Mike Joy - NZ's Most High Profile & Prolific Ecological Voice For The Nation's Waterways And Ecology

Interviewed by

Tim Lynch

Mike Joy - NZ's Most High Profile & Prolific Ecological Voice For The Nation's Waterways And Ecology

A very interesting interview, with deep insights and also a way forward as we position ourselves to become more conscious with our relationship with the land and community.

How his valued insights has him consulting for LandCorp the NZ Government’s holdings that involve 127 properties, close to 1 million acres of land, and 1.6 million animals that need to be environmentally stewarded.

Mike says that the big challenge for NZ farms, especially dairy is through the increasing application of both nitrogen and phosphorus. That in assisting in quadrupling farm production in the last 25 years - that has benefitted the rural sector and the country as a whole, the downside is immense. As these leach out of the soil and into waterways where they feed nuisance plant and algae growth throughout our river and lakes. Also, that we are facing a critical problem with cadmium that is found in the phosphates that are mined overseas and imported into NZ.

Back in 2003 - 160,000 hectares of NZ land exceeded the standard of 1 milligram per kilogram or 1 part per million. The present modelling of continuing the application of phosphorous is that by 2030 around half of the Waikato region will exceed that limit, breaking European Union safety standards.

We here in NZ need to be far more conscious in finding innovative ways to use nitrogen and phosphorous and halting run off from the land and at the product end, find novel ways to value add to new products that come from our farming sector, as there are plenty people with good ideas. However we need dynamic and visionary leadership from central government, as well as the agricultural industry as a whole to drive these initiatives, especially in the field of organics and biological agriculture.

This synopsis of this interview covers: Apologies for the way it is presented.

NZ’s Resource Management Act was a world leader in that we made a concerted effort to quantify the air, water and terrestrial environment and in many ways it remains that way today. Its is still a world leader that we as a small modern country that’s very well mapped, and with both aerial and satellite technology, plus feet on the ground we have been able, to a certain degree quantify and measure the various natural resources that are our environment is made of, looking at the main physical feature, or water, soil and vegetation, with its attendant biota.

There are some core values that are embedded in it that are important to our common future. However, one of the greatest challenges with this act is to enforce this legislation to make transgressors accountable, that both local councils and central government need to be far more rigorous in enforcing the Act. Also, there has been controversy around this too with Councils using this as a cash cow to make landowners pay huge costs to comply with certain environmental conditions that we out of proportion to what was really needed.

And when we look back at the last 25 years since this legislation was passed we note that there has been a huge decline in what we measure in environmental quality and standards across the board.

Now take for instance the countries of Bolivia and Ecuador, they have enshrined into their constitution the ‘Rights of Nature’ under the heading called Pacha Mama, where the natural environment is seen as the supplier of life for us as a species.

Mike goes on to say that he is heartened by the marches here in NZ that we have had calling for a greater response to climate change as more and more people come to the realisation that a healthy lifestyle is dependent on healthy systems and the climate is what we are totally dependent on in sustaining a healthy biosphere.

He says the realisation is coming to more and more awakening people of the need to protect the environment, because we are totally dependent on it in every way.

Recently he has joined Land Corp  http://www.landcorp.co.nz/  the NZ Government agency that takes care of vast acreage on land that is actually owned by you or, ‘we the people.’

Landcorp Farming runs 1.6 million stock units on 137 properties with a total land area of 376,942 hectares. A million acres of land. These properties include sheep, beef, deer and dairy farms located throughout New Zealand.

He has been there a little over 9 months and find being part of the advisory group, it is very heartening and positive for him to see the attitude and especially that of the CEO Steve Cardon as he is very aware that all facets of working with the land has to become sustainable. Where Landcorp has taken on a small team to coherently question and look at all the ecological practices that are, or need to be put in place so as to truly come through with an enlightened approach to conscious 21st century farming. Mike sees a real genuine purpose within that organisation to shift farming into such a more ecological paradigm.

He says in this working group they are totally free to look into any aspect of this vast operation and question them on everything.

Tim in his question states that the whole universe is bound by cycles that from the galactic, to solar to the earth seasonal cycles and that ‘closing the loop’ is one that we have not taken up as an imperative, hence recycling is still far from adequate, but more so, it means that what we put out, is what we get back.

