Willy Leferink says farming is central to civilisation, and ask's where’s the global leadership, or morality, in us throttling back food production?

Willy Leferink says farming is central to civilisation, and ask's where’s the global leadership, or morality, in us throttling back food production?

By Willy Leferink*

Do you know the number of insured disasters actually fell 44 percent last year?

Apparently hailstorms in Germany and France led to US$3.8 billion worth of insured damages, the most ever, so maybe we need to start worrying about “global hail.”

Swiss Re, the World’s number two insurer, is worried that disasters are getting ever costlier.  

It warns, “Urbanisation, the clustering of properties and commercial activity and migration to high-risk areas such as coast and flood plains need to be closely monitored.”

Since we seem to be putting all of our urban eggs into Auckland’s basket, maybe spreading development to Timaru makes more sense.

So is a changing climate, which may see low lying cities flooded, worse than the world running out of food?

The two could run together but instead of going all Eeyore about the future we need to adapt.

Adapting to change has been a part of farming ever since someone decided to domesticate animals instead ofexpending lots of energy hunting them.  Those pioneers also started planting crops allowing settled communities to form. 

As the climate changed so did the animals and crops being farmed.

Climate also defined where people lived.  Believe it or not, 10,500 years ago the Sahara Desert we know today was the Sahara Savannah, with grassland, trees and even crocodiles. 

Due to the work of countless generations of farmers we have farming as we know it today.

To me, the climate is neutral in that it creates as much as it destroys, or, as Climate Change Minister Tim Groser told One News, "We're not playing God on this. That natural process will determine what happens to adaptation of human beings and other mammals and species." 

What we know is that we need water and none of the projections I’ve seen is for any less nationally; some regions will face less and other regions will get more.  We can expect less frequent but heavier falls too.  The solution is elegantly simple and that is water storage, exactly for the same reasons why we store water for our towns and cities.

Adaption also means new types of pastures, crops and even farm animals.

That’s already happening in some areas with Lucerne and Plantain replacing traditional pasture.

Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses “adaptation” a lot because every second, of every minute, in every hour of every day, two more stomachs join the human race than leave it. 

We are gaining more and more people and as Federated Farmers’ Dr William Rolleston told the World Farmers’ Organisation, “In 1960, one hectare of land was available to feed just over two people.  By 1999 that same hectare of land had to feed four people and by 2050, when the world population is expected to peak at around 10 billion, we will need each hectare of available agricultural land to feed over six people.”

Some Green MP’s want us to slash and burn farming to meet our climate footprint, but they forget that we export close to 90 percent of what we produce here.

Where’s the global leadership, or morality, in us throttling back food production while ignoring the role we could play in showing other countries how they can farm with less carbon intensity?

I mean we’ve cut carbon by about 1.3 percent a year per agricultural unit of product and it doesn’t seem a bad effort.   

There are also two things here; first we are not making any more farm land and second, some overseas farming practices have killed off the productive value of soil as well as natural pollinators, like honey bees.  The net result is man-made ‘desertification.’

We cannot be so smug since Landcare Research in 2011 said ten percent of our high-class farmland is now occupied by lifestyle blocks, which have increased 75 percent over 13 years.

The land these ‘new’ blocks occupy represents about half of our dairy land.

Meanwhile, 29 percent of the 25,000 hectares of new urban areas developed between 1990 and 2008 took place on high class farmland.  In Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, it was 49 percent and 50 percent respectively.

So let’s focus on making the most of a changing climate.

That includes the massive role science and research has to play here because feeding the world is the biggest practical and moral issue we face.

It’s also our opportunity to be a global leader but only if we reinforce that farming is central to civilisation.


Willy Leferink is Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson and a version was printed in the Ashburton Guardian. It is used here with permission.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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How easy/hard/costly is it to store water on the scale needed for farming?
Introducing another world threat (i.e. world starvation) does not solve the threat of climate change. Let's hope your solution of water storage fixes that one.
I personally don't think we should make our top priority feeding the world's population at the detriment of our environment. Are you able to provide some more scope to the 1.3% reduction in carbon? Over how many years and since when? Due to what changes being implemented?
What about our waterways being polluted due to dairy intensification? Should this take a back step because the world has too many people?
Not sure what your point is about desertification in other countries? Is that not happening here in NZ? Why not - what are we doing differently?
Not sure what your point is about lifestyle blocks being set up on high-class farmland? Are you saying we should be using more land for dairy farming? What are the downsides to this?

