was here that wasn’t born in Christchurch. A huge majority. They’ve moved and stayed here. We’d be poorer if it wasn’t for those people. When you have a full CBD great ideas come to life.

We should cross off anything that is too expensive, but also anything that’s too boring. People need to want to say to each other once we’re done “have you heard about Christchurch city?” because of how great it is.

We don’t want to be known as the city that got slapped by a couple of earthquakes, but the city that came roaring back from them.

Bjarke Ingels (recorded talk)

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels rockets through photo/video-mingled stories of his eco-flashy designs. His buildings not only look like nature — they act like nature: blocking the wind, collecting solar energy — and creating stunning views.

Let’s change the idea that a sustainable city is a boring city. The Chinese character for crisis is made up of the Chinese characters danger and opportunity. Christchurch has an opportunity. Bjarke sent a personal message to the audience at TEDxEQChCh that was very well received by the crowd.

Sacha McMeeking

Sacha got the audience to hug their neighbors in the audience. She said that’s what it felt like after the earthquake. The project of rebuilding is ours. We are our own creators. We’re talking to the powers that be. 10,000 people had a linear conversation with the powers that be last weekend at Share An Idea. They have to make decisions that will affect us and our children based on that linear conversation. CERA is populated with good and talented people. This is going to be a decade or more of a collective journey to our future. We have the common trajectory of a sustainable and vibrant city. We’re here not just for recovery, but for transformation and change. We have already experienced the incredibly moving experience of the Christchurch pledge.

How do we want our children to learn, play, know each other?

“Democracy—some assembly required.” “One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.” “Collaboration is the new black.” “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Andie Spargo

You know you live in Christchurch when…:

  • Every house is a crack house.
  • Where’s my [item]? It’s on the floor.
  • A group of students appear on your street and you don’t call the police.

Comedy is watching something happen to someone else. But what if something bad happens to you?

Christchurchians used comedy in the weeks after the quake too, with the ‘You know you live in Christchurch when…’ Facebook group and with the ‘Show us your long drop’ website. A giant rock destroys your house? Are you angry? Yeah. But do you sell the rock on Trade Me in a hilarious auction? Hell yeah.

Things Andie has learned from the earthquake:

  • The Earth is made up of plates.
  • Earthquakes were once measured using the Richter scale. In Christchurch we use the HMDIJPIMP scale—the ‘How much did I just piss in my pants scale’.
  • Drop cover and hold is still the recommended advice from Civil Defence. If you’re in Christchurch, when there’s a 3.0 and over you pause. 4.0 over you pause and hold… your wine glass. 5.0 you pause, hold your wine and put a status update on Facebook. When there’s a 6.0 and over you drop, cover, hold, and scream.
  • It’s now okay to go to the toilet in your neighbors backyard.
  • Trips to the doctor are free if they’re earthquake related.
  • People with 4WDs are now getting to go off road everyday. When they go to work, the shops or back out of their drive.
  • Yoga is a really good way to calm my nerves, except when we have 5.3, downward facing dog becomes outside screaming scardy cat.
  • Munted.
  • A new drink: gin and tectonic. Pour gin. Wait for earthquake. Gin and tectonic.
  • When a 100 litre fish tank explodes on the floor, highly carbonated Soda Stream water is not the best way to save a catfish.

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and move on.

James Lunday

We need to change the language we use: ”In the first quake the city got munted. It’s fucked now.”

“There’s no justice in the world. The ugly buildings are still standing. Can you give me a bunch of red stickers so I can run through town and slap them on all the ugly buildings?”
“What you’ve created instead of American Pie is a huge donut. A bit stodgy on the outside, a little sweet on the inside, but not good for you. In the middle, fuck all.”

Let’s create new green networks based on nature. Give power back to the communities. Let them be self-reliant. Not being able to build on a space isn’t the end of the world. Gives freedom for open spaces.

Dresden, Germany and Hiroshima both came back from disasters. Remember that leaving memories is okay.

Is it worth resetting, rethinking, rediscovering, re-visioning, regenerating, renewing? Evolution is gone. There’s the opportunity to build a new.

“We live in faceless suburbia—blank meaningless little boxes. Retail centres with no soul. It’s disgusting and offensive and it’s wrecked the CBD. A district plan that is full of rules and regulations yet still delivers terrible outcomes. We have a city of commuters and consumers—is that an aspiration? We can create a city of communities.”

