He had been drinking and there was something about his eyes that suggested he had been popping outside to smoke something other than tobacco, but there was no doubting his conviction.
“If you’ve got any concern at all about the environment and the future of the planet you’d have to be Green,” he said.
I told him that was like me telling me he couldn’t be a Christian unless he was a Presbyterian. He didn’t get the analogy, nor did he believe it was possible to share his concern for the environment without supporting his politics. While he is not necessarily representative of the Greens his attitude helps to explain why his Party’s dealings with farmers do little to dampen fears of their policies and agenda.
There is an evangelical zeal to some of their pronouncements and beliefs which makes many who share their concern for the environment uncomfortable. This discomfort is increased because much of what they stand for and advocate is at the radical left end of the political spectrum, not just in environmental matters but in social and economic areas too.
However, it is possible to be not just concerned about, but committed to improving the quality of our air, soil and water; conserving scarce resources; and generally minimising our environmental footprints while also supporting free trade and an open economy.
The Green missionary in the bar couldn’t accept that conventional farmers can be environmentalists too, but when our land is our biggest asset it is in our best interests to look after it. And if they can’t credit us with doing this for its own sake there is also a strong financial motivation for implementing good environmental practices. Increasingly competitive markets and sophisticated consumers are demanding proof that the food they eat and fabric they wear come from clean, green farms.
With a higher value on quality there are financial gains from being green, but some struggle to realise the reverse is also true and that environmental improvements do not just come from, but require, better financial returns. Attaining and maintaining high standards of air, soil and water quality is not cheap. It takes a lot of money to conserve native bush; plant trees to provide shelter, reduce erosion, counter CO2 emissions; fence then establish riparian strips along water ways and do all the other things necessary for environmental protection and enhancement.
It may be a cliché, but it is still true: good farmers are not land owners; we are stewards with a very real responsibility to ensure we look after it for future generations. And when we are faced with evidence, day by day, year by year, that literally and figuratively we reap what we sow; it is easy to understand why we must be green. Although contrary to the belief of the bloke in the bar, that doesn’t mean we also have to be Green.