For farming to be in the black we need to go green

With only the most backward openly saying that we can keep trashing the planet to grow the economy it can be harder to distinguish between the rhetoric of genuine environmental commitment and greenwash.

The language of “balance” has reappeared.   In a speech to Federated Farmers’ conference in Auckland president Bruce Wills talked about the need to balance the environment and the economy. He acknowledged that famers need to do more to take care of the environment. He also supported farmers ramping up production and opposed any restrictions on farming.

Bruce Wills stressed that we can’t focus on the environment unless we have growth and prosperity. This is turning sustainable management on its head. Other short-sighted self-serving myths in the agricultural sector which hinder progress to sustainability include:

  • That we need to keep growing exports in quantity rather than quality.
  • That we have to feed a hungry world (actually most of our products are consumed by middle classes).
  • That we can easily fix up environmental damage – like removing nitrogen from aquifers.
  • That our future markets are not interested in quality throughout the supply chain.
  • That nobody will investigate the truth of our  “100% Pure NZ”.
  • That our tourist sector won’t be damaged by polluted waterways.
  • That the public doesn’t care if rivers are not fit for fish or recreation.
  • That monocultures are resilient.
  • That genetically modified products give us a market edge.
  • That indigenous biodiversity is irrelevant to agriculture.
  • That action on climate change is not urgent and won’t affect us.
  • That fuel and fertiliser will always be cheap.

The list goes on, providing sustenance to avoiding real change and encouraging more short sighted think big projects such as the Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke’s Bay.

The ongoing financial crisis is the most open manifestation of the broken economic paradigm of neoliberal capitalism. We have used up the Earth’s cheaper forms of natural capital. Exploiting nature rather than knowledge as the major platform for economic growth is an end game for the planet.  It creates environmental debt for present and future generations in the form of a rapidly warming climate, polluted rivers and aquifers, and unswimmable  rivers.

A sound survival strategy for the NZ economy and NZ Inc. is to use our human capital more and to develop truly sustainable management of natural resources. That means recognising that natural capital – our forests, wild lands, rivers, soils, and climate are the basis of our agriculture and tourism industries. It means acknowledging that there are limits to growth in terms of cow numbers and intensive agriculture given their impacts on water quality and the climate.  That’s Resource Management 101.

4 Comments Posted

  1. Sign up to Damn The Dam newsletter( you are interested in hearing more about our fight to stop the Ruataniwha Dam until it is proven to be environmentaly sustainable. Something that is unlikely to happen given that the only economically viable use for 30,000ha of irrigated land in HB is dairy conversion.

  2. Thank you Eugenie for balancing the books on what our farming leaders are saying, and what actually happens on the farms. I have been on our Wairua River today (Whangarei) and we have dairy and beef cattle grazing the unfenced river banks on more than 90% of the river banks. Where we are able to put pressure on Fonterra to get dairy milkers off the river banks, they are replaced by beef cows where the farmers often perceive this is ok practice as they do not come under the clean stream accord. Mid next year, Fonterra will enforce the CSA accord on its members. We will see a lot more beef on our river banks from one end of this country to the other unless the accord includes beef farmers. I challenge Federated Farmers President Mr Bruce Wills to clarify what the fed farmers stance will be when the new accord is implemented. If beef cattle are not included, then his statement will be hollow.
    Bruce Wills, you stated –
    “The future for New Zealand to 2020 and beyond is exciting. Our challenge is to ensure a sensible balance between growth and the environment. Our aspiration should be to significantly improve both”
    Bruce – include your beef farmers in the Fonterra mandatory 2014 “Clean Stream Accord” compulsory fencing of our waterways and then we will have some” sensible balance”, anything less will be a gross imbalance
    Millan Ruka – Environment River Patrol-Aotearoa

  3. I would like to give this post by Eugenie a ‘like’ tick, but that’s only available on comments.
    The points raised should be framed as questions and presented publicly to Bruce Wills and Federated Farmers.

  4. The dream of many seems to be.. money, money, money (at any cost to the planet, seen as a pile of (unlimited ?) resources to be exploited !)

    When i was at high-school we learned about 2 essential cycles that we were told, were essential for life : The carbon cycle & the water cycle. The word cycle means that it is perpetually & sustainably moving through the environment.. NOT a resource to be owned or poisoned.
    Maybe this lesson is NOT being taught anymore ? OH DEAR


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