Town and Country at Loggerheads

There was a stark contrast between the Napier consultation meeting on our climate change target, and those in the major cities. We’re now reaping the consequences of several years of misinformation being fed to the farming community about climate science and it is driving the deepest town-country divide I have seen in my lifetime.

Auckland and Wellington had 3-400 people with a big majority arguing for an ambitious, science driven target. Rural and provincial areas are very different, with a very palpable fear of what such a target would do to their livelihoods. The Napier meeting was the only one I was able to attend, but it sounds from what I hear as though it was the one most dominated by climate change sceptics and misinformed, afraid farming folk. Farmers will of course be most disadvantaged by climate change, but if you think it’s all a myth and a hoax you wouldn’t be worried by that.

I suspect that any sceptics present at the city meetings felt intimidated by the large noisy majority arguing for a 40% reduction target. Certainly those wanting an ambitious target at the Napier meeting did not speak up, but voted for 40% in the show of hands at the end. And so the divide grows.

The arguments were very familiar and recycled, but no less deeply felt, for all that.

  • “The science is wrong”. The Governments of the world have sought out the most qualified climate scientists in the world to review all the credible, peer reviewed literature published in reputable journals and come to a widely supported, if not totally unanimous, conclusion – but some other scientists who have PhDs (often in unrelated fields) disagree so the IPCC must be wrong. Well, it’s not who you believe, it’s what the evidence says.
  • “There was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the past than now” – yes, millions of years before there were humans. We probably wouldn’t survive going back to that.
  • “It’s all due to sunspots”. Well, they tested that one and it couldn’t explain the temperature rise.
  • “Cows are carbon neutral – they take in carbon from the grass they eat, and breathe it out again – they just cycle carbon so shouldn’t have to participate in an ETS.” Ignores the little issue of cows converting carbon dioxide into methane which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a climate warmer.
  • “Agricultural soils hold so much carbon we should get credits”. If that were true, why would NZ have opted not to count soil carbon when we agreed our target at Kyoto? Top soil is NZ’s greatest export, at something like 400 MT/y. Want to buy credits for that?
  • “We have to feed starving people so food production should be exempt. Our pastoral farming is the most efficient in the world – better to do it here than overseas.” Actually, none of our food goes to feed the starving. We feed the already well fed, as they are the ones that can pay the prices we expect to sustain our standard of living. Work has been done to compare the carbon footprint of our farming with that of the UK and we come off well in that. But there just isn’t the analysis to show we are more efficient than the rest of the world. Eventually the world has to face the fact that we can feed far more people with more grains and less meat and dairy, even leaving aside greenhouse gases.
  • And the old chestnut: “People in Siberia would like a bit of warming”. People in Siberia are adapted to the climate they have. What about water stressed Africa, where more drought will cause massive hunger, and Bangla Desh and South China where millions of people will lose their homes and food supply if sea level rises a metre?

You can’t blame people for recycling these myths when they read them daily in the farming papers and when Federated Farmers quotes them constantly. We heard them constantly in the select committee considering the ETS last year, and again in the ETS review committee this year. It’s as though town and country live in such different worlds they never talk to each other, let alone listen.

You can’t blame people for being frightened when they are told by Meat and Wool NZ, as one woman at the meeting claimed, that under the ETS legislated last year they would have to pay $150,000 a year to purchase carbon credits and this would bankrupt them. Turns out, on investigation, that this is in 2030 – 22 years away – when the free credits provided for in the ETS are planned to run out – if by then the rest of the world, or more particularly, our farming competitors – have a price on carbon too. That’s why the ETS has a built in five year review of the phase out. If by 2030 the rest of the world doesn’t have a price on carbon for farmers ours will have long since been dropped – and we will truly be facing climate chaos that will destroy farming as we know it.

Nick Smith did a good job in standing up to these claims and correcting the misinformation. But National has a huge job to do if it wants to take its farming community with it to an all sectors all gases ETS, even a weak one. Curiously, they may succeed, if they really try, where Labour failed. Farmers didn’t have to listen to Labour or the Greens because they thought National would bail them out after the election. Now, with National accepting climate science and the need to do at least something, they have nowhere to go but Act – and judging by the polls they don’t see this as an attractive alternative.

In the end, climate change will sink us all together. We need to bridge that town-country divide if we are to develop sensible policy. It would be nice if that policy could be based on reputable science.

127 thoughts on “Town and Country at Loggerheads

  1. The farmers are not as ignorant as you claim – after all, they have more at stake than the city folk as small business units and have been doing their homework.
    For example, you dismiss one of their claims thus:
    “Cows are carbon neutral – they take in carbon from the grass they eat, and breathe it out again – they just cycle carbon so shouldn’t have to participate in an ETS.” Ignores the little issue of cows converting carbon dioxide into methane which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a climate warmer.

    People who do agricultural analysis do NOT ignore that fact and instead work with GWP (which are Global Warming equivalents that take into account carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides to get a total package along the lines of stock equivalents.)

    For example, the Soil Conservation Council Of Canada’s report, Global Warming and Agriculture says:

    “A Canadian cow and calf will remove 20.65 units of GWP per day, while they emit 6.46 units per day. This would give a net reduction in GWP of 14.19 units per day. In a grazing season of 200 days, 2,838 units of GWP gases would be removed from the atmosphere. Based on this, it can be concluded that cattle need not be a carbon liability.”

    Note: Because our grazing season is 365 days a year we do better than this.

    In its summary the report says:

    “From these calculations, it can be concluded that cattle need not be a liability in the struggle to stop or slow global warming. Indeed, grazing beef cattle could be an integral part of climate change mitigation.
    The following measures would assist in this process:

    · Promotion of correct management of pasture lands through research and extension

    · Transformation of degraded cropland to permanent pasture

    · Integration of perennial forage into cropping practices

    · More backgrounding and finishing of cattle on pasture.”

    NZ farmers are ahead of the canadians in most of these measures.

    Then in 2003, Alberta Agriculture and Food and the University of Alberta completed the Alberta Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Assessment Emissions Inventory. A booklet summarizing the findings says, on page 5 (They use the term co2 equivalents rather than GPW):

    “In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the cattle industry is an integral component of the forage and rangelands that sequester carbon through photosynthesis, a natural process involving the uptake and storage of carbon carried out by both plants and trees during the growing season. According to the 2001 Agricultural Census carried out by Statistics Canada, there were 10.72 million hectares of such lands in Alberta:

    • 1.98 million hectares of tame pasture

    • 2.06 million hectares of hayland

    • 6.68 million hectares of rangeland6

    It is estimated that:

    • tame pasture may sequester 1.10 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year

    • hayland may sequester 0.9 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year

    • rangeland may sequester 0.35 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.

    Based on these numbers, Alberta’s forage and rangelands may be sequestering 23.4 million tones of CO2 (equiv) per year, bearing in mind that one tonne of carbon (C) equals 3.667 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. This data then suggests that in 2001 Alberta’s livestock/forage systems sequestered 13.8 to 14.2 Million tones of CO2 (equiv) more than they emitted.”

    The questions to be asked, and which must be answered are

    · Why has no one in New Zealand ever generated similar statistics, in our own inventories of Greenhouse Gas Emissions?”

    · Why have we rushed to assume that our agriculture is a GHG liability, when Canada and states such as Alberta, have gone out of their way to argue and demonstrate that their agriculture is actually a mitigator of the nations GHG liability?”

    The Centre has already documented the fact that both Australia and the United States are taking the same approach. And again we have competitive advantage in that our pastures are already perennial, and we graze our stock 365 days of the year.

    So what is going on? Why are we waging war on our farmers when others seem them as a means of mitigation?

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  2. What we can do something about is within our own national sphere and thus requiring farmers to be accountable for environment practice here is what we can and should do.

    However in the matter of agriculture emmissions, I am still inclined to wait for a global policy on this before committing our farmers to this cost.

    We should expect and ask for nothing more and nothing less than fair free trade in agriculture (an end to subsidy would reduce production in some Kyoto nations). If our Kyoto partners offer us this and apply an equivalent emmissions tax policy, then so be it. But until then … .

    And lets note that if this was done – we would be increasing the price of food in nations where this was either afforded or the poor ate less meat and consmed less dairy products. Otherwise production would simply transfer to developing nations not subject to the Kyoto regime.

    In view of this there is no reason to go unilateral on this issue – in fact we should accept a 40% target – but exclude agriculture from this calculation in the meantime (like when are the EU and the US going to give us free trade in agriculture). Thus no need for any town and country divide.

    Let’s be cogniscant of the consequences of simply enacting a new policy response without forethought. Remember the consequences of using arable land for bio-fuels on the cost of food – we ran down world food reserves, pushed up the cost of feeding stock and many in the Third World are now back in food poverty.

    So on agriculture the issue is best environment practice rather tna emmissions charges/taxes.

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  3. Owen McShane: I couldn’t find the Canadian study you mentioned after some searching for it. However, from what you have said, I would be very sceptical about their claims.

