If a thousand baby flamingos die in the desert does anyone hear them howl?

Written By: - Date published: 3:06 pm, July 16th, 2021 - 43 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, Environment, farming, food - Tags:

This was meant to be a post about #howlofaprotest and it kind of still is. I was going to talk about the collapse of the National Party as a driver of farmer unrest who are feeling the weight of the vacuum where there should be political power, and how the left still thinks we can safely ignore and laugh at ute protestors because god Jacinda right is on our side. And I kind of am still saying that.

Because I saw this,

Full Reuters piece here. Whatever finely balanced truth of that particular situation, there are a million others that can easily be put up in its place (so please spare me the reductionist rearranging of the deck chairs).

And here’s the list of Groundswell NZ’s demands (PDF), basically a short inventory of self-serving, climate and ecology denying rhetoric that seems to be saying that farmers can be trusted to do the right things. Despite the evidence. Not even going to unpack that, because All the right words on climate have already been said.

Let me summarise. Climate change is here now, not some distant future for the grandkids to worry about. So is ecological collapse. Life on earth is at serious risk in our lifetimes if we don’t take radical action now.

Let the farmers howl*. I’m more interested in what the people who understand the climate and ecology crises are doing. All the people criticising farmers and ute-owners today, how much are we willing to change our own lives to save life on earth? Or is it just other people that should be making sacrifices and cognitive shifts?

There’s a bit of ironic schadenfreude, hoisted on all our own petards here. The protest’s punchline appears to be no farmers/no food. But the industrial farming model being fought for here is a massive part of why in the end even New Zealand will have food shortages. Yes in New Zealand we want the cheap food the global supply chain serves up and that farmers enable. We’re less concerned about the poor countries that will starve first, and we’ve yet to connect the dots around our own footprints being part of the mass flamingo deaths on the other side of the world.

Farmers aren’t the problem here, they’re the mirror New Zealand is holding up to itself. We say we want change, despite the evidence.


*shout out to the farmers who are doing the right things, and the ones who are moving in the right direction. My apologies for talking about farmers as if a single group, but the hour is getting late.

43 comments on “If a thousand baby flamingos die in the desert does anyone hear them howl? ”

  1. roy catrtland 1

    shout out to the farmers who are doing the right things

    That's why it's so hard to have much sympathy for these protests. Their arguments are not in good faith. The polluters and destroyers piggyback themselves onto the good work of all those progressive farmers who are trying to, and often succeeding in, doing the right thing.

    There was one photo of a protest sign threatening food insecurity for city folk: so unless they're can export 95% and sell up to foreign corporates, we can all go hungry? If someone plants a flax bush by some river they've destroyed, that let's the rest off the hook?

    • weka 1.1

      please fix your username on next comment

    • weka 1.2

      I know. It's hard to see the pushback against climate action. And the arguments don't stack up. But if we think they're the problem we have massively taken our eye of the ball (which we have).

      Follow up post: why incremental land use change (that leftie townies want) won't save us or the planet from the flamingos fate.

      • Cricklewood 1.2.1

        I have some sympathy outside of water pollution issues we have a productive sector getting pointed at re co2 methane etc when the crypto industry is now a bigger co2 emitter than Greece… and someone trading a relatively small number of coins here actually has a very large carbon footprint we just dont count it becausenits offshore.

        Climate change is a global problem and getting rid of or forcing crypto mining to renewable energy will make a helleva big difference in that regard.

        I would love Jacinds to use her megaphone to start a global conversation around the coal fired crypto currency.

        Having trouble linking to crypto stats sorry

        • Cricklewood

          Adding to the above I'm also thinking being lectured about water quality is a slightly bitter pill when Auckland and Wellington probably others are literally pouring shit in enormous quantities into the harbours due to a failure of us city folk to maintain and develop our infrastructure.

          That needs a serious conversation as well. Stones glass houses etc

          • greywarshark

            Well I'll eat less and hold in for a day if you will Cricklewood.