This is stupidity. Prima facie stupidity.
That  'global population' is overshot, by a factor of three. That's 3. Get it? That means 2 billion, long term human inhabitants of the planet. Whether we end there by collapsing, or in a controlled manner, is the only question. Trying to feed 7-9 billion, just hastens the collapse. We aren't doing it for the bottom-end now, and pretenting that we somehow will is disingenuous.
Besides which, the monocultural approach which Willy represents, is based on a finite energy-source. So it was doomed anyway - for multiple reasons. Doomed because those who expect to 'pay', are depending on the same finite energy source - they're paying even now with debt which cannot be forward-honoured. Doomed because it relies on depletion - of just about everything; phosphate, water, water quality, nutrient, biodiversity (think: bees).
So the comment boils down to self-justification, in the face of facts.
Sad epitaph.

'Where’s the global leadership, or morality, in us throttling back food production'
Milk from dairy farms is turned into industrial ingredients, or reconstituted into the so-called milk the public is sold through supermarkets. These products are food only in the loosest definition of the word.
Willy, its not about food production, its about money. And the money is accumulated by the few while the commons is destroyed for the many.
The protein and fat ingredients being exported contribute to the health problems of those who unknowingly consume them in processed 'foods'. Not dissimilar to tobacco really.
Harping on about morality - give us a break.


This piece is so utterly ignorant or deceitful I dont know where to start.
a) So insurance claims fell in one year? is this meant to be your mathematical determination of a trend?
Or maybe look as to why?
"Swiss Re Ltd., the world’s second- biggest reinsurer, said losses for the global insurance industry from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters fell 44 percent last year amid a quiet Atlantic hurricane season."
So what's your determination here? its all OK global warming is over as we had a quiet year?  Frankly thats as bad as the loopy deniers claiming as 1998 was the hottest year and its been cooling ever since, ergo global warming is no issue.
Its at best inept, more likely wantonly and knowingly dishonest of you.
"Hurricane Sandy, which struck in 2012, increased globally insured losses that year. The U.S. still had the most insured losses last year as a result of several tornado outbreaks."
Maybe Sandy was a blip? aka 1998? a blip that is going to be repeated, at random...but increasingly so?
The "global hail" comment is well, mindblowingly limited of you. Its a symptom of ever increasing localised severe weather events that are devistating crops, lives and assets.
and here you go making "funny" comments.
Look at what the insurance industry is saying,
"Natural catastrophe statistics for 2012 dominated by weather extremes in the USA'
Historic climate change was slow compared to what we face, its was also relatively stable in its change, ie not so many "global hails" or sandy's wipeout.   It also bodes ill because the rate of change is looking too fast for animals to adapt....ie this will occur in decades and not millenia.
"Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek: “The heavy losses caused by weather-related natural catastrophes in the USA showed that greater loss-prevention efforts are needed. It would certainly be possible to protect conurbations like New York better from the effects of storm surges. Such action would make economic sense and insurers could also reflect the reduced exposure in their pricing."
Just who pays? or what happens when insurance cover becaomes un-affordable or even withdrawn?
Then what? handout to the Government?

We think Willy is correct, do not bet against the human condition..

Presently we need be thankful there is a bit of coin in farming production.

Look at the numbers we put up yesterday, if you take out the growth factor, the value of most things falls by 1/3.
If production or margin falls, it's the goodnight kiwi/sugar sack days...

You can always tell someone from Auckland
- but not much...

beware the luncheaters
The extraordinary pace of the New Zealand dairy industry’s expansion is Australia’s inspiration and reproach. In a business that essentially turns water into protein, New Zealand is clearly playing to its strengths.
It would be wrong, however, to dismiss it as merely a lucky break. New Zealand dairy is reaping the rewards for investment, audacity and a stringent focus on costs, a process assisted by the near-complete dominance of one player, Fonterra.
It is little wonder, then, that New Zealand loomed large in discussions at The Australian’s Global Food Forum last week.

Putting aside the complete misrepresentation of climate in the article, the real thing with adaption is that it means have unused capacity.
So in theory farmers could adapt right now to a variety of threats (though drough is really the major one, NZ doesn't get a lot of hurricanes) by lower stocking numbers so having more unused resources. However, the bank funded land booms of the past decades mean everything now needs to be run at full capacity to feed farm debt. The suspicion of many is that having to pay for more water storage won't fix the core problem, because the intensification will just go into paying for the intensification- there won't be the buffer.
Speaking completely outside of the areas I really know about (but hey, it's the internet) I think one of the accidental effects of breaking up the big estates in the early 1900s (as well as the deliberate effect of encouraging more family farming) was it made it very difficult to hold a lot of land due to the graduated land tax. This had the effect of creating a lot of little parcels, which because one person couldn't own them all, which meant a lid on land prices so a lid on those costs flowing through the supply chain. With corporate (and I'm afraid I'm including being owned by the bank in that, given the level of say the bank has) farming we have drifted back to the estates.

Often had the same thoughts re the estates, makes you wonder where this will lead or just how big the circle is leading back to their breakup. This is the year of the Family Farm is it not?
Always find it difficult to follow Willies waffle, this articles no different. I find it hard to see how feeding the worlds populace justifies degrading this beautiful country.