    It is quite meaningless to only measure direct emissions from the cattle; instead, the full picture over the whole life-cycle from calf until the process of consumption or decay of all material from the calf. Mammals cannot directly utlise carbon dioxide or hydrocarbons like methane. Instead, plants absorb carbon dioxide to make carbohydrates and other carbon-containing molecules, and the mammals eat the plants. Some of this carbon is used in the synthesis of compounds like proteins to build tissues, some is used purely to carry energy and reductive potential, and is ultimately released back as carbon dioxide. There is no net loss or gain from this part of the cycle.

    We would expect that all carbon that an agricultural animal takes in as food will leave the animal, either as meat, discarded parts of the animal’s body, or as waste. The carbon in the waste and discarded body parts decay into carbon dioxide and methane, the meat gets eaten and the carbon lost (at least when whatever ate the meat dies and decays), again primarily as carbon dioxide and methane.

    So in the overall cycle, it seems very unlikely that agricultural animals are a means of mitigation.

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  4. “So what is going on? Why are we waging war on our farmers when others seem them as a means of mitigation?”

    Because Owen, if we listen to these figures it puts NZ in a very good light emissions wise, and the greens don’t want that. There simply HAS to be a crisis to solve or the wind goes out of the sails of the whole deal.
    I have often wondered whether the emissions from animals is a lot of hocus pocus , and it would appear that it is.

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  5. PS

    I do object to the poor of the New Zealand and the rest of the “first world” being told to eat grains and give up on milk and meat if they cannot afford it – so more can be exported to the global elite class (wherever they live) who still can.

    I doubt pushing up the price of these foods will do anything to improve the health of the poor concerned.

    The question of any resulting good, is whether the land would be turned to grain production and lower the price of this food for the poor nations. Only some of our land (and we would have little comparative advantage) would be convertable and with a decline in our dairy and meat exports we would suffer the most significant decline in living standard of any nation on Earth.

    The Green Party is asking this country to martyr itself for the cause to show how just it is and how righteous we are. It’s asking a lot. It reminds me of when Gandhi asked Jews to “give up” their quest for national restoration and live as a minority within Palestine and show a righteous self sacrifice for the sake of peace (… he had Pakistani Moslems unwilling to live as a minority within India – the interest he had to declare). How many vegans/animal rights advocates etc in the Green Party find GW a stick with which to go after flock farming?

    If the Green Party is to hold to this policy line – will it at least allow a condition we get full fair free trade in agriculture from the Kyoto nations (including and end to their subsidy) first.

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  6. As usual, Owen is cherry picking to support his denier status. If livestock had a net benefit to climate, the IPCC would have set them a negative emissions factor. Unfortunately, and I really mean that, it is simply not backed by the science.

    As for the Greens ‘holding this policy line’, it has always been the Green’s position that farmers not get exposed to their full carbon costs until such time as other farmers overseas are facing that. This is exactly what the current for of the ETS does – it grandfathers them for 5 years and then brings them in very slowly over 20 years, with 5 yearly reviews in case the science or the international agreements change.

    What part of this isn’t fair? I think it’s rather generous, actually!

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  7. SPC says:

    The Green Party is asking this country to martyr itself for the cause to show how just it is and how righteous we are.

    Yet nowhere can I find where the Green Party says this. Perhaps you are projecting your own beliefs/fears onto the party. Do you fear also, that the Greens have significant influence over what the government decides to do around this issue? It would seem the opposite, given that even the more appropriate carbon tax put foward by them has been binned, along with most of the other constructive proposals put foward by Jeanette et al.

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  8. Shunda – so you feel there is no ‘ crisis to solve’?

    You’ve often wondered whether the emissions from animals is a lot of hocus pocus , and it would appear that it is.

    You have become convinced by a single post from Owen? You’re easy to sway and more than willing, in a puppy-like manner, to adopt a position that opposes the Greens view (and that of the IPPC).

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  9. perhaps cows should have afterburners – little pilot lights by the tail that instantly convert methane into CO2. This would reduce the greenhouse gas equivalent emissions considerably

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  10. Because Owen, if we listen to these figures it puts NZ in a very good light emissions wise, and the greens don’t want that. There simply HAS to be a crisis to solve or the wind goes out of the sails of the whole deal.

    Don’t be stupid, Shunda. I can assure you that this is one issue all Greens would just love to be wrong about. The fact is that the biggest question we grapple with is just whether it really might be too late to save the world’s population from massive devastation.

    I have often wondered whether the emissions from animals is a lot of hocus pocus , and it would appear that it is.

    Willing to toss the watered down advise of thousands of climate scientists as conspiracy at the drop of a hat, but happy to accept what you want to hear from a single blog post. And yet we’re the ideological ones.

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  11. >>it would be nice if that policy could be based on reputable science.

    Wouldn’t it just.

    That isn’t the IPCC.

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  12. I am not cherry picking the data. I am simply quoting from two reports prepared by scientists in Canada – one of them from the Soil Conservation Council.
    These studies do look at the whole cycle. That is why they recommend perennial grasses.
    The Australians and the Americans have reached similar conclusions and the US government is already paying US farmers real dollars for their contribution to reduction in emissions – largely through the use of Zero Till technology developed by Dr Baker of Massey University here in NZ.
    Here is the URL for the soil conservation council:
    http://www.soilcc.ca/downloads/factsheets/Factsheet%206%20-%20livestock%20-%204.pdf
    Here is the summary of the Alberta Study:
    http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/cl9706/$FILE/introduction2.pdf

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  13. Owen said:

    These studies do look at the whole cycle. That is why they recommend perennial grasses.

    And where do we stand here in New Zealand Owen? Are we sowing our pastures with perennial grasses and leaving them in place
    or are we constantly cultivating, releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere? If we are, then we don’t qualify for exemption for our ‘flock/herd farmers’, wouldn’t you think?

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  14. BluePeter says the IPPC does not represent reputable science.

    May the saints preserve us.

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  15. >>May the saints preserve us.

    I have much the same reaction to the organization “the UN” as you would have to the organization “Heritage Foundation “.

    They might speak the truth sometimes, but we learn to filter that truth through a many grains of salt.

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  16. I agree with BluePeter – the IPCC has been highjacked by extremists – the very politicians who don’t want the seriousness of our situation publicised very widely. The IPCC has consistently underestimated the effects of climate change, watering down their warnings and harping about uncertainty but not explaining what that means in scientific terms.

    As for the science that underpins the IPCC’s summaries, I suppose BP dismisses all of it out of hand?

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  17. BP, it seems, doesn’t dismiss these issues ‘out of hand’.

    First he reads Gareth Morgan…

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  18. The point should be obvious.

    When Janette says “it would be nice if that policy could be based on reputable science”, what science is she referring to? That of the IPCC? The collective? Some individuals? MIT? James Lovelock?

    One person’s “reputable science” is another mans Monster Raving Looney Party.

    Because very few of them agree on much at all.

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  19. I attended the Nelson meeting, and was impressed by some of the information that was coming forth about soil farming. It could be part of the solution. In fact, for many farms it could be lucrative.

    Picture this – not only through increasing the output of your farm (one couple increased their yield from 20,000 to 90,000kg milk solids), you also become a net carbon sink with credits to sell on the world carbon credit market. All through a bit of soil science, and potentially also the use of Biochar.

    If NZ can negotiate deferring the carbon price of producing finished wood products for the expected lifetime of the wood produce, it can make an instant reduction in its projected 2020 and 2050 emissions. Through converting the remaining wood mass to charcoal/biochar for mixing with manure, clay and micorrhiza seed culture for producing quality topsoil, we should be able to lead the world in carbon sequestration and become the first net carbon sink of the developed world.

    Thankfully global cap and trade – for all its dangers – is providing a mechanism that primary producers, with a bit of knowledge, can make a buck off it. This could be the only way to get them to do anything. “Progress” could narrowly save humanity from disaster.

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  20. BP, normally it means scientific papers which pass peer review in established science journals. Not blog posts from Roy Spencer or the rubbish that Vincent Gray comes up with, which never make it into those journals. Not the half page of math that Viscount Bletchly thinks can replace the application of science contained in a climate model.

    This is not some global conspiracy among scientists. Scientists already took over a hundred years to believe the argument.

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  21. Oh wow a post from Owen McShane! Guess no-one’s reading your own site any more huh?

    One question to you Mr. McShane. If you are correct and cows are sequestering more carbon than they are emitting – where is it going?

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  22. >>normally it means scientific papers which pass peer review in established science journals

    That’s the information I’m basing my opinion on. And the scientists who produced it, on both sides of the fence, having debated each other at length, about those papers.

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  23. BP, normally it means scientific papers which pass peer review in established science journals.

    Thing is, anybody can ‘cite’ and ‘summarise’ info from peer reviewed papers, without doing it correctly. The Heritage Foundation citing a bunch of scientists that ‘agree’ with their ‘denier-alist’ position was one such case, hilariously quite a few of said scientists were a bit pissed off with that.