Mike says that the big one for the farming fraternity in NZ is nitrogen and NZ farmers are taking drastic short cuts in its application that eventually leaches out of the soils and into waterways is taking us into very dangerous territory - health wise. Nitrogen is being made synthetically through fossil fuels and today is responsible for more than half of the food that is being produced from our planet. That around 5 billion plus people, are being fed by artificial nitrogen.

On another level we are also living off oil, eating the proceeds of fossil fuels that are being released into the atmosphere at the same time. That this is running out, and it has been very cheap so we are going to have to be very innovative and use the energy that is coming to our planet in the form of renewables instead of relying on digging up energy that has been locked away as fossil fuels – from the past. So we are going to have to be far more davy and efficient as to how we convert energy into food.

This leads into the question of animals in agriculture as they are actually an inefficient way of converting energy into food. Thus, the big question around getting animals out of the food productivity chain has to be addressed.

This has huge implications for the carnivores of the world.

The other challenge for NZ farmers is phosphorous where we have a couple of really compounding issues. It too is mined out of the ground and we treat it with abandon, by using it in soap and food and growing food and it is not been replaced at the rate we are taking it out. NZ has mined gigantic amounts from the island of Nauru and destroyed it in the process. However, phosphorous is very high in heavy metals and the worse one seems to be cadmium.  Cadmium is a known carcinogen and has been building in our soils through the overuse of the application of these phosphate fertilisers. It is then is taken up into plant roots and we human eat leaves and we become at risk from it.

It is found now in vast areas of the Waikato. Back in 2003 - 160,000 hectares exceeded the standard or 1 milligram per kilogram or 1 part per million. The present modelling of continuing the application of phosphorous is that by 2030 around half of the Waikato region will exceed that limit.

Every 5 years the Ministry of Health and Primary Industries does research on cadmium and the last study in 2009 showed that every child in NZ up to the age of 17 on average exceeded the European Union standard for cadmium intake. So this known carcinogen is now showing us how our children are going to be affected in the future.  Why this does not get in the news headlines, is that the cows eat the grass, but the cadmium does not get into the milk, otherwise we would have sorted this out a long time ago.

However, the cadmium builds up in the livers and kidneys of the animals - so there has been a law for over a decade in NZ that those organs cannot be sold for human consumption from animals that are more than 2 years old because of that toxic build up that is in them.

Yet we here in NZ, still continue to put in total of about 30 to 40 tonnes of cadmium spread out in the overall tonnage of phosphates across NZ’s farms annually. This is a huge challenge for NZ’s food growing capacity going forward and which is a result of industrial and extractive farming. This process needs to be taken far more seriously and remedied.

Mike says that we need to get back to more holistic and organic ways of growing and farming.

We hear, that the NZ Institute of Economic Research did a report for NZ dairy giant Fonterra on sustainability - a huge study  and it had nothing to do with ecological or environmental sustainability, but was totally weighted in favour of the economics of farming – and nothing about the above what-so-ever.

So this word sustainability has been hijacked for who ever wants to spin it and in what ever the direction they want to take it.  Sustainability means in relation to ‘life’ making sure that the biosphere is healthy and reliant and resilient and will be able to remain that way for hundreds if not thousands/millions of years into the future including inter generational responsibility.

The old mantra of the ‘solution to pollution is dilution’ is a totally useless statement that over a hundred years ago when the global population was less than 2 billion people and our planet seemed so large, we thought that we could throw everything in the ocean or put it up into the atmosphere – well that is a totally mindless idea, but to many people today the old saying out of sight out of mind still remains.

Check out the Ganges river in India today and it is rapidly being cleaned up due to a commitment to a healthy environment by not leaving a mess that will engulf people downstream from where you are.

Nitrogen and phosphorous are bean treated like trash as it ends up in our waterways getting discharged from our municipal wastewater plants and also washed of the land with the sediment ending up not only in our rivers and estuaries and offshore areas causing huge problems. On a planetary scale we are creating massive dead zones, off the Gulf of Mexico is well known, but they are increasingly turning up globally too where we have anoxic areas - where nothing can grow and no life can live because they have just too much nutrient that they can actually handle.