Will China become self sufficient?  Whats our plan B ?

Interesting comment and at odds with what I have seen elsewhere.  For instance chinese farmers going back to traditional dry farming technques as the depth of aquifers is now so great its not economic to pump the water up.
So the Q is yes Ok farmers could maybe increase grain output, using money to reshape the landscape and technlogy, aka energy and fossil energy to do it but can the consumer afford it? and how long for as the population continues to increase?
Lots of "ifs" in his piece.
I mean this one "Even climate change could help. Glaciers in western China are likely to melt faster over the next few decades, and could water new farmland in that region."
and once the glaciers are melted? then what?
Yet more growth mantra assuming the earth is flat.
It reaks of incompetance, short termism, wishful thinking and prayer.
On this we base out futures? oh dear.
PS if this was so easy why are the chinese supposed to be buying up farms abroad?

Niche exploitation. Humans are just part of the natural world, including our vast array of tools. There's no fighting it. Why worry about it?

Wrong. We are the only species to 'force' the whole planet, and to do so cognitively.
Yes, the chances are we crash. First World is dodging the issue(s) and Third World won't get to have the debate.
Doesn't make it right to ignore, doesn't make it right to deny, doesn't make it right to self-excuse. Doesn't mean you have to worry - but does mean that anyone with moral fortitude should do their bit.

Wrong? Wrong about what? That humans aren't part of nature? We are the only species ever to step outside of nature? Seriously? Did we come from outer space? Or at what point in history did humans become non-natural?
Or am I wrong that humans simply exhibit niche exploitaion like every other single species on this planet?
BTW I'm not saying I'm cool with it. But there's a momentum to where the human species as a whole is going. So be it.

Yes there is a momentum to where humanity is going, but most don't want to see the facts. Yes humans are part of nature, a biological species, so are just as subject to The Seneca Effect as any other. Take a look at the world population graph, notice the infection point around 1961. That was the start of the end, we are now in a peaking trend and within 1-2 generations will rapidly decline back to 1 billion or so. PDK uses the word "cognitive", the difference with humans is we did it willfully rather than instinctively. Putting your head in the sand counts as wilful.

Look up the word 'epiphenomenon'.
That's what the observed effect is.  And far from being 'willful' it is perfectly inevitable (being a secondary cause) but the real argument is at what point the secdondary effects wipe out the benefits from the primary activity.
It's like the old mainframe joke about the user who complains of poor response times.  The operator asks how many people are on the system.  36, the user replies.  OK, the operator says, I'll just nick in to the innards and change the 36 to a 40, then you'll be right.  The joke being, of course, that there's no '36' anywhere in the innards at all.  The poor response time is an epiphomenon of 36 users, running x apps, at y time, causing z call on overall resources R.
The issue I have with the steven/scarfie/PDK responses is that they all assume that somehow, either by magic or much more likely by violence or force, that those 36 will be Culled (the alternatives:  a larger mainframe (R), spreading of usage over time (y) , more efficient apps(x) are being ruled out, reflexively and I would suggest unthinkingly...).  
That doesn't feel - equitable.....

Waymad - no, you misunderstand, as I'm beginning to understand    :)
I have quoted Prof Ellen Moseley-Thompson here before - when asked (lecturing at Otago Uni Staff Club) :how many people can the planet support?" she replied "That isn't the question. The question is: at what level of consumption do you want to live?"
So you get estimates from 2 billion (susbistence-level but sustainable) to 1 billion (our level sustainable, but with the caveat that at 1 billion, much of our servicing wouldn't scale).
Willy quotes a fellow-flawed-thinker, in my opinion, Rolleston. Refers to 10 billion by 2050, then suggests we have to feed them. Actually, any of them under 36 haven't been sprogged yet, and could be nipped in the bud. Secondly, presumably food and water limitations are alreay inbuilt into the 10 billion estimate. This is straw-man stuff, all the more stupid in that the linch-pin to all agriculture as westernly practiced, is fossil energy. To get which, we are down to splitting rock, drilling in the Southern Ocean, and trying to wrest it from tar-sands. Meaning it's end-game for that which underwrites Big-Ag (and which underwrites the money Big Ag expects to earn).

And Hamish, given what you think, then how much of a leap is it for you to then accept that along with the exploitation side of human nature we also have it in us to understand our own impact on things then set about doing something about it.
You cannot have half of that argument I am afraid

I'm just a slave to my genes :P

“Any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it.”
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene


I just try and live my life by simple guidelines (I wouldn't be so bold as to say hard and fast rules). Do unto others etc. etc. Bought up to mind my manners, please and thank you etc.