          • Roy cartland

            Totally agree, it's a disgrace. Infrastructure improvement would create jobs as well as enviro benefit.

            Problem is, each farm produces hundreds more waste per person than a city, and with it all being shipped overseas they even holds for near-eaters; farms now owned by foreigners, the benefit to the country is scant.

            Farmers can either be part of the solution now, or it will come for them later.

    • Jenny how to get there 1.3

      roy catrtland

      16 July 2021 at 3:12 pm

      …..There was one photo of a protest sign threatening food insecurity for city folk:

      Photos and video of this protest show more than one sign making veiled threats to food production.

      How should 'city folk' respond to such threats?

      Personally; I will respond by spending more time in our local community garden.

      Collectively; Urban authorities could respond to these veiled threats by putting more funding toward addressing food insecurity, by supporting initiatives like community gardens and even urban farming.

      Household Food Insecurity Among Children: New Zealand Health Survey

      This report describes the prevalence of household food insecurity among our tamariki….

      …..for almost one in five children their household experienced severe to-moderate food insecurity



      Urban farming is the act of growing plants or raising animals in or around the city….


  2. Jenny how to get there 2

    Suggesting that the ute tax and the water protection measures proposed by the Government, will be the end for farmers, one of the signs held at the farmers protest, read.


    It could just have easily read, "NO CLIMATE NO FARMS".

    It is my considered opinion, that the collapse of modern industrial agriculture due to extreme weather events resulting from climate change, drought, heatwaves, super cyclones, flooding, sea level rise and infrastructure collapse, is a more likely outcome, if we do nothing about cutting our emissions.


    (Most commercial farming in New Zealand is less about feeding New Zealanders than it is about exporting for the bigger profits made in overseas markets).

    • Jenny how to get there 2.1

      A howl of ugliness

      Friday, July 16, 2021

      …… with signs displaying racism, gun nuttery, more racism, and of course sexism, misogyny, and an obsession with dead political ideologies. And we haven't even got to the weird conspiracy theorist stuff yet!


      Do protesters who publicly espouse fascist and racist and sexist messages deserve our support?

      A howl of ugliness

      Friday, July 16, 2021

      ….The core message of their "howl of protest" is meant to be "no farmers, no food"


      Two can play that game.

      The government could announce that they are putting major investment into Urban Farming to protect Food Security from all threats.

      Let us find out who really needs who.

      • Incognito 2.1.1

        Why do you push polarisation and sow division? You did it with the walking & cycling bridge and now you’re doing it with the farmers, in several comments today. Do you like power play at the expense of others? Do you like Hollywood movies? Oh yes, you do!

        • Jenny how to get there


          18 July 2021 at 7:47 pm

          Why do you push polarisation and sow division? You did it with the walking & cycling bridge and now you’re doing it with the farmers, in several comments today……..

          Hi Incognito,

          I am not pushing polarisation I am trying to create unity.
          I don''t know how you make out that my post on the cycling & walking bridge and associated comments, was pushing polarisation and sowing division.

          My post on walking & cycling bridge was about uniting the cycling community with the public transport community.

          Public transport, to complement cycling? « The Standard

          In my post and related comments I argued that making public transport fare free over the Harbour Bridge could possibly create the room for a cycle lane, which is what the cycle protesters wanted. Negating the need to build a separate stand alone bridge for bikes and walkiers.

          I suggested that making the busway fare free would compensate commuters for losing one traffic lane to bikes, so as not to widen the existing division between cycllists and commuters..

          The Auckland Harbour Bridge was designed and built and (added onto) as a motorway for vehicular traffic only.

          To change this after the fact has proved difficult..

          It's a matter of physics.

          Unfortunately the government election promise of a skyway attached to the existing structure could not be realised.
          Engineers have since determined that the existing structure cannot be added to.

          This caused a lot of disappointment amongst the cycling community, leading to cycle protesters pushing past police to trespass on the carriageway. Asking for one lane of the Harbour Bridge to be set aside for bicycles and pedestrian for a 3 month trial.