Let’s:

  • Set
  • Think
  • Discover
  • Vision
  • Generate
  • New

Let’s reinforce the villages. Make them real. Let’s turn ourselves away from the car.

With minimal cars you start to see the street. Not being able to build on a space isn’t the end of the world. Gives freedom for open spaces. Forget the CBD.

We’ve got the money, skill, passion and talent to create places to love and live in. There’s opportunity for new beginnings.

Possibilities

Paul Downton

Christchurch is undergoing a crash course in disaster planning and urban reconstruction. What happens to Christchurch is important to all of us, even if we live half a world away. Other countries will be watching our response for when it’s their time.

Everything adapts:

  • Things breathe where they could not otherwise breathe.
  • Stay warm where they would otherwise freeze.
  • Stay cool where they would otherwise be too hot.
  • Reproduce where they could not.

We build like a bird builds. We need to. When buildings come down it’s personal to us.

Buildings serve many purposes. The rate of change is really really fast. Cities are ecosystems.

Let’s encourage accidental meetings.

“The entire planet is becoming a village, and as a result, the smallest neighborhood or precinct must be planned as a working model of the larger world.” — Lewis Mumford

Helena Norberg-Hodge

Most economists are ecologically illiterate.

We’re going through a fundamental change in society. The highest priority is fundamental change to the economy, moving towards the localization of economic activity.

Opening up the economy of Ladakh with subsidized food, roads and fuel brought in from thousands of miles away destroyed the local market. There was unemployment and friction between people.

Worldwide there’s a split between the government and the interests of their people. The governments are pursuing an economic model that’s outdated. More trade, more export, more foreign investment—they say is the formula for prosperity.

The most inspiring movement is towards local food. People have 10x more conversations while shopping in the Farmer’s Market than in the supermarket.

Alain de Botton (recorded talk)

A kinder, gentler philosophy of success. Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure — and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

According to your answer to ‘what do you do?’ people are either incredibly delighted to see you or seem to have something else to do. It should be a sin to come to a conclusion on who you should talk to based on their business card.

When you next see someone driving a Ferrari, don’t think they’re greedy, think that they’re vulnerable and need love.

We don’t envy The Queen. She’s weird. She speaks in a funny way.

There’s basically two kinds of self-help books: you can do it, you can make it, anything’s possible. And how to cope with low self-esteem.

The words ‘unfortunate’ vs. ‘loser’: we’re changing the belief in whose responsible for our lives. We’re in the driver’s seat. If you’re doing well that’s great. If you’re not, it leads to increased rates of suicide. People take what happens to them extremely seriously. They own their success but they also own their failure.

Someone may have slept with the wrong person. Taken the wrong substance. Passed the wrong legislation.

Success might be seen as having money or being renowned. You can’t be successful at everything. You can’t have it all. Any success has a loss. There’s going to be an element where we’re not successful.

Alain de Botton sent this message to TEDxEQChCh:

I don’t for a minute doubt that your TEDx is going to be a fascinating and highly useful affair. At a time of unprecedented upheaval and pain, ideas – which are at the heart of what TED does – are what will pull us all through and give meaning and direction to our efforts. I so wish I could have been with you today.

Gerry Brownlee

Connecting with the community is great. TEDxEQChCh is awesome because it’s Independently organized so everyone’s views can be shared.

Art Agnos

Knows that it’s extremely important what Gerry Brownlee etc. are doing. Showed footage of San Francisco’s 1989 earthquake. Said he is going to offer some common experiences that he went through and the city went through with the long term recovery process and the politics.

Start with strong building codes. Fight bureaucracy. Alternative channels of communication might have to be used.

Money is an issue. Red Cross raised $70 million dollars. Art only saw it being used on coffee, donuts and blankets. The rest of the money was in a bank far away. He had to fight to get access to the money donated to the city.

There’s always another alternative. When the city needed to use the convention center that was housing homeless people, they moved them to an aircraft carrier. The rooms and sleeping space were too small, but other crew areas were found on the ship that would be suitable.

Their City Hall is much like our Cathedral except it was badly damaged and didn’t collapse. Each piece of the building was marked, photographs were taken and it was taken apart piece by piece. The pieces were stored and rollers were installed in the foundations of the building so it would roll with the tremors. The building was then reassembled.

