Categories
agriculture art community education geography

Rural imaginings

Professor Valentine Cadieux is Director of Environmental Studies and Director of Sustainability at Hamline University in St Paul, Minnesota. She studies collaborative knowledge practices related to food, agriculture, and land in the context of settler society cultures in Canada, the United States, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Talking points.

Incentivised to explore the woods behind my house.

How to colloboratively define rural environments

Imagination of wilderness

People describing themselves as “rural people at heart” but don’t know any farmers.

Questions around what keeps people in the city when they’re living in rural areas?

Say your objectives out loud – in time you can hear them

Embedding sustainability across the curriculum

Validating what people are doing already.

Pieces of sustainability that dwarf the carpooling. Social justice, transformative change.

Sustainability has been “owned” by the environment, but more and more people are realising that it’s the connection to people – social justice, processes of change – that makes that special.

Institutions of higher learning promote value sets that are more consumerist than they intended. So we have to teach them (students) what is excessive.

Making food access and food liberty a part of being educated.

Students are so anxious about the future of the world. We’ve seen a huge reduction in scare tactics – they’re scared already, we have to present positivity as a message.

Permission to do the things you find pleasure and joy in.

A course: Planetary Home Care Manual.

How do you contribute as much as you take in a collaboration?

Definition: Conditions under which all can thrive

Activist: Social relationships are core – without them the technical won’t work.

Motivation: A surprisingly cheerful reaction to adversity.

Challenge: Not getting boxed in to recycling. Although that is a springboard to energy conversations.

Advice: Work with people who are joyful and find joy in the work. Be joyful and creative.

Categories
agriculture coffee fashion food pacific

Celebration of people and place

We talk with Jon Ching, farm manager of Kauai Coffee Company, and Vance Pascua, owner of Ainofea Productions. We talk about how a seed to cup estate and the Ainofea (I no fear) philosophy both come from a positive place of celebration of the people and place of Kauai’i.

It’s about passion

This is what we are doing and this is what we believe in

I can’t save the world by myself, but I can change one life, and who knows what they might go on to do

If you take care of the land, it will take care of you

Do as much as you can, with the resources you have

These kids, their passion, they will be the future

Activist: Fighting kids off looking down on themselves

Love what you do and the rest comes easy

Categories
agriculture organics

Activist storyteller

Bob Scowcroft

A farmer came to me and said there’s 7000 ag-chemicals out there, you’ve got to believe in reincarnation if you’re going to work to ban all those, but maybe if you had a positive alternative to them, then we’ll win in the long haul.


Bob Scowcroft, the co-founder and former executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation talks about what lead him to a life and career of activism. What does lying down in stop signs have to do with crop regulations, and what are the challenges facing today’s passionate young activists? A master storyteller, Bob held us transfixed as we recorded this interview in the Alan Chapman Garden at the University California Santa Cruz.

Talking Points

It was the times…someone I barely knew dropped out of school, went to war and came back in a body bag – that caught my attention, high school kids were dying for something I had no understanding of.

I was going to be drafted if I didn’t go to college.

As my education took root, almost none of it was on campus

It blew my mind, something that I’d never thought about or heard about – the fact that colour of your skin framed whether you could go to college or not.

All I wanted to do was be an adventurer

There was no doubt I was going (to Vietnam), but there was also no doubt I was not going to go.

The illogical assumption in a four-way stop sign in Decatur Georgia would have a ripple effect was really absurd…however as more recent philosophers have pointed out about the butterfly’s wings…this was called the new mobilisation, and there were probably tens of thousands of people that laid down in four-way stip signs throughout the US trying to shut it down – to stop the war.

In ’68, forty eight years ago was 1920…that’s how long ago Vietnam is for today’s kids

What I wanted to do was organise small businesses into an environmental chamber of commerce

I was asked, would you write a letter on FoE letterhead supporting the first organic law in California?

A farmer came to me and said there’s 7000 ag-chemicals out there, you’ve got to believe in reincarnation if you’re going to work to ban all those, but maybe if you had a positive alternative to them, then we’ll win in the long haul.

We can change the world in farming and agriculture

People were writing the word organic on a piece of cardboard…but the law was utterly irrelevant to the growth of the marketplace

Family farms whose grandmothers said if you take this farm don’t you ever use poisons on it…we don’t kill here, we create life here.

Farmers are incredibly open…true open source – working together to improve the environment, not one person can do it, but working together many can

Core principles: feed the soil that feeds the plant, and in the last decade, feed the soul, feed the workers, grow your community and fight for change

what motivates organic movement? passion and money – you have to be profitable, and passion…bringing in a harvest

We want rules, we want fine print, because we’re the only label that differentiates us from an agro-industrial system that we believe is ultimately destroying our soil and our planet

One of last great holdouts are academic institutions…the billion dollar investment is product oriented, not information oriented.

(The research to support organics…) that work is not done. If you were to do research on how planting this cover crop under this pear tree will release this beneficial insect, the Dean would most often say “where’s the product here?”

