"The Ecology of Conscience: Sustainability Issues for New Zealand"
By Dr. Michael Tobias

By ecological analogy with most other countries and regions New Zealand achieves extraordinarily high marks: for its awareness of, and virtual consensus on the importance of conserving native species, 14 national parks, the first, deeded by Maori to the country, and countless subsequent reserves, even an attempt to convert all of Antarctica into a world park. Conservation lands now account for some 30% of the nation. Its Department of Conservation has long pioneered the highest international standards for ecological restoration, particularly on many of the nation's 700 or so islands, beginning with the first wildlife ranger, Richard Henry, in the late 19th century, and continuing with such scientists as Don Merton by the early 1960s. In addition to relishing landscapes –in art, culture, science and the everyday, New Zealanders vouchsafed a nuclear free nation, and one of the first environmentally-based political parties, the Values Party in 1972. With its small population of 4 million human residents, the country can look forward to a relatively green future.

But that is not to say that "clean and green" translates the same for all people. The country can by no means afford to rest on its laurels. It has sold the world on an ecotourism mantra of clean, green, 100% pure, but there are remaining trouble spots which this address modestly considers, the responses to which constitute numerous challenges: They include an astute approach to sustainable, renewable energy; best environmental practices in every facet of land and water use; a natural capitalism that rewards compassionate conservation while proffering no-nonsense disincentives for imprudent exploitation; an economy, in conjunction with the Resource Management Act, that is serious about conserving cultural traditions whilst impeding further erosion of its biological heritage; that soberly accounts for, and strives to rectify ecological depreciation and destruction. A society that will collectively embrace –in its many complex guises- the highest possible standards of animal welfare, whether in deliberations concerning non-native species or in the exploitation of animals out on the farms, across the land and in the water. All of these necessary trends should translate into an eco-economy whose industrial processes and by-products, imports and exports, aspire to an ecological ideal; a quality of life for all concerned that is understood to exist inside, not outside nature. And whose paramount objective should be an environmental ethic that will imaginatively envision, and speak honestly to future generations with the same loving attention that has been lavished on Takahe, Tuatara, Black robin and Kakapo.

In this discussion I examine several key arenas, each of which form a critical aspect of any truly sustainable vision, from human demographics and their subsequent pressure on the environment and biodiversity in particular, to socially responsible investing, the hotspot concept and its applicability to New Zealand, eco-tourism and animal welfare concerns.

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