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  24. The US studies pointed out that New Zealand pastures are perrenial rather than annual and our animals are fed primarily or perrennial grass rather than on annual corn. Perrenial grasses develop deep rooting systems with much more microbial life.
    I am somewhat surprised by the hostile reaction to the idea that building up topsoil is a means of sequestering carbon because I would have thought this was a green mitigation and one which would be welcomed by a Green Party.
    Surely you are not hostile to solutions?

    Soil sequestration does require superior topsoil management including zero till etc.
    Freeman Dyson has calculated that increasing the depth of top soil on half of America’s arable lands by one tenth of an inch per year would absorb all its “surplus” carbon.

    The IPCC has nothing to say on this matter.
    Agricultural emissions were not included in the Kyoto round because no one knew enough about the biological exchanges. We are now gaining the knowledge.
    There is more biomass below the ground than above it. That is where the carbon is sequestered. Of course another way we could reduce our methane emissions is to fill in all the remaining wetlands and rip up all the mangroves.
    Same bacteria, same process, same methane.
    That is why if you look at the recently released maps of the methane atmosphere the high concentrations of methane are over the Brazilian rain forests, the Chinese rice paddies and the “Siberian Cold Jungle’. The lowest concentrations are over Australia and New Zealand.

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  25. Mugwump,
    if you read my post, and my web page you would see that I am promoting what you are promoting. The sequestration is in the soil not in the cow and calf.
    That is what the US, Australian and Canadian soil scientists are saying.
    So why is this nonsense when I say it, but a bold path forward when you say it.

    That conference you describe was called in response to the material I have been distributing to the rural sector and included in my supplementary submissions to the Select committee on the ETS.
    So before you decide who are your enemies it might be prudent to read what they say rather than what you presume they say.

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  26. Owen, fantastic. Your ideas about no-tilling etc agree with my information. I’m pleasantly surprised with your new approach to this issue and would be delighted if you could share your references. I didn’t call it nonsense, just asking you to explain.

    When asked about the Soil Carbon issue at the consultation meetings, Hon. Nick Smith used a “double-edged sword” argument saying that whenever there’s a “flood in Manuwatu” or “a North-westerlie across the Canterbury plains” that soil carbon is depleted.

    Similarly every time a field is tilled the carbon in it will deplete; farming practices would need to change before NZ would make a net profit from sequestration via this mechanism. Also, as I understand it the capacity for carbon sinking in the soils may eventually level off, unless you can keep it building up (Biochar comes to mind here as a synergistic part of a solution). But the potential is nonetheless massive, and if the farming lobby can be on-side with this approach to the problem then substantial progress towards a solution could be made.

    BluePeter> That’s the information I’m basing my opinion on.

    Oh, really? One reference, please.

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  27. Owen said:

    Soil sequestration does require superior topsoil management including zero till etc.

    I entirely agree Owen and have long held that view. My question for you is: Are our farmers doing that here?
    My understanding is, no, they are not (as a general rule).

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  28. >>One reference, please.

    Far too many to list.

    Singer, Carter, Lindzen, Lowe, Lionel Carter, Etheridge, Barrett, Renwick, Sloan, and so on , and so on….

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  29. “I entirely agree Owen and have long held that view. My question for you is: Are our farmers doing that here?
    My understanding is, no, they are not (as a general rule).”

    None the less, Owens ideas seem to have caught you guys by surprise, which is interesting.
    Are the greens more about the problem than the solution?

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  30. >>more about the problem

    Any anti-capitalist cause will do…..

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  31. Well duh.

    Too many references. There’s pages and pages of them. Here’s a sample: Pleistocene Climatic Ice Records from Qinghai-Tibetan Plateu, Widening Of The Tropical Belt In A Changing Climate, A Role For Atmospheric c02 In PreIndustrial Climate Forcing….

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  32. Shunda barunda Says:
    July 20th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    > None the less, Owens ideas seem to have caught you guys by surprise, which is interesting.

    Green Party agriculture policy includes various ways of supporting the use of techniques for increasing topsoil, and support for further research in this area. I think what’s surprising about Owen’s statements is his claim that formation of topsoil by pastoral farming is more than cancelling out the effect of methane emissions from pastoral farming.

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  33. Bluepeter, did you miss the part of 6th form English where they teach how to give references?

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  34. Frog et.al.

    This isn’t my specialty but would it not be the case that the portion of the CH4 that the mortal remains of the cow or sheep contribute can be sequestered and/or utilized in ways at least prevent the emission of CH4?

    It seems to me that this would be a major part of what makes the contribution of the livestock come out badly for us. The part WE eat of course becomes part of our waste products and OUR emissions at the cemetery and should not be counted twice.

    As usual the party has the right of it on this issue. Slow-go for the farming community.

    I think that the IPCC is discussing the farming practices common in the developed countries, corn-fed beef and heavy use of feedlots and other rather ugly developments of the manufactured-food-industry. We don’t do that here as a rule.

    It may be that there is a point to be had and the farms here in NZ can be given more credit for good practice (in this regard) than the industry elsewhere gets. Certainly there are questions in MY mind about this that remain unanswered and I’ve read several of the papers on soil sequestration.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  35. BP those are not references, those are titles of papers. At least include the title of the report, the last name of the first author and the year.

    I’ll tear down your lists a bit anyway.

    By Singer you no doubt mean Fred Singer, author of the NIPCC report. The sub-title of the report presents a false dichotomy – ie a logical fallacy – and it gets worse from there. You can see a more detailed rebuttal on RealClimate.

    By Carter you no doubt mean Bob Carter. I’ve seen youtube recordings of his lectures, and there’s a bunch of stupid mistakes in his work. There’s the nonsense argument about CO2 following temperature rises not leading it – nonsense not because that part isn’t true, but because of the implied assumption that the standard model does not explain that. He also presented tens of millions of years of CO2 vs temperature with little explanation that as the world progressed through vastly different climate configurations that other factors may also influence the climate.

    Enough of dissecting your roll-call of cranks. Let’s get onto your list of papers. You got them from Singer’s site at a guess.

    “Pleistocene Climatic Ice Records from Qinghai-Tibetan Plateu”, from the abstract (Thompson et al, 1989):
    the last 60 years were apparently one of the warmest periods in the entire record, equalling levels of the Holocene maximum between 6000 and 8000 years ago.

    The van Hoof (2007) paper … no doubt you’re reading the part in the abstract where it “calls into question the IPCC…” – yes, in fact you could conclude “that climate is less sensitive to solar and volcanic variations, and CO2 is more variable than previously thought.”

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  36. Roll call of cranks?

    See, that’s what happens when you play the man instead of the ball. If you take a careful look at that list, it has more scientists who agree with AGW than those who don’t.

    As I’ve said all along, I’m not the least but interested in the views of arm-chair scientists. I cannot evaluate the scientific arguments, and neither can most Greens. The difference is I admit it.

    It’s pointless quoting a handful of reputable scientists, because there are plenty of those, on both sides, and the debate is multi-displinary.

    It’s pointless listening to anything that comes filtered via political organizations. They have their agenda, and getting to the truth is a back-burner activity for ideologues.

    The IPPCs findings must be taken with a grain of salt, as they suffer from political interference and committee-itus.

    I’ve found a source that I, as a layman, can rely on at this point of time, enough to form a coherent view on the latest science, because it is largely (all though not entirely) free from the problems I’ve identified.

    When the facts change, I’ll change my opinion.

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  37. It seems that we are agreeing that the quality of the soil structure (with a lot more trees on the marginal ground) are generally an amswer. The issue becomes then, how do we reward those moving this direction, or penalise (tax?), those that aren’t. This then makes us far more competitive in international terms in an ETS ruled system. I see that it takes small changes in practice to consciously improve this soil structure, except for the Capital costs of setting up the large feed systems that would be lost. I generally see this loss as a loss for the farmer, and crop contractors, maize seed suppliers, and in the present climate, banks who have continued lending money in silly directions.

    I wonder if there is any reseasrch linking the fuel costs of these high till systems and the carbon loss, for a simple solution may lie in a correlation that gives a formula for carbon taxing agricultural fuel, a lot simpler to administer.

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  38. Kahikatea,
    Please. I am not a soil scientist. These are not “my claims” but the claims of soil scientists in Canada which happen to reinforce claims I have already reported on made by scientists in the US and Australia.

    Animal GHGs have always posed a puzzle. The AGW theory is primarily based on the theory that burning fossil fuels overloads the atmosphere. (Simplified) But livestock do not run on fossil fuels and so we have to somehow link there emissions to post industrial human activity. Essentially one has to demonstrate that there is some “surplus”. We have huge gaps in our knowledge of these biological exchanges. For example does anyone have ANY idea of the impact of the millions of the twelve species of Moa that are no longer here?
    In the US, within the margin of error, we can say that the 70 million cattle replaced 70 million buffalo. No change!
    My genuine puzzlement is that given the importance of pastoral farming to out economy New Zealand science is way behind the sciences of the total agricultural economy in the US and Canada and – to a lesser extent- Australia.
    The Europeans don’t want to think about because when I was involved in a process for turning chicken manure into organic fertilizer I found that much of Europe was virtually saturated in animal and chicken effluent. The subisidies encourage massive over stocking and waste.