As much as I enjoy reading (and often agree with) what others like PDK bring to the discussion, I have a real problem with the seemingly dictatorial/authoritarian way in which the message often comes across. If I was to be cheeky, I'd suggest that someone like PDK, who has offspring and then bemoans world population continuing to grow, simply exhibits at the most primal level, behaviour that supports Dawkins theory on the selfish gene....

So you would rather that we destroy the planet in order to "have our own way" than to come into line and put some things to rights. Unbelievable
I'd have thought the selfish gene would translate into self preservation gene, maybe it is really the stupid gene

I think Hamish is pointing out an un-fortunate imperative.
I'd suggest that the selfish gene thinks its Ok for its remaining lifetime and bugger anything else.

Tell you what, I sometimes think there is a goodly proportion of the population, probably mainly male, who relish the idea of a "Mad Max" world and can hardly wait for it to happen

sadly factual information is authoritive.  If he dresses it up or sells it nicely then all those nice folk think there's leeway or slack or its a sales/spin like the are used to.

Like many others he totally _expects_ humanity to crash into the wall and cascade into a sawtooth pattern, bemoaning unfair fate and the unpredictableness of it all.

all he can do is point out the facts plainly and hope people wise up to it in time.

Am I correct in saying that his argument is:  "Don't do anything to make farms do anything to reduce their influence on climate change, as you will need them to provide the food needed to cope with the shortages created by the climate change caused in part by farms"?

Yes - but he tries to frame is as a moral argument. The audacity.
New Tui billboard: Farmers care about starving people overseas.

I think Willy has no problem with the idea that consumers should pay for the costs of production of the food they consume.  And that such price to consumers should be increased to make sure environmental protection is maintained to best possible standards.
 Obviously, with incredibly tight margins and poor returns on the business involved in farming, it would be ridiculous to expect the farmer to pay for it from their own family wage (which are frequently below the average NZ wage) so the environemtal activity you get is the environmental activity the consumer is willing to pay for at the point of sale... how much more did you caring fellows say you were willing to pay for your level of consumption??

The price for business products is set by the market.  Some businesses thrive, others go out of business, that is the nature of it.  If costs go up, then prices go up over time.  So to subsidise them as you seem to suggest (& as takes place in many countries) is ridiculous. 
The very low "family wage" of farms is a product of the tax system.  An accountant friend told me that it is unbelievable the personal expenses that farmers put down as a farm cost.  A relative of mine with generational family farm in Taranaki & plenty of money to spend on new SUVs has a community support card, & has been able to get full living allowances for their daughter at university since they declare so little income.  And at the end of the day they pay no capital gains tax & can retire in luxury. 

sadly that is untrue.  There is huge interference in the market.

Thus we have Ministry for the destruction of Primary Industry bring in a bunch of new refrigeration rules.  Normally such costs would have to be justified by sales opportunity or increased prices (ie consumer willingness to pay for the service).  but no.  Farmers are suppose to just absorb costs....because the price is set at auction.

Calculate the capital gains over the time.  very low rate.
Calculate the direct labour (unpaid) that have been compounding.
Are the consumers willing to pay for those unpaid labour hours at full rate NO.

Re:SUV.  What is the (farm) asset worth?  what is the yield? 
How long is the vehicle operated, is it used for any business related purposes?
Are you aware of the rules regarding employee-shareholder assets?
Wages are taken out (very low rate, as you identify) what are the _retained earnings_ ebitda?

It's a generational farm...so we're talking how many years 80? 100? of coumpounding.
How many years of not having rent or interest burden..

Those people are the problem as they have plenty of time to misrepresent the business and influence politicians, media and Fonterra/Coops.  those working the land, as a business - cannot do so because of the barriers to new entry created by their un-commercial ways.  But does thart mean Commere Commission set milk price minimum based on real costs of operation? NO.   they set prices for what consumers WANT, not even based on the realistic price for the consumers expectations.   How can that possibility result in anything sustainable  but estate tax-dodge farming (and land banking, and asset conversion (cash hiding) by foreign interests)

- - 
And while we're at it!
Which governments in the world do not give their farm businesses either direct cash subsidies, and/or farm specific development relief (tax or interest or targetted development subsidies).
There's NZ ..and  ... ... NZ.

Animals adapt? well here's one example of no, not very well.
"They noted that spring vegetation on which the adult deer depend for food was starting to flourish two weeks earlier that it did nearly three decades ago, due to gradual warming. But although spring was arriving earlier, the animals' birth season stayed the same, failing to keep pace with the changing temperatures."
"The researchers "provide evidence to suggest that, at least for the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) of France's Champagne region, climate change is not simply a minor inconvenience to overcome but rather a fundamental impediment to population growth that could portend eventual catastrophe," he wrote."