After watching people standing in lines trying to get access back into their homes for just a few minutes they invented new techniques on the spot. All their residences were tagged red yellow and green like Christchurch’s. If someone insisted on going into building and signed a waiver, they could go in for 15 minutes. It was a risk, but was important to kick start recovery process. People felt they were regaining control over their lives.

Soft take down measures were put in place. Residents could stand in the street and watch the building be demolished and taken down. They were allowed to search through the wreckage of the building floor by floor for things that they missed in the 15 minutes they had in their house when it was standing. The rubble from each house was stored separately in a landfill so homeowners had another chance to go through it. People need to be put first in the recovery process and these were important steps.

Strong emotions weren’t limited just to people who just lost their homes. They got children to write down feelings. People still go back and revisit what was written down.

They revamped their emergency plans with the understanding of what people will do to help others in their neighborhoods after a disaster. All sorts of people from neighborhoods were trained in teams and given valuable rescue and leadership skills.

Perhaps the greatest thing in long term recovery is not to automatically assume things should be put back the way they were.

The capital for a politician is popularity and it comes with doing good and meaningful things for the community, not just things to get themselves reelected. Art ended up losing a reelection after making tough decisions for the long term success of his city. The time frame for important decisions doesn’t necessarily line up with the election time frame.

He said to use the ideas we’ve heard all day. Fix the broken places in the city. And then the whole room stood to take an oath to promise to leave the city better than it was when we came into it.

Closing

We know that we’re not forgotten when people like Art come to talk to us.

The speakers the sponsors, the organizing committee, the volunteers. Wow. Thank you from everyone who was at TEDxEQChCh.

The TEDxEQChCh name tag and programme looking very flash.
The TEDxEQChCh name tag and programme looking very flash.

Death to the Death Penalty

Electric Chair ProtestThe death penalty is nothing new but it caught my eye because of Osama Bin Laden reportedly being killed and because of the “let’s shoot the looters” comments I saw on a Christchurch earthquake Facebook page.

Death to the death penalty (video)
Stop the death penalty (video)

Let’s assume that Bin Laden was killed and buried straight away in the… ocean? This example is interesting as he wasn’t killed after he was sentenced to death by a court. However Obama said he: “…[made] the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority…”

Whether Bin Laden was killed intentionally or not I’m not sure. Now his body is in the water so we might not ever know. However I found the outpour of support for Bin Laden’s death and even the celebration resulting on sites like Twitter extremely interesting. And a lot of people were celebrating. I wondered if all of those people would support capital punishment in less extreme circumstances, like for the murder of one person? Or whether this event has changed their views to support the death penalty?

Did this bring about justice? I say no. A civilized trial would have created justice, in my opinion. Some said that the celebrations were justified because it symbolized the fighting and winning against terrorism. Because a figurehead of terrorism was downed. But Bin Laden was just that, a figurehead. Did he encourage hate, hurt and violence? Yes. Did he pull the triggers himself? No. Will someone take over his place leading Al-Qaeda? Yes.

More importantly, does this mean I’ll be able to take my bottle of water through airport security now?

@robinbogg Twitter Two Wrongs Make a Right - BREAKING: Children everywhere confused by sudden implementation of two wrongs make a right

The permanence of capital punishment is concerning. How sure would you need to be of someone’s guilt to support an execution? What if mistakes were made? Are a few false positives alright?

Does the death penalty grant relief to the suffering victim’s families?

This editorial in the New York Times says no: ‘In an open letter to the Connecticut Legislature, relatives of murder victims — 76 parents, children and others — wrote that “the death penalty, rather than preventing violence, only perpetuates it and inflicts further pain on survivors.”’ The death penalty deepens the wounds and the pain of victims’ families and the accused’s family. It creates more victims and continues the cycle of violence.

This page has stories from inmates’ families on how they’ve been affected by an execution. Bill Babbitt turned in his brother for committing a murder and was under the assumption that his brother would get the help he needed. His brother who was a paranoid schizophrenic was sentenced to death. Robert Meeropol talks about having both of his parents executed when he was six-years-old.

The death penalty makes it easy to “solve” re-offending without having to deal with the policies behind parole. It’s also easy to say prison officers would be protected, when in reality issues surrounding staff security need to be sorted.