          Rather than take one lane away from the vehicular traffic, (even as a trial), as was asked for by the cyclists, the government offered the cyclists a separate stand alone cycle walking bridge to be built beside the existing bridge, estimated cost $785 million..

          It can be reasonably argued, that it is this hugely expensive and controversial project, that has caused polarisation and division.

          If you ask me, it is the proposed stand alone $785 cycle Bridge that has caused polarisation and sowed divisions, being opposed by leading cycle activists, and giving ammunition to our political opponents in the National and Act Parties to attack us as wasteful tax and spend socialists.

          My post was about uniting people around equity for both cyclists and commuters. I don't see how you can make out that this is polarising and sowing division.

          Some/many have noted that ferries can transport cyclists across the harbour, (and already do),

          I have suggested that every commuter that boards a ferry (or train), with a bike, which represents one less car on the road be granted free passage. I can't see how voicing such ideas is 'divisive'. Especially as various forms of free public transit has proved successful in number of overseas countries.

          How is that divisive?

          Some have suggested that crossing the harbour bridge on foot or bike is not about commuting but more about the experience.

          To scratch that itch, Michael Wood the Minister for transport, has suggested that every Sunday one lane of the Bridge be closed to cars and given over to cyclists and pedestrians.

          This is a wonderful idea and I hope it can be trialed very soon. I am sure it would be wildly popular with Aucklanders of all political persuasions. (And way cheaper than building a whole new bridge that nobody asked for)

          I also wrote it would be a shame for the iconic heritage houses and the mature Pohutukawa and other mature trees on the Northern approach that make our bridge so unique and iconic to be removed to make way for the cycle bridge, amounted to cultural vandalism.

          Auckland’s Northern Pathway « The Standard

          You have made it quite clear that you hold completely different political views to myself, that's OK,

          In an effort to determine the best outcomes, it would be a sad world if people didn't hold, (and air), trheir different view points,.and I respect that…
          I am forthright in putting my own pollitical views different to yours, I make no apology for that.
          I am sorry that you find different political views to yours irksome, unfortunately that is the nature of polemics.

        • Jenny how to get there


          18 July 2021 at 7:47 pm</a>

          Why do you push polarisation and sow division? You did it with the walking &amp; cycling bridge and now you&rsquo;re doing it with the farmers, in several comments today……

          I am sorry you feel that way.

          My intention is not to creat division. What I was trying to do with my post and related comments on the proposed cycle bridge is create equity in outcomes for taxpayers and cyclists and commuters and the climate. In effect I am trying to turn the existing divisions into unity.

          I am not creating divisions,, I am trying to bridge (pun iintended) the divisions.between the various stakeholders with an interest in the future or our city's transport network, in this case as relating to our much loved and iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge.

          The divisions already exist, nothing I have written or said has created them.

          Cycle campaigner says, 'no to bridge'

          ….Bevan Woodward, a cycling campaigner who has clashed with Waka Kotahi – the New Zealand Transport Agency – in the past, was wondering why the government had just committed to spending close to a billion dollars without even trying an obvious alternative.

          &quot;That is to take the westernmost lane for walking and cycling. Do it initially as a trial to see if it works. We know it's worked many times overseas. Let's try it out – if it works, then that should be the solution,&quot; Woodward said.&lt;/i&gt;

          Radio New Zealand 5 June 2021


  3. Janet 3

    You say “Environmentalists blame farming practices along with climate change for the drought, “ I blame unfettered human populations that need more and more food to survive.

    Farmers’ current offending farming practises are the result of our scientists leading them to implement them over the last 7 decades– now scientists are back tracking so must lead and educate the farmers back to better environmental farming practises. This has already been under way for about two decades. It is the laggers that need prodding along not all farmers.

    You say “All the people criticising farmers and ute-owners today, how much are we willing to change our own lives to save life on earth?

    To begin with those of us who have been farming sustainably for the last 2 – 3 decades look to be the bigger losers the way SNA is shaping up.