A pox on all of them…we’re going to organise an alternative…

It took 30 plus years to get from 0.001% to 4.5%, there’s lot of work ahead of us.

We need a cadre of young policy activists…and a young generation so passionate to put their shoulder to the plough.

(Superpower) Gift of gab, joy of storytelling. Resilience of learning from one’s mistakes…and never ever ever letting the bastards get you down

(Success) Watching philanthropic families get it, doing due diligence and fund it.

I’ve never been an I, it’s always we.

(Activist) To this day, absolutely.

I’m a connector, I’ve got the history

The coolest thing…farmers coming to understand that they have to tell their stories

(Motivation) my partner Judy

The absurdity of some of the mountains we have to climb

(Challenges) Synthetic biology

(Miracle) There isn’t a magic wand

(Advice) Try to buy one item, certified organic every day.

Categories
agriculture ecology water

Intensive agriculture: an industrialised town turned upside down

Mike  Joy

My analogy is saying that you’re going to do something about the road toll, that you’re addressing road safety, and shifting the speed limit from 50 km/h to 690 km/h. And conning the country that this is a fresh start for fresh water. That’s wrong in so many ways, but this is the reality for freshwater management.


He wades in rivers so fish (and you) can swim in them. And he isn’t afraid to talk about who is to blame for what he finds there. Dr Mike Joy is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology in Massey University’s Institute of Agriculture and Environment.

Talking points

Our rivers are special – sadly really special now as we have the highest proportion of freshwater fish species of any country in the world.

More and more of our species are threatened species, yet we have this bizarre situation where they are threatened species but we commercially harvest them and we eat them. Most New Zealanders don’t realise that when you eat your whitebait fritter you’re eating threatened species. It kind of doesn’t fit with the New Zealand way. We get all upset with Japanese whalers and people shooting tigers, but for some reason – may be because we don’t know – we harvest and expert them, we sell our threatened species to other countries.

As indicators, fish integrate the health of the whole river, the whole ecosystem.

There are really clear patterns in relation to land use – intensively farmed areas, lowland rivers…really really bad.

The best habitats are the least available.

Because they are mostly migratory, most of the fish species are found closer to the sea, but that is the area where we have done most of the damage. Most of the conservation estate is unavailable to the fish.

We do have invasive species spreading through. In a pristine NZ river these invasive species wouldn’t do well at all, it is because we have changed our lakes and rivers to be much more like the kind of degraded, eutrophic, highly nutrient enriched habitats that these fish came from – we made it like that.

It’s a death by a 1000 cuts.

A combination of multiple impacts that accumulate down river. That’s the thing with rivers, all of the impacts just pile up – everything that happens on the land, eventually gravity takes it down to the river.

I used to have a chemistry lecturer that said “the solution to pollution is dilution”, but that is such an old dinosaur view of the world. Now that we dominate the planet we can see that dilution isn’t a reality – it doesn’t just go away, it accumulates somewhere. What I tell my students is “the solution to pollution is assimilation”. If the ecosystem can’t assimilate it, then you’ve got to stop putting it in.

Massive costs to engineer solutions to do what the river would have done for you if you hadn’t messed with it in the first place. It costs us so much more to do what nature would have done for us for nothing.

I realised that I was publishing well cited papers…but all I would end up doing is cataloguing the decline. I wasn’t just going to do that.

The only way to change is if public are aware of what is going on.

I use disaster (in the title of 2015 article “NZ Freshwater Disaster”) because if you look at the facts, there’s no way you could call it anything other than a disaster. If you look at the statistics then that’s quite moderate language, probably an understatement.

But at the same time as the public awareness is going up, we haven’t seen any improvement in the decisions that they’re making.

It’s getting worse, and we’ve had a big backdown on the protection as well. You can characterise what’s happening in freshwater as more and more money and more and more effort goes into public relations and communications staff – making things sound good. And hidden underneath all that is the reality that things are getting worse and the protections are being weakened.

People claim improvement (in the state of rivers), but that is wrong. There is no net improvement, there’s a couple of rivers that point-source discharges have come out of – pipes from meat works – improvement there but at the same time a net worsening.

Forget drinking water, most of our rivers you can’t drink, but even swimming – 62% of all of our rivers are unsafe to swim in.

The government response to that has been to shift from a Ministry of Health standard called “contact recreation”, that’s to protect you from getting sick if you get some water in your mouth, that’s 260 coliform units per litre of water. Now, it’s 1000, and they call it “wadeable”…you’re safe if you’re in a boat or have got waders on is the new norm.

They’ve shifted the goalposts to go from a map that’s mostly red to a map that’s mostly green. Shift the baseline…they did the same thing with nitrogen – from a protection of half a milligram of nitrogen per litre, and they’ve shifted it to 6.9mg/l. My analogy is saying that you’re going to do something about the road toll, that you’re addressing road safety, and shifting the speed limit from 50 km/h to 690 km/h. And conning the country that this is a fresh start for fresh water. That’s wrong in so many ways, but this is the reality for freshwater management.