Instead of putting forward the death penalty as a solution for crime, let’s create better policies. Policies that identify youth that are at-risk of offending. Better mental health services. Let’s remind ourselves that people released from prison need support starting well before they’ve been released to successfully assimilate back into society.

Alternatives to capital punishment might be the way out. Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Johnny Holmes says “you’re not going to find 12 people back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the alternative is throwing away the key.”

Is there a humane way to kill someone?

By poisoning with the lethal injection? Where are those drugs coming from?

Texas was reluctant to release where the drugs they use in their death row come from. Besse Medical, apparently. Feigning ignorance, Besse say they “…[have] no way to determine what its customers, including the Texas corrections department, does with its products.”

That article reports a shortage of U.S. made lethal injection drugs and says states have had to import from overseas. As overseas countries ban the export of those drugs for use in executions (“that supply dried up after the British government in November banned its export for use in executions”) and drugs are imported from dubious sources or drugs are reappropriated, concerns should be raised over the quality and efficiency of the drugs being used. Are they going to kill someone quickly and painlessly? Oklahoma is using an anesthetic, pentobarbital, that’s used in animal euthanasia solutions.

What level of training do the people administering the drugs have regarding administration or dosage?

Short answer: University of Miami researchers say none. It appeared prisoners were assumed to be successfully anaesthetised if they were given a standard dose of thiopental, but this wouldn’t be true if the drug was given incorrectly, the execution took longer than anticipated or the prisoner had anxiety or serious substance abuse issues. After analyzing autopsy data for 49 prisoners who had been executed, researchers found that in 43 cases the concentration of anaesthetic in the prisoners’ blood were lower than required in surgery. Out of those 43, 21 of the concentrations “were consistent with [the prisoner] being aware of what was going on.”

…the researchers, led by Dr Leonardis Koniaris, said: “We certainly cannot conclude that these inmates were unconscious and insensate.”

“However, with no monitoring and with little use of the paralytic agent, any suffering of the inmate would be undetectable.”

They add: “The absence of training and monitoring, and the remote administration of drugs, coupled with eyewitness reports of muscle responses during execution, suggest that the current practice for lethal injection for execution fails to meet veterinary standards.”

As a society we can do better than a primitive band-aid on the long-term problem of crime.

See also: an eye for an eye ends up making everybody blind.

Image credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

The Republic of New Zealand

The QueenSome people have commented that the Royal Wedding is going to encourage support for the monarchy from New Zealanders. I disagree. The wedding highlighted a lack of Kiwiness. A fairy-tale story of princes and princesses. A lavish old-fashioned ceremony. Backward gender roles. People from other countries enjoyed the wedding without being part of the monarchy.

Irrelevance of the British monarchy to us (and I guess vice versa) was shown in the Queen’s (very religious) 2010 Christmas message. The Governor-General in his 2011 New Year Message spoke about the Pike River mining disaster and the Canterbury earthquake, both which would’ve been appreciated by New Zealanders as topics in New Zealand’s real head of state’s address.

No need for a Rolls-Royce. A Toyota Corolla, a minimalist’s republic, will be fine. –Dean Knight

Becoming a republic could be quite painless: changing the Governor-General from being our head of state in effect to our real head of state. Everything could else could stay the same.

Our Head of State should be chosen by us, from amongst us, and be able to reflect the values of our nation. It’s time for a Kiwi Head of State.

As Dean also points out, becoming a republic doesn’t mean we can’t still be part of the Commonwealth. We’re one of 16 (out of 54) countries that have Queen Elizabeth as our head of state.

Change seems most likely when the current Queen passes away, by referendum. Her mother was 101 when she died, so there might be some waiting to do.

Image credit: Steve Punter

The Remedy To Be Applied Is More Speech, Not Enforced Silence

Christchurchquake.netHRC pressures King & Spalding to drop case defending the Defense of Marriage Act

King & Spalding, the law firm hired by House Republican leaders to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) dropped the case. The U.S. Defense of Marriage Act aims to “define and protect the institution of marriage”. It says that no state etc. is required to recognize a relationship that is considered a same-sex marriage in another state.

It’s concerning when lawyers bow to pressure to not take a case on (or to drop one, in this case) because of public opinion. A similar argument could apply to people accused of rape, murder etc.—that lawyers are horrible people for representing them.

