I find it disconcerting to so often read or hear people say, "You environmentalists/greenies hate farmers/builders/hunters/fishermen," whenever these "damn environmentalists/greenies" dare to question a practice that has been "normal" for many years but the detrimental effects are becoming increasingly obvious.
Certainly from my perspective, I do not have any hate for people because of their occupation or pastimes. It is more about how these practices that have been shown to be detrimental to the environment are affecting the long-term sustainability of these practices. I want farming and fishing to be around in the long term - not just for the next three-year election term.
Take fishing, for example. It is becoming increasingly obvious that bottom trawling destroys the environment that the species they are trawling for need to breed and grow in.
Orange Roughy is a prime example. It is only a matter of time before Orange Roughy will become so rare that the fishery could collapse and possibly not recover, as their ocean bottom environment would need to recover first.
The cod fisheries of the North Atlantic were once so prolific that if you hung a bucket in the sea for a moment before retrieving it you'd have a cod in the bucket. This cod fishery was diminishing in the 1970s, mostly through improved technology, leading to over-fishing, and a collapse in 1992 when Canada called for a moratorium as the stocks had reduced to less than 1 per cent of the levels of the 1950s/1960s, effectively ending a 500-year industry. These fisheries are recovering now after severe disruption to the fishermen and industries involved.
This also relates to land use, as 200 million tonnes of topsoil is being lost from New Zealand's soils every year. On the TV news on Thursday, September 24 there were images of intensive feedlots where the cattle were deep in mud, and some even seen calving in this mire, and from this feedlot came heavily silted runoff.
It is all very well politicians trotting out the often-repeated mantra that we are the best and most efficient producers of food in the world. We are ignoring the huge loss of topsoil which grows this food. Already some farmers seem to treat the soil as a medium to hold the synthetic fertilisers to grow the plants.
The farming spokesperson commenting on this feedlot behaviour was obviously disturbed about the situation and was saying their organisation was discouraging such practices. Certainly more farmers are realising there are other ways to protect their soil with less fertiliser being added more intelligently, reducing farm costs as they waste less.
Many farmers are going organic and have an increasing interest in regenerative agriculture, which aims to increase topsoil and fertility over time by boosting biodiversity, capturing nutrient runoff and supporting ecosystem services. All of these techniques will save time and money in the long term while enhancing our soils.
For farmers, there is also pressure to continually increase production with intensification because the world needs more food. This is a non-argument as it has been estimated 30 per cent of all food produced is wasted.
With climate change upon us, we must look after the environmental systems that sustain us. If we don't have an environment, we don't have an economy.
"When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money."
• John Milnes has been a Green Party candidate for three elections and is a founder member of Sustainable Whanganui. Parent and grandparent. Planet hugger.