In assigning this week’s duties I may have had a wee bit of inside knowledge that Derek knew Keith and Kathryn Gordon very well. Their sons went to Kindergarten together and they have enjoyed a long friendship ever since. Currently Head of Chemistry at Otago University, Professor Keith has received a number of significant accolades. Only last week he was a recipient of the 2019 MacDiarmid Medal at the Royal Research Honours Awards. Named as the Royal Society of Chemistry Australasian Lecturer for 2019, Keith Kathryn head to Australia in a few weeks for a series of University visits and shopping.

Hailing from the wrong side of the Belfast tracks, Keith has a delightful Irish lilt mixed in with a great sense of humour and an obvious head for Chemistry that now benefits NZ. 

I had the good fortune to drive the Gordons home after the meeting and mentioned to Keith that I was concerned I might not get everything scientific right. He summed up his speech in a few words. Climate change or the ‘Climate Crisis’ is problematic, we are definitely in “a pickle.” It is not, however, all doom and gloom. There are solutions, these are not magical solutions nor is it new science, it is utilising existing technology and more importantly, be willing to deploy them. Below is a list that could effectively make a dent in Carbon emissions right now

  • Reforestation: According to Professor Gordon, the most effective and simple world wide solution, utilising non productive, not easily accessible land. South Korea reforestation being the prime example.  

  • Energy Efficiency: Renewable energy sources - solar cells,wind farms, electric cars, batteries ie mobile phones, take into account the fiscal cost.

  • Nanotechnology: Size matters, properties change when things get smaller this can be utilised in different ways and could be the game changer for solutions to the Climate Crisis. 

New Zealand has a small population, poor transport infrastructure and our main producer is the Primary Industry. The biggest user of energy is transportation. In the ideal world of changing the total gas fleet to electric, 1/4 of the energy is “knocked off.” Electric cars are proven to be 2 1/2 times more efficient than their gasoline counterparts. 

When we think of solar energy one thinks of large solar panels. Right now, the technology is being developed for flexible solar cells made out of polymers and yes we are definitely sunny enough to harness this energy source. 

This is where The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology comes in. The task - to investigate and discuss how material science and nanotechnology can enhance, improve and create a sustainable future for New Zealanders and globally.  About 100 of the best researchers in the country work together to provide solutions to the Climate Crisis. Novel and innovative thinking work alongside projects set to redefine the science that already exists i.e. an affordable and effective mobile phone battery. The aim - a zero carbon future and a renewable economy offering a greener future for our planet.


Graham possibly spoke for many of us in saying that Keith succeeded tremendously well in explaining a very scientific topic. He reckons he learnt more in 20 mins than his entire education. The most important message than Graham took away that there is hope for the generation that may have caused the world to get into a bit of a pickle.