Almost every industry, if it had to cover the true cost of clean up, it would be more than it purports to make. We’ve covered that up for generations, but it’s all coming home now because we are paying the price.

Dairy is the major driver on the health of the waterways.

It is so dependent on external inputs.

Just think about how unsustainable it is to make make milk out fossil fuels.

Planetary Boundaries – at a global level the planetary boundaries are exceeded seven fold when it comes to global nitrogen use.

We’re all part of that sad unfortunate sad reality that we’re feeding this massive population by using energy that was stored over the millennia. We’re living way past what the earth can handle.

Just counting the dairy cows, we’ve got a population of 90 million people equivalents. This puts it into balance, sure there are impacts of cities and so on, but it is tiny compared to just the dairy cows.

It’s like an industrial town turned upside down. Imagine Victorian England – all those chimneys pumping out smoke and the issues that came from that – flip that upside down, it’s the nutrients that leak out of the bottom of our farms through the soil that are the problems, but we don’t see them. If it were smoke coming over us we would all be so aware of it, but because it just goes down and through our waters we don’t see it.

It shocked me, waking up to hear John Key on National Radio saying that swimming in our rivers is aspirational. If someone says something that we take for granted and think part of being a New Zealander is suddenly aspirational , then where will we go next? Breathing without a respirator be aspirational? It’s a slippery slope.

Farms could make more money with half the cows, for a third of the pollution.

From an individual farmer’s profit point of view, they are losing money through overstocking. But they’re being driven by the industry to maximise production, not maximise profit.

You can see the limits of biological system, that production have gone up but profits haven’t.

There is a huge cost being paid here, but it is being paid by someone else.

What we are doing now is not conventional, it is very unconventional industrialised farming. Sustainable farming…backing off from the intensity, thinking about soil health, animal health, pasture health…biological farming, and the profits are much much higher.

Commodity market…the competition globally to make the cheapest product…the competition to have the weakest labour laws, the weakest environmental laws…we don’t want to win that race.

We need to maximise value by ensuring that people pay a premium for high quality food that is sustainably farmed. In the longer term animals have to come out of the human food chain.

A government that wanted to make a change would have to price externalities. We talk about this market economy, we supposedly have a market economy, so if we want a market economy the costs have to be borne by the people and organisations who are making the impacts.

(Success) I’m excited about Landcorp’s Environmental Reference Group. Industry has to lead the way.

(Motivation) A sense of injustice and anger.

(Activist) Yes I am, I give the Alice Walker quote at the end of my talks – that’s the price we all pay for living on the planet is to be active. We can’t sit back any more. If we sit back and think someone else is going to fix it for us, then we’re doomed. We have to all become active to change this. There’s some pretty big powers that are doing very well out of this and its hard work to take them on, so we all have to be active to do that.

As an academic it is part of my job. I have a role under the Education Act to be a “critic and conscience of society”.

(Alan Mark describes lobbying to remove him as an academic). I do know from the Vice Chancellor that Federated Farmers have regularly called for me to be sacked. But I’m still here. It is crucial for society that we have the ability to speak out.

(Challenge) Trying to get change, trying to show the way.

We get portrayed as a Luddite “you want us to go backwards”. But the reality is a sustainable world would be so much more fun, so much more exciting than a dirty world.

(Miracle) A government that actually had legislation for the people not for a few. And that would mean prioritising environmental protection over the profits of a few.

(Advice) The most effect you could have as an individual is to try and take animal agriculture out of your diet. But that is not enough, you have to be active, you have to stand up for your future and your children’s future, which means stopping the destruction.

Note. This interview was recorded just before the release of the NZ State of the Environment Report. Mike’s comments on that report, along with other leading scientists, can be found here.

Categories
agriculture community community garden food tourism transition towns

Strengthening community

Anisha Lee

My miracle would be a very big thing, but would require a lot of small things.


Anisha Lee is involved in community development in Oamaru. We talk about her experiences in farming, geology, botany, tourism, environmental farm plans and community gardens. we talk about all of these things, along with plans to bring Ooooby to Oamaru.

Talking points

From a personal responsibility level there seems to be a change in the dairy industry – this is beneficial for everybody if we take responsibility for the decisions you take.

The environment will win in the end if you destroy the thing that is feeding your business – the soil – but it will take casualties on the way through.

No one wants to do bad. But they only know how to do good in the context of what they know is good. People do listen to their managers, but it’s an apprenticeship system without regulation – they think they’re doing good, but they’ve been taught by people who didn’t know either. All genuine people who believe they are doing the right thing.

The best way to bring about change is to get farmers who are doing a great job to run groups – to build a sense of community people who know and are doing a good job of environmental management.

International visitors hear “clean and green” don’t realise that it is provided by an irrigator – it’s not naturally green around here. They realise we have a genuine problem, that we’re not as environmentally friendly as we look on a postcard. It is definitely going to damage tourism is we don’t stop saying something we’re not.

They see environmental mayhem with a small reserve on the edge and are appalled at we call a clean green country.

