Case study one:
The Canterbury region of NZ, where I live, has ever tightening regulations restricting the use of solid fuel heaters (enclosed fire places) because they emit particulates that are bad for our health.
How bad is very difficult to know, because the 'researchers' who publish statistics on this subject can't be trusted; they are paid by the authorities who's job it is to justify new regulations.
For example, there is deliberate (I assume it's deliberate, the alternative is gross professional incompetence) confusion of correlation and cause. Their published studies show that there are more deaths from respiratory and similar ailments on high particulate count winter nights and they conclude from this that the particulate emissions are causing the deaths. Might be, but it is far more likely that the higher death toll on these nights is caused by low temperatures- a big killer of those in frail health. It's very possible therefore, that banning log fires, in the absence of affordable heating alternatives, is killing many more people than it saves.
Case study two:
Drummoyne School (Sydney, Australia) has just banned kids from doing hand stands and somersaults in the playground- except under the supervision of qualified gymnastic instructors and with properly certified mats and safety equipment. Total madness! And unfortunately symptomatic of a general trend in child rearing that is producing a generation who remain blissfully unaware of the consequences of their own actions- until they emerge from their cloistered environment: when they will be predated by the first tyger they meet, probably after trying to cuddle it.
Case study three:
Half of the new house buyers in Auckland (NZ's largest city) during the '90's rejected house construction systems developed over centuries in favour of more stylish designs which, unfortunately, were not weather tight. The owners of these 'leaky homes' are now hell bent on blaming everyone but themselves for this and councils have responded defensively by imposing code changes at the cost of an extra $10,000 or more for every new home now built in NZ (including for all us who were never sucked into this style-over-substance architectural bullshit in the first place). One problem solved- but a far bigger one created.
Case study four:
Used to be that to stage a kite event required a place, a date, some advertising, and maybe a kite competition for kids- and then it happened. The biggest risk was always the weather.
Doesn't happen like this now though.
There are multiple permits to get, fees to pay, traffic management and safety plans to work through, liaisons with police, civil aviation, local councils, regional councils, etc. In most western countries, it has become impossible to get through these labyrinthine processes without using bloodsucking 'professional consultants'.
The few kite event organisers who haven't given up by now are certifiably insane.
A common thread in all of these is that laws are changed to address some specific community concern but then cause collateral damage far exceeding the benefit.
And I don't know anyone who doesn't decry the damaging effects on our communities of these ever accumulating destructive regulations- except perhaps those very few who derive their income and status from the exercise of petty authority, - and yet we seem unable to call them to heel.
At root, it's a failure of leadership. To stop this will need politicians capable of resisting demands of the; "It doesn't matter what it costs if it saves even one life" (with crying on television) sort from relatives of someone who has just died horribly- after, say lighting a match so they can see if there's enough petrol in a drum to make it worth stealing.*
Which doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.
Current trends continuing, it's more likely that the owner of the petrol drum will in future be bankrupted and probably jailed, while the offender will get counselling and compensation.
And it would require bureaucrats to consider wider ramifications when enforcing specific rules. But giving them this extra authority would make us even more subject to their personal agendas,- and won't happen anyway because politicians are far too jealous of their own power to allow any to leak away like this.
So maybe all we can do is try to hang in there for however long it takes this particular wave of dysfunction to either destroy us (like Rome's preoccupation with sparrow liver pate) or wash over- like medieval Europe's all consuming argument about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, which we don't hear much about today.
But sitting around waiting for the end of civilisation as we know it is one thing- allowing kite flying to be euthanised by the nanny state is another. This is NOT going to happen on my watch.
And for kite festivals, local sporting and other everyday community activities- there is a way for us to fight back right now.
It's the flash mob event.
No longer do we need to form a committee, find a venue, chase sponsorship, advertise in the local media, employ 'safety advisers', pay for permits, do a traffic management plan and suck up to every tin pot official.
No, what we do now is use social media to broadcast that you, and I, and some friends will all be at a certain place on a certain day indulging in a certain activity- and then lots of others decide to come along too.
And it works! Last month a group of people gathered at an iconic beach in the NZ for a bit of buggying. When the authorities arrived demanding to know who was in charge, no-one was. After fruitlessly interrogating everyone who looked likely, they went back and sat in their big flash 4wds and sulked for a while before departing.
I am indebted to NZ multisport hero Steve Gurney for this solution- which came out of his parallel concerns for the sporting events that nurtured him in his early years but no longer happen because of the same regulatory strangling that is killing local kite days everywhere.
Peter Lynn, Ashburton NZ, September 1 '12
*Which happened in Ashburton a few years ago- except that the miscreants survived- in the wreckage of the building.
PS And if you've noticed that I can't spell "tyger"- it's because William Blake couldn't either.