    And finally, while farmers are adjusting and many people are adjusting their lives to help fit the environments needs, why are we worshipping rocket ship technology .

    Space launches can have a hefty carbon footprint due to the burning of solid rocket fuels. Many rockets are, however, propelled by liquid hydrogen fuel, which produces ‘clean’ water vapour exhaust, although the production of hydrogen itself can cause significant carbon emissions. Rocket engines release trace gases into the upper atmosphere that contribute to ozone depletion, as well as particles of soot.

    Rocket launches are nonetheless relatively infrequent, meaning that their overall impact on our climate remains much smaller than aviation’s. But it’s not just our immediate environment: ‘space junk’ is a growing concern as disused satellites and other objects accumulate in our planet’s orbit.”

    This is pure hypocrisy and if it isn,t then needs explaining.

    Why are we throwing 1080 pellets over large tracts of our lands when the world wants “pure and natural?” And there are other very effective alternative ways to pest control to help save our environment.

    And so on …. Its not just the lagging farmers that have to change their ways, it is big business, it is little business, it is the affluent people and the poor, it is everyone that must look to fit within the environment’s restraints.

  4. Patricia Bremner 4

    Just to underline your post Weka, a "Code RED" weather event in Buller, and in Germany and Belgium where freakish weather is washing away homes.

    Rivers in our overheated skies, patterns changing faster than life can adjust. We all need to change how we do things and how we live, including land hungry developers and factory farmers.

  5. greywarshark 5

    About five huge tractors in a line, washed and looking as if they are out for a run to town. All seem the same type – a chance for a dealer to display his wares? They don't look like the impoverished farmers that they have come in to complain about.


    In fact some of them have so many farms they have gobbled up which if they are buying them on leverage – small deposits and then counting on profits squeezed during the good times to pay them back, then of course any increase in spending per farm multiplied by 5-15 farms is going to mount up, may be unmanageable. Oh dear, get rich quick, off NZ isn't working as planned.

  6. Koff 6

    As Patricia Bremner points out there are many, many examples right now of how climate chage is ruining human existence on the planet… the excessive heat in the Pacific NW of America, the drying up of the Amazon, excessive rainfall in Germany, Belgium…. what more evidence do NZ farmers need of the need to change..fast. I'm up on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland at the moment… another place where climate change is causing deterioration of this beautiful ecosysystem through coral bleaching. Unesco is about to delist the Reef as a World Heritage Area, primarily because the Unesco Comittee thinks that the federal government here is doing sweet FU to reduce emissions, which is the primary reason for the deterioration in the reef. The Australian government response is similar in some ways to sections of NZ's farming community…denial that anything they are doing is at fault…a pity that the huge climate change demonstrations seem to have fizzled out worldwide…there needs to be some sharp response to the Howl mob.

    • Patricia Bremner 6.1

      One brave lady who had her sign grabbed sadly Koff. I think most who disagreed realised they could not compete with brand new tractors for spectacle.

      Many Australians and their pollies think "climate change" is bumff!! Even those affected by the terrible fires. Alan Jones is always slinging off.

      I think it is called denial. The Reef, Antarctica… and thousands of species being lost.

  7. All the rural protesters said was what they don't want; ranging from over-zealous rural water regulations to "Commie Prime Ministers".

    Totally negative comments, nothing constructive but that is what the protest organisers aimed at – a massive moaning session for anyone with an axe to grind.

    In the end, we all need to change our lifestyles significantly. Nature is now in control.

  8. Byd0nz 8

    I am a farmer, Moan moan moan, Pollute the river, Groan groan groan.

    Vote for National, Just for fun, Bashed wharfies heads in fifty-one.

    Drive me cows, with a heavy load, Let them shit, All over the road.

    I'm still a farmer………. GROAN GROAN GROAN.

  9. Muttonbird 9

    Grant Robertson made very good points on the radio today. That the government is looking to work in partnership with farmers in the same way they did when bailing them out after Mycoplasma Bovis. And in the same way they have helped ensure export mechanisms are still operating in a Covid world.

