I am posting every day for the month of August for Nablopomo (National Blog Posting...). There is a theme for the month, which I mostly will be ignoring. The theme is (drum roll) GREEN.
New Zealand being clean and green is accidental, not deliberate. New Zealand's clean, green image is a result of its remote location and late settlement by humans.
Because of its isolation and small population, New Zealand is at a disadvantage compared to some other countries. It has marketed itself as clean and green to command premium prices for exports, and also to encourage tourists to travel long, expensive distances to visit its forests, lakes and rivers, coastline, and wildlife. New Zealand's exports make up 90% of its GDP. It also is dependent on its landscape-driven tourism industry.
While New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit, it is an ecological disaster. Since the Europeans arrived in New Zealand, over two-thirds of the native forest has been cleared. Its soil and waterways have been polluted by intensive farming and pesticides. The Manawatu river is the one of the world's dirtiest rivers. Deep-water oil drilling without a failsafe is occurring off the shores of New Zealand. Governments have ignored environmental initiatives related to air pollution and industrial emissions.
Although New Zealand made some admirable stands, such as banning nuclear warheads from its shores, its high CO2 emissions are among the worst in the OECD. Overseas, New Zealand is perceived as a country with clean air, but the air quality in cities like Christchurch in the winter is shocking. Coal is mined and burned (along with natural gas) for about 30 percent of our household electricity needs. (There are some other commerical and industrial uses.) New Zealand also has one of the world’s highest rates of car ownership. Greenhouse gas emissions are high, as New Zealand has more cows than people. New Zealand’s household waste and energy consumption also are high compared to other developed countries.
New Zealand’s oceans are being emptied, and there are no sustainable fisheries. Many native species of birds and other fauna are on the verge of extinction. None of the animals or crops and few of the trees harvested are native to New Zealand. Pests like possums and rabbits pose a threat to New Zealand’s economic welfare. Corporations are pressuring farmers to move away from free-range, grass-fed cows to indoor factory farming. And corporations are trying to bully New Zealand into accepting genetically modified (GM) crops, which are a threat to the country's biosecurity.
The marketing strategies of "clean, green" and “100% Pure New Zealand” are politically and commercially driven. 100 percent is a bold statement, which eco-tourists and consumers interpret differently than they did 10 years ago. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s “clean green” image is just not the reality.