But it appears other species do adapt - survival of the fittest perhaps? Taken from the actual report:
In contrast to most other studied mammals that have been able to track resource availability by advancing their birth timing [3],[4],[13],[49], the median birth date of roe deer remained constant over years. 

yep, except we have an eco-system, rob one essential part and the entire thing falls over, eg acidic oceans and plankton...no plankton, no fish, no food for many of us. NB Im sure some will adap very well. The pine beetle for instance is loving the mild winters and eating the pine forests to death...they make O2 for us.

humans have high adaptability and are excellent traders.  This makes for excellent intraspecies specialisation.   Sadly such specialisation is narrow in focus and environmental subjective (side effect of the adaption)

CO - tell readers your history with FF. And remember I've caught you out spinning before.

What history with Feds pdk?  Please tell me more.  My 'spin' as you say is from the study  that steven linked to. ;-)

There is only one adaption the human race can make that will make any good difference, and do it it we must, or we will have it done to us and that is to consciously set about reducing our own population.
You can have it orderly, intelligently and humanely or you can have it cruelly, with starvation, disease and bloodshed.
I picked my way, your turn now

Agree, & same.

So how many children do you have and how many grandchildren, raegun? Two children who will produce only 1 child each?

2 kids who each have two.Not all family members have that many, some have none and at that rate given that not everyone will make old age or have children at all will see a natural decrease from our lot anyway
Edited interrupted by phone before

You cant really control how many grandchildren the children have, except through standing up and passing on the information as a parent.
Ive had such discusions with my offsrping and actually they seem pretty switched on already to the state of the world and their future, understanding its going to be hard.
I think there will some anger, to say the least...

Didn't say I could, but all I know is that with education and women having control of their own fertility that birthrates go down. Maybe that selfish/stupid gene is gender specific

its not the gene, it's having other things to do and more wealth to spend (instead of being tied to domestic conumptive work).  ie if their time-wealth is all poured into the home, more children is minor expensive.  If lifestyle is much broader, then staying at home is not so attractive and the cost of that lifestyle goes up, and the price of childrearing becomes exponentially expensive

It's not wealth related.  There are plenty of examples in the deveoping world where female access to birth control brings an immediate drop in birth rates.  These are not the sort of places that the women is going out to do admin in the office or go shopping at the mall.
Does the man want to spawn his own tribe, when he has no child-rearing or household chores to do?  Yes.  Does the women? No.  Generalisations of course, but they hold true on average.

no childrearing or household chores...but how many mouths to feed and be responsible for.
Used to be that you had to breed your own workforce.  No others could be guaranteed to stay and follow directions when easier money was over the hill; and no others had interest in seeing your whole family suceed.   In NZ if times get tough or they don't get what they want, the women just walkout with kids and get DPB.  that beats having to work for a living.

birth control costs someone money to make and supply.

Most of those places use the old property axiom of marriage.  Marriage is exclusivity of sexual activity, most men were expected to be more sexually driven than women .  thus entering into an exclusivity contract it was decided by law and custom that to maintain the exclusivity with a strong sex drive it was the less interested partners' obligation to meet that contract need.  As it was recognised as a genuine healthy need.  Interestingly enough, the actually customs weren't originally gender specific, but later dark age behaviour by government made it a property ownership issue, not an agreement style contract.

Actually there is another factor in the whole falling birthrate thing and that is women leaving childbearing till later.  Example. Let's say we have several generations giving birth at 20, we have in the space of 60 years 4 generations are born, however, make that 30 and it takes 90 years for there to be 4 generations, I don't know if that is considered generally.
What we have to do - fame and fortune is awaiting the theorist who comes up with the idea - is work out how we prosper with a falling population.
I believe it is possible, but we have to get over "stuff"
I must readTim Jackson's "Prosperity without Growth" so long as it is not just numbers (eyes cross)

CO's got his math wrong. How's the farm, CO?
If each of those children meets a partner, and that partnership has two offspring, you have a static population. That's two per each, CO, because both regard the offspring as 'theirs'.
Bit irrelevant, given that we are 3 times overshot, but that's the logic of it.

Farms going very well thanks pdk.  Lots of grass, production up - a good year. :-) 
There was no maths equation in my question to raegun, nor no rebuttal of her answer - simply a question.  You need to read what I write, not add a fairy story of your own making to it.

PDK - how's your farm? Does it support you and your family? Can your farm provide a surplus and support others? How many people in the Waitati area have you stopped from being self-supporting and helping to support others?

Only fools cling to belief systems, and consequently cling to 'givens'. Farm? Surplus?
You haven't learned anything here, ever, have you? Ever wondered what 'sustainable' meant? I'll give you the wee tip - surplus isn't sustainable. What's yours based on? Finite fossil resources, is what. Unsustainable. Good luck if you need to justify yourself, or dodge the hard conscience-challenging questions - some of us are a bit braver, perhaps.
Those folk are addressing the future. You are hiding in a past. It's understandable, but entirely invalid.