    The way I see it farmers are grizzling most because of a) the increased regulatory requirements around nitrate pollution – they hate paperwork and that can be seen in the way they dismissed NAIT which invited M Bovis to spread. Well, time to be responsible like the rest of the country, guys and gals.

    And b) the Three Waters roll out. This is huge for farming lobby groups. The current situation sees them dealing with small regional councils with limited funding and pliable, familiar, and weak governance. When the model goes to 4 large water industry bodies, their lobbying power will be greatly diminished. They are terrified of this.

    Also c) the reduced access to cheap foreign labour. Everyone loves to aspire to the increasing NZ's mysterious low productivity. There's nothing mysterious about it, we are too reliant on a model which produces primary goods at low cost. A few powerful primary industry heads and bodies are complicit in maintaining this environment of low expectation.

    Farmers need a rocket up their arse. Glad someone has finally stood up to them.

    • Craig H 9.1

      That point on export markets is critically important to farming, not just in terms of maintaining export facilities during Covid, but the general point that farmer lobbies around the world struggle to compete with NZ agriculture and lobby extensively for protectionist measures, and that we are signed up to a bunch of climate treaties and free trade agreements. It's not terribly difficult to imagine us being kicked out of some of those, or various carbon sanctions/tariffs being applied because of our perceived unfair advantage over farmers "doing the right thing" in the export market suddenly closing its doors to us.

  10. I watched the protest tractors utes and cars bring our provincial town to a standstill for way too long.

    Some had signage on them. None of it logical.

    I became depressed. That parade portrayed farmers as illogical, ignorant, arrogant spoilt playground bullies For the first time in my life I felt that farmers do not deserve respect.

    Talk about two year old tantrums? Time they grew up and became rational members of a fair society.

  11. Maurice 11

    "Without Farmers you would be naked, hungry and SOBER!"

    One of the more humorous (but true?) placards …. angel

    • Graeme 11.1

      The people reading the placard would probably be ok, the produce those holding the placard produce is mostly consumed somewhere other than New Zealand. A lot of what we consume comes from outside New Zealand. Our farmers also produce way more than we can ever consume


      We could have a lot less farming, or a lot less intensive farming and it wouldn't make a lot of difference to those not involved in farming. A lot of farmers might find themselves naked, hungry and sober however.

      We've had the complete destruction of the inbound tourism industry in the past year. This industry was touted as being the equal of farming. Not making any claims re the veracity of that, there's some pretty wild coolaid passed around in that game. Has anyone outside the industry been affected negatively? Or even noticed?

      For most New Zealanders, probably 95% of, the change has been quite positive.

      • weka 11.1.1

        I expect some of the negative effects will be felt over time. Thinking about towns like Te Anau that don't have a winter season and now a much reduces summer season.

        Some of the effects won't be being measured eg the impacts on women via flow on job loss, or domestic violence.

        But I think your point is fair. Farming sector deserves critique for a range of reasons. Farmers are still people and should be treated as such rather than evil overlords.

        Tourism is different imo, because it's replaceable. We will always need farming and landcare.

        • Graeme

          Don't see the distinction that tourism is replaceable where farming isn't.

          We will still have tourism, even if international travel never returns to being the commodity it was pre covid. People will still need to get out of their home space to preserve their sanity. Go somewhere and have a break, re-create. Just they will do that within, or close to, New Zealand. Tourism will still be there, just we won't have massive amounts of inbound and out bound. Much more domestic focused, like in 60's and 70's.

          Agriculture is the same, it changes with changing market demands. Southland used to be predominantly sheep and cropping, now dairy is the main sector. Same in Canterbury, dairy has taken over what was once sheep and cropping. Weren't very many vineyards or kiwifruit orchards before the 70's either.

          Quite agree that the effects of the tourism transition will be felt over quite a period from the pov of those within. There's a grieving process going on and it's lengthy and emotional process, both for us within the industry and our customers.