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  39. Peter said:

    It’s pointless listening to anything that comes filtered via political organizations. They have their agenda, and getting to the truth is a back-burner activity for ideologues.

    Then why on earth don’t you head off to some non-political site to discuss this issue? If you really believe it’s pointless, then your engaging in discussion is pointless, as I’m sure others have noted.

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  40. bj – It may be that there is a point to be had and the farms here in NZ can be given more credit for good practice

    It may indeed be, were they exhibiting ‘good practice’. You’d think it was beholden unto the farmers to show that they are. They aren’t able to show it, because they aren’t. Farming practices in NZ don’t stand up to close scrutiny when it comes to soil management.

    Shunda said:

    None the less, Owens ideas seem to have caught you guys by surprise, which is interesting.
    Are the greens more about the problem than the solution?

    Not at all Shunda. Green MPs and commenters have been talking solutions for sooooo long, it’s just that you’ve not been looking or listening. In any case, surely it’s the FARMERS responsibility to get the issues (lit) sorted, not the Greens.

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  41. My supplementqry submission to the Select Committee on ETS which lays out some of the history is at my web site here:
    http://www.rmastudies.org.nz/documents/ETSNewDirections.pdf
    This quote from the UN should interest everyone here:

    On Friday, 3 April 2009, 12:59 pm, a Press Release from the United Nations shows that the UN itself is not opposed to the use of soil sequestration of carbon – the ‘anti-soil’ bias seems to come from ‘the New Zealand paradigm’. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Assistant Director-General also pointed governments towards an international market in this know-how,
    which could improve grassland management, independent of the final outcome of the current climate change debate. In promoting soil sequestration, he said:
    “Millions of farmers around the globe could also become agents of change helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Alexander Mueller, FAO Assistant Director-General on the occasion of the ongoing UN negotiations.
    By keeping higher levels of carbon in the soil – a process known as “carbon
    sequestration” – farmers can help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, enhance the soil’s resilience and boost crop yields, according to FAO.
    “Agricultural land is able to store and sequester carbon. Farmers that live off the land, particularly in poor countries, should therefore be involved in carbon sequestration to mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Mr. Mueller, who also noted that farmers and their families, particularly in poorer countries, will become victims of climate change.
    Farmers can alleviate agriculture’s contribution to climate change by reducing tillage, increasing organic soil matter and soil cover, improving grassland management, restoring degraded lands, planting trees, altering forage and by sustainable use of animal genetic diversity, using fertilizer more efficiently, and improving water management.

    However, Mr. Mueller said, “Current global funding arrangements, like the Clean
    Development Mechanism [CDM] under the Kyoto Protocol, are inadequate and are not offering sufficient incentives for farmers to get involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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  42. Sorry, dropped off the last paragraph and my comment:

    “For example, soil carbon sequestration, through which nearly 90 per cent of agriculture’s climate change mitigation potential could be realized, is outside the scope of the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol.
    Neither climate change mitigation, nor food security, nor sustainable development, benefit from this exclusion.”

    Rather than accepting this exclusion, surely New Zealand, of all countries, should be challenging the present Kyoto position and developing the science and economic arguments to refute it.

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  43. Greenfly – Compared to practices in North America I suspect our farmers are paragons of virtue. Which isn’t saying that much is good about our farming practices :-)

    The factory-farm is the model in the USA.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  44. I am fascinated at the continual reference to poor countries as those damaging the soils, when I would imagine the “richer ” countries are generally doing it with those rich farmers in the poor countries taking on the slash and burn processes that agribusiness suppliers such as John Deere and Monsanto sell.
    The drive here to bigger and better farms and dairy conversions
    seem to be driven by the fimance industry in cohorts with these suppliers. Is it the responsibility of the rest of the community to prop up these losses in a situation where warnings have been going on for decades. If simply looking after the soil is a major solution then the crap scientists are also all these agribusiness scientists that have conned farmers into spending for years.
    Farmers have been poorly led by the political leadership to date that has pushed more is better, and the sooner they see this the better off their grandkids will be.
    Instead of spending most of their life on the farm they might see social benefits in engaging more with neighbours and family, this applies to dairy farmers moreso. Then they might see their life style is a minority position.

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  45. BluePeter> See, that’s what happens when you play the man instead of the ball. If you take a careful look at that list,

    Well, you didn’t do yourself any favours by listing two of the most highest profile cranks on the list first. Anyway, I’m bored of this exchange. You think the IPCC is politically motivated. Fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    Owen> Please. I am not a soil scientist. These are not “my claims” but the claims of soil scientists in Canada which happen to reinforce claims I have already reported on made by scientists in the US and Australia.

    Owen, there is some very productive discussion of this happening on hot topic – see the link I posted above. Care to post some of your findings on that post? You seem to be getting a little unfairly berated here ;-).

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  46. >>Well, you didn’t do yourself any favours by listing two of the most highest profile cranks on the list first.

    Quite deliberate.

    Read “Poles Apart” yet?

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  47. BluePeter, why would I read a tripe publication from NZ’s leading conspiracy theorist. The central thesis of that book is complete nonsense. If that’s your “reliable source”, I pity you.

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  48. Mugwump

    “Poles Apart” is Gareth Morgan’s book, not Wishart’s. Gareth is reported to have done a pretty good job for an amateur with money.

    I have ordered the book and will probably have it and read it within the week, work permitting. I may post here less frequently as I do. BP is being pretty reasonable here ( for him ) and I reckon you owe him the benefit of doubt rather than the back of your hand. We may disagree on the actions to take, but he’s not nearly as bad as some.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  49. bj – the North American farming model may well be a failing one, but so is ours. It’s not enough for us to be ‘not the worst’ and only lose topsoil at half the rate the Americans (or whatever) we must become paragons, and lose none, in fact we must make the stuff! We can, but we are not. Farmers are largely in denial over this issue, just as they are over gas emissions. It’s game on (but the key players are not on the court yet).

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  50. What puzzles me, bj and Bluepeter, is why (on earth) Peter listens to Gareth Morgan’s thoughts on this matter, and not those of Jeanette Fitzsimons, who has had vastly more time and resource than Morgan to get to the heart of the matter. Doubtless Peter will claim that Jeanette is blinded by ideology etc.. but
    I
    really
    think
    that
    view
    is
    stupid.

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  51. >>BluePeter, why would I read a tripe publication from NZ’s leading conspiracy theorist.

    I think you need to think a little harder.

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  52. >>Peter listens to Gareth Morgan’s thoughts on this matter

    Gareth is just the jury. The book is about the views of the scientists, and the method is better than anything any Green organisation has come up with.

    >>and not those of Jeanette Fitzsimons

    About as likely as you are to listen to Rodney Hide or Roger Douglas on economic direction.

    Jeanette Fitzsimons is too ideological, and far too left wing, for me to listen to her.

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  53. Trade sanctions as part of Cap & Betrayed look to become popular….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19sun1.html?_r=1

    I don’t think BP has any tools to decide how Jeanette regards these things, as he only knows her as a leader of the Greens.

    As a result he is more likely to listen to Gareth who he is quite sure started from zero and who is already known and respected for his business acumen rather than his work in our party.

    Which is fair enough.

    I have to regard Gareth’s work as a big plus if it persuades a few people to take a look at the science and question the blog spin. Jeanette could work harder, be more accurate and not even be heard by some of the people Gareth Morgan can easily reach.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  54. >>he is more likely to listen to Gareth who he is quite sure started from zero and who is already known and respected for his business acumen

    He also manages a chunk of my investments. So it’s fair to say I trust the guy far more than any politician.

    The Morgan seminar on climate change was attended by a few thousand, filling the Wellington Michael Fowler Centre, and venues up and down the country. He reaches a lot more people than any green event on this same issue, and he talks to the people who have their hands on the levers, as opposed to (mainly) activists, party faithful, the unemployed, and students.

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  55. I went to a seminar awhile ago taken by John Turner ( a soil scientist ) and the interesting point he made was that irrigated land loses much less carbon than non-irrigated.This being due to the fact that the irrigated land does not dry out(with the reduced microbial activity) over the summer months.

    So the possibility with water harvesting is all positive with it not only vastly increasing our land productivity and national wealth but also claiming carbon credits in the process.

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  56. Peter – just to clarify: I base my view of the issue of climate change, in the main, on the writings of Green party Mps, their researchers and intelligent commentors on this blog, the papers they cite and commentors they link to. I’m disqualified from this debate because my sources are political and ideological?
    You, on the other hand, trust the manager of your investments, in part because he can fill the Michael Fowler Centre.
    Funny. Clearly your guy carries a great deal more weight than my crew. How could I have been so gullible!
    How delicious it would be if both my sources and yours said the same thing about the warming of the planet.

    Hang on…

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  57. greenfly, Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40% AND include agriculture (which would mean a reduction in flock numbers would it not, yet are we not dependent on dairy and meat export income?) even if other nations do not?

    What I said – The Green Party is asking this country to martyr itself for the cause to show how just it is and how righteous we are – is in this context quite so.

    greenfly “Yet nowhere can I find where the Green Party says this. Perhaps you are projecting your own beliefs/fears onto the party.”

