The demise of New Zealand’s freshwaters: politics and science

The Charles Fleming Lecturer for 2014 was Dr Mike Joy of Massey University, Palmerston  North.

Dr Joy was awarded the Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement in 2013.

2014 Charles Fleming Lecture Tour

Dr Mike Joy presented the 2014 Charles Fleming Lecture for each of the ten branches of the Royal Society of New Zealand during June and July 2014.

Download slides from Dr Mike Joy’s lecture (PDF, 4 MB)

Download the lecture tour flyer (PDF, 596 kB)


New Zealand’s freshwaters – our lakes, rivers and groundwater outside of the conservation estate – are in a perilous state, and given the inertia from regulators their future looks bleak. The reasons for inaction in the face of this crisis are many and complex, but I will give examples of how science has been side-lined by politics and the reality obfuscated. I will describe some of the issues around the failure to measure and account for the externalities of agriculture and industry driven by political/economic ideology and how the science is misused and subverted. At the heart of the degradation is the failure to account for the loss of our natural capital, what this has cost us already and will cost future generations if we don’t change dramatically and immediately. We now have ample evidence of increasing public awareness of issues; the need is for strong leadership to move away from short-termism to acceptance of the massive ecological debt we have run up. I suggest it is past time for scientists to come out from behind their microscopes, binoculars and computer screens and make a stand on the many environmental issues facing us and our children.

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