If we take care with what we do to meet our animalistic desires and requirements, then the other stuff might come a bit easier

Making sure we’re not polluting and are supporting an environment that will keep producing food and preventing poverty and assisting in communities being healthy, more rounded people as well as looking after the facilities around us that provide us with food.

Seeing beginning of the tipping point.

But we’ve been removed as society from understanding what is really important to us.

People are starting to realise that what we eat – where it comes from is really important. It is easier to drive to the supermarket, but in the long run that is not better for everyone.

Helping people have more connections within the community.

(Success?) Graduating. Being involved in the fantastic and enriching Summer School

(Activist?) If it means someone who screams and yells outside and doesn’t do much else, then not really. If it means someone who takes action, then yes.

(Motivation?) I like helping people, being around people, seeing people happy. I see a lot of non-happiness in the world, and I try my best to change that.

(Challenges?) OOOOBY, Education material for the cape re-vegetation project.

(Miracle?) My miracle would be a very big thing, but would require a lot of small things. Happy people, that don’t have to deal with poverty and an unhappy environment around them. Coming up with a solution that means we’re not reliant on petroleum for everything. And getting back to our roots without having to lose too much of that comfort that we’ve managed to acquire.

The smallest thing that anyone could do that would make the biggest impact is to go and talk to your neighbours. Get to know the person who lives next door and be pleasant to them. We’ve all got to live together, whether we like it or not.

(Advice?) Be nice to everybody. Have some compassion, everybody has their struggles. They might tell you what they need and you might be able to help if you’re just prepared to listen.

This series of conversations in Oamaru was prompted by discussions with Phoebe Eden-Mann following her OU Geography field trip to explore Oamaru as a transition town.

We are very grateful to the helpful folks from 45 South Television for the use of their studio.

Categories
agriculture coffee development Fair Trade food

Coffee that’s fair

Daniel Kinne

Producing coffee is intensive work…we want to be rewarded fairly at the end of the day.


Daniel Kinne is a coffee farmer from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He is also a founding member and the chairman, of the Highland Organic Agricultural Cooperative (HOAC) which includes 2600 farmers. Daniel has been in New Zealand to celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, through Fairtrade New Zealand and to share his stories on the impact we have on communities like his when we buy Fair trade.

Talking points

We set up the cooperative to give a voice to the grower.

We wanted to group ourselves to get into a system of trade.

Transparency is the main standard in the Fair Trade system.

Everything is done transparently so we don’t feel as though we have been cheated in any way.

Producing coffee is intensive work…we want to be rewarded fairly at the end of the day.

The cooperative is an inverted pyramid, the growers, the general assembly make all the important decisions.

We get a guaranteed minimum price plus a social premium.

We had to meet a set of standards – child labour, environmental, governance.

There are standards of chemicals we are supposed to use, but for use, we are organic, so this is not an issue. But the Producer Support Team of New Zealand Australia Fair Trade helped us identify risk areas in own community – they helped us look at whether our water is at risk, is our forest at risk? What about the soil fertility? This really helped us to understand our environment and how best we could manage it. A buffer zone around a river for example.

For somethings we couldn’t really see where they were coming from…we’ve got huge forest, so many trees, if I cut this we’ve still got plenty of trees. Our country is really young, we have not really experienced that kind of impact – that human activity can have on the environment. But through awareness, and we see on television, newspapers, people are talking “if you are not really careful, all your forest will be gone, the wildlife will be gone, about the future” – so they are telling us about their experience – you see this country it was big rainforest, now all that rainforest is gone due to cattle ranching or logging. We are in our little nutshell, we need to really come out to understand. When people from outside come and tell us such a thing, that really opens our minds – we are unconsciously doing these kinds of things that would mean we would eventually end up where they have ended up – so it is good that they are reminding us, so we can reconsider our ways and how we interact with the environment.

We’ve employed a person to help us write environmental farm plans.

Looking after the environment gives us a sense of satisfaction – we come from the rural area, the environment is very important to us – building materials, health services

Our life is very connected to the forest.

When an environmental officer comes and says have respect for the environment, we have it already so it reinforces us and gives us that broader sense that every one of us should be looking after the environment.

We sell our coffee to a Fair Trade exporter who sells in turn to a Fair Trade certified importer. Everyone in the supply chain of our coffee is certified and audited as Fair Trade.

It is a different relationship, we are working closely with the exporter. Transparency means we know how when he can get the maximum price so we work hard to meet those shipments. The market is there for us to see, so we operate transport and logistics…every day

Fair Trade means we can look at it as a relationship – trust and respect.

It is fair…because get the contract documents from overseas – the importer next down the supply chain. It is transparently available to us. We work out the price breakdown in a transparent manner, made possible by the Fair Trade system.

We get the price, plus a social premium. The General Assembly decides how to spend that social premium – social projects, water quality, roading, schools.

It was great to see our coffee on the shelf – a real sense of satisfaction.

For the consumer they know from the Fair Trade logo that they are empowering rural people in developing countries, but when it comes to the exporter, importer and the roaster – they are looking out for quality, so when the quality comes with a message, there is a market, and everything fits together really well.

