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Stream health is seen as a necessary trade-off for financial return, when a healthy stream is one of the best indicators of land and financial health [4]. And we can restore the functions of water regulation to mitigate or avoid droughts and downstream floods.

What does the phrase 'Ceteris Paribus' Mean?

And we can improve aquatic ecological systems and water quality. And we can reduce the boom—bust cycle of feeder streams. And we can improve biodiversity and with it the. And we can increase input—output productivity, even increase the great god of pastoral production, while reducing energy inputs and building deeply functional carbon banks, and reducing greenhouse gases.

And we can increase the quality of produce and reverse real price decline. And we can improve the economy of farmscapes and their resilience to the irregular events of climatic extremes and market shifts. And when we do it from a reimagined world view, there need be no trade-offs between the land, community and enterprise; just synergies. Reimagining landscapes as complex adaptive systems is both socio-ecological and agro-ecological.

"The Scalp Hunters"

At the core of agro-ecological thinking is the idea that both biophysical elements soils, soil ecology, animals, vegetation land covers, water and its function, microclimates, etc. Those patterns are premised on both the natural variations within a landscape, and the connections between and within elements and patches with potential for synergies landscape mutualism. Land-cover patches include pastures, crops, woodlands, wetlands, tall herbaceous leys, etc. This is a polycultural world with heterogeneity both between and within land-cover patches at its core.

The industrial factory view of landscapes works directly against pattern and potential landscape mutualism. It forces the land into a homogeneous uniform, marching in step whatever the limits and potentials of the terrain.


The consequence is dysfunction, an increase in inputs of energy and work in order to keep the ideal of the machine far away from anything remotely like a natural patterned and dynamic system. The classic New Zealand example involves those farm areas that are dysfunctional when in pasture but beneficial when in other land covers, which were historically cleared of functional woodlands and wetlands in order to create pasture with never-ending problems. Combined with the bad pasture came the bad environmental consequences: soil degradation, the damage to both water retention and quality, the degradation of stream systems, stock losses, mustering problems, ineffective returns on fertiliser, and high costs in chemical weed control and repairs and maintenance.

In direct contrast, agro-ecology designs from within an understanding of the wider system, for multiple gains across economy, society and environment. It dances with the land and rejoices in the patterns of variation and connection.

The soil health, permanently flowing streams, water infiltration and holding, water quality, stock health, resilience, low energy input, carbon neutrality, community-friendliness, profitability, productivity, financial efficiency and high-value produce — all go hand in hand. Challenging the current industrial—mechanical paradigm requires some understanding of its history, especially with the rise of energy inputs, first increased after the Second World War, and then again with the dramatic rise in fossil-energy derived nitrogenous fertiliser from the s. Coupled with the increased energy intensification was the continued aggregation of land to provide the economies-of-scale needed for a narrow range of commodity producing enterprises to remain financially viable.

Both patterns shifted agriculture away from the more traditional economies-of-scope approach, which emphasised maintaining a coherent system without the need for expensive inputs. That paradigm shift was never uncontested, and the challenge has become more immediate and far wider with time. In the s, Sir Alfred Howard contrasted traditional farming systems, particularly in Asia, with the emerging chemical-fertiliser revolution that treated soils more as a hydroponic medium. Their singular and successful case studies were exemplars at the time of the extraordinary, opening our eyes to what we could have, and be.

They also wrote from a perspective of belonging, and touched on the philosophy of home and community. More detailed philosophy challenging modernity paralleled these land management exemplars.

He premised that ethic on the nature of the environment, as far more than agronomy, to which we belong.. In , he defined the challenge of continued economic marginalisation resulting from a vicious cycle of increasing production, reductions in real prices, cost reductions through scale, yet more landowner aggregation, yet more techno-fix industrialism, yet more social and worker marginalisation mere resources , ad absurdum : an absurd process to which unsynthesised analytical thinking is blind.

It is not looking, so it does not see. Few were listening to these commentators on what was happening to the functional health of the wider landscape system in either America or New Zealand. The s brought the call to industrialise further. Wendell Berry wrote his classic The Unsettling of America in response, lamenting the industrial effects on communities, families, local economies and the land.

