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Why con­ser­va­tion is not sus­tain­able

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Mur­ray Grim­wood Check out Mur­ray’s blog at www.mur­ray­grim­wood.com

In the last few months I’ve been work­ing harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. Longer hours, busier, phys­i­cally more ac­tive, and it’s been in­ter­est­ing to see how the body – it turned 62 dur­ing this un­sched­uled burst of ac­tiv­ity – has coped.

The place that in­spired all this ac­tiv­ity is a per­fect show­case for the dif­fer­ence be­tween con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity, two very dif­fer­ent things which are of­ten con­fused.

Lochmara Lodge does con­ser­va­tion and con­ser­va­tion ed­u­ca­tion very well. It’s a café/bar/mo­tel in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds with art work and quirky things through­out its path-laced 4ha spread.

They’re also very con­sci­en­tious. No bot­tle leaves the place – they are all ground up fine enough to pave those myr­iad walk­ways – card­board is al­lowed to rot back into the ground, and there’s a rea­son­able ef­fort made to re­cy­cle everything else. You can see long-finned eels be­ing fed, right af­ter you’ve watched the kunekune de­vour­ing yes­ter­day’s kitchen scraps. What the pigs leave – which isn’t much – the chick­ens clean up, and the staff get to eat their free-range eggs.

There is a kakariki breed­ing pro­gramme and you can have tame ones eat right out of your hand. Kids love it, and hope­fully learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Then there’s the reef boat, a static glass­bot­tomed boat with an at­tached seabed, all at eye-level. Touch-tanks and an out­door class­room com­plete the above­wa­ter learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, while hun­dreds of old mus­sel-floats have been adapted to be­come es­sen­tially an ar­ti­fi­cial reef below. St­ingrays come to be hand-fed, fish do night-time u-turns out­side the win­dow, and while you can’t see them, their out­line and progress are marked by lin­ger­ing phos­pho­res­cence.

The en­tire prop­erty is a bold and im­pres­sive ef­fort aimed at ed­u­cat­ing folk, par­tic­u­larly young­sters, about our pre­cious ma­rine ecosys­tems. For a pri­vate, non-ngo, non-doc ef­fort, Lochmara rates up there with the best.

But ev­ery bit of lug­gage, ev­ery bot­tle of bev­er­age, ev­ery bite of food, all the laun­dry and ev­ery vis­i­tor, comes in by boat. There are com­mer­cial taxi boats, pri­vate ves­sels of all sizes, out­board mo­tors by the dozen, with num­bers like 200 and 300 writ­ten in large let­ters.

Then there’s the bottled gas, a fos­sil fuel in it­self, all de­liv­ered by the same fos­sil-pow­ered boats. There’s too much of it for ev­ery­one to move to a non-fos­sil­fu­elled re­place­ment.

I spent days watch­ing them ar­rive in droves and met hun­dreds of peo­ple, mostly nice peo­ple, and mostly a joy to meet. But I spent the whole time won­der­ing if any of these peo­ple know how short a win­dow we have left of this in­dul­gence? I can re­port that I met a few – a very few – who had the kind of thought pro­cesses that ‘got’ the growth prob­lem and with whom you could have a con­ver­sa­tion about it.

While work­ing, I had a bet with the owner (a vi­sion­ary who came up with the reef-boat con­cept) that tourism as we know it will be dead by – I played it safe – 2025. That’s about the same time­line that West Coast politi­cians are pre­dict­ing they’ll need to dou­ble bed num­bers in. Dou­ble the tourists? Dou­ble the aero­planes? Dou­ble the fuel us­age per day? Some­one should take them to Las Ve­gas where it’s well known that if you keep dou­bling the ante, the house al­waysy wins.

Ed­u­ca­tion con­ser­va­tion ser­va­tion was once a valid op­tion, when we had time e on our side. Now, we don’t. If we don’t quit our un­sus­tain­able life­style there won’t be any­thing left worth con­serv­ing.

While I was stand­ing on the end of the wharf, I tried to imag­ine the time it would take to re­place all those out­board mo­tors, or for ev­ery­one to change to eas­ier-driven hull-forms – in other words, for a com­plete change of in­fra­struc­ture. I couldn’t.

Yet if that isn’t done, no amount of feel-good con­serv­ing can can­cel out the dam­age done by the profit-tak­ing side of busi­ness – any busi­ness. This tells us that the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships so lauded by DOC are in­ad­e­quate at best and ‘green­wash­ing’ at worst.

One morn­ing I thought I saw the an­swer, rest­ing qui­etly on the beach. It was a recre­ational row­ing boat, a French­made Virus (www.virus­boats.com). What a great con­cept. Maybe the cof­fees should be dis­counted for those ar­riv­ing by non­fos­sil-fu­elled craft. Dis­counted more for those in boats made from sus­tain­ably-har­vested tim­ber. Free for swim­mers? Then if we heat the cof­fee with fire­wood from the same wood source? Bet­ter still, spe­cialise in sell­ing lo­cally-grown fruit juices in­stead of im­ported cof­fee.

By the time you read this we’ll be sail­ing again, try­ing not to earn or spend, try­ing to travel lightly. Our life is not truly sus­tain­able ei­ther, but closer for try­ing than for not bothering.

I sus­pect those out­boards will con­tinue to roar un­til they are si­lenced, to the prob­a­ble be­wil­der­ment of their own­ers.

I do won­der what you can re­cy­cle one into?

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