Brit report finds faults in food miles


A report for Britain’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) debunks the idea of food miles as an indicator of sustainable development.

Findings included:

*  the  impacts of food transport are complex, and involve many trade-offs between different factors. A single indicator based on total food kilometres travelled would not be a valid indicator of sustainability

 * Food transport accounted for an estimated 30 billion vehicle kilometres in 2002, of which 82% are in the UK.It also found production methods mattered and, for example, it can be more sustainable in energy effciency terms, to import tomatoes from Spain than to produce them in heated glasshouses in Britain outside summer.

* Using more local food might increase food miles because fully laden large vehicles would be replaced by more vehicles carrying less.

The report supports research by Lincoln University which found lamb, milk and fruit produced in New Zealand and shipped to Britain produced less CO2 than the same products grown in Britain.

Food miles is a simple concept but this study shows sustainability is complex and can’t be based on only one factor.

Young Country


New Zealand Farmers Weekly has a lot of competition from other give-away papers which turn up in rural mail boxes but consistent quality, original stories and intelligent commentary make it a must read.

The people behind it also have courage because they’ve launched a magazine, too.

Young Country is, as its name suggests, aimed at younger rural people but should appeal to a wider audience.

dairy 10004

The cover story of the current issue features  Alex, Anna and Pip Ewing, the third generation to farm Cattle Flat Station in the Matukituki Valley