The Human Rights Campaign pressured K&S to drop the case. The cost is capped at $500k and a lot of Americans would rather the focus be on other issues—“when read statements for and against defending DOMA in court, 54 percent of voters oppose the House Republicans’ intervention, while only 32 percent support it.…”.

K&S has a high rating on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, meaning they hire without discrimination. Just because they were going to defend this viewpoint doesn’t mean they supported it.

The pressure should be targeted at the House Republican leaders and not at the people doing their jobs.

Earthquake moon man silenced

Mr Ring said he also feared he would be prosecuted for inciting a riot following his quake prediction.

“I’ve been virtually told by [ACC minister] Dr Nick Smith and Sir Peter Gluckman [the prime minister’s scientific advisor] that I’m not qualified to put statements out about earthquakes. They will have me legally if I do that.

“Until they reverse that, I’m completely bound to silence. I don’t want to go to jail.

“They said it was like calling out fire in a crowded theatre and that’s against the law — it’s called the riot act, and inciting riot.” –Stuff.co.nz

The Crimes Act defines a riot as “…a group of 6 or more persons who, acting together, are using violence against persons or property…”. It also seems like the Riot Act (or at least the reading of the Riot Act?) was repealed.

To my unqualified eye this seems like a questionable interpretation of the law and a questionable use of status to silence someone.

Website blaming earthquake on gays taken down by host

A website was put up shortly after the Christchurch earthquake at christchurchquake.net (now suspended), blaming the quake on the gay community, and the people supporting it. It was widely covered, including by the Sydney Morning Herald. Bluehost received many complaints about it (in the thousands, according to a source) and said they’d only act if they received a court order to do so (I asked and they said they would accept a New Zealand one), but eventually pulled it down because of a copyright complaint.

People or corporations using copyright complaints to get content taken down that they don’t agree with or would rather not have up isn’t uncommon. In this case a whole site was taken down because of one image.

The complaints used Bluehost’s terms of service, section 9.14 as the reason:

Obscene, Defamatory, Abusive or Threatening Language. Use of the Services to store, post, transmit, display or otherwise make available obscene, defamatory, harassing, abusive or threatening language is prohibited.

Several people have pointed out that web hosts shouldn’t have to decide whether something is legal or not. Bluehost refused to decide and asked for a court order. This reasoning would have been better received by complainers if Bluehost didn’t include clauses in their terms of service that say they will take down a site if it contains x. However I am sure Bluehost isn’t the only host that does this.

The site reportedly suffered a DDoS attack as well, which affected other customers on the same server.

This is a change of tune from what I said immediately after I heard about the website, but I support this decision by Bluehost. The site was in bad taste, however should still be protected as free speech until potentially being deemed illegal by a court. If this had been a pro-gay website and anti-gay people had pressured the host to take it down then succeeded because of a copyright complaint, these same people against this site would be angered.

Bluehost let themselves down by taking down the website because of one copyrighted image. I am curious as to whether the customer behind the website was given a chance to respond to the copyright complaint. They received lots of complaints and bad press about this. This would’ve been a perfect topic for the CEO’s blog on why they weren’t going to take action without a court order.

However this event brings up an interesting idea: that the Internet has unwritten rules and if something or someone goes against those rules, people come together over forums or social media etc. to try fight it. This has happened before with child and animal abuse (the perpetrators tracked down), fights for democracy (help with the spread of information to citizens) and corporations with questionable business practices (unfortunate documents released) and because of the nature of the Internet will continue to happen.

Image credit: Christchurchquake/DomainTools

Shutting Down Skynet: The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill

Home taping is killing music and it's illegalYesterday the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill was unexpectedly rushed through Parliament during an urgent session brought about because of the Christchurch earthquake. This morning it was passed and will come into force on September 1st.

Watching the session was frustrating as few contributors truly understood file sharing and the Internet. Gareth Hughes is one of the few who actually gets it. See him talking here, here and here. He brought up a number of good points including:

  • Access to the Internet is vital.
  • Termination not being enacted straight away is just a delay.
  • Many downloads are because content is not even available legally in New Zealand.

@thomaslebas on Gareth Hughes using real tweets in Copyright (Infringing Filesharing) Bill Parliament debate(via)

The Green Party opposed the Bill because the disconnection provision was still included. Labour didn’t like the disconnection provision either, however still supported the Bill. As Labour MP Clare Curran explains on the Red Alert blog:

Account suspension remains in the bill and could theoretically be used in the future, but any Minister who implements termination will have to wear the consequences. It won’t be a Labour Minister.

