They are running for their life – literally!
March 15th, 2019 will be always be remembered as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. But it will also be remembered by school kids across the country as their first day of activism. A day they, and some of their parents and teachers, decided that they needed their voice to be heard. The message was simple: “We want climate change action – NOW”.
As I watched the hundreds of young people stream past on their way to Parliament, I reflected on why they felt they needed to take this stand; skipping school; demonstrating their commitment to major change; and challenging the rest of us, who had a part in making the problem, to start being part of the solution.
There was plenty of dismissive commentary leading up to the day – why don’t those privileged kids think about all the environmental damage caused by those SUVs they get driven to school in? Shouldn’t they be more worried about their education and not wagging school? What difference will it make?
This last question is the most important. The difference it makes is that it generates even more conversation, even more debate, and possibly each of us who observed the marches will pause to think about what we – as individuals – can do.
It is easy to wait for governments to take action and fix it for all of us or to put off small changes because we think that they won’t make a difference or are inconvenient. But imagine how clean the footpaths would be if no one spat out chewing gum. Each time one person does it, it’s a small action, but by the time thousands of people do it, over many years – it creates a big mess. If each person did the one small act of putting their gum in the bin then that big mess would be gone. Small things count, if we all chip in.
We can’t stop the current impact from a warming globe as this has been set by past actions. But our current actions are creating the impact for the medium and long-term – and we are in control of those. Those school children who will be here on Earth in the medium to long-term still have limited choices to affect climate change – so they want us to get with the programme and make changes now.
For farmers, climate change is not something that is coming at them, it is on them now. If farmers had the time they would probably be marching on the streets too, as climate change is requiring them to change right now. They need to be adapting to the impact of the current level of climate change – bigger rainfall events, winter droughts, snow in October - but they also need to be planning to make more radical changes because adaption alone will not be enough. There are plenty of questions to be addressed: will the pasture species that predominate my farm thrive in a warmer climate? Is my farm system best matched to the seasons, if they are changing? Is my farm system economically sustainable with the effects the changes in climate will have on inputs and outputs? These are not straightforward questions to answer, and it will take more thinking and analysis than can be done in a spreadsheet on a wet afternoon in the office. Putting in place a framework to gather information, to do some experimentation and then to make strategic decisions, will be critical for a good outcome.
At an industry level, there are resources and policy being developed all the time (such as the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment) to manage agricultural emissions. This is great, but it has to be connected to the strategic decisions being made in farm businesses, and, crucially, what happens day-to-day on farm. That is where the change happens.
These are complex and uncertain times for all of us, but especially for farmers as their livelihood is directly impacted by the climate. Now more than ever it is essential to gather as much information as possible to support decisions. Regen is equipping farmers with leading-edge technology to support their critical role in New Zealand’s economy, now and in the future. We provide insight – not just lakes of data – so they can future-proof their decisions.
For all of us the message from our children is clear: just get started, take one small action. For a farmer this might be going to a field day, chatting with a neighbour, or investing in some technology to start recording data from their farm. For those of us living in town, this might be walking rather than taking the car, getting even more diligent about recycling, or composting our veggie scraps rather than throwing them in the rubbish. Our children are watching us.