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Follow the science, not ideology

Opinion Piece

The editor of our newspaper has chosen to throw petrol on the smouldering embers of the climate change debate by publishing opinions of an investment consultant brought to this region at the invitation of Trust Tairawhiti, in a supposed attempt to help justify both the trust's and the Government's position on our greenhouse gas emissions targets. Dr Paul Winton's address included development options for this nation based on familiar speculative theory that puts our productive sector at risk.

I have problems with his recommendations for change in local habits, as much as anything because he and his supporters have ignored two basic facts about the modern world.

1) Covid-19 has changed forever the way we view our obligations to our fellow human beings.

Each nation now has a selfish responsibility to sort out the best way to recover economically from a pandemic that has negatively affected virtually every person on Earth. Some may never recover to the status they previously enjoyed, and those that do will almost certainly be hamstrung by commitments to their own people that will put strains on individual economies for generations. We no longer have the luxury of dabbling in speculative ideological proposals that have little relevance to the reality of today.

2) Our best chance at surviving this temporary disruption and rebuilding our economy based on sustainable productive capacity is by continuing to build on what we do better than anybody else — grow acceptable food products that will feed the world. It just so happens that in the process, science has ensured we can adapt our production techniques to include non-pollutant activities; no need for the draconian measures advocated by Dr Winton.

I have just returned from a week in Taranaki, visiting family and friends.

It is a long way from Uawa/ Tolaga Bay to Oakura, south of New Plymouth where our daughter and her family live, but if you have the time and are able to organise the journey to include travelling there and back over alternative routes, you can benefit from a confirmation of just how important the agriculture industry (especially the dairy sector) is to not only the country's immediate future but more importantly, to our very survival as a sovereign state.

Travelling across the volcanic plateau in any direction — Rotorua to Taupo, Taupo to Napier or from Taupo to Te Kuiti — will be enough to convince any impartial observer just how vital this part of our economy is to the whole machine.

None of the Government's recently-adopted licence to spend like there is no tomorrow would be possible if this region still looked like it was when l was a boy. It has been turned from a virtual wasteland into some of the most productive farmland in the country.

It wouldn't be so bad if those who have chosen to promote Dr Winton as the authority of choice, with guidelines to follow, would be equally enthusiastic about encouraging the Government to itself follow the science of its own advisers.

We have in this country some of the world's leading pastoral scientists and agronomists whose research tells us that it is perfectly possible to significantly reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions simply by the introduction of genetically-modified grasses to the animal's diet.

Better still, they reckon our cows would belch and fart 80 percent less methane if we added some seaweed to their diet.

• See today's editorial response here.

  1. Bob Hughes says:

    Referring to the volcanic plateau . . . Clive says: “. . . if this region still looked like it was when I was a boy” and “It has been turned from a virtual wasteland into some of the most productive farmland in the country.”
    From a nature perspective, agriculture destroys biodiversity by converting natural habitats to intensely-managed systems – in the process, releasing pollutants, including greenhouses gases. Food value chains and further amplification impacts include energy use, transport and waste. Reducing the food system’s toll on biodiversity is a critical challenge.
    Please understand, our species is but one strand of this planet’s web of life and if we destroy that web, all are doomed.