          Our market is going through huge swings or bursts. One month you can't do anything wrong, customers are having great time and loving what we have in the gallery and the till's breaking records. The next we're taking 5% of our rent and people are abusing us from the street, even had a few come in and let rip.

          We've got a couple of online presences as well that aren't tourist focused and there's a similar variability but not to the degree we're seeing across the counter.

      • pat 11.1.2

        Dont know that holds water……the Ag sector would i suspect be considerably net positive in terms of FX earnings whereas all indications are that tourism may be neutral….and we like to import, indeed over the past few decades we have placed ourselves in the position where we have to.

        • Graeme

          Would be interesting to see just how much of dairy returns actually stays in the economy. A lot of expenditure on things that are imported, along with the debt servicing for that. Then you've got overseas ownership of so much of the industry, at all levels, which will be sucking money out of the economy. Sure there's some really good sides to agriculture that are funnelling net overseas cash into the economy, but there's a lot that I'd be pretty doubtful there's actually a net gain for the economy, especially when socialised costs are included.

          Really don't see a lot of difference to tourism.

          • pat

            As you say it would be interesting to see…we may be falsely assuming a net benefit to NZ Inc as we did with international tourism for years.

            I wonder if that work has been done?…I suspect its one of those questions that no one in a position to evaluate wants to know the answer to.

  12. Sabine 12

    Currently in Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg,

    2 month worth of rain in two hours.

    Currently standing at 125+ death, 1300 people missing, thousands homeless, and villages that stood for several hundreds of years washed away. This death toll will go up by the hour.

    This is not something that one can fix with the help of EV cars, or some tinkering around the edges to make some groups feel superior to other groups.

    This is only something that we can adjust to if we actually understand that it is not one group alone but our collective future.

    Yet, here we think that if we all drive 'clean energy cars' or we designate a swath of land to 'SNA' areas will bargain us out of this messy, uncontrollable and deadly future.

    How much water goes down the drain in our big cities alone for showering/bathing/flushing the toilets?

    Our old waste water infrastructure, and the overflow goes into the harbour.

    Our need for our single serve car, fossil fuel all of them, and yeah, i put EV into there too. Cause that Electricity needs to come from somewhere, the rare earth minerals need to come from somewhere.

    WE need to rip up streets and other concreted over spaces to green over and re-create green spaces, but we are not doing that.

    Climate Change is happening, has been happening for a time now, and no we can't bargain us out there with cheap and meaningless rethoric about designating spaces as SNA or with the purchase of a 30.000+ dollar that pretends to be a smidgen more environmentally friendly.

    Blade Runner comes to mind, the world is orange, billboards galore, grubs as protein and flying cars. 🙂 Maybe we are all replicants.


  13. barry 13

    Groundswell have a lot of demands, but no answers. They are effectively saying that some farmers are good, and shouldn't have to suffer regulations. But they don't talk about the others that are the problem, and how to improve their practices.

    In the end it is the fact that farming now is not what it was a generation ago. Some farmers are not very good business people (no matter how good they are at looking after the land and their stock), and in another industry they would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

    It sounds very much like Trump followers in the US. Longing for a past time that never really existed. They are blaming Labour for their local (right leaning) council not fixing roads. or regulations brought in by National.

    The Ute tax seems to have been a catalyst, but it will make up a very small portion of their costs.

  14. Ed 14

    I cannot believe New Zealanders cannot look at the weather events in the past week in Canada, Belgium, Germany and New Zealand, and then turn up to protests wanting to rip up regulations about the environment.

    No climate.

    No food.

    • Sabine 14.1

      and I can not believe that Kiwis look at what happened in all of these places and think that EV's, SNA's etc will help stem the tide.

  15. Jake 15

    The huge tractor I saw driving in a narrow one way street in Ak Central yesterday was straight out of the showroom..no wonder some one who doesn’t like being told ‘what to do by a girl’ would like to take it for a joy ride. A photo of a home made placard on the scoop of a tractor said Say NO to Gobby and her Communism

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