Silencing Environmental Criticism

silencing esmnvironmental criticiThe forcefully expressed views of environmental scientist Dr. Mike Joy are obviously beginning to influence public perceptions about the hollowness of our tourism advertising. Why else would the political, corporate and the conservative media be moving in unison like a pack of hungry wolves to try to silence him and by extension others who are prepared to whistle-blow the hypocrisy that stands for our tourism industry PR.

Perhaps it’s the timing of Joy’s questioning the political and commercial deceit of the 100% Pure NZ campaign that Tourism NZ is piggy-backing off the Hobbit release with its $10 million campaign “100 per cent Middle-earth, 100 per cent Pure New Zealand”. Perhaps it’s the temerity of Joy’s questioning no less than the Prime Minister and Minster of Tourism, the apparently unchallengeable John Key to face up to the vivid contradictions that exist between his economic and environmental portfolios. Perhaps it’s the fact that Joy’s research points to our largest primary industry (and industrial lobbyists) – dairy farming – as the main reason behind the last decade’s dramatic collapse of our fresh water ecosystems.

Whatever the reason, there seems no doubt that there is a concerted campaign to discredit Dr. Joy that holds just short of accusing him of treason. Yet his critics have consistently failed to address the actual scientific findings upon which his opinions and statements are based. The issue doesn’t seem to be whether he is right or accurate, but whether he is unpatriotic, disloyal, selfish or even mentally unbalanced. Yet none of this criticism actually examines the facts that underpin Joy’s public utterances.

Those who are interested in reading these facts rather than ignoring them can find them in Dr. Joy’s excellent article “Watering Down the Image” published in the Ecotourism Guidebook, Organic Explorer NZ last year. There, we find (without having to wade through pages of statistical analysis) that in almost every measure the state of our environmental diversity is indeed, catastrophic.

It may be that one of the main reasons for the current attempt to discredit Mike Joy, is that he places the blame for this predation of our environment squarely on the politicians and their cosy relationship with the dairy farming industry. He points out, for instance, that the escalating degradation of our lakes and rivers coincides precisely with the move towards intensive dairying that has taken place over the last 20 years.

Dr. Joy is to be commended for his civic courage in confronting such entrenched and powerful political and corporate interests, instead of being vilified as a threat to our tourism industry. We live in an electronic age. The news that New Zealand’s lakes and rivers are significantly polluted cannot be contained through repressive political pressure on hard-working and conscientious researchers. Indeed, coupled with the country’s abysmal environmental record in other areas it is clear that the environmental genie is already out of the bottle.

Given its mute responses to this widespread environmental deterioration, it’s hard not to conclude that the Government doesn’t actually value our tourism industry and the revenue that it generates (currently contributing NZ$23.4 billion a year to New Zealand’s economy and employing, directly and indirectly, almost 1 in 10 New Zealanders). This is an important industry to protect – but not by covering up rather than cleaning up the threats to its long-term survival. Our current economic development policies are creating, rather than solving our tourism problems. The long-term economic health of our important tourism industry can be achieved only by taking seriously the views and findings of researchers like Mike Joy and implementing new and environmentally sustainable policies.

3 Comments

  1. Terralane December 18, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    This is the most balanced and logical article I have seen yet on the furore around Mike Joy’s challenge of the 100% Pure branding. This government has a policy of shutting down any information that could damage the economic drive for more wealth at the expense of the environment. Not only fresh water, but the marine environment too is sadly in need of some visionary decisions being made to help overcome the degradation. Even community initiated marine reserve applications, the very kind that the Minister invites to be made when she appeals for ‘help with conservation’ – get turned down. Cruise ships visitors coming into Akaroa Harbour, numbering over 80 this season, are invariably made aware that although dolphin viewing is big business in the Harbour, the basic protection of marine biodiversity is not recognised by this government. The outright decline of the marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour (later successfully challenged in the High Court and the decision quashed) is a fact that does nothing to enhance NZ’s reputation as 100% Pure or Clean/Green.

  2. Heather - the kiwi travel writer December 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I believe that originally the 100% pure slogan was not intended as as environmental statement but something to do with the experience people have when they’re here.

    That being so, it was natural that ‘pure’ would be taken as to our environment as all the photos display mountains and rivers for example.

    Maybe it’s time to drop the slogan and find something new (and nothing to do with middle earth please!)

  3. Brian D'Arcy December 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I attended a farm visit in N Island with an international delegation from a water pollution conference in 2011. The host farmers were fine, open, honest and friendly hosts. But none of us could understand how the farmer could say, during his talk to us “no scientist has yet explained why i cannot increase my livestock holding by % each year, every year”. We didn’t want to be offensive as guests, but the need for clear sustainability and ecosystem viability messages was v evident. Certainly an environmental challenge! But other farms had planted up gullies with native vegetation, fenced of livestock from streams, and it is important to champion those leaders within the sector,not vilify the sector as a whole. If farmer champions counter political dogma it will be more effecive than a straight fight with the environmentalists.

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