Yet, this is a valuable resource and we need to be capturing it and reusing it. Closing the loop, means re using within your localised system.

This brings up Graeme Sait, Arden Andersen and Christine Jones as advocates of biological agriculture which bypasses the use of chemicals in what we have ended up doing - industrial farming. That balanced biological produce from the farm makes for a large reduction in farm runoff, results in more healthy soil, livestock, produce and human health

This is just the first 20 minutes of this interview – it is so rich in information:

Covering the solution to pollution is assimilation … What does this mean?

It is the making of products that are biodegradable so that they do not impact on our environment or health -  recycling, reducing, reusing and being able to reintegrate them into our working environment once again.

The word externalities comes up and how they affect us after a product has been used and how it breaks down and how it can be collected again and re integrated into the system, whatever system that may be.

That businesses of today have not been accountable for most of the externalities that businesses do … so they make a huge profit, but actually cause a lot of damage downstream when the product has supposedly served its purpose – the result is that the public at large pick up the costs, in taxes and the government mobilises to clean up the mess. But mostly future generations take the hit.

That the baby boomers are in many cases but not a lot, realising that we are leaving a very perilous planet to the kids of the future.

Yale University in the US have put NZ 14th in the world for its clean green image and yet the University of Adelaide in Australia put NZ as 120 out of 180 in the world. The reason Yale has such a different scale, is that it rated NZ on what information it could glean from the web and it also did not really know the  scale of agriculture that was actually going on in our country. Thus it missed out on many critical data points, as in the above use of nitrogen and phosphorous.

Today 6 .5 million lactating dairy cows in NZ  equals 14 per person, equals 90 million people eating and excreting. Very much like the population level of the UK or Japan.

Palm kernel imports into NZ.  We import more than any other country in the world. In the last 25 years dairy production has quadrupled, but the number of cows has doubled due to being fed imported food. So that the farm becomes more like a feed lot for cows hence the increase in production.

Due to world environmental pressure there is going to have to be a move away from animal agriculture and animal products including fish  (Global fish stocks estimated to crash by 2050).

This interview covers our weakened environmental and employment laws with huge numbers of Philippine workers now working on farms in the lower South Island NZ as farm labour.

We could be so much more cleverer as a country in the way we ‘value add’ to the produce that comes from our land, but Mike states that due to the lack of leadership, it has to come from Central Government, as well as the agricultural industry, especially in such a small country as NZ.

The intensification of dairy is now hurting many farmers and they are extremely worried that they in many ways were pushed and prodded into expanding it by industry leaders when we now have a huge slump globally in dairy prices. Where the farmers borrowed up to the eyeballs and now cannot afford to pay the mortgage due to very poor returns. Meanwhile, the Corporations, many from offshore,  loaded with cheap access to money are now circling like buzzards ready to swoop and take over up to 10% of NZ farms that are now in financial trouble.  

Most New Zealanders think that Federated Farmers represent farmers nation wide but in reality they only represent a very small proportion of farmers. Yet, the Federated Farmers get proportionately far more media cover for their size.

At present due to the tumultuous dairy situation, profits are being made from capital gains rather than production on farms and with NZ dairy giant Fonterra executives taking huge pay and remuneration whilst the farmers who are supporting them are struggling at extreme levels of debt is quite a spectacular horror story.

Where once in the rural sector there were many small cooperative dairy factories owned by the farmers, employing local people, they were like well functioning cells scattered over the country side, being smaller farms with little villages and primary schools were in abundance beside them the communities flourished, - now with one virtual large conglomerate all small farms bought up, the population has dried up, same for communities and loss of localised co-ops and dairy factories the whole dynamics of rural NZ has altered, at the same time putting huge amounts of stress on the land and the farmers.

Time for a new look at sustainable farming - with biological agriculture being the core focus.

Today you could get rid of up to a third of the cows you have and even make more profit

A very interesting interview, with deep insights and also a way forward as we position ourselves to become more conscious with our relationship with the land and community.


http://bwb.co.nz/books/polluted-inheritance for Mikes book  



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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'