Editor's note

Nau mai, haere mai - welcome to this week’s New Zealand newsletter.

In Climate Explained this week, AUT plant ecologist Sebastian Leuzinger responds to a reader who wanted to know why plants don’t grow faster or bigger with more carbon dioxide in the air.

University of Waikato law expert Brenda Midson takes a close look at the tragic case of Whanganui grandmother, Lorraine Smith, who pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 12 years in prison - and she argues that this case highlights the need for a defence of diminished responsibility.

And two articles discuss the results from an annual survey, asking New Zealanders about their trust in people and institutions, carried out by Victoria University of Wellington’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. Kate Prickett explores what the data show about gun ownership in New Zealand, and how much people who own firearms trust the pro-gun lobby, and Simon Chapple writes that Buddhists are the most trusted religious group in New Zealand, while people trust Evangelicals the least.

Keep an eye out for more stories on the New Zealand page - an embargo lifts on two interesting pieces tomorrow morning - and please share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues. They can subscribe here. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

Veronika Meduna

New Zealand Editor

Top stories

Fast-growing plantation trees store less carbon per surface area than old, undisturbed forests that may show little growth. from www.shutterstock.com

Climate explained: why plants don’t simply grow faster with more carbon dioxide in air

Sebastian Leuzinger, Auckland University of Technology

Plants live off carbon dioxide, but a higher level of the greenhouse gas in the air doesn't necessarily lead to more biomass production.

In a recent survey, New Zealand gun owners reported more trust in other gun owners than people who don’t own guns, but lower levels of trust in the pro-gun lobby. from www.shutterstock.com

Survey reveals a third of NZ gun owners distrust gun lobby

Kate C. Prickett, Victoria University of Wellington; Simon Chapple, Victoria University of Wellington

New Zealand police is running gun collection events throughout the country as part of the government's amnesty and buyback scheme.

The judge described a grandmother who was sentenced for murder this week as suffering from severe mental health issues and “carer burnout”. from www.shutterstock.com

Grandmother’s case raises question whether NZ should adopt defence of ‘diminished responsibility’

Brenda Midson, University of Waikato

The case of a grandmother who killed her granddaughter after caring for her and other family members for years raises the question: should New Zealand consider mental distress as a defence argument?

The data show no evidence of local anti-Semitism or Islamophobia – but this does not mean that hate towards minority religious groups does not exist in New Zealand. AAP/Mick Tsikas

New survey reveals which religions New Zealanders trust most – and least – after Christchurch shootings

Simon Chapple, Victoria University of Wellington

A survey of New Zealanders' attitudes towards religious groups, taken after the Christchurch mosque shootings, shows they trust Buddhists most and Evangelicals least.

From The Conversation's international editions

Morrison needs to take control of China policy - but leave room for dissent

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Backbencher Andrew Hastie's recent opinion piece has caused ructions within the government, but Scott Morrison needs to articulate a clear policy on China that also allows for dissenting voices.

Unwanted sexual attention plagues young women going out at night

Dominique de Andrade, The University of Queensland; Cheneal Puljević, The University of Queensland; Kerri Coomber, Deakin University; Peter Miller, Deakin University

Rates of unwelcome advances haven't changed under Queensland's 'Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence' policies. In one entertainment district, it happened to 26% of women the night they were interviewed.

New laws give victims more time to report rape or sexual assault – even Jeffrey Epstein’s

Jane E. Palmer, American University School of Public Affairs

Part of a law that goes into effect in New York state on Aug. 14 allows victims more time sue in civil court. Epstein's victims can still go after his estate.

Mexico wants to run a tourist train through its Mayan heartland — should it?

Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, University of Arkansas

An ambitious new train would link resorts like Cancun to inland ancient ruins and colonial towns. That means laying rail across 932 miles of dense jungle, pristine beach and indigenous villages.

Margaret Burbidge at 100: the trailblazing astronomer who wouldn’t take ‘no women’ for an answer

Andreea Font, Liverpool John Moores University

In an age when women were rarely allowed in observatories, Margaret Burbidge changed how we saw the stars.

Why we can’t just blame rising inequality for the growth of populism around the world

Brian Nolan, University of Oxford

Populism is on the rise in countries where inequality has been fairly stable over time, as well as countries where inequality has grown.

Three things Jokowi could do better to stop forest fires and haze in Indonesia

Rini Astuti, National University of Singapore; Helena Varkkey, University of Malaya; Zu Dienle Tan, National University of Singapore

The Indonesian government should improve transparency and public access to land-use data, make the ban on new plantations on primary forests permanent, and give communities access to forests.

The roots of America’s white nationalism reach back to this island’s brutal history

J.M. Opal, McGill University

The vicious ideology that allegedly drove a gunman to kill 22 people in El Paso, Texas last week could be traced back to a tiny island on the eastern fringe of the Caribbean Sea

Chimpanzees’ working memory is remarkably similar to our own

Christoph Völter, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

Chimpanzees, like humans, possess working memory abilities. They're able to perform similar to seven-year-old children.

How Toni Morrison’s legacy plays out in South Africa’s universities

Aretha Phiri, Rhodes University

In some ways, perhaps Morrison is even more relevant in South African universities today than she's ever been.