Let’s slow down, leave trees to grow

Gavin Maclean

COLUMN

Re: Maven report.

A more detailed forestry report from Maven will be interesting although, as Meredith Akuhata-Brown pointed out, a few decades too late.

Almost 40 years ago I was part of a lobby group, from outside Tairawhiti, warning against too much forestry. We considered the factors of land use, employment and overseas ownership in comparison with agriculture and horticulture, and the fact that although the business was kick-started by government help to fight erosion, it was quickly being planned on more stable land.

We did not anticipate the scale to which forestry has now escalated, nor road damage, accidents and deaths, residential pollution and noise, or calamities like last year’s inundation of Tolaga Bay.

All opposition was over-ridden in the lure of the new, the love of attracting outside investment — even though that means a net outflow of profit — and the appeal of the large and monolithic (to limited imaginations) over a complex, resilient suite of land uses, such as agriculture, horticulture, honey, hemp, and smallholdings that are resource-efficient, climate-efficient and community-building.

Succeeding decades made it clear that this was an uneconomic industry, making headway only because its infrastructure was provided by the public. To measure its benefits by GDP is not all that relevant: GDP is a measure of costs, not necessarily beneficial products. It should be redefined as Gross Domestic Price.

To measure benefit by jobs is certainly popular, in the absence of real insight into better alternatives, and the belief in unequally paid jobs as a way of sharing wealth. (If really human, we would start by the traditional business of sharing, and then do good work instead of dubious made-up jobs.)

Even export returns are a short-sighted measurement. As Keynes used to point out, export is the loss of resources in exchange for paper money: something that, as increasing numbers of economists are now recognising, is without substance and without measurable quantity. Its very scarcity is artificial. Economics needs to return to its roots as eco-management.

Now there is a new factor, one that Maven in its orthodoxy will probably overlook. Climate change requires us to change ourselves radically, and so fast that no mere substitution of materials or energy sources will do. We actually have to slow down, stop making “bullshit jobs” and buildings for bullshit industries, stop carting bulk across the world in ridiculous quantities to be energetically transformed and carted back again. In short, we have to grow up.

Few will agree, but we should leave the trees to grow too.

Re: Maven report.

A more detailed forestry report from Maven will be interesting although, as Meredith Akuhata-Brown pointed out, a few decades too late.

Almost 40 years ago I was part of a lobby group, from outside Tairawhiti, warning against too much forestry. We considered the factors of land use, employment and overseas ownership in comparison with agriculture and horticulture, and the fact that although the business was kick-started by government help to fight erosion, it was quickly being planned on more stable land.

We did not anticipate the scale to which forestry has now escalated, nor road damage, accidents and deaths, residential pollution and noise, or calamities like last year’s inundation of Tolaga Bay.

All opposition was over-ridden in the lure of the new, the love of attracting outside investment — even though that means a net outflow of profit — and the appeal of the large and monolithic (to limited imaginations) over a complex, resilient suite of land uses, such as agriculture, horticulture, honey, hemp, and smallholdings that are resource-efficient, climate-efficient and community-building.

Succeeding decades made it clear that this was an uneconomic industry, making headway only because its infrastructure was provided by the public. To measure its benefits by GDP is not all that relevant: GDP is a measure of costs, not necessarily beneficial products. It should be redefined as Gross Domestic Price.

To measure benefit by jobs is certainly popular, in the absence of real insight into better alternatives, and the belief in unequally paid jobs as a way of sharing wealth. (If really human, we would start by the traditional business of sharing, and then do good work instead of dubious made-up jobs.)

Even export returns are a short-sighted measurement. As Keynes used to point out, export is the loss of resources in exchange for paper money: something that, as increasing numbers of economists are now recognising, is without substance and without measurable quantity. Its very scarcity is artificial. Economics needs to return to its roots as eco-management.

Now there is a new factor, one that Maven in its orthodoxy will probably overlook. Climate change requires us to change ourselves radically, and so fast that no mere substitution of materials or energy sources will do. We actually have to slow down, stop making “bullshit jobs” and buildings for bullshit industries, stop carting bulk across the world in ridiculous quantities to be energetically transformed and carted back again. In short, we have to grow up.

Few will agree, but we should leave the trees to grow too.

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