If brct was an organsiation based in urban South Auckland or any large urban metropolitan area it would have more credibility.  Blueskin Bay is hardly urban (pop 501 2006 census) and given that the vast majority of kiwis live in heavily populated urban areas what they do at Blueskin Bay cannot be easily copied in a large urban community..  I also note that they seek financial donations, presumably from outside their community - not a sustainable organisation, in my books. It exists because it is happy to benefit from gamblers (Lottery Commission) and a farmers co-op (CRT) among others.  In other words it is not self sustaining.  Addressing the future - only for themselves. Nothing special in that.

Oh PDK I have learnt enough that some people like to use Eco-Cultism as a solution to not having to contribute to society in a Sustainable manner.
What makes your group any different to any other group who is not self-funding?
If your not self-funding then you are exploiting others.

CO mounts a valid argument - and that's why I'm not part of the outfit. I merely pointed it out in reply. They are, however, demonstrating a 'tragedy of the commons' approach, and looking after themselves with an eye to the future. Using the oil (and the wealth) while it is still available, to set up beyond-oil infrastructure. More than that - it's a better use than - say- roads of national insignificance. Their approach is more valid than denial of the problem, or than blame-shift.
Notaneconomist mounts an invalid argument. Nobody who bases their operation on the use of finite fossil fuels, can call themselves sustainable. Nobody. Anyone who indulges in that, and is not mitigating the chemical alteration (doesn't matter if it's impacting climate or not) is exploiting every future generation. Sustainable is leaving the place in as-good or better state. No other definition stands scrutiny. 'Surplus' fails the test. Every time. It's just another name for growth.
Of course, there may be no future generations if Notaneconomist-types keep conveniently ignoring their impact and keep justifying themselves to themselves. Maybe that's their 'out'? They're not disadvantaging future generations because Notane and co will have killed them off. Brilliant.

"So is a changing climate, which may see low lying cities flooded, worse than the world running out of food?"
See peak oil for that one.
Any other ignorance you'd like corrected? you seem unusually steeped in it, especially for what should be a leadership role.

Nah.  Flooding is easy to fix.  Ask the Dutch, the Veneti, don't ask the Dogger Bank types currently awash in the North Sea.  
Technology.....and we use it to Adapt....

Hurricane Sandy?
easy to fix?
yeah right.

And the 1935 hurricane which hit Florida - yet humans are drawn to edge environments despite their clear and ever-present dangers.  
Last time I was there, Florida had boomed ahead - adapted.  Yet they're still only coupla metres above sea level all down the Keys.  It will all happen again, get fixed up, boom and bust.
Weather....Gaia is ever changeable.  So the rational course is Adaptation - really, what the IPCC is now urging.  

Really blind eh....
Cheap energy making living on such "edges" possible is now past...and of course there is the scale and frequency...
but you dont want to take it in, political blinkers touching above the nose it seems.

I recall after the large losses of life in the Japanese Tsunami few years back.
The government decided that too many houses were at risk so they profiled the shoreline to mark a safe zone....

And found a bunch of ancient marker posts/shines with engavings on them.
The engravings were deciphered and they read "Do not build below this line.  The giant waves reach to here"

Sorta. The locals knew the warnings, but with everything going on a lot of people didn't pay attention.

Bloomberg, 2 1/2 mins in, global crop output already down.

The MSM and ipcc is catching on:
"The new report breaks with this approach. It sees the climate as one problem among many, the severity of which is often determined by its interaction with those other problems. And the right policies frequently try to lessen the burden—to adapt to change, rather than attempting to stop it. In that respect, then, this report marks the end of climate exceptionalism and the beginning of realism."

does that mean those who accept climate change are willing to _pay_ fopr the changes they want in _their_ consumer goods?

Last time I checked there was far more screaming about prices and wages than their was people willing to pay the extra costs of green/environmental recovery technology

Yes and no.
Yes, I aim to buy local and green where I can and where it makes sense, I try and avoid buying US products but that is impossible at times. I public transport commute, have a small car, constantly aim at reduction in my energy use. etc.
No, in that you are right, poor ppl (context - anyone with little disposable income) simply cant afford to pay more.  Hence I think we'll see more progressive taxes and income from rents etc but under huge pressure to fall in due course.
Really we need a conversation about population reduction and consumerism reduction, peak oil will do it as a start.

hmmm...steven ...I wouldn't really consider you a typical consumer.  (I mean that in a good way)

On the population thing.
If adding population brings more resources why do developers get charged for more infrastructure?   It should pay for itself.

If it doesn't pay for itself, then it neccessarily follows that the more people added the less resources will be available.   and if it does pay...stop charging developers....

