People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

Written By: - Date published: 12:21 pm, April 8th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, farming - Tags: ,

Recently, and for good reason, New Zealanders and the media have objected to companies using palm oil due the deforestation caused by the palm oil industry. For New Zealand to take such a stance, when our diary industry has a similarly devastating impact on the environment, is hypocritical.

In Malaysia (the biggest exporter of palm oil) large areas of rain forest have been cleared to make way for palm plantations. In New Zealand, the majority of our low land forests and plains have already been cleared to allow farming.

The palm oil industry is criticised because it removes the natural habitats of many important, and some endangered, species. The dairy industry has already destroyed the habitats of many important, and some endangered, species.

The Malaysian palm oil industry is responding to criticism by attempting to develop green corridors through palm oil plantations and finding ways to continue growing palm oil without destroying key natural habitats. The New Zealand dairy industry is constantly complaining about ‘over regulation’ and restrictions on its ability to turn more natural areas into diary farms (Mackenzie basin) and to pollute more water ways with dairy effluent, and extract more water from rivers for irrigation and so the dairy industry gripe list goes on

There are already 5.6 million dairy cows in New Zealand, excreting the same amount of effluent as 78.5million* people, its no wonder that New Zealand’s lowland rivers are some of the most polluted in the world.

And to rub salt in the wounds, who is the largest consumer of palm oil product in New Zealand? Not Cadbury, the New Zealand dairy industry. In fact, the New Zealand dairy industry consumes one quarter of the world’s supply of palm oil kernels.

People in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing so many stones

 *one cow = 14 people (5.6 x 14 = 78.5)

24 comments on “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”

  1. Bill 1

    “People in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing so many stones ”

    You got a link to NZ dairy industry interests being critical of or condemning the palm oil industry?

    As far as I remember, the only dairy industry comment was an apologist one.

    Or are you seriously suggesting that only impeccably righteous people have the right to be critical?

    Fuck that.

    • James Henderson 1.1

      Not suggesting that at all, I am suggesting that we shouldn’t be critical of a foreign country exploiting its natural resource in a way that is bad for the environment when our economy based on similar exploitation to the compromise of our environment. It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      • Bill 1.1.1

        What or who is this ‘we’ you speak of? I hope it’s not that beast that goes by the name of ‘New Zealand’. I mean, you do know that that has no existence whatsoever beyond that of a politically convenient label.

        Regardless, silence achieves nothing.

        Most of human thought involves degrees of hypocrisy. And human capacity is limited. It is not possible to be aware of everything.

  2. tc 2

    Dairy farming’s the 400lb gorilla in the corner of the NZ economy, powerful, dangerous when upset and contains the potential to ruin alot more than the land it’s on and it’s growing larger.

  3. grumpy 3

    As Bill asks – a link would give your post more credibility.

    I am not aware of native bush being cleared for dairy farming in recent history. Most dairy farming takes place on converted dry stock or cropping farms.

    It is true that effluent issues associated with dairy farming have not been dealt with well by local authorities and water allocation is dodgy.

    Your bit about NZs use of Palm Kernel does ring true. The NZ dairy industry has approached – or is fast approaching – the point where it consumes more stock feed than NZ can produce. In short, without cheap imported palem kernel, it is unsustainable.

    • Bill 3.1

      What I as picking up was that unless I am vociferous in my condemnation of the dairy industry and dairy farmers, then I have no right to be critical of the palm oil industry.

      And that’s bullshit.

      Who it is that gets to draw up the list of righteous causes that one must be actively engaged with before permission to criticise is granted?

      That was why I was asking for a link to dairy industry sources that were critical of the palm oil industry. Because that would be hypocritical. But in the same way as it’s hardly worth commenting on the hypocrisy of the petro-chemical industry when it tries to present itself as being at the forefront of green innovation, so it is with the dairy industry and palm oil production.

      • James Henderson 3.1.1

        “What I as picking up was that unless I am vociferous in my condemnation of the dairy industry and dairy farmers, then I have no right to be critical of the palm oil industry.” …Is not what is intended.

        My point is the media and NZers are quick to criticise the palm oil industry, at the risk of appearing hypocritical due to our own environmental record, especially with the dairy industry.

        Basically, my view is that our approach to dairy farming here is just as bad as the Malaysian approach to palm oil, and in terms of the impacts on our water resources, may even be worse (i.e. palm oil trees don’t put millions of people’s worth of effluent into water ways).