This happened many times throughout the night: great points against this Bill were brought up (like disconnection; the fact it’s being rushed; that the MPs themselves don’t know what their children are downloading from the Internet, keep in mind that the MP as the probable account holder will be responsible for their children’s downloading), but then the person finished with their overall support of the Bill. Someone (I think on Twitter, sorry I lost the source) summed it up nicely: “they’re fundamentally opposed to something, yet they vote for it”.

Without this legislation copyright holders could still send warning notices, but this legislation is intended to make the process faster and cheaper. Another side effect is that the process will favor copyright holders. After receiving a warning notice from a copyright holder, it is up to the Internet account customer to prove their innocence (reversing the usual burden of proof). This basically assumes that users who have been sent notices are infringers. It is unclear (to me at least) how someone will prove that they haven’t downloaded or uploaded a file. This is concerning because copyright owners seem to get it wrong regularly. For example a University Of Washington study found they could get a copyright warning sent to a printer that wasn’t uploading or downloading copyrighted files. They say:

Q: I’m a network operator working at an ISP. Should I be suspicious of DMCA takedown notices?

Yes. Our results show that some methods used to generate DMCA takedown notices in BitTorrent are not conclusive and may misidentify users. This may also be true for other P2P networks.

A U.S. study found 57% of DMCA notices sent to Google for removal of material were sent by business targeting competitors and 37% of notices were not valid copyright claims. (Source: J Urban & L Quilter, ‘Efficient Process or “Chilling Effects”? Takedown Notices Under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’, http://static.chillingeffects.org/Urban-Quilter-512-summary.pdf (mirror))

In addition to the maximum $15k fine that the Copyright Tribunal can impose on someone who has received three warnings, there is a provision in the legislation to allow the Commerce Minister to introduce a six month Internet account suspension penalty applied by a District Court. In the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Information Economy Report, UNCTAD/SDTE/ECB/2006/1, Nov 2006, broadband is recognized as an essential utility for individuals. Disconnection from the internet is a disproportional punishment compared with the effects of illegal file sharing.

The legislation makes the Internet account holder responsible for all Internet use through that connection, treating all content downloaded/uploaded by different people through a connection as one. This may mean that a family member, flatmate or landlord is responsible for other people’s illegal file sharing. This also means that account holders could get the blame for things that people they don’t even live in the house do. The account holders would be responsible for random people accessing poorly protected wireless networks, for example.

Is pirating content really that bad?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says in a report (via):

U.S. government and industry claims that piracy damages the economy to the tune of billions of dollars “cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies.”

and

“Some experts we interviewed and literature we reviewed identified potential positive economic effects of counterfeiting and piracy. Some consumers may knowingly purchase a counterfeit or pirated product because it is less expensive than the genuine good or because the genuine good is unavailable, and they may experience positive effects from such purchases. Consumers may use pirated goods to ‘sample’ music, movies, software, or electronic games before purchasing legitimate copies. (This) may lead to increased sales of legitimate goods.”

From a TorrentFreak article:

Although IFPI refused to share the entire research report with TorrentFreak, we can conclude the following from the two pages that were published online (pdf).

Compared to music buyers, music sharers (pirates) are…

* 31% more likely to buy single tracks online.
* 33% more likely to buy music albums online.
* 100% more likely to pay for music subscription services.
* 60% more likely to pay for music on mobile phone.

and

[Mark Mulligan, Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research who conducted the study for IFPI (who “represents the recording industry worldwide”] has his hands tied and couldn’t say much about the findings without IFPI’s approval, but we managed to get confirmation that paying file-sharers are the music industry’s best customers. “A significant share of music buyers are file sharers also. These music buyers tend to be higher spending music buyers,” Mulligan told TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak on artists actually profiting from piracy:

A study by Blackburn (2004), a PhD student from Harvard, found that the 75% of the [artists] actually profit from piracy. Blackburn reports that the most popular [artists] (top 25%) sell less records. However, the remaining 75% of all artists actually profit from [file sharing]. The same pattern was found by Pedersen (2006, see graph), who analyzed the change in royalties paid by the Nordisk Copyright Bureau between 2001 and 2005.

