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Clean, Green Needs To Be A Reality For NZ

Clean, Green Needs To Be A Reality For NZ’s Future Prosperity

Scientists need to get off the fence and give clear guidance about the state of our environment, says a visiting Australian academic.

Professor Ian Lowe made his comments in the final address to the Ministry for the Environment’s Information to Motivation conference that has just been held in Wellington.

He is an Honorary Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Brisbane’s Griffith University. He received last year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in the Environment and has just been made an Officer of the Order of Australia, one of the top Australian honours.

Professor Lowe told delegates that problems did exist with the interface between science and politics and there was a need to accelerate the discussion of new science so it can prompt change through business and politics.

However, he says to achieve this scientists need to produce indicators of “ecological health” that are useable and can be understood by the public.

“There is an urgent need for indicators that are in the public domain and can guide decisions.”

He cites the recent example of Australia setting up a scientifically authentic set of about 700 indicators that aimed to give a good picture of the environment. However, he says in practice this did not work.

“What is urgently needed is scientists to be a bit less precious and realise that we have to cut corners and aggregate what are essentially incompatible data into a small set of indicators that is operable.”

Professor Ian Lowe says one of the key understandings of the conference was that making clean and green a reality is the key to New Zealand’s future prosperity.

“I want to re-emphasis the extent to which ecological responsibility is synonymous with economic responsibility.”

He says being clean and green makes some existing activities like manufacturing more efficient and more competitive, citing the example of Du Pont which has halved its emissions and increased its productivity in the last ten years.

“In reducing emissions they found that a lot of them were the result of bad housekeeping and tightening things up made the production more efficient. They also found they were throwing out chemicals that could be turned in to saleable products.”

He says New Zealand should also be looking to capitalise on the new industries which are not tied to one particular location. These mobile growth industries will be a crucial source of economic development for countries like New Zealand.

“Unlike the economic activity of last century they are not fixed in place by physical resources. Agriculture was fixed by where the agricultural land was, mining was fixed by where the minerals were, manufacturing was fixed where energy and resources were available.

“The growth industries of the next century are totally mobile so they can be anywhere on earth. For the purposes of delivering webpage writing or computer software, Wellington is no further from markets than cities such as Washington or Winnipeg. I believe these globally mobile industries will be increasingly located where a pleasant lifestyle can be offered to the mobile members of staff who work in them.”

[ends]

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