So your city is 1M people?  does it support 1.2M?  does it support exponential growth of that 1.2M people?   Are your infrastructure already building and planning _exponential_ growth beyond 150% of current population?   Are your citizens preparing to pay exponentially increasing  amounts of resources to provide for the removal, rebuild and recycle of the materials and land involved?

Are they factoring in the growing scarity that means that the infrastructure demands are going to get more expensive just because more are required.   that increasing hard to source materials are going to require more intensification, more cartage, more recycling, more wastage to get materials from futher away or to fund new research into new technologies to recover resources we couldn't use previously, to met demand.

While all the time this is happening, the number of people needing the infrastructure is continuing to grow exponentially.

Are the councils and government making sure the people understand that because of exponential growth that they're going to have to pay for starting the next evolution in infrastructure, before the one to meet current needs is even started.

Just what point are they going to realise that exponential growth MEANS that it will continue until it outstrips existing supply levels.  Thats what exponential grow IS.  The growth curve grows exponentially ...until it CAN;T.   Just what kind of groaning world do they want when the music stops??

"Just what point are they going to realise"
You know how if you are playing paper-scissors-stone and win, the other person goes "How about 2 out of 3?"
That is basically the establishment position on resource demand.

Mon Seigneur, les paysans se révoltent

Elementary, I would have thought

Not sure of the context here.  I dont think more infrastructure does pay for itself, eventually the maintainance aspect due to energy costs simply stops the maintenance. What we see are ticket clippers who get a % from new works, no new works they starve so of course they want more.

energy cost.  energy for materials for maintenance.
costs due to complaince changes, wages due inflation.
bureaucrats to keep an eye on the bureaucrats who are managing and measuring the infrastructure.   ... and committees and consultants to advisor how it should be done (usually at much higher wages than the people actually working/repairing/building the infrastructure)

And as time goes by, government empire building puts in more regulations to "keep things fair" and to meet cultural demands (gardens, regular paint, landscaping, historic rebuilding, earthquake reinforcing "just in case").  All which need monitoring by licenced people, who need trainers and licencing bodies, none whom are cheap (or actually honest...make a provision requiring trained people to sign off, and sitting in a circle and signing off each others to start the process.... that's not quality control, that's a circle jerk...)

hahahaha (that's a circle jerk) 
Indeed I sometimes wonder if that isnt the case with some things, like International meetings for instance.  The Q is how to stop it....or at least minimalise it.

I don't think we can stop it without full transparency and people who care enough about the facts of such matters.

That's the problem with that kind of schedule/rulings.  Those in power just do deals with each other and sign off each others "keep out of jail free" deals.   (fail to play the game and the 10 will give your seat to someone else)

hmmm...steven ...I wouldn't really consider you a typical consumer.  (I mean that in a good way)

OK Interest.co ... "You are not authorized to post comments."
wtf.   again???

If it shows you logged in, logout and log back in, its got its knickers in a twist.

I get the message right after I post.   I can do longish posts but if I spend time to proofread it won't post, tosses the whole posting, and logs me out.

A while ago I got into the habit of, if writing something that was carefully researched, of writing it in a word processor, then launching a comment box and copying and pasting it in. It was just less painful that way. What I had been doing before then was trying to remember to copy everything before submitting, but I got bitten enough times by forgetting that I changed my workflow to something that was harder to go wrong.

I used to do similar, but I have to ask myself if Interest.co.nz has significant enough impact to warrant that level of work.  After all we don't get paid to post comments (even if they're sometimes the best teaching part of a root article)

I challenge all of your incredible optimism that humans have much of a future at all. We currently have over 450 nuclear power generators worldwide. With many more under construction. Most of the current ones are past their use by date. And no one has come up with what to do with the fuel that these things spit out. One, just one big earthquake and we rooted the pacific. Of course no one discusses this. Blah blah blah climate change, over population peak oil, blah blah blah. In the meantime our pacific ocean is the sewer for japans failure.  I so doubt our kids will have to worry about anything other than finding food that isnt radioactive and air that is clean to breathe. Of course you actually had to take 6th form physics and chem to understand a little about how really bad these abominations are. And who did that and paid attention. The world isnt on a knife edge, we have already slit our belly open, and our intestines are hanging out. Its over. There is no going back. Genie, bottle, not going back in.   