Michael Geist on a study of music purchasing habits commissioned by Industry Canada:

When assessing the P2P downloading population, there was “a strong positive relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchasing.  That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases.” The study estimates that 12 additional P2P downloads per month increases music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.

When viewed in the [aggregate] (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada.  According to the study authors, “the analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole.”

Additionally, downloading doesn’t equal lost sales, some people are trying before they buy. And some people are downloading because they can’t get the content legally.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern talked about illegal downloading of music hurting small artists, but it’s only the big record companies that you ever hear complaining. Big companies have bigger voices, but small artists are the ones embracing downloads by putting songs up for free on their websites.

A statistic was brought up last night that 90% of people say they will stop downloading illegally after two warnings. There’s a difference between saying and doing and I doubt there’ll be a change.

Will this make those pirates start buying again, or will they just go find the same stuff elsewhere? (via)

Update 17/04/2011: On the InternetNZ blog they point to Amanda Palmer at Webstock 2011 talking about music and giving it away for free. The relevant part starts at 25:00 but her whole talk is worth watching.

Update 19/04/2011: Jonathan Hunt tweeted a link to an episode of This Way Up on Radio NZ. Paul Brislen (from the Telecommunications Users Association Of New Zealand) and Peter Griffin (the Herald’s technology blogger) do a role play of what the notice process could be like, it starts around a third of the way in. You can listen here (MP3).

Some good points brought up:

  • Generally no legal representation is allowed at the Copyright Tribunal. There will be mums and dads who have no idea what is going on, trying to prove their innocence. There will be ignoring of notices out of confusion.
  • This could end up costing IPAPs (defined in the Bill as traditional ISPs; not universities, libraries, and businesses) who estimate costs as $14 to $56 per notice. It is noted in the Bill “that the United Kingdom has recently decided on a cost-sharing approach between rights holders and Internet service providers, at a ratio of 75:25 respectively”. ISPs overseas receive a huge number of these notices each day.
  • If you have a business with 5000 employees, how do you track down whose actions resulted in a copyright warning being sent?
  • If an Internet account is suspended, is the suspension meant to apply to all ISPs? If yes, is there going to be a database of offenders (potential privacy concerns). If no, couldn’t someone call another ISP and sign up with them?
  • This is only targeting P2P file sharing. If someone illegally downloads directly from a website, they’re unlikely to be tracked down unless website logs are kept and are requested by rights holders through the courts.
  • The regime won’t apply to mobile networks until August 2013. It is even easier to “sign up” for a new account; go down to the supermarket and buy another SIM card.

Update 4/06/2011: The United Nations has released a significant report (PDF) relating to freedom of expression on the Internet. A couple of paragraphs are extremely relevant to this post:

49. …he is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three-strikes-law” in France34 and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.35

78. …cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
79. …the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.

Image credit: Gary Denham

A New Normal

Christchurch Earthquake 22.02.11

A month ago, to the day, a new normal for all of us in Christchurch began. Tap water isn’t drinkable and now smells like bleach. The CBD is a wreck, something like one in three buildings will have to be demolished. The roads are covered with bumps, cracks and silt. And the game of guessing the magnitude of an aftershock has lost a lot of it’s charm. On the morning of the 22nd, school started later because of a teacher’s union meeting. Friends from school posted on Facebook that the school swimming sports weren’t going ahead that day because of the weather. It was looking like an average day.

At 12.51pm I don’t think anyone realized that the quake was going to be any different to the numerous other aftershocks we’ve had. But this one kept going. Everyone in the Chemistry lab we were in safely got under the tables. Maybe surprisingly, no chemicals were spilled or glass broken. After the shaking stopped, I grabbed my bag on the way out and we all went to the field.

About an hour later, still on the field, just after replying to someone on Twitter that they should hold off trying to get in touch with friends in Christchurch via phone because it sounded like everyone was fine, I read a tweet that the quake had claimed lives. We experienced a strong aftershock while at school near the end of last year. I think we all thought that this would be the same: that there would be no deaths, not 166+. That the city centre would be accessible in a few days if it was cordoned off at all, not in months. That boiling water wouldn’t be required at all, not for longer than a month. The 166+ people dead are our people. I completely agree with Moata that it’s unlikely that someone in Christchurch doesn’t at least know someone who knows someone who has had to attend a funeral over the past few days and weeks. No one thought we would have to adjust to a new normal.