    No. As I explained.

    Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40% AND include agriculture (which would mean a reduction in flock numbers would it not, yet are we not dependent on dairy and meat export income?) even if other nations do not?

    greenfly “Do you fear also, that the Greens have significant influence over what the government decides to do around this issue?”

    So you are saying that the Greens can advocate it but as no government of this country would ever do it there is no economic problem to this country from Green Party policies?

    PS You might reply that emmssions charges will not actually reduce flock numbers and that all the tax on farmers will do is reduce their income (increase food prices) and allow the tax to assist us to pay compensation overseas for being over target.

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  58. towaka – non-irrigated land that is inappropriately managed, you must mean.
    The conclusion you should have drawn is that properly managed, non-irrigated land looses no carbon, where-as irragated land continues to leach soil and with it, carbon.

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  59. SPC asks:

    Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40%

    No. Not as far as I know. That being the case, the rest of your argument is wrong.

    When I said, ‘Do you fear…?’ I meant, “Do you fear…?’

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  60. >>I’m disqualified from this debate because my sources are political and ideological?

    No. It’s a free country, listen to whoever you want.

    >>You, on the other hand, trust the manager of your investments, in part because he can fill the Michael Fowler Centre.

    No. My point was that he has a bigger audience than you guys do. Aren’t you interested in what he’s saying to them? Or do you just care what your like-minded friends think?

    Secondly, it’s his method I like. If there’s a more balanced piece of research out there, then present it.

    >>How could I have been so gullible!

    I don’t think you’re gullible, Greenfly. I do you think your politics is a significant part of your identity, which leads you down a different path than I’m on.

    >>How delicious it would be if both my sources and yours said the same thing about the warming of the planet.

    I’m sure there are many points of cross-over. As I said, the book presents both sides and looks for points of agreement.

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  61. No greenfly,what I mean is that when soils dry out in summer esp. in areas like Canterbury they lose a lot of soil carbon.For instance two farms with the same soil type side by side,the non-irrigated farm would lose a lot more carbon than the irrigated even though both farms are in perennial grasses.Soils drying out lose carbon in similar fashion as they do under cultivation but to a lessor extent.

    It just makes sense when you consider combining water and heat in summer with irrigation and the luxuriant plant growth and massive increase in soil microbial activity that results,compared with dead lifeless plants and soils which happen in many instances in a NZ summer.

    This revelation puts irrigation in a whole new light esp. considering that water is the one abundant resource we have in this country.

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  62. Greenfly is right about the carbon loss of our soils, current practice is not sustainable in the long term, but there should be some recognition of the difference between our farms and those in the US.
    But why is this such a polarising issue?. I find it incredible how the middle ground on issues such as this is almost non existent in this country. NZ could actually lead the world in developing true sustainable practice but extremist greenies seem to have vaccinated most of the population against the idea, and ignorant farmers have fed the flames as well.
    Some seem against all but radical solutions, while others want to stick their head in the dirt until there is none left.

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  63. Deserts are microfauna deserts because they are short of water.

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  64. towaka – compare your managed perennial grass, irrigated pasture land to a natural, non-irrigated prairie. The prairie has lasted for a great stretch of time with no management from man and no deterioration of it’s soils, proving that it is a viable and resiliant system. Your managed, irrigated system is hugely vulnerable to external factors like drought, or the lost of the water used for irrigation, and could collapse rapidly, losing its stored carbon and other soil components disasterously. We would be far better to model our pastures on the stable system than the tenuous one that you propose. We must think long term. Pumping it up for production is bound to fail.

    Shunda – my experience of ‘green thinkers’ around the issue of soil conservation is, that they are very thoughtful and investigative but that the issue does call for a radical solution, at least it seems that way to the present users of the soils.

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  65. Deserts are often created by destructive agricultural practices.

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  66. Why is Canterbury so dry? Have efforts been made to adapt to the dry conditions through the principals of xeriscaping, or has the response been’ let’s do it like it’s done in wetter areas, by bringing in water’?

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  67. The other stupid thing they are doing in Canterbury is cutting all the trees down so the irrigation system has free passage over the land.
    Stupid stupid stupid.

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  68. Greenfly in my experience pastoral farming is most often beneficial to the soil.What the old farmers would refer to as ”hoof and tooth” which refers to building up soil biology with managed grazing and the introduction of animal manures to the soil to help fertility.

    On our farm what once was stony river flats with very thin top soils are now highly producing top soils just through the soils being built up with grazing.For any farmer to damage their soils is economic suicide.

    As for irrigation in NZ not being sustainable…as long as we are located in the Pacific ocean with mountain ranges on both islands and prevailing westerly winds…we ain`t going to be running out of water any time soon!

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  69. towaka – I don’t doubt that you have built up soil biology with your ‘hoof and tooth’ management( I’m guessing that it involved the bulk addition of oil products in the form of fertilizers, products that originate outsside of the farm). I do know though, that over all, this is not the case in New Zealand. Enormous amounts of topsoil have been lost forever through poor farming practice on such a scale that we should hang our heads.
    You say,
    For any farmer to damage their soils is economic suicide.
    which is true and yet this is what has been done and is being done still. Much of the effect is masked by the application of products sourced outside of the country. The true damage to our soils will only be seen when that ‘stuff’ is no longer available to us.
    As to As for irrigation in NZ not being sustainable
    That’s not what I said. It’s not a lack of water that is my concern, it’s the continued reliance of ‘bringing in stuff’, that short cuts real sustainable development.

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  70. greenfly
    “meeting’s with remarkable trees” by Thomas Pakenham is a great book.
    Some very ‘shireish’ trees shown and described with in depth history.
    Love the huge old Oaks.

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  71. Greenfly your ”guessing” is completely 100% wrong with no ”oil based” fertilizers being used on our farm in 30 plus years.You are correct that we have used outside inputs including things like chicken litter(a waste product),lime,elemental sulphur,trace elements,sea weed etc,all being natural products locally sourced.

    But to farm economically you must have outside inputs of some kind to compensate for soil deficiencies,some prairie land utopia is not going to pay my bills or the countries either.

    The damage to soils in NZ is mostly in the high country through erosion where a lot of land should never have cleared.Hopefully the boom in Manuka honey will see a lot of this land going back in bush.But back to my first point actually more of the Canterbury plains being irrigated will be beneficial to the soils there.And do not forget that 95% of the water flowing through the plains goes out to sea,so why not store some of this water in the winter when river flows are high to be used in the summer for the benefit for ALL the community.

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  72. greenfly

    So you are really really unaware of any Green Party support for New Zealand cutting emissions by 40% … ?

    PS I have no expectation or fear of Green Party influence on this government.

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  73. SPC – you asked,

    , Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40%

    PS The Greens have already had influence over this present government and signed an MOE to formalise that. Think ‘insulation, warmth, better health for New Zealanders’

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  74. greenfly

    SPC Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40%

    greenfly – No. Not as far as I know. That being the case, the rest of your argument is wrong.

    So if they advocate a 40% emission reduction target, including agriculture, I would be right?

    PS The National Party announced thier decision to backtrack on home insulation in February and the Green Party congratulated them on this. It was not till April that there was an announcement that they were working together. What influence have the Greens had on National policy since April?

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  75. After having talked to a scientist at Agresearch who is study bovines and measuring methane output it seems a diet high in clover produces less methane.

    Now to tie this into my argument for the benefits of irrigation,well clover likes it warm and wet so a pasture irrigated in summer should have a much higher percentage of clover in it so producing much less methane from the grazing animals and also fixing nitrogen naturally so reducing the need for urea.

    Now the trouble with the ETS is how do you reward the farmers who are growing more clover versus the ones who use urea?To be fair this needs to be taken into account but to do this every farm would need to be audited with the corresponding bureaucracy at a huge cost.

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  76. SPC Is the Green Party advocating we reduce our emmissions by 40%

    The Green Party wants to see a challenging target. We support the efforts of Greenpeace without having called specifically for a 40% target.

    So if they advocate a 40% emission reduction target, including agriculture, I would be right?

    In the House Metiria asked Key to consider a split plan, with a 20% target for Ag and a 40% target for non-Ag. This would yield an overall target of about 30%.

    PS The National Party announced thier decision to backtrack on home insulation in February and the Green Party congratulated them on this.

    ?? Could you be more explicit how they backtracked and what we said about it?

    It was not till April that there was an announcement that they were working together. What influence have the Greens had on National policy since April?

    Of the three other areas in the MoU, Kevin has posted that good progress is being made on the Cycleway, which will become public soon. I don’t think announcements have been made in Energy Efficiency or the Regulation of NZ Natural Health Products, so they are still under discussion. The govt also voted to send Jeanette’s biofuel bill to select committee and Sue B is talking to Simon Powers about the govt adopting her bill on clear wording of referenda. Sue K played a key role in publicising the govt’s strange stance on the folate issue, leading to a change in policy.

    Not that bad for an opposition party.

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  77. SPC,

    There is a biological control for the clover weevil now but I think the weevil was always over blown anyway and a lot of farmers used it as a excuse as why they could no longer grow clover instead of looking at their over use of urea.