If I could have brought my farmers here, they would be really amazed at what you have done here – the farms, the cities, the roads. From one extreme of life to the other extreme. They would say “wow, look at this, look how they have got everything organised, how they keep their place clean…how they live together in a clean and respectful environment”. Then later they would like to meet the consumers and hear about how they enjoy their coffee – this reminds them of the kind of work they are doing over there, and how this is appreciated by the consumer on this side. It connects these two and gives great satisfaction.

Everyone that visits our Fair Trade system has been really moved by the work we are doing.

(Could we do more to connect the producers to the consumers?) That is why I am here – telling our story.

(Activist?) Yes. I see myself as someone who is very strong in trying to bring development to our community, and trying to do it properly so that everyone is happy and we see change in our community. I could consider myself as an agent for change.

(Motivation?) When I wake up early in the morning I think about “alright, let’s move the coffee, let’s help the farmers sell the coffee for a good price, getting the money to the farmer and getting the coffee out while it is still fresh”.

(Challenges?) Developing our own export system.

(Miracle?) If the road system could be upgraded we could work day and night to get the coffee out, supplies in, and really build our community. Roads are the key to the health system, police, education. Our people are hard working, give them a chance and they’ll do it.

We have put some of the social premium in to roads because then we can transport our coffee to the market point – and get a better premium.

The empowerment is coming from the Fair Trade premium, we can move the coffee and still get a good price.

(Advice?) Thank you to the good consumers who are buying Fair Trade produce – you are so wonderful. When we hear of cities like Wellington and Dunedin who are Fair Trade cities, this is really empowering us. We are really grateful. Thank you very much everyone for choosing Fair Trade, it gives us hope and meaning and purpose in the struggling rural outbacks.

Categories
agriculture food permaculture

Irrepressible optimist and orchardist

Stefan Sobkowiak

If you want to get your soil living again, get your life back in your soil.


Stefan Sobkowiak describes himself as a synergist, permaculturalist and an irrepressible optimist. A landscape architect he specialises in attracting bird, insect and animal allies into his designs. Over the last 6 years he has focused on Miracle Farms, the largest permaculture fruit orchard in Eastern North America.

Stefan was featured in the film The Permaculture Orchard, and was in Dunedin as part of the BeyondOrganics tour.

Talking points

We need to say, we really want wildlife in our backyard.

If you build it they will come, you might have to help a little bit.

Most orchards are biological deserts.

Organics is a transition, but it is not stopping problems at the source, we need to ask “what is the problem we are trying to solve?”

If you want to get your soil living again, get your life back in your soil.

It is the life that will change the soil.

We need to reconnect with food.

Sustainability is just keeping on keeping on, it means over the years we’ll continue and we’ll hopefully still keep harvesting and doing the way we’re doing. And that’s better than a mining system – taking what previous generations have built up, and you are squandering it in your practices…sustainable at least you are keeping on keeping on, and you’ll be able to keep on that way. But to me that’s kind of short-sighted – why would you want to settle for sustainable, when you can actually grow or farm in a way that you will leave that property – because everybody is a steward of the land they are responsible for – why would you want to leave it the way is is, why wouldn’t you want to leave it better than the way you got it. If everybody started with that approach,we wouldn’t need to clear more land for farming, because every farm would gradually produce more, and get better and better, you wouldn’t have the problems of flooding because the soil would hold more water…it would solve so many of our problems.

Why not want to actually improve the situation?

(Activist?) No. Just a practical guy. I just want to save the world, that’s all, not much to aim for. If everyone would take on that approach with one thing that they can actually change – and for me it’s orchards for now.

(Motivation) Seeing change in a positive direction. I’ve gotten a lot more pragmatic, I’m not looking to change people, but I do realise that when people are open for change, and they’re hungry for change…seeing people really connect, going “now it makes sense..”.

People really realise that we need to work with nature.

Too often in agriculture it has been an antagonistic relationship – “me against nature” – but we don’t have to do that.

I invite every element of nature – I have to adjust. If there’s something not working the way I’d like, then there’s something I don’t understand. I just need to realise what I need to add to add to that system so that they will either fall into balance where they are not causing me economic hardship, or I need to realise “hey they’re there, I need to adjust my attitude”. Often all it is, is that I need to produce more. If we have one fruit tree and we expect to get all our fruit we’re kind of dreaming, because the birds will get most of it, but if we’re growing 10 of them, chances are we’ll have some, if your neighbour grows ten more, then you’ll have a lot more, and so on.

The problem is not that we can’t do it, it is that we’re doing it on far too little a scale.

(Challenges?) Scaling up. Scaling ideas of implanting the orchard.

Once you do one, people will look over the fence and see ideas that make sense.

(Miracle?) A change in people’s heart. You can talk about anything until you are blue in the face. But until people have a change of heart, a lot of things won’t change. You really have to want to change.

(Advice?) Just start, get going.

Categories
agriculture economics

Circular economy

Dan Kristensen

The current economic system is linear and ends in a landfill. In a circular economy you design our way out of the need to dump.


