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The local in the bigger picture: new Green conservation policy

Written By: - Date published: 9:47 am, April 30th, 2014 - 12 comments
Categories: capitalism, Conservation, economy, election 2014, greens, infrastructure, sustainability - Tags:

Yesterday the Green Party launched a new conservation policy.  It got overshadowed by the innovative, big impact monetary policy by the Labour Party.  However, the Green Party policy provides a means to act locally in countering the current track towards global social, environmental and economic destruction.

Huia bird

The destruction scenario is indicated within Ben Clark’s post today on the seeds of destruction within capitalism: in the form of inequality as shown by Piketty’s research.  Clark links to this article on a Nasa study that warns of global societal collapse within decades.

Motesharri explored the factors which could lead to the collapse of civilisation, from population growth to climate change, and found that when these converge they can cause society to break down because of the “stretching of resources” and “the economic stratification of society into ‘Elites’ and ‘Masses'”.

However, the Nasa research points to an alternative scenario where widespread collapse is avoided:

“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion,” the scientists said.

The new Green Party conservation policy provides a building block on which to work towards a sustainable direction.  It is a policy that opens up possibilities for us all to contribute to a sustainable New Zealand through our actions at a local level.

Biodiversity conservation

Along with their policy launch yesterday, the Green Party linked to a discussion document that provides background information supporting their new policy: ‘Reform options to enhance indigenous biodiversity, natural character and outstanding landscape and natural feature protection under the Resource Management Act 1991‘.  This paper outlines the where the local provisions sit within the bigger picture of a sustainable New Zealand that works for all Kiwis.  The paper cites New Zealand’s Biodiversity Strategy 2000, “New Zealand’s Contribution to Biodiversity” outlines the importance of New Zealand’s unique biodiversity, with many species that do not exist anywhere else.

The ecosystems in which these species live are also highly distinctive. The kauri forests of the northern North Island, the braided river systems of the eastern South Island, and our geothermal ecosystems are some examples.

[…]

The uniqueness of much of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity means that responsibility for its continued existence is entirely ours; it cannot be conserved in nature elsewhere in the world.”

This strategy of the year 2000, outlines the importance of biodiversity to New Zealand’s economy:

Biodiversity is New Zealand’s biological wealth. We base much of our economy on the use of biological resources, and benefit from the services provided by healthy ecosystems. These “ecosystem services” include producing raw materials (principally food from the sea and fibre from the land), purifying water, decomposing wastes, cycling nutrients, creating and maintaining soils, providing pollination and pest control, and regulating local and global climates. Yet we tend to take these services for granted because they are provided free of charge by nature.

The Green Party discussion paper outlines ways of reforming the RMA to better protect New Zealand’s biodiversity.  This is what the new Green Party Conservation in our Backyards policy steps in.

biodiversity gardening

The policy aims to amend and strengthen the RMA, to provide funding to local community groups, and to support local councils.  At the launch yesterday, Eugenie Sage stated:

“The RMA is not adequately protecting our native plants and wildlife and the places they live. A lack of clear national rules and direction means that councils are not taking a consistent approach.”

Many threatened plants and animals live outside our conservation estate and the protections the estate provides. In fact, 28 percent of kiwi habitat and 70 percent of threatened lizard species are found on private land. The key populations of some threatened plant species such as Bartlett’s rata

[…]

“We will support local councils to help them protect our native biodiversity with a new national policy statement and national environmental standards for biodiversity.”

This is very much a policy that aims for collaborative local action as a contribution to a sustainable New Zealand and planet: one that works equally for all of us.

 

 

 

12 comments on “The local in the bigger picture: new Green conservation policy”

  1. captain hook 1

    keep it simple stupid. the best thing the green movement can do is promote the planting of trees. the acorn season is just about over and kids should be out there gathering them up and spreading them far and wide. The ‘movement’ should be identiying trees that have some putative economic value and encouraging people to plant them too. trying to wrap a peoples movement up in high blown ideiology is doomed to fail but that seems to be the nature of wonk politics in New Zeland at the moment.

  2. Chooky 2

    All good policy flax roots stuff from the Greens as usual…but also agree with captain hook ….for the general voter the message has to be kept simple ( and any tree is a good tree)

    ….for me the Greens represent the Kaitiaki…the guardianship of New Zealand rivers, lakes , natural environment….peoples rights to live in a pristine environment in an egalitarian society ( hence the Greens progressive and well thought out social welfare polices)

    ….for me much of the thrust of the Greens must be an attack/shaming on the governance of New Zealand at the national level ….at John Keys NACT environmental degradation record for his term in office and the undermining /destruction of NZs brand image, tourism economy….incentives for clean high tech/and value added manufacturing exports

    ….for example how do we compare with the French Government in care for rivers, lakes, natural environment … the French are pretty strict I think on pollution of waterways …..and fracking is nationally banned ….