        What would we think if the Malaysian media and public started boycotting NZ dairy products on the basis of the damage it does to our environment?

      • Bored 3.1.2

        Bill,

        I dont care if you are or are not selective about who gets criticised…..thats your choice (as it should be). You are on the right track when you ask about the links but I dont hold with your tendency to try and isolate issues.

        My take is that its pretty much impossible to criticise any individual components of the agro industrial complex worldwide without targeting the rest (internationally). What we see with dairy pollution is a mere symptom of the worldwide sickness that is agro industrialism as applied today. The problem of changing how we feed ourselves whilst respecting the planet is mindbogglingly big. Having said that I would much appreciate it if industries actually paid the true transfer costs (such as pollution clean up…), they might not be so fast to do so if they did.

  4. James Henderson 4

    “It is true that effluent issues associated with dairy farming have not been dealt with well by local authorities and water allocation is dodgy.”

    Yes, Ecan tried to deal with water pollution and allocation issues and look what’s happened to them…

    • grumpy 4.1

      Bullshit, ECAN stood on the beach like King Canute and ignored the science. Note that all the pollution and water wastage in Canterbury occurred under ECAN’s watch.

      Now, at least, there is a chance that a science based strategy might be put in place.

      Much better than a rule by Green activists trying to halt all and any economic growth.

      You seem to be firing wildly on this issue. As I said, the importing of palm kernel is a valid target.

      • Bored 4.1.1

        Grumpy, to cut down Canute without sanction from the people might be seen as treason. There are such things as elections, which having put the people into positions can equally remove them. What happened to ECan displayed all the hallmarks of a coup, an undemocratic act by interested parties. Could they not wait the peoples democratic decision, or did they have no faith that the rectitude of their cause would carry the day?

        • Jenny 4.1.1.1

          Behind the sacking of the Canterbury Regional Council over the control of Canterbury’s water resources is Federated Farmers, and behind Federated Farmers is Agribusiness personified, Fonterror.

          (short answer)

      • Bright Red 4.1.2

        grumpy. learn some history man.

        Canute stood at the beach to prove that he could not turn back the tide (he was rejecting the culthood of infalliablity his advisors were generating around him), not to attempt to do it.

        after the tide reached he said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”

        Canute was well aware of the science (“eternal laws”) and so was ECan. In fact, Creech’s report says Ecan was too science focused.

  5. grumpy 5

    OK, so we agree that Canterbury dairy industry is a disaster waiting to happen – caused by ineffective regulatory governance. What has that got to do with the Malaysian rainforest?

    Well perhaps,

    If say, the local authority in parts of Malaysia allowed clear felling of rainforest to grow Palm Oil after being highjacked by business interests, would you not think the Central Government justified in exercising it’s legal right to sack them, reform the local authority and then hold new elections?

  6. Nick C 6

    I agree with this article. We should stop critising products made from pail oil and all will be well.

    • felix 6.1

      I agree with this comment. We should pretend we understand what we read and everything will make sense.

    • Bright Red 6.2

      “pail oil”?

      Nick. The point isn’t that we should stop throwing stones. It’s that we should stop living in a glasshouse.

      • grumpy 6.2.1

        I’m not happy about these dairy farmers with Dutch names importing so much Palm Kernel.

        Last year I sold silage at 17c/kg DM, this year I only got 10c.

        • Bright Red 6.2.1.1

          guided, as ever, by strong moral precepts I see.

          • grumpy 6.2.1.1.1

            Too bloody right.

            Going back to Economics 101, I thought it was just supply and demand affected by a good growing year but now that I find out that it’s those bloody dairy farmers with Dutch names importing vast quantities of palm kernel, I’m pissed off.

      • Rex Widerstrom 6.2.2

        Well considering the original post refers to NZ’s “diary industry”. Glad to know I’m doing my bit for the environment by using Outlook’s calendar synced to my mobile 😀

  7. tsmithfield 7

    Perhaps the green movement should also stop throwing stones given the effect that production of biofuels is having on the rain forests.

    http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0516-ethanol_amazon.html

  8. Jenny 8

    Behind the sacking of ECAN over the control of Canterbury’s water resources is Federated Farmers, and behind Federated Farmers is Agribusiness personified, Fonterror.

