Clean, green and sustainable

7/12/2004

I always find surprising the clean and green motto used by New Zealand, health particularly the green part. Driving with Marcela and Orlando from Christchurch to Wakefield (following the Kaikoura, this site Blenheim, Nelson route) the whole landscape has been transformed. There were only rare examples of the original native vegetation, but there were plenty of farms and wineries (with very nice white wines, by the way).

Orlando copilot, pit stop in Blenheim

Yes, the place tends to be very clean and there is a surprisingly large number of public toilets (most of them quite clean). However, from an environmental point of view, New Zealand has been modified and transformed into a large farm. In fact, Tasmania is much ‘greener’ and with a larger forested proportion. It just happens to be drier and, therefore, the vegetation looks less green.

In summary, the motto seems to be clever marketing but quite far from reality. This takes me to another word used all the time with the motto: sustainability and the almost religious meaning of the word.

A few weeks ago I was asked in Tasmanian Times if plantation forestry was sustainable, mostly from a soil fertility viewpoint. Of course my answer was ‘it depends on site and silvicultural practices’. However, every time I answer this type of questions I have a feeling of uneasyness, because people seem to think that the idea is to repeat ‘exactly the same practices’ ad infinitum. That is, they assume a static world, where there is no technological change and no learning. For example, applying current techniques we would probably be able to keep growing plantations one after the other in the same site, while maintaining site productivity. However, most likely we will not use the same techniques and we will want to actually increase productivity while reducing the amount of land dedicated to production.

Filed in environment, new zealand, orlando, travel

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