    (of course the Greens do all this very well but they have to be careful not to be sidetracked from their core issues…)

  3. Chooky 3

    More money at the National level must be put into DOC…and into possum trapping/pest control

    The Greens are concerned about native bird life but ….where do the Greens stand on 1080….?…..increasingly the Kea is becoming a bird fighting for its existence due to secondary poisoning…there are numerous reports of silent forests in New Zealand due to 1080 drops

    Facts from Wiki:

    ….New Zealand is the largest user of biodegradable 1080 poison, using about 80% of the world’s supply

    The only company now producing 1080 is the Tull Chemical Company in Alabama USA, who export the material to Mexico & Israel (as a rodenticide), Australia (where its used to kill dingoes, wild dogs and foxes) and New Zealand (for possum control). Use of 1080 in the USA itself is tightly controlled, and it may only be used in chemical collars on domestic herbivores, to kill coyotes. It is completely banned in Oregon a very ecologically aware State.

  4. aerobubble 4

    Climate change. Grow fast carbon removing plants. Like Bamboo. If we were to reseed all our front lawns with bamboo how much carbon could we pull out of the atmosphere a year?

  5. Lloyd 5

    I have yet to see a scientific report showing that native bird numbers drop after the use of 1080. Every report I have seen says there may be some minor number of deaths due to 1080 in some bird populations but in every case the numbers of young native birds that survive without being eaten by opossums, rats, mice, stoats and weasels after a 1080 drop more than make up the numbers within a nesting season, and usually there is a big population growth once the mammalian predators are knocked back.

    1080 is the best solution we have at the moment for general control of mammalian predators If you don’t like that go and have a cup of tea. ( Oh sorry, tea leaves contain traces of naturally produced 1080…..).

    If you want the South Island forests and tussock lands to be full of Keas, the most efficient management of the forest and tussock is targeted application of 1080. The green solution is a lot more 1080 than the trickle the Gnats will fund.

    Bamboo is an exotic. How about finding fast-growing natives?

    I do think we may be ignoring the greater amount of carbon fixed by that other exotic import, Kikuyu grass…

    If you want to fix carbon, the best way may be in the form of mussel shells. If NZ really went overboard (ha ha) and put mussel farms into a small percentage of our entire exclusive economic zone, we could become a nation with negative net carbon budget.

    • lprent 5.1

      The problem with any organic solution to atmospheric carbon is that unless it is locked up for at least thousands of years it is essentially useless. What we are interested in is fossilising the fossil carbon we have already reintroduced to the biosphere.

      Putting it in a different place including plants is just pointless makework of little value. It will simply defer the time before it it is removed from the active carbon cycle unless it is then buried with a impervious sedimentary or rock cap over it.

      • weka 5.1.1

        The carbon farming and regenag people propose that certain kinds of perennial farming sequester large amounts of carbon deep enough in the soil that it stays there. There’s a brief bit in this link about the mechanisms,

        http://conference.bioneers.org/agriculture-and-climate-change-an-interview-with-darren-doherty/

        He’s talking about both mitigation (sequestration) and adapatation (esp farming techniques that are drought resistant).

        You have to understand the different kinds of carbon and the states of carbon soils….

        Bioneers: Are you saying compost and cover crops are not effective ways to sequester carbon?

        Darren: You might increase your net soil carbon quite heavily in the first few years by the application of compost, and all of the aforementioned methods, but will that last over the longer term? The answer is quite clearly no. Great techniques, great to do, but what we need more of is long-chain carbon. It’s largely delivered in the form of polysaccharide exudate or nutrients released from plant root systems, particularly grasses.
        Where we want the carbon and where farmers can look to increasing their carbon levels overall is in the depth of soil. You can have 10% carbon in the top six inches and 2% in the next 10 inches, and 11⁄2% in the next 10 inches. That’s not going to sustain agriculture over the long term, and the top 6 inches is not where carbon is going to be kept and stored and sequestered. It’s pretty well impossible to get that short-chain carbon down into the depths without a lot of intervention, which requires a lot of fossil fuels. The best way to do that is to get plant roots to penetrate these depths and to put their exudates down in those depths. There are carbohydrates created out of the interaction between water, sunlight and carbon dioxide, and then manufactured by the plants as a residue, and their primary objective is to feed the soil microlife.

        Bioneers: So deep-rooted plants are key to this process.

        Darren: What drives the sustenance and the regeneration of the soil life is the plants. The plants are the conduit between the atmosphere and the lithosphere [the Earth’s deep outer layer, which includes soil]. They keep the lithosphere, the soil, and the rhizosphere, the root zone, alive, because they transfer the
        energy of the sun, manufacture the sugars as carbohydrates, as long chain carbons, and that’s what feeds the economy of the soil.

        • lprent 5.1.1.1

          The sequestration side of it is completely pointless.