    When Federated Farmers ask, the Government listens

    http://WWW.FEDFARM.ORG.NZ/n1873.html

    New Zealand’s biggest and extremely conservative right wing agribusiness pressure group, Federated Farmers, put out their wish list in early February. Since then the Government has been ticking all the boxes on this list, one by one.

    Going down this list,

    If it was up to the Feds;

    No Canterbury river would ever reach the sea, the environment and the braided rivers ecosystem could go hang,

    Business would pay less tax and the public would pay more through increases in flat taxes like GST,

    Public spending would be trimmed unless it was for research that helps business but which they refuse to pay for themselves.

    Mining opponents would be slandered as “hysterical” by the Prime Minister and all protected conservation land would be opened for mining.

    The Feds February Wish List:

    “economically transformational”

    “New Zealand can pass Australia because we have the water and they don’t,”

    “Federated Farmers’ intense lobbying on water storage has water firmly on the National Infrastructure Unit’s work programme.”

    “Water is to our economy what minerals are to Australia’s. Harnessing water to grow grass and crops that would otherwise run out to sea is economically transformational.”

    “Federated Farmers is extremely pleased the Government has listened to us in ruling out both a Land Tax and a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax. The ambition to reduce tax rates is great and the Federation would have few issues if the Government decided to act on the taxation of investment property as well as looking to increase GST to 15 percent.”

    “Yet there is a pressing need to rein in a bloated Government and avoiding substantial reform to Working for Families is a missed opportunity.

    “One area we’re excited to hear about is a possible increase in public funding for research and development (R&D). This is about growing the economy that reduces the need for big Government. Federated Farmers wants the major political parties to sign-on to a three percent R&D spend by 2029.”

    “Federated Farmers also welcomes the Government standing up to the shrill and hysterical mining opponents. It’s estimated New Zealand has $140 billion of on-land mineral reserves and over half a trillion dollars worth in our territorial waters.”

    “Minerals will jump start the New Zealand economy but long-term progress will be made by unleashing the nation’s farmers, horticulturalists, wine makers, fishers and foresters.”

    There you have it.

    The Feds also accompany this self serving wish list with a lot of self justification that these policies are necessary to feed a hungry world.

    This is a lie. The Feds only concern is profit. In their greed the Feds want the power to transform land unsuited to it, to dairying. This necessitates them seizing control of the limited water resource, which in this case are mostly the rivers and finite aquifers.

    Traditional cropping lands in Canterbury are being ploughed under for environmentally destructive and water hungry dairying.

    The Canterbury plains (which are in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps) have been New Zealand’s bread basket for generations. This form of farming is more sustainable and more suited to this environment and would feed more people, use less water and create less pollution than dairying, while also preserving the rare and fragile braided river ecosystems.

    The people of Canterbury who live there know this, and in any democratic system would marginalise the Feds and the other supporters of environmentally destructive and wasteful Agri-business.

    It is true that land that has sustained the traditional mixed cropping of the Canterbury Plains, with rotations of vegetables, grain mixed with beef and lamb fattening does require some form of irrigation in the Canterbury summer – but this will never be as much as water hungry dairying.

    But when unirrigated land currently being used for full scale sheep and beef farming is also converted to intensive dairying, water use (and pollution) can really sky rocket.

    Obviously some small farmers can’t help but see the benefits of converting from dusty, low value sheep farming to lush, money making dairying.

    However the only real long term benefactors will be agribusiness interests and their Queen Street and overseas backers, who don’t have to live with the results of local climate degradation.

    But inevitably with their deeper pockets these big agribusiness interests will force the small farmer out.

    With the sacking of the Canterbury Council over the control of the regions water, no wonder the Feds can boast, “When Federated Farmers asks, the Government listens”.

    • grumpy 8.1

      Jenny, you are naieve.

      When the major exporter and wealth earner for the country talks ANY government listens!

      The only thing we agree on is that expanded large scale dairy farming has the potential to destroy Canterbury’s rivers and that is why Adaptive Management of the resource must be implemented (this was opposed by the previous ECAN ).

      Then, if the resource is under pressure, pumping stops!

      Clearly then the unsustainable dairy farms – and I suspect there are many – are out of business.

      Sadly it is your type of ill informed rant that led to the demise of ECAN. When idiots such as Tindall and the well meaning but useless Sage and the politically conniving Burke pushed the same but ckearly not science based line, democracy in Canterbury died. They killed it, not the Government.

      Now, at least there is a chance for sanity to prevail.

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