“All of my friends and family have been accounted for, though the chances that an acquaintance or a friend of a friend has not been killed is fairly low. There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch.”

Technology

A few days post-quake, I saw an article about cyberbullying in schools relating to teachers searching phones. I’m not doubting the seriousness of the problem, but one of the commenters suggesting banning cellphones altogether in schools. Without most students having a cellphone, the task of getting everyone home from school with an adult (especially for younger students), with limited access to buildings (and their landlines) until they were checked by engineers would have been made even more difficult. Technology is something that should be embraced everywhere. The uses of it post-disaster illustrate that point perfectly. Garth Bray, a TVNZ reporter, talks about how helpful smartphones were after the Japan earthquake here.

Back at home, a few hours afterward, our place was relatively untouched. The power and water were out and silt made it’s way into the garage, but they were little problems compared to the big picture. With our cellphones, mobile data and battery powered radio, we still felt connected.

In the time it took me to get home, the IT community of New Zealand and beyond already had the EQ.org.nz map up in one form or another, running Ushahidi (I love the name, it is the Swahili word for “testimony or witness”). Over the next two weeks it complemented media coverage by mapping the locations of important resources for Christchurch residents, like available ATMs, petrol stations that were open and what the restrictions on petrol there were, where water, medical treatment and showers were available…. Within a day or two they managed to arrange the short code text service for EQ.org.nz with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees, volunteers to man the messages coming in through the website, meetings, a partnership with the Student Volunteer Army and media coverage (the map was mentioned in newspapers, on the TV news, on Teletext(!), Fair Go and by the @CEQgovtnz Twitter account)… If I was in charge of an emergency, I’d want to be working with these guys. The media were great. Fairfax, and in particular Reuben Schwarz liaised with EQ.org.nz and Stuff.co.nz switched from using their own instance of Ushahidi to the EQ.org.nz instance. Google and TradeMe, among others, set up pages to help too.

By now, my sister had walked home from the CBD with colleagues and brought with her the war stories of what town was like. What the Cathedral looked like, the chaos and the people. That the huge window beside her that she climbed out of had luckily burst outward instead of bursting in towards her.

The paper blowing down the street in this video is chilling. The businessmen in suits trying to do what they can to help and office workers turning into rescue workers is heartwarming.

Over the coming days we started to get into the hang of the new normal, which involved filling up bottles of water at my granddad’s house and using his shower. A couple of times we received wrong number calls from people trying to find out if their loved ones were okay. They responded with something along the lines of “oh, I thought you were x and alive”.

The two times I ventured into the cordon with Project7 as a photographer, everyone was friendly, including the army personnel and the other media. The feeling in the cordon was eerie and somber, but still hopeful. Silt that had emerged from beneath the ground had effectively buried cars parked on the streets. Shop fronts were shattered and fluro writing was spray painted on to mark that a building had been checked for people. Cars were crushed by falling masonry. Buildings had collapsed. About a month before the quake I was at the top of the Cathedral’s tower, which collapsed in the quake and near the top floor of the Forsyth Barr building, where the exit stairwells collapsed. I had a slight feeling of guilt that media were allowed in the cordon, but business owners that needed to get essential equipment and documentation out from their buildings were not. I know businesses were starting to be let in shortly after my last trip in, but there is still anger within the business community. I think many probably regret not grabbing some things on their way out.

I have mixed feelings about the memorial service that was held. I didn’t attend, or really watch it, but I have read that many people found it touching. On the other hand I read that some families couldn’t bring themselves to attend because their grief was still too raw. Businesses would have felt the effect of either having to close for another day, or paying employees time and a half plus giving them a day in lieu. Students missed out on another day of school. It sounds like it helped people, which is great, but I think it could have been held at a better time later on.

If the quake did anything, it made everyone stronger. It confirmed what I think everyone knew, that in a natural disaster there are many people who are kind and selfless. Our New Zealand spirit shined. CTV’s building was one of the most badly hit but the message on their channel was “down but not out”. The press conferences introduced foreign media to terms like buggered and munted. Our mayor, Bob Parker, in one of the press conferences talked about one of the main sign language interpreters being given the name “hot Jeremy” by a Facebook fan page. Forgotten time capsules were discovered in town. And a boulder that smashed through someone’s house was sold via a hilarious auction on TradeMe.

You can have a look at my photos of the quake here, here and here.