Agro-ecology emerged in the s, as some academics saw the broader issues and the social, environmental and economic potential tipping points becoming uncomfortably evident. They were intent on looking at science-based alternatives. The science of agro-ecology pioneer Miguel Altieri was followed by an increasing number of researchers looking at the potential to work with rather than against the environment, while enhance productivity and other mutual values within and between patch polycultures. Novelists joined in to highlight the moral questions and the loss of values for the benefit of a few, Jane Smiley and Annie Proulx particularly.

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The industrial approach to landscapes that treats land as a factory, simplified to suit the mass production of undifferentiated commodities at low cost using high-energy inputs, is unquestionably contributing to significant and planet-threatening environmental problems for water, soil, biodiversity and the atmosphere, as well as social and economic problems. Change has yet to occur. Agro-ecological thinkers remain marginalised.

Modern ideas dominate, despite their errors and their negative consequences. Those ideas, ironically considered value-free, are deeply embedded within the culture of New Zealand land use. New Zealand is no different [20]. Unfortunately, the culture has shifted from one mode — the modernity of colonial thought producing commodities from commoditised land and commoditised people — to another not dissimilar mode, the modernity of corporate agribusiness. Both have an interest in mechanical and homogeneous production systems factories ; both support cost-efficiency through scale rather than building the potential scope of values provided by healthy lands and landscapes.

Both support increasing production and throughput of single financially marginal commodities; using and marginalising people and landscapes as sets of cheap resources to utilise for the efficiency of one thing, at the expense of all the other potentials.

We need to decolonise and decorporatise our minds before we can decolonise our landscapes. Our problems lie deep within the metaphors we see by. Reimagining that mythology of machine is where the solutions lie, hidden from sight, obscured by seeing and doing what we always see and do, without thinking about why. Bridget Williams Books, Wellington.

In broad terms, there are two competing strategies: 1, the homogeneous, low-value commodity approach, focused on cost of production and high production marketed in bulk e. Our landscapes — as cheap factories or batch producers — are integral to the primary-sector strategies we choose. It follows we need a re-imagination of those production and supply systems along with our landscapes. Generally, what is good on the land is bad in a stream.

Bloomsbury - General Non-Fiction

These essentially colonial production systems distributed increasingly commoditised agricultural products for export to highly populated wealthy countries. The dominant meaning of land was as producer and supplier for distant markets, with land commoditised, as was its produce and arguably its people. The Second Food Regime relates to the intensification of those lands primarily using increased energy inputs into the system fertiliser and mechanisation , increasing yields.

Friedmann and P. Agriculture and the state system: the rise and fall of national agricultures, to the present. Sociologia Ruralis , 29 2 , 93—, The two major phases in New Zealand were the post-Second World War increase in aerial and ground application of mined phosphate using war surplus material, and the shift, with urea production from the Motunui plant, to increased intensification of both dairy augmented by supplementary feed, particularly from palm kernel extract and continuous-cropping systems.

Mixed-cropping and mixed-dairy systems that used temporal rotations to manage their system health markedly reduced. Both of these intensification steps made landscapes seen and managed more and more in the factory image. The environmental, social and long-term economic consequences, in terms of ownership and local spend, are dramatic. The refocus involved a new science that is considerably more focused on connection than simply working within silos. It is more multi- and inter-disciplinary, including the humanities like philosophy, history and sociology, and the knowledge of local people within a particular place — a transdisciplinary approach, because complexity is place-based.

This is a challenge to the current corporate CRI model and to our public-sector policy and university systems. It involves a re-imagining of our science, policy and tertiary-education models. Nor are environmental costs considered. So a gully that may at best carry three stock units per hectare is presumed to carry twelve, and all the financial and environmental costs mentioned above are presumed not to apply.

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New Zealand farm foresters, as well as those who have established wetlands where they once wasted money and lost stock repeatedly, have debunked this myth and pointed out the analytical fallacies for two decades, but the modern factory view prevails.