Highlights from EIANZ Conference 2017

Tu Kaha: Stand Tall, Fronting up with Wicked Solutions

The EIANZ Conference was held in Wellington on 30th and 31st of October, with the theme of Tu Kaha: Stand Tall, Fronting up with Wicked Solutions. The 2017 conference marked the EIANZ’s 30th Anniversary. Acknowledgement was given that EIANZ efforts across 30 years have made a material difference – creating better and more sustainable places; though “wicked” problems abound. It was proposed that wicked environmental problems needed wicked solutions, and conference participants and presenters were challenged to rise to that challenge.

Tom Davies and Sarah Bray represented Edge Environment presenting the Property Resilience and Exposure Program (PREP) and Industrial Ecology as solutions to wicked problems. Read Tom’s abstract here and Sarah’s abstract here.

Some key messages:

  • The world is getting better at sustainability, but it is not yet good enough; there is clear scientific evidence at to the scale of the problem. Human nature draws us to focus on the negatives, but there is a significant opportunity to communicate in a more positive way to drive even greater change.
  • Climate Change and sea level rise is going to reduce the amenity of some land and early re-zoning will lessen the pain. Let’s take steps to lessen the pain as soon as we can.
  • The “Impossible Burger” is here; a new, meat-like burger made from plant-based protein. it serves as as an example of the innovation across food systems that we may see in response to environmental challenges.

Highlighting the good news

There was an underlying message of “Good News”, and Future Crunch particularly advocated a new and positive way to communicate.

Future Crunch are part of a global movement of scientists, technologists, hackers and creatives that think there are new and better ways of doing things in the 21st century. Their mission is to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and to empower people to contribute to it. Co-founders, Dr Angus Hervey and Tane Hunter gave the Tuesday Keynote and provided an upbeat optimistic take on the world today.

They explained that the world is getting better, but that our inherent negativity bias tends to lead the media to focus on bad news stories, and this leaves us with an unbalanced view of the world. They are on a mission to ensure that more people believe in a positive future, and are motivated to create change. Their aim is to create a new narrative about the planet in the 21st century.

Some of the incredible facts being shared by Future Crunch include:

  • Brazil has pledged to rehabilitate 22 million hectares of forests, croplands and pastures, the largest restoration commitment ever made by a single nation. Around the world, there are stories of species are being taken off endangered list. Wolves, bears, whales, bees, manatees, pandas are on the up.
  • Friday 21st April in UK was the first day om 140 years UK didn’t burn coal for electricity.
  • Currently, 3-4 football fields of PV are added to the world every minute.
  • One of China’s richest women, He Qiaonv, has announced a $2 billion donation for wildlife conservation, the largest environmental philanthropic pledge of all time.
  • The Dutch government has just confirmed a plan to make all new cars emission-free by 2030, meaning new combustion engines will be banned within the next 13 years.
  • TransCanada has terminated its tar sands pipeline, triggering a $1 billion loss and ending an epic 4-year battle between politicians, big oil, environmentalists and indigenous communities. One of the great climate change victories of our time.

See Future Crunch for source articles or subscribe here for their fortnight ‘Good News’ newsletter!

Selective down-zoning over time is needed

Dr Helen Monks spoke about land use zoning in response to climate change. Future natural events will generally intensify with predicted climate change. Dr Monk outlined how land use strategy updates generally lead incrementally to up-zoning, where land moves from low to more intensive, valuable uses. She argued that this must change and that our assumptions need a re-think based on anticipated climate change impacts. Some areas for development essentially need to be reversed now that we have better information, better modelling and increased confidence for decision making about risks.

But this is a PR nightmare – there are winners and losers. Dr Monk argued that “long term market signalling is the least painful way for landowners adjusting to climate change.” She proposes a new “non-urban investigation” zone where modelling determines selective down-zoning areas, allowing the market to gently adjust to lowered land use potential.

Farming for the Future

Steven Carden, the CEO of the country’s largest farming company, Pāmu Farms of NZ (Landcorp) described the journey Landcorp had taken to begin valuing biodiversity, sustainability and animal welfare as one. Landcorp has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2025 on all the land they own. They recently implemented a consultation group of scientists, environmental advocates and commercial experts to guide their strategy, and to help rejuvenate their land. Steven explained their plans to diversify into plant-based protein as there was clearly a strong market for it both in terms of a more sustainable food source and as an alternative for animal protein. He highlighted the ‘Impossible Burger’ which has been making waves as a plant-based burger which has a very similar taste and texture to a meat burger. A further highlight was the plan to move toward higher value, niche products rather than solely focusing on high production.

Edge Environment continues to support the EIANZ as the Environment and Sustainability Managers Peak Professional Body. We commend the institute to all working in our field and encourage professionals to contribute in voluntary roles for the health and continued development of our profession.

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