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Simplistic climate change lessons counterproductive

Opinion Piece

Introducing school children to the science underpinning climate change is positive and worthwhile, but great care will be needed to ensure there is balance.

Teachers will need to present and explain the pros and cons of various courses of action in response to global warming, and in particular guard against the lessons fostering feelings of panic or hopelessness.

While much of the material in the “Prepare today, live well tomorrow” teacher resource is instructive and compelling, some of it is misleading unless the nuances of the topic are explored.

For example, there's a section that urges people to buy local food and products as they haven't had to travel so far in a vehicle which uses fossil fuels.

“You are also helping our economy,” the resource states.

That's very simplistic. It ignores the environmental footprint of the producers and is counter to the interests of New Zealand as a major exporter of food.

Per kilogram of protein, produce from NZ farmers can reach consumers in most parts of the world with a lower greenhouse gas/environmental footprint than is achieved by many local producers.

The resource also implies eating red meat is wrong and environmentally damaging.

Again, that's a misleading generalisation here unless other factors are explained, including nutritional needs, that New Zealand doesn't have the industrial livestock feedlots common in some other parts of the world, and that we have a role in another pressing challenge facing humankind — hunger in a growing world population.

To give a balanced picture of climate change, Federated Farmers would also like to see some coverage of the world-leading research going on in New Zealand on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation and the continuing efforts farmers up and down the country are making to lighten their environmental footprint.

Schools could invite farmers to come in and talk to students or even better they could get on board with the “Open Farm” programme and kids could visit farms to see for themselves what happens there.

Andrew Hoggard

Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson

  1. Delwyn Arthur says:

    Yes, “Country Calendar” features the positive changes being made by individual farmers in this area. Many, though, are small family farms. Unfortunately the image at the forefront is still the one of huge farming companies (and substantial overseas investors) developing intensive farming, hence using water, fertiliser, chemical pest control etc.
    It would be good to see facts and figures on the overall situation, and also coverage (as above) on current efforts. The Herald has in the past had features on a number of local initiatives – has anyone compiled these?