Daniel Kristian Kristensen is a researcher in the Department of Agroecology – Agricultural Systems and Sustainability at Aarhus University. We talk sustainability transitions in agriculture, circular economy, and the need for radical rethinking.

Talking points

It is quite apparent that the system is not suited to continue along the same path as previously…so that’s what I see as a transition, a fundamental shift in the way that agriculture is organised.

Agriculture has to deliver…that will be a period of – maybe not conflict – but where the demands on agriculture will be quite intense.

The tension is where where interesting things are happening, agriculture is has both models (production and ecological models)

We have to drop the idea of there being one solution and embrace the complexity of having to negotiate increasingly globalised solutions for the problems that are occurring locally.

There a lot of issues around sustainability, but it’s not one issue so it’s not one solution.

Recycling is not enough, it often means you degrade the product. We need to take recycling to a radical extent – upgrade and improve.

In a circular economy things have to circulate, not just take a few more loops and still end in the landfill after all. You want to continuously upgrade the product and the services associated with the product – upcycling.

Consumption is important to keep the economy going, but it does have an element of being more reflexive, consumption needs to be rethought so it’s not just wanting new stuff all the time and discarding what you had previously. Rethinking…getting the services you want, say to use the phone, then just get the service…that will change the incentive for the manufacture…

(On growth)…the circular economy is a radical reworking of how the economy works on many levels. Growth as we normally think about it might not sit very well with the circular economy, it can be done applying principles to the continuous improvement and new services, but consumption in terms of increasing throughput and throwing more stuff away, that is definitely not compatible with circular economy.

It’s a radical transition, but it still approachable for someone that wants to treat it less radically – it’s different actors around a common agenda.

I like to think of it as negotiating where we want to go in the future.

It is as much as change of mindset as technical solutions.

We need exemplars of what is achievable.

(Motivation?) Curiosity, how we can go on having an economy and prosperous society?

(Activist?) No, would like to be one but I can’t claim to be being very activistic.

(Challenges?) Circular economy in a relationship to agriculture.

How to get people together, traction on a way forward, getting a framework for long term solutions drawn up – that’s one of the big challenges, there’s of muddling through that is short sighted. The long term vision needs to be there, we need some dialogue on that. We need a conversation about that, creative thinking and involvement in that.

(Advice?) Pursue your interests in terms of education and do that as a guide.

Categories
agriculture

Land ethic on the ground

Murray Harris

You can’t always spot a good farm from the over the fence – a tidy farm is not always a good farm – sustainable farming is more about decision making, about seeing the benefits of a triple bottom line approach


Murray Harris joined the Otago Catchment Board as a soil conservator in 1973, eventually becoming Land Manager for the Otago Regional Council.  Since then he has run Land and Forest specialising in land and forest environmental matters.  In 2002, he co-authored the Soil Conservation Technical Manual.    In 2012 he was made a honorary member of the NZ Association of Resource Management.  We talk about how approaches to sustainable land use have developed since the 1970s, and current challenges of  land and water quality including riparian management and  farm effluent.

Environmental management is not a cost issue, it’s a part of farming business – get on with it.

 

Shane’s number of the week: 60.  Sixty percent of China’s ground water resource is polluted leading to tensions between unbridled industrialisation and environmental concerns (Xinhua).

Categories
agriculture geography

Cultural sustainability on the farm

Rob Burton

There’s a real problem for sustainability when you start using all of the resources – you have no capacity if something goes wrong – because then if it goes wrong it goes very wrong.


Dr Rob Burton is a senior researcher from the Centre for Rural Research (Bygdeforskning) in Trondhiem, Norway. Rob’s work has focused on exploring the role culture and identity play in determining farming behaviours – particularly as they relate to agri-environmental activity.

Rob is part of an EU COST programme looking at the concept of cultural sustainability with a focus on the influence of farming culture on the adoption of agri-environmental schemes.

We talk about policy and sustainability frameworks as related to agricultural areas in Europe and New Zealand (spoiler: NZ is not outstanding in the field).

Talking pointing

As I was sitting there watching the glacier melt, I suddenly realised I didn’t want to spend my life sitting watching glaciers melt when the real cause of the problem is actually people

(In terms of policies for agriculture that look beyond production) NZ not just has a long way to go, but is going rapidly in the wrong direction.

Norway does the opposite of population-based funding, if an area doesn’t have enough population, they fund it better…to try to keep a regional distribution of population.

(In regards to environmental policies around farming, have we got something fundamentally wrong?) Yes, I think you have. While many farmers are really good, you don’t need too many to ruin it for the rest. I think there needs to be more of an element of compulsion for breaching environmental standards. The industry is trying, and many farmers are trying, but there’s the bad ones that somewhere along the lines you’re going to have to pull up.

Also the fast tracking of development for dairy is probably wrong. Particularly its expansion into regions that are dry and depend increasingly on irrigation – that creates difficulties, farmers have to borrow a hell of a lot of money to set up a dairy farm and really the environment is the last thing they want to worry about when they just have to make the business profitable. This will resolve itself in the future once the investment and growth development stops and farmers spend a bit of time getting the capital back and they can invest in things like the environment. But if you want it now, this is a problem I can’t see being resolved.

