Sustainability Matters

October has been an impactful month from a sustainability perspective.

The Government last week released a new report Essential Freshwater: Healthy Water, Fairly Allocated, on how to improve the quality of our freshwater systems.

We will all be affected by new rules, to be in place by 2020, that are intended to halt the degradation of our freshwater systems.  Those rules ought result in a noticeable improvement in freshwater quality within five years.

Then, on World Food Day, leaders in the global food movement set out their clear opposition to “gene drives” in a new report, Forcing the Farm.

The report explored controversial new genetic engineering technologies, the same tech that our government have proposed as a means to make the country pest free.

The authors of the report present case studies on how gene drive organisms could entrench industrial agriculture and threaten food sovereignty.  Their arguments are compelling.

Then there was a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that highlighted just how dire our inaction on mitigating the drivers of global warming will be.

The report, which was commissioned by the United Nations, assesses the consequences of global average temperatures rising by 1.5°C.  The climate actions required to avoid that level of warming do not make for edifying reading – we have as little as 12 years to slash global emissions by some 45 percent.

The report is unequivocal – in case you hadn’t noticed, our climate is changing now.  So political and social action and commitment is required now.  There can be no more procrastinating.

When it comes to the risks to humans from climate change, it is often the people least able to take action, who will be affected the most.  This includes the poor and the elderly, our pacific neighbours who may be displaced from their homes due to sea level rise and our grandchildren.

What climate actions can you take?

There are two prime drivers of global warming.

One is the emission of new carbon to the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels.  So cutting down on your fossil fuel use by driving less is a great climate action.

The other is the removal of carbon sinks when we cut trees down.  So planting trees is a great climate action too.

Less impactful but still beneficial actions you can take are in the areas of household energy, food, waste and water systems.  These four areas of sustainability are all founding principles of the St Andrews (Pukekohe) communal food garden.  

At a parish level, energy audits, starting a food garden (or food hub), composting of food and garden wastes and rain water harvesting are all easy-to-take climate and sustainability actions.  And community building can be achieved by adding a Friend’s of the Food Garden group or a Grow Your Own Food course, alongside the food garden, will provide a base from which people can learn how to make small changes to their carbon footprint.  These actions will also help us build resilience as we move steadily towards having to adapt to climate change.

3 thoughts on “Sustainability Matters

  1. John, I am in a situation where I have to clear some trees for housing. I have products like timber and firewood and want to make biochar from the rest but Auckland fire regulations make it hard to find a process which is legal.


    1. Hi Jim,

      I do not know your address but if you are in Auckland’s Residential – Mixed Housing Urban Zone, then:

      “What is allowed?
      You’re allowed a small heating or cooking fire such as a pizza oven, brazier, outdoor fireplace, hāngi or umu, provided general fire safety rules are met and you don’t cause a smoke nuisance (see general fire safety rules).

      No fire permit is required for these activities.

      What is not allowed?
      Lighting fires to burn rubbish, including vegetation and incinerator fires.
      Lighting open fires, fireworks, flares in public places including all beaches, reserves and parks.
      Fires that create offensive smoke, ash or odour to neighbouring properties.
      Burning wet wood or wood that has been treated.”
      You will likely have a lot of small branches to burn and so not meet the “small … fire” category. When I make biochar, I use an in-ground trench (long enough to have to cut branches to no less than 2.5 metre lengths) and then bury the char with soil when the “dancing flames” subside. This sounds very much like a hangi but without adding the rocks.


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