          We are talking geological time periods here. Not human or economic.

          Pushing carbon underground for a few metres (at best) simply doesn’t lock carbon away from the atmosphere and oceans for several thousand years.

          Two thousand years ago the roman empire was dominant around the Mediterranean and the Han empire had precariously managed to expand out of river valleys. How many changes in governments and land-use had happened between then and now? The idea of sequestering the extra carbon within range of the biosphere AND keeping it there with human political determination on a global basis is simply naive.

          Not to mention of course that the volumes of carbon that can be locked up that way (ie with complete fostestration) compared to the amount of already added carbon in the biosphere especially that in the oceans is a mere drop in the bucket.

          Adaption is something we will have to do. Not just dryland farming, but also wetland farming, and frequently both in the same place. The extra energy accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans is such that the climate and weather patterns will get increasingly unstable as they head for a new steady state a few centuries after we stop adding CO2.

          Almost all of the real risks to human civilisation (who really cares about the property values of drowned cities) are about the threats to food supply from destabilising the weather patterns that we have relied upon for the last ten thousand years since we developed farming.

          In many ways the simplest solution for adaptation of farming will be to head for a more stable environment than land. Farming in a water environment would be a much more benign environment than land, and there is a lot more of it both in area and volume.

          • weka 5.1.1.1.1

            “Pushing carbon underground for a few metres (at best) simply doesn’t lock carbon away from the atmosphere and oceans for several thousand years.”

            Why not? Bearing in mind that we have to reduce emissions as well, and sequestration is about dealing with the excess that is pushing up global temperatures (it’s not about supporting BAU).

            It’s not just forestry. Regenag is looking at plains grazing, which is large parts of the big continents. It mimics natural systems (think buffalos on the grass plains in the US) and it builds soil. The key point here is that in the past century, massive amounts of topsoil have been lost. Regenag replaces that, permanently. Once it’s replaced, then sure, the carbon cycle just keeps cycling carbon and there is no more gain. But that replacement is not insignificant (and fortunately is exactly what we need to do for adaptation).

            I agree there are issues of politics, but that’s true of everything to do with AGW including adaptation.

            “Not to mention of course that the volumes of carbon that can be locked up that way (ie with complete fostestration) compared to the amount of already added carbon in the biosphere especially that in the oceans is a mere drop in the bucket.”

            I haven’t seen any hard, definitive science on this yet, but the indications are that it is not insignificant amounts. Time will tell if the regenag people can get the data out in time for it to make a difference, but mainstream scientists in the Australia and the US are now starting to pick up on this.

    • Chooky 5.2

      there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from trampers, hunters , farmers after 1080 drops ….of bird deaths and silent forests….. the Kea and Kiwi populations are at crisis levels

      …. time will tell on this issue….. but it could be a case of very bad ‘science’ and very bad ‘scientists’ ….expediency in the guise of science

      ….interesting that it has been banned for quite some time in Oregon and it is used sparingly in the USA.( NZ takes 80% of world supply)

      ….so maybe NOT quite so harmless as you make out !( certainly it is regarded as a very serious poison in the USA)

      ….i hope there i will be some accountability in the future over this ‘Silent Spring’

  6. TeWhareWhero 6

    Totally agree about top soil loss – the great plains of the USA are a case in point – the top soil which was amongst the deepest and richest on the planet has halved in depth since the 1920s if my memory is correct.

    Yes, the building of top soils over a metre in depth takes place over millennia but appropriate land use NOW can stop further depletion and reverse trends.

    When we first moved to where we live – totally bare, overgrazed artificially fertilized sheep paddocks on clay soil in one of the most heavily altered landscapes in NZ – local people said sagely ‘oh you won’t grow natives here’. When we asked them what they thought grew here before humans came on the scene, they’d change the subject.

    It took some trial and error and careful mimicking of the ways native trees and shrubs like to grow and investment in tanks to store rainwater to irrigate in the summer but we now get stunning growth rates of certain species – and the more they build up their own leaf/bark litter the better and faster they grow. Ribbonwoods grow at a rate of a metre a year for example which matches most fast growing exotics. In the areas that go boggy in winter, cabbage trees, flaxes and toetoe grow to gargantuan sizes and can cope with dry periods as long as they have deep humus at the roots – which means allowing their leaves to rot – messy for sure but it provides a great source of slow release nutrients.

    The thing that struck us most is the increase in bird life – our place is heaving with birds including several species of natives. If everyone in rural NZ cut down their pines, gums, poplars etc and replaced them with mixed natives the native bird life would respond – and likely as not hold its own against the pests. And the more birds there are, the more nitrogen rich birdpoo enters the soil ecosystem – the better the trees grow and the healthier the surrounding soils become. Win win – unless you’re an intensive dairy producer (note I do not say ‘farmer’), importer/ seller of nitrate fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, anthelminitics etc etc.

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