There’s a real problem for sustainability when you start using all of the resources – you have no capacity if something goes wrong – because then if it goes wrong it goes very wrong. And this effectively what we do by relying on economics to drive the development of agriculture – which of course is going to maximise the use of every drop of water that’s out there which is fine except…you’re losing sheep and beef farms and if we have a period extreme drought through climate change then we’re in trouble.

(Beyond post-productive farmer self-identity) When people do studies of farmers, they generally find that farmers are very pro-environment and then when they look at the farmer behaviours they don’t seem to match up. A lot of researchers in the past have concluded that the farmers are just liars – they don’t think this about the environment at all. Our point is about multiple identities, it’s about hierarchies of identities. You have an identity as an environmentalist that you can apply sometimes, and you can care greatly about the environment – but it is like going into a supermarket, you want to do the right thing in terms of purchasing organics and so on, but your first priority is feeding your family with the money you have in your pocket. In general, production remains the first priority for farmers – it doesn’t mean that when they talk about the environment and don’t act that way that it is hypocritical , it is just that they don’t prioritise it very often or as often as they should in some cases.

(Are you an activist?) No, I’m not an activist. I’m a cynic, sometimes I’m a realist which is a cynic with a better cause than just being cynical. But in my work I always try to do things that are important rather than unimportant. There is unimportant work being done out there that is pretty irrelevant – I don’t like doing that. It’s not something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. But I’ve never protested anything…no I don’t think I’m an activist but I do what I can… but like to be able to put a perspective across that may make people think a bit differently- or make a difference in the end, but I don’t really believe that going out there and protesting is necessarily the best way of doing it because people have been doing that for too long and governments are really too savvy on that. They’ve got the spin doctors who are quite able to nullify any legitimate protest anyway.

Categories
agriculture conservation biology

Sustainability of production landscapes

HenrikMoller


We need conservation for sustainable use as much as need preservation for intrinsic value… an “And” not an “Or”

It’s time we focussed on environmental care in production landscapes.

Henrik Moller is Professor at the Centre for Sustainability, and the principal investigator at Ecosystems Consultants.

Henrik describes the conservation estate as a “triumph”, but “now we need to turn our attention to the restoration of the wider environment”.     This is a consequence of the

Paradigm shift accepting people as part of nature, and part of the contract, and not isolating environment as something outside us.

In other words:

We need to find ways of valuing conservation on production landscapes – a land sharing approach, but who pays?

This is, he says, a paradigm shift in how we think about conservation.  We need to expand our focus from the conservation estate to the whole environment.    Henrik applauds the “fantastic legacy from preservation (but) it’s a bit of prison if we ignore the ecology of our production landscapes” .   This proposal has several implications for the scale of  governance and responsibility.  It is “time we had a conversation about who pays for environmental good”.

Henrik asks if we could move to a position of paying farmers for environmental protection. This will be a challenge to neo-liberal abhorrence of subsidies, but Henrik points to how much we are distorting biological and physical systems and asks why the market system is so special it cannot be manipulated. The question remains as to why we should be paying people for not doing bad? What is really needed, says Henrik is conversation, we need to recognise that we are all in this together, “we need to stop the war talk and alienation – move beyond a battle to informed conversation and debate”.

On the 8th August, at CSAFE in Dunedin, Henrik will present  Enhancing our Heritage: Paradigm shifts for maximising conservation in New Zealand on behalf of the Tahi group.

 

Talking points:

We’ve known what to do to live sustainably for 100s of years, we just don’t seem to be able to do it

Wedded to the belief that we’ll heal the planet by the mass actions of lots of small scale local initiatives and people taking responsibility

We have to have just solutions with group agreement that emerges from dialogue with more listening than talking

We need to go beyond forums of conflict

Some marching on the street is needed, but the main action has to be through consensus about shared future

Simplifying those production landscapes – both structurally and diversity – we’ve led to degradation

There’s got to be a middle ground where NZ society agrees to pay for environmental goods

Resilience is accepting that we’re journeying without a roadmap

Power over people from same sour well as power over the environment

About how we interact with each other and how share a space and our love of a space and each other

Feel part of a club by looking after our shared environment

Sustainable use is harder to achieve than a reserve over the hill somewhere – day to day sustainable living is much harder, it involves so many other dimensions

(Am I an activist?). (you said you were an activist when you were younger, are you an activist now?) I hope I’m not dead yet. What is an activist? In the past I used to strut my stuff – yell my opinions, I had no shadow of a doubt that the system didn’t have the solution, everything from racist tours to environmental defense society – I was instrumental for taking 300 farmers in breach of discharges into a legal process – so I was very much interested in that forcing, amnesty, homosexual law reform. At the root of this I’m a humanist, it’s about respect for people, because in the end that will lead to the big reciprocity of looking after plants and animals. I was so puzzled then as an activist, I had a favourite Amnesty Poster – a typewriter with barbed wire – and I gave it to a friend and went round to his place a few months later and there was my beautiful poster scrawled over the top ‘but what about the environment?’. And I thought that’s really weird, I had seen the whole thing as a power – power over people, power over environment. They come from the same sour well, where very few lasting solutions will emerge. So now I hope I hope I’m an activist but working in a more subtle and inclusive way, some might even say a more cunning way. But this comes from a changed belief that the solutions are very much more about a patience and slow resolution and dialogue.