Belle - you're right about that one, but the rest are relevant too.
Profile up-thread - an industry spin-doctor, or someone doing a credible imitation of one - is quite correct, in that it's not just climate change, it's a whole host of things. Of course, he's doing what all spinners do - twisting the statement, throwing the mud that belong him the other way first.
The problem now is that when we attempt to address the likes of Fukushima, we have to triage something else we did, and we can't actually 'pay' anymore. It's a compound game of musical chairs. The joke is that the 'rich', and their support-acts like politicians and wannabe's generally - cvan't survive this one any more than the 'poor'. You can't 'gate' yourself from radiation or climate events, nor from a pissed-off mob come to that.
You're right about the genie being already out of the bottle, though. If we'd been a smart enough species to survive even another couple of generations, we'd have controlled ourselves by now. Capped population, applied sustainability to resource use/consumption and to pollution.
We didn't, and we show every sight of never doing so.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21600080-new-report-ipcc-implies-climate-exceptionalism-notionI find it is always a good idea to read the full articles that profile quotes from, rather than the contextless paragraphs he quotes. The actual articles often have very different conclusions when you read the original, for example the actual artical say sea level rise and ocean acidification can only be stopped by stopping adding carbon, but the drought effects can be mitigated by swapping to drought resistant crops. 

I thought I had a pretty good go at putting the clown to bed. Obvioulsy not. You have to wonder at the mentatlity and competence of someone that must believe the tripe they post.

You cant argue with a fanatic. All you can do is state the truth and then a 3rd party with an open mind has the opportunity to read all the evidence.

Always start here, http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
As even if profile doesnt quote the URL you can usually find what he's refering to and counter with the truth.
Good job.
NB From what I can read drought resitant crops tend to have a far lower output....
Also "Another example of a problem of the first sort is ocean acidification. "
Cant mitigate against that except via less CO2...there is no other method to protect the food chain.

You are right PDK, especially if the topic never sees the light of day. And they have well and truly got Japans wild coriums smothered. 

'Success is not predicting the future, it is creating people who can thrive in a future that can't be predicted.'
Chernobyl provides some indication of what could happen to food - and it's eventual 'return to normal'.

CO - more spin. You can always spot it - 'normal' is one of the giveaways. Theere is no such animal, and only the likes of Bill English - with a serious need to muddy the truth - apply it.
"Normal growth", Natural Growth". Ever hear those from him? The question is how long can the truth be hid? The answer is: as long as the media are missing in action.

The gap between those who are farmers and you, who are not, couldn't be better illustrated than by your comment You can always spot it - 'normal' is one of the giveaways. 'Normal' to me in the context of the linked article, which either you haven't read, or don't understand, is the fact that 
Restrictions covering sheep movements after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster have finally been lifted from all farms in England and Wales after 26 years.
Your academic snobbery is showing well today pdk.

Ah Cas Ob, I am no PHd, so I can only put it simply, which is probably the best way to go anyway. Caesium is but one of the many radioactives that spill from an accident. It is one of the easier to test for, so we tend to concentrate on it. Unfortunately the others require serious equipment to detect. So you wont hear much about the uranium and plutonium mainly because it is so hard to find. Yet it will be there. Sitting on the ground, being eaten, going up the food chain, we breathe them, dust on your carpet.... Unseen, unsmelt. The perfect killer. And easy to deny.

Co - did you not go to school at all? I left with School Cert, and ain't been back since.
Pretty low bar, methinks.

Fair enough - but you do present at university. ;-)  

Yes I do - it's funny how we amass enough knowledge to be regarded as 'expert'.
But I don't let preconceptions get in th road. Possibly because my income has never depended on my fielsd of interest. Here's a classic example of someone who should know better
She a bloody professor - but makes a stupid statement like "so advances could be made to feed the world's ever-growing population".
She ought to reflect on Upton Sinclair a little. She comes from a university with an apparent inability to see reality - their 'Valuing Nature' conference last year did anything but. She's on the same page as Willy - and just as wrong. Both are sayin' what they're sayin' because their income depends on the sayin' bein' said.
You're right to teach your kids resilience. This growth thing only ends in overshoot - and Howarth does academia a serious disservice by (presumably choosing - it can't be through ignorance, surely?) choosing to ignore that fact.
Funny old world.

but we have electricity, the government will find someway of fixing it, after all they need to be re-elected don't they  ;p

Cas Ob find the movie about Karen Silkwood. A tiny microscopic itty bitty speck and your dead. After a fashion.... Quite a shocking true story about how well the americans  make the fuel rods,  that go into the reactors. And if they cant get it right, why  would you trust a chinese or Iranian outfit. And thats what we have to do, trust all these dicks with our lives. Fuku made it to NZ in 8 days. Yummy  

Belle, you and I are more on the same page than you might think.  I acknowledge and accept the potential nuclear issues.  I do however kinda follow the saying:
grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
I can't change the nuclear situation in the world, but I can strive to make my children as flexible and able, as possible, to live in a future that can't be predicted. I look at my 90+ year old family members and think of all the changes - poverty, financial depression, wars, technological changes etc etc and see how they survived, at times against the odds, and it makes me realise that the human spirit is a pretty resilient thing, and to believe that future generations won't have resilience, is to do them a disservice. :-)

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