    The old rule of thumb was that a diet of 40% clover was the ideal mix for a cow for production but now this has been revised to 60% but the tragedy is that many farms can not grow any clover any more.We have lost the plot in some ways.

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  78. Valis

    I support a target excluding agriculture (we could look at offering including agriculture once we received free trade in agriculture with the EU and the US – that is they gave up subsidies and tariffs etc).

    We are handicapped by having a rising population (and some immigration)as well as no decline in our major old economy industry (we have a comparative advantage in farming), whereas in Europe pollution is stablising and industrial production is transferring to non Kyoto nations (free trade in industrial production of goods).

    In February National announced they would insulate houses (it was not in their manifesto). Greens (JF) congratualted them for backtracking on their earlier opposition to government subsidy of this, but said there was more to do than just insulate ceilings.

    Yes well, but it is still very early days and something substantive might occur I suppose. What about best practice for all farms as to clean waterways as a price for deferring the inclusion of agriculture in the emissions regime? We can easily stonewall our Kyoto partners by including agriculture when they give us fair free trade (no subsidies and no tariifs etc) – they have been unfair to us, time to turn it to our advantage (including getting our waterways sorted).

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  79. towaka

    Your farming practices sound interesting. You’ve been using alternatives to the usual urea and super, by the sound of it (you’ll have been using petrol or deisel in the machines that transport and apply it I’m guessing). I’m of the opinion that in general, your story is not that of the New Zealand farmer. Urea and Superphosphate et al sell very well here. Very well.
    You say:

    But to farm economically you must have outside inputs of some kind to compensate for soil deficiencies,some prairie land utopia is not going to pay my bills or the countries either.

    I believe the challenge for farmers is to look at that statement and work to reduce those inputs as much as is possible, far more so than is practiced today. The major input should be sunlight. Rain comes without the need for trucking. Well chosen plants grow soil.
    The chicken manure you used was lost from some where else. Those chickens were probably fed with feed grown in a distant place and transported. All of these factors build a picture of wastefulness and depletions along the line (it could be said that oil plays some part in your fertiliser programme – I hate to be 100% wrong :-)
    My opinion about water storage and irrigation is that you/we should look to the historical irrigation schemes around the world and see where they succeeded and failed before blithely applying them here. There have been spectacular failures over time and few successes.
    The use that irrigated land is put to should also be questioned, in light of ongoing discussions around farming practices, land use and food production.

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  80. I do agree however that a good ETS or system for managing emissions should be intelligent enough to reward good practice on farms. The clover example you talk about is an interesting one and brings in the issue of bees.

    SPC – to make clear your claim that the Green Party is advocating a 40% target for emission reduction, could you please provide a link so that I can see for myself. Perhaps you’ve seen it on their website, who knows.

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  81. Greenfly,
    More and more farmers are going the same route we have with what is called biological farming.This is farming by looking after your soil life to encourage the release of nutrients rather than using soluble chemical fertilizers.Some biological farmers are certified organic and others prefer not to be but use the same principles.

    Now the interesting thing is that in every farming paper at the moment there are full page adds by Fonterra promoting organic farming as they know the world wide demand for these products.Also with regional councils bringng in much tougher regulations for the use of fertilizers,the over use of urea etc has a limited time span.Also basic economics make this transition with the low inputs farmers the ones who will survive the latest downturn.

    As for chicken litter,most of the feed for the chickens is grown locally with the manure being a waste product.So instead of having a cost of dumping it we can use it to improve soil fertility.I would have thought you green people were in favour of recycling?

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  82. Actually greenfly, Green Party policy advocates for a 30% by 2020 target, but that policy was written over a year ago before the latest scientific summaries for Copenhagen were published. Individual Greens are free to advocate for anything they want.

    Many, including myself, think that 40% is a more appropriate number given that climate statistics are tracking the worst case scenarios of the IPCC’s modelling.

    Speaking for myself here, I’d say that I wouldn’t accept anything less than a 30% commitment from our Government. I’d prefer 40%, with an acknowledgement that others need to act in concert and that up to a third of this could be in offsets rather than domestic reductions. That way we take responsibility for our emissions in the global context but don’t have to kill ourselves economically.

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  83. Whoops bit of an own goal there. Sorry BluePeter, and thanks bjchip for understanding who I was obviously talking about.

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  84. Greenfly,

    That is the trouble with any ETS if you are going to reward the good farmers who have sound practise i.e encourage the growth of clover,planting of shelter belts,high organic matter in soil to store carbon etc.,then you are going to need a huge bureaucracy to manage it at huge costs.And if the farmers have to pay for the bureaucracy then it would take away any incentive to change farming practice.This is one of the reasons most countries have put animal emissions in the two hard basket.

    While in this subject,isn`t it strange that natural methane emissions from swamps and wetlands are good but natural emissions from grazing animals are bad?

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  85. towaka – more peower to you for the direction you are taking with ‘biological farming’ – there is a lot to be gained there and I’m no stranger to the practice.
    With regard the chickens and their feed – I’m pleased to hear that you can source locally grown feed – what are you feeding them? Grain I presume. How, I wonder, is the grain farmer maintaining his soil fertility if the chickens are getting his grain but their manure isn’t going back onto his fields? You can see what I am getting at. Recycling is a very broad term and while I’m a supporter, no real discussion can be had until the details are revealed.
    Putting farming into the ‘too hard’ basket is just a cop out. It needs to go into the ‘solved’ basket on so many levels. Procrastination is delay. Delay is deadly.
    As to the swamps – leave them be for goodness sake, they serve purposes greater than generally recognised by people thinking in trems of GDP. Attend to the processes that man is responsible for. Next you’ll be saying we shouldn’t bother making any changes because a volcanoe might erupt somewhere.

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  86. Frog (and SPC)
    Green Party policy advocates for a 30% by 2020 target

    Thanks. That’s what I thought. I know there are many Greens calling for a higher target. SPC was asking for the official view.

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  87. greenfly,

    The poultry farmer we get out chicken litter from grows his own grain but has to much manure to use on his own land without over loading it so we get the surplus.So your assumptions are wrong in this matter.

    After talking with my friend at Agresearch it seems there is no short term or mid term solutions for solving the animal emissions at the moment apart from a giant cull.Surely the production of food should be exempt from the ETS.I know people will say just grow crops rather than graze animals but forget that so much of NZ is hilly and unsuitable for cropping and with the use of grazing animals on this type of land you can produce sustainable,healthy free range meat and wool.Also with cropping you damage the soil much more than the recycling of animal manures on perennial grasses.

    You must see the contradiction that a cropping farmer who releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere(and damages the soil) when he cultivates does not have to give account for this under the ETS,yet pastoral farming which on the whole builds up the soil gets whacked for their animal emissions.Hardly fair is it?

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  88. towaka – how can the chicken farmer produce more fertilizer than he removes from his fields? Is he putting somnething else onto his grain fields? Where is that coming from? Not oil I hope.
    I do indeed see the problem with damage caused by crop farming. I have great reservations about conventional horticulture as well. Many a good continent has been ruined by bad management of cropping, as with bad management of hoof farming. Crop farmers, like hoof farmers must be properly audited, not granted exemption from responsibility, as you seem to be arguing ( Surely the production of food should be exempt from the ETS )
    I’m very interested in the production of food. The systems we have in place now are very poor approximations of what could be achieved.
    I don’t agree with your statement that pastoral farming ‘on the whole builds up soil’. It’s a falsehood, because the true inputs are not being taken into account.

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  89. Land which is generating marginal value – and lets face it, if the expense it is generating from emissions is greater than the profit that the crop is producing then it really is marginal – can be made productive by conversion to forestry. Towaka your arguments do not seem to consider that option.

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  90. Towaka

    Plant sugar maples. Make maple syrup. $40/litre plus carbon credits. ???

    BJ

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  91. Greenfly,

    ”I don’t agree with your statement that pastoral farming ‘on the whole builds up soil’. It’s a falsehood, because the true inputs are not being taken into account.”

    What are you talking about here in regards to ”true inputs”?

    And I can assure that the guy we buy our chicken litter from does not waste money with super phosphate etc when he has his own abundant supply of manure.By the way chicken litter has the 3 main element of NPK and goodies as well and the good thing is that nitrogen is in a slow release form unlike urea.

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  92. I see the supermarket chain Waitrose in the UK is rejecting NZ fish (hoki) as unsustainable even though agencies have given in a tick.

    I think this becomes the crux of all the arguement about ouir position of taking a lead or not in sustainable farming. The huge move in the urban populations to grow food is going to increase and the staple foods that take a bit more space are going to be where the demand lies in this scenario. Carbohydrate, not protein is where the biggest demand lies.
    Cultivation is very much involved with present processes of production. The area that humans are not looking at in any significant way is seeds in general for sprouting, no cooking.
    The permaculture way of viewing production is the ultimate process. Imagine trees producing edible seeds/nuts that we can harvest and animals cleaning up the surplus. Much like evolved nature.