The central paradigm shift is accepting people as part of nature, as part of the contract.

We need to avoid a shootout between different constituents. We could call it pluralism, let’s go for “and” rather than “or”.

We’re failing conservation-wise, you could point to a lot of things…species declining…but worse we’ve created this idea that to be a greenie is to be a leftie, radical and not very practical, and not embracing economics. We’ve created a bit of a prison, the ideal would be if we could all see, not matter what we vote, that we’re all seeing the importance of environmental sustainability as sustaining us all, the platform on which we all stand.
We need to abandon war talk…if we carry on with fences between ourselves – saying that person is a conservationist and that person isn’t, we’ll be divided and fall….We’re all in this together.

Trainspotting:

Arun Agrawal Environmentality decentralization of environmental governance

We hope that this is the first in a series discussing the work of the Tahi group.

This is an extended version of the interview broadcast on OAR on the 1st August 2013.

Categories
agriculture food

Sustainable growing


Alex Huffadine heads the Natural Resources Group (horticulture, viticulture and pest management) at Otago Polytechnic. We talk about how sustainability is changing the practice and profession of growing.

Categories
agriculture economics

Pursuit of happiness or pursuit of wealth?


Dr. John Ikerd is emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His most recent book is “The Essentials of Economic Sustainability“.

Sustainable capitalism is possible, just not the capitalistic economy we currently have.

Ikerd argues that in classical economics – Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo – there was a belief in the invisible hand of the free market but that this operated entirely within the context of a just society. People would pursue their economic interests within the context of societies and cultures that would place social and ethical constraints on their pursuit of individual self interests. In the later development of neo-classical economics the drive to make a pure science, the moral and social aspects were excluded. The resulting focus on rational preferences is based on the assumption that maximising individual self interest is also good for society as a whole.

Ikerd contrasts ethical and social values with economic values. First, economic value describes individual benefit. Second, economic value is instrumental – it carries the expectation of getting something of equal or greater value in return. Third, economic value has to be impersonal – so it can be traded. The outcome of this that it makes no economic sense to invest in anything for benefit of future generations or the good of humanity of as a whole.

Ikerd says stemming from this mistaken reliance solely on economic value we have wrongly equated happiness with wealth. This means we have gotten on to a futile treadmill of more and more cheap stuff. We have lost sight of the pursuit of happiness in the pursuit of wealth.

Society is held hostage by this relentless pursuit of ever more income, ever more wealth, ever more cheap stuff because we’ve led to believe it will make us happy.

The outcome of this is a very fragile economy exhausting finite resources teetering at the edge of a collapse. We have a very short time to anticipate the necessity for change and make changes voluntarily before they are forced upon us.

That we need to return to basic principles of human relationships is really a matter of common sense – something we all know if we just stop and think.

Shane’s number of the week: 200 million Euros. That is how much climate change cost Unilever, which depends on agricultural commodities, in 2011.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: The Dunedin City Council has released its draft Social Well-Being Strategy. It is an excellent document and a good example of consultation. Sam would like to see moer attention paid to sense of place, mention of intergenerational equity, a less insular focus, and consideration of a total human ecosystem approach (rather than environment being somewhere “out there” to go an visit). The strategy is open for comment until the 21st September.

Categories
agriculture behaviour change landscape

Dr Janet Stephenson

 


Janet Stephenson is from Otago University CSAFE.  Janet explores the passions of landscape, the importance and difficulty of behaviour change, the role of the power of influence, and how prosumers are leading the way with visions for energy futures.  With Jacinta Ruru and Mick Abbot, Janet has recently co-edited “Making our Place: Exploring land-use tensions in Aotearoa New Zealand”.

 

Shane’s number of the week:   68.    68% of the biggest 500 companies in the world are taking action on climate change as part of their business strategy.  This information comes from the 10th Annual Carbon Disclosure Project, and compares with the figure of 48% last year.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Planning is well underway for the Sustainable Lens Election Focus.

Categories
agriculture climate change

Dr Chris Rosin


Dr Chris Rosin is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CSAFE).  As a social scientist  he is responsible for interviewing participating farmers and growers. On the show, Chris talks about the long running ARGOS project.

Shane’s number of the week: 100.  At the present rate of extinction, most species will be extinct in 100 years. Shane’s goes on to discuss Holocene, or Anthropocene, two terms that refer to time periods when humans have had a significant impact on Earth’s climate and ecosystems.

Sam’s Joined-up-thinking: five things the IT profession could be doing towards a sustainable future, and also about the impact of Barbier’s Venn diagram of sustainability.

Air date: 1oth March 2011