Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Too many cows

Its been apparent for a while that New Zealand's biggest environmental problem is too many cows drinking our water, shitting in our rivers, and destroying the climate. And now, farmers are beginning to agree. Here's Jon Morgan, the Dominion-Post's farming editor, this morning:

I'm coming to the conclusion we have too many dairy cows in parts of New Zealand.

I know, many of you in the towns reached that point years ago, but be gentle with me. It's quite a step for me, long a believer in dairy farmers' untrammelled right to produce as much milk as they like.

It seems obvious to me that we have too many cows in the most sensitive parts of the country – sandy, shingly, free-draining areas laced with streams, close to groundwater and big recreational rivers.

And I think there's no doubt that these cows are the main source of the excessive nutrients that are polluting rivers and lakes in these regions.

Morgan's solution? Fencing waterways has failed, due to farmer cheating and the pollution already dumped into the ground and water table. So he is advocating "a reduction in cow numbers", at least in sensitive areas. This is heresy to farmers (who seem to believe they have an absolute right to destroy our environment for private profit). But its what we're going to have to do if we want clean rivers and streams. He concludes:
It is clear the pollution will only worsen if something is not done now. We should be thinking of the generations to come.

Let's face it, we are a selfish lot. Compared with previous generations we have it easy. We are guilty of endangering the future. It is our turn to feel a little pain so we don't leave future generations with a bigger mess to clean up.

When even farmers are agreeing that we've gone too far, we've gone too far. Its time government acted to solve this problem, by legislating for fewer cows near our rivers and on sensitive soils.