Nau mai haere mai – and welcome to this week’s newsletter.

At the COP26 climate summit, which closed with a last-minute agreement during the weekend, discussions about transport emissions focused on electric vehicles.

This echoed plans in many wealthy countries, including New Zealand, to decarbonise transport largely by shifting to EVs. But as University of Auckland urban planning expert Timothy Welch writes, this leaves us with a false sense that we’re doing something good for the environment, without actually changing anything about our lifestyles.

He argues that unless we plan for active modes of transport – walking, cycling, public transport – EVs will do what fossil fuel cars have always done to our cities: increase urban sprawl and congestion and add to the waste stream. And at the current rate of uptake, EVs alone will be too slow to make a meaningful dent into emissions.

You can catch up on The Conversation’s comprehensive, evidence-based coverage of the COP26 summit and its ramifications, written by researchers from around the world, and as always, you’ll find a lot more to read in this newsletter and on our home page, including this thorough explanation of why we should rewrite our laws around vaccine mandates and exemptions.

Many thanks for your ongoing support and readership. Until next time, mā te wā.

Veronika Meduna

New Zealand Editor: Science, Health + Environment


Electric cars alone won’t save the planet. We’ll need to design cities so people can walk and cycle safely

Timothy Welch, University of Auckland

Electric cars are hailed as the best way to cut transport emissions, but it’s an illusion to think we can reduce our environmental impact without changing the way we design and move about in cities.


Vaccine mandates for NZ’s health and education workers are now in force – but has the law got the balance right?

Claire Breen, University of Waikato; Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato

Court challenges over vaccine mandate exemptions have so far failed. But with fundamental human rights at the centre of the government’s emergency powers, is it time for purpose-built new law?


Good design lies at the heart of normalising disability – NZ’s new Ministry for Disabled People must make it a priority

Sally Britnell, Auckland University of Technology

A more accessible world for disabled people begins with better design – listening to disabled people themselves is the key.


COP26: New Zealand depends on robust new rules for global carbon trading to meets its climate pledge

Nathan Cooper, University of Waikato; Kemi Hughes, University of Waikato

Uncertainty about carbon market rules will be problematic for New Zealand, given its reliance on overseas carbon trading to meet its new climate pledge.


New Zealand’s legal aid crisis is eroding the right to justice – that’s unacceptable in a fair society

Kris Gledhill, Auckland University of Technology

As the Law Society recently reported, legal aid in New Zealand is ‘on life support’. Urgent action is required to avoid the justice gap becoming a chasm.

Shutterstock/Anna Kiryakova

Studies suggest no causal link between young children’s screen time and later symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity

Maria Corkin, University of Auckland

Newer screen technologies provide a more interactive experience for children using digital devices. The benefits can be similar to play time with traditional toys.


Market immunity? How public safety warnings have little impact on drug sales volumes or company share prices

Jeremy Edmund Clark, University of Canterbury; Jedrzej Bialkowski, University of Canterbury

A new study suggests the market alone will not deter or punish pharmaceutical companies whose products turn out to have adverse effects after they have been approved.

From our foreign editions

The Moon’s top layer alone has enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people for 100,000 years

John Grant, Southern Cross University

The next big frontier in space exploration is finding ways to effectively harness oxygen contained within Moon dust. What will it take?

The right to disconnect: Why legislation doesn’t address the real problems with work

Ope Akanbi, Ryerson University

The right to disconnect can be the catalyst an organization needs to review its workplace policies. But what’s really needed is a cultural shift that gives workers more control over how they work.

Competing with confidence: Why we need to bring women’s sport uniforms into the 21st century

Katie Lebel, Ryerson University

While the style and fit of sport apparel may seem like a minor detail in the broader scheme of things, what if it’s not? Let’s let women and girls dress for the role they want to play in women’s sport.

Religion was once Ethiopia’s saviour. What it can do to pull the nation from the brink

Mohammed Girma, University of Roehampton

Ethiopia’s main religions need to take an emotional distance from politics and find a neutral space so they can get moral clarity.

Alex Jones loses Sandy Hook case, but important defamation issues remain unresolved

Enrique Armijo, Elon University

Alex Jones lost a defamation suit by Sandy Hook parents for falsely claiming they helped fake the murders of their children. But the judgment doesn’t deal with important First Amendment questions.

Seven ways that banter can become bullying

Lucy Betts, Nottingham Trent University; Loren Abell, Nottingham Trent University; Oonagh Steer, Nottingham Trent University; Sarah Buglass, Nottingham Trent University

Banter can be fun, but it can quickly cross the line.

Why having bad oral health could raise the risk of COVID

Sim K. Singhrao, University of Central Lancashire; Alice Harding, University of Central Lancashire

Badly controlled bacteria in the mouth pose multiple risks.

Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics: an extraordinary life in song

David McCooey, Deakin University

Through 154 songs, Paul McCartney gives us an insight into his life. There is an elegaic feel to this book, which showcases the many sides to McCartney’s songwriting.