    Our big problem in the whole discussion about farm and country divide is that it is so by the very nature of the way we have seen property ownership and allocation. It creates this divide as the population goes up, as it takes money to get your hands on this means of production. Land management schemes that are sustainable can only be to a close degree at best as the produce has to be sent to cities where it is shit down sewage systems to the sea. We have to add seaweed to the land to get the minerals back – transport. Population redistribution has to occur so that human waste is closer too the production.

    This leads me to the ultimate conclusion that we need political solutions that take people gradually out of urban situations and onto the land. I am not religious but the old Biblical story of Babylon is an historical warning of this scenario.

    Rating land instead of taxing income I believe can make this happen if done wisely, and about thirty acres per family is available after allowing two thirds of the NZ land mass to go back to widerness – production at a less countable level.

    I guess ultimately the trouble is people think they have to solve the problem by producing when the balance might occur better by sharing what we have better.

    If we rated land for its productive value, and not capital value, and gave rate rebate for trees – valued by revamping the present valuation processes – then those with trees on all types of land would be rewarded. Carbon taxes would then deal to the price differences of higher fuel/input systems. Pastoral farmers may have to reduce stock numbers but quality increases and costs fall so only those who invested in high capital/input systems will suffer, as ast present, generally the farms that are larger than family size. No system is perfect but if we don’t look longer term at land distribution we don’t solve the issues. Fuel and many minerals will run out,

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  93. I forgot to say that my solution actually reduces the bureaucracy – IRD workers, instead of increrasing the number of bean counters to count carbon and distribute the rights.
    A new power elite.

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  94. oldlux
    The last genius who moved people from cities on to the land was Pol Pot and the one before him was Mao.
    I think you have a hard row to hoe.

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  95. towaka – can you clarify how it is that the chicken farmer can remove x amount of protein from his grain field, then put less back on, and still maintain the same level of fertility? Given that he is sending even more protien away as eggs, he must be doing something magical!
    He is sending grain, eggs and dead chickens (presumably) off site. How can he do this seemingly impossible thing (maintaining the fertility level), without bringing nitrogen in in some form. Perhaps he is a wizard with legumes, but you’ve not mentioned them at all.

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  96. I think the trouble was that in each of your examples the move was forced by circumstances. In Cambodia the sudden loss of an urban money supply when the US withdrew left nothing to support the millions who had huddled around the US spending. An Aussie journalist I met who was there until the last few helicopters left,told me the dilemna was the war depleted landscape couldn’t feed the numbers in suburbia so Pol Pot had a huge dilemna with what to do. The journalist told me of his trouble trying to get this story out when the US line was it was Cambodia at fault. No aid was available and I guess the War Lords thought sustainability needed a cleansing of those without relevent skills, or see the next seasons seed stocks eaten with greater starvation following.
    With Mao the issue that got the people fighting alongside his movement was the malnutrition and starvation occuring as Fuedal land lords grew herbs, spices etc. in an unsustainable way to keep Western palletes tantalised. Again the removal of all the foreign transaction at the border meant urban dwellers had to reassimilate into a rural environment devistated by unsustainable processes in an overpopulated country, again with the Wests condemnation and no real help.

    Maybe with whats happening now with the climate/fuel/economics situation the western world is looking to a reverse situation. I wonder if the East will help us??

    The lesson in looking at history clearly is that people of intellegence and compassion can use their skills to prevent similar problems from occuring to our society, but I think most who could do something are already affected by the imbalances created by an ecosystem out of balance. A US senate report in the 1940’s warned of the increasing health issues their country faced if they didn’t improve their land use, the main issue being the loss and imbalancing of minerals, making both plant and consumer less healthy. These minerals are also needed for our ability to percieve clearly and all the modern food processing adds to the imbalance. Alright for those who want a passive population to manipulate, but generally a loss of productivity longterm.

    I will keep trying to hold my balance and compassion, I hope the same for you.

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  97. And the old chestnut: “People in Siberia would like a bit of warming”. People in Siberia are adapted to the climate they have.

    People in little old New Zealand would like a bit of warming, such as myself. I suppose you haven’t been on a train station platform on a cold winter’s morning, freezing like anything; or indeed being frustrated when summer’s warmth only lasts for three weeks in February.

    And this is in Auckland. Imagine how much worse it would be for the average person in Invercargill, or indeed anywhere in the South Island.

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  98. That’s right john-ston, the important thing is that people get to choose the climate. B*gger the plants, insects, birds, fishes and the rest of the expendibles.

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  99. Greenfly,

    The poultry farmer grows his own grain,buys in locally grown maize and uses imported soy to feed his birds.He then recycles the manure to fertilize his soil with out needing to use urea.We have maize growers in this region on light soils who prefer using chicken litter for growing maize rather than using urea.

    But at the end of the day if you are farming you are going to have to use some kind of outside input for your soils if you want to stay viable.

    Are you opposed to this?

    Also can you explain what you mean in this statement-

    ”I don’t agree with your statement that pastoral farming ‘on the whole builds up soil’. It’s a falsehood, because the true inputs are not being taken into account.”

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  100. That’s right john-ston, the important thing is that people get to choose the climate. B*gger the plants, insects, birds, fishes and the rest of the expendibles.

    So you like suffering through the cold of winter? I absolutely hate it, and I absolutely hate the patheticness of our summers as well. I seem to recall a comment that suggested that global warming would result in Auckland having a climate similar to Suva, and Dunedin having a climate similar to Auckland. If that is what global warming results in, then I don’t have any issue with it.

    Further to that, the plants, insects, birds, fishes and the rest of the expendibles have all adapted to changing climates over time, so that is really not an issue.

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  101. towaka

    I was angling to find out whether the system you described was propped up by importing and you show now that it is. Without the inputs of maize and soy, the soils in his fields would be in deficit. That is my point. If a farm needs outside inputs of that kind, it’s not a ‘sustainable’ operation (that is, it takes from elsewhere, just to be balanced)
    Your ‘by the end of the day’ is not correct, though widely accepted by farmers here in New Zealand. The farming practice that requires inputs to the extent that it commonly does now, is wrong. Oldlux (above) has a lot of very sound ideas that better describe what it is I’m pointing at.
    Yes, I am opposed to that system.
    To explain more fully what I meant when I said, ” I don’t agree with your statement etc..”
    Taken as a whole, over all, with all examples included, pastoral farming in New Zealand isn’t building up soil to any degree that we should be proud of. The losses we have suffered and continue to suffer from the agricultural practices in New Zealand are serious. Where soil depth can be shown to have increased, it is likely to be the result of imported energy, applied wastefully and with no regard to the location it was taken from, nor the true cost of moving it to the farm. It’s a smoke and mirrors trick, building up soil with energy from somewhere else. Looks green and verdant, but it is illusory. True soil building occurs on site, using plants and sunlight. Animals, insects, micro organisms, fungi and so on are part of that process, but the ‘ungulate plus pumped up grass’ combination doesn’t cut it for the real soil steward.

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  102. john-ston

    Further to that, the plants, insects, birds, fishes and the rest of the expendibles have all adapted to changing climates over time, so that is really not an issue.

    Funny! Have you read anything at all about the effects of rapid changes in climate on such life forms? It aint pretty. Expect extinctions.

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  103. The early predictions about the climate effects were often not well formed as now we are improving the understanding. The predictions I first took seriously talked of greater fluctuation of various conditions. My explanation is that the air currents that cause all these patterns will be moving faster as that is what heat does to gases. The dry hot zones we have been familiar with are created by the warm air at the equator rising and coming down in zones further north or south depending on the hemisphere. For us these have been in Australia and our Northland has had very dry summers, the traditional dairy season started early and ended early because of the dry.
    The edge of this dry zone is temperate and full of moisture so for us this is moving south.
    I would imagine that the warmth rising faster in our winters will draw more cool air from the antartic patterns.
    So we are looking at colder winters and dryer summers with shorter growing periods. Last year I saw the Mangakino area acting more like the Waikato a decade back, and the Waikato acting more like Northland. If this becomes a pattern then all the present investments and capital values will alter.

    Many years ago a friend showed me the translation of a diary written by an Austrian Museum scientist (can’t recall the name)who came to Aotearoa before much colonisation. He walked the country painting and writing. His comment that amazed me was that the bush was so intact the leaf mould was 1m deep in most places – thus the kiwi habitat – but he talked about the temperate air this created and even in the winter there was no frosts.
    The so-called Maori savages lived in an harvested this temperate zone and respected the balances – most of the time, I guess different migrations and those who were influenced by European thinking began changing this, and then the disaster of sending all the trees overseas and the pure devastation. Now we have to cut down trees or pay for eletricity to stay warm.

    And we think all our technical knowledge has created huge progress. Captain Cook wrote of 20,000 Maori living in Mercury Bay (Coromandel) when he first anchored there, now the area is lucky to economically support third to half that number.

    We need to get away from the crap that our economic system is superior to everything. I think it was the myth told to the early colonists so they would keep supporting Europes unsustainable lifestyle. We still haven’t learnt this. It is great that more younger people are waking up and I hope they don’t get more angry instead of disillusioned.

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  104. Sounds like you should move to Australia john-ston.

    Oh that’s right, climate change will mean that’s a barren waterless wasteland. Oops.

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  105. hi greenfly
    i would love to sample some king boletus and had heard they where in the park i have been finding black truffle in nelson and chch for the last 6 years are you in chch ? i have the no1 truffle dog in nz she just won nz truffle dog of the year . she would find them with ease :-)

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  106. I seem to recall a comment that suggested that global warming would result in Auckland having a climate similar to Suva, and Dunedin having a climate similar to Auckland. If that is what global warming results in, then I don’t have any issue with it.

    Apart from a barren Oz, the above scenario also includes a barren swathe across Africa, South America and Asia, as well as most of the current coasts and islands of the world under water. We’re talking billions dead and displaced. I wonder how many will decide to get on boats and come to empty and relatively pleasant Aotearoa?

    Is there such a thing as criminal myopia? If so, john-ston should be arrested.

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  107. Greenfly,

    Do you have a vegetable garden?If so I wonder how you get on with out using outside inputs.

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  108. i have the no1 truffle dog in nz she just won nz truffle dog of the year

    Very true, and Chloe’s a fine dog, but mine found the best truffle of the day… ;-)

    If you want to find some porcini in ChCh, just let me know.

    Cheers

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  109. Bucolic old sir henry

    :-) at close inspection i recongise the face they are both great dogs and its so much FUN!!! i would love to try porcini have you tried peg on the hagley boletus ? i was told today they where around so i started looking it brought me here

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  110. towaka

    I have a vegetable garden, I use a little bit of dolomite and sometimes blood and bone from the waste of others. I collect a bit of seaweed at the beach when there and compost all my waste including vege wastes from purchases of food. I give quite a bit of my produce away, but I cannot grow enough in the space I have to be self sufficient. When I was living in the bush the surrouinding forest was nearly enough to be self sufficient. Over a longer period in one place I believe I would have become more so. My biggest problem has been that in our present social structuring I was isolating myself without enough contact.

    I believe, however, that with the shellfish shells I add for long term liming I have left the soil better than when I left it.

    If I tried to buy a place and grow organically to pay a banker as well as live I would probably not be able to claim sustainability, as I have to carry the work load of the investor and his unsustainable living.

    This process maybe the source of the unsustainability?

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  111. i also grow oyster mushroom at home here and always have plenty spare if you would like some

    cheers

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  112. My own viewpoint on what we should do is that we should exclude agriculture for now (say 2010-2015 and review that for the final period to 2020). In the meantime requiring farmers to adopt best practice – in the first instance clean waterways, and as research comes in – farm management in the 2015-2020 period.

    We can stonewall foreign critics by saying we will move as they do – if they have fair free trade in agriculture including emissions tax,then we will, but if they don’t … (they won’t give us free trade in agriculture)

    We minimise harm to our export competitiveness while improving (more sustainable) farm practice for our own future well being.

    “SPC – to make clear your claim that the Green Party is advocating a 40% target for emission reduction, could you please provide a link so that I can see for myself. Perhaps you’ve seen it on their website, who knows.”

    I never claimed that, I simply asked you if that was Green policy.

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  113. towaka asked:

    Greenfly,

    Do you have a vegetable garden? If so I wonder how you get on with out using outside inputs.

    I do. I get on well and so does my garden. Without importing anything, I get inputs. Rain, for starters. When it hails or snows, I get free phosphorus. Winds from the south bring salts from the nearby ocean. Birds fly in and deposit their guano (for which I’m grateful). Earthworms pull leaf little down into the soil, pass it through their gut and produce a product that is richer than what went in, thanks to the addition of the enzymes they add. Sunlight powers the system – energy in, captured and stored. Deep rooted perennial herbs like comfrey ‘mine’ the subsoil and bring leached nutrients up to their leaves then onto the soil surface for the worms and microorganisms to feed on and convert to humus. Those small ‘livestock units’ eat, breed and die, adding their bodies to the biomass. Don’t underestimate the contribution that makes. The vegetables we grow, we eat and return to the soil as processed humanure, having composted the raw material, added saw dust from our own trees (I prune) and made the resulting material available to soil organisms. Visitors are welcomed to add to the process :-) We grown a lot of legumes, some annual, some perennial (kowhai for example) and you know about the nitrogen capturing power of those. We cultivate very carefully and generally only once when new land is being ‘started’ on it’s cycle of production. Vetch, clover, pea, bean and grains, especially oat and rye, are used to build carbon and nitrogen. We collect sink water in a swale reed bed as it exits the house and grow papyrus, raupo and other bulky plants for mulch production.

    I’m guessing this was the kind of thing you were wondering about.
    * We use hand tools (we fell trees with a two person saw) We have wandering ducks.

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  114. SPC – you wanted to know if 40% was Green Party policy and I answered that I didn’t think it was.

    You went on to say,

    So if they advocate a 40% emission reduction target, including agriculture, I would be right?

    Safe to say that they don’t and you aren’t, yes?

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  115. After all my talk about land/population distribution I believe a 40% emmission reduction target is a great start and somewhere we must go in the interim to get people started. I see that as turning the process in a way that slows our excesses and allows room to look after survival essentials.

    I also believe that it is not enough alone as people need education and support to change directions.
    Public transport/car sharing – especially in rural areas
    Organic gardens must be a better imperfect start than mowing lawns with motormowers. Maybe we need lots of tree growing and vege gardening contests to get people tuned in.
    As the emmission reductions bite in we will notice discretionary spending will reduce so peoples habit of high tech toys will change. People will have idle hands so older trades and crafts become a huge social/economic/entertainment process.
    This governmenmt is already trying to scrap night classes at schools.
    Of course some pressure to keep the commons to the fore.
    I think this illustrates a survival of the fittest approach of the present NAT/ACT government is still dreaming and will cause social breakdown. Who needs private enterprise taking over more of the functions that need to be more community involved.
    Eg. the older skills we need to replace the plastic fix world are held generally by older people so they need to be involved in education: and if dryer times are coming – water.
    Privitisation only helps the investor groups trying to salvage their funds that they have invested in the modern world of throwaway.
    My generation that grew up through the extravegant golden years need to cut their losses and share their skills other ways.

    My comments might seem extreme but so are the warnings from the scientists who say we have about 5 years to turn things around. Funny thing that their predictions to date have been conservative as the market politicians tried to save their unsustainability.

    The great thing is the polling shows most people think not enough is being done. Watch out the NATS/ACT government

    Farmers are harder to convince as they see they have a trump card in the food production, but take out fuel and those in the cities will be looking for resources to survive. How far away is that scenario? I think the Greens are the only answer but they are too nice and quite rightly focussing on the positives.

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  116. I prefer Oldlux`s approach to farming compared with the rigid purity of Greenfly.

    I mean what can be wrong in gathering sea weed from the beach,or compost waste from some other industry to help soil fertility.

    As ALL of NZ is low in Selenium we would have a lot of sick animals if most farmers were not adding this very important trace element to their soils every year.You can include the colbolt deficiency in the ash soils of the volcanic plateau and the fact that most NZ soils are low in P.Most farmers do soil and herbage tests to monitor trace elements and major elements for optimum animal health and soil health.

    But to do this a lot of these ”missing parts” must be brought in from either locally or across borders to farm economically.

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  117. towaka

    I too like oldlux’s approach, though I’m puzzled that you accept his call for a 40% target. Good for you!
    My ‘rigid purity’ is also a target. I’m just trying to show where we should be aiming, if we are to be genuinely resiliant in our land use. I do support the movement of some elements, such as selenium, but would call for a closer look to be had at how to source them and how to apply them for maximum benefit. I also support the importation of seeds, if only as a one-off, so that land managers can get their system started. After all, we are starting from a degraded state.

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  118. Sounds like you should move to Australia john-ston.

    Oh that’s right, climate change will mean that’s a barren waterless wasteland. Oops.

    Actually, the latter isn’t the reason – it comes down to two things; the place is populated by snakes and Australians.

    Apart from a barren Oz, the above scenario also includes a barren swathe across Africa, South America and Asia, as well as most of the current coasts and islands of the world under water. We’re talking billions dead and displaced. I wonder how many will decide to get on boats and come to empty and relatively pleasant Aotearoa?

    Valis, I think you have watched The Day After Tomorrow one too many times (yes, I know it is about an Ice Age, but same idea essentially). While there will be some impact from global warming, I highly doubt that it would result in the deaths of billions – no event in world history has resulted in the deaths of over two hundred million people, and while there will inevitably be such an event, global warming wouldn’t be it; it would be a war, an epidemic or a megalomanic dictator.

    In terms of people travelling to New Zealand, why not! It would solve the brain drain overnight.

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  119. While there will be some impact from global warming, I highly doubt that it would result in the deaths of billions – no event in world history has resulted in the deaths of over two hundred million people, and while there will inevitably be such an event, global warming wouldn’t be it; it would be a war, an epidemic or a megalomanic dictator.

    Of course, all these factors are sure to contribute. Global warming and the increased famine that results, will make each more likely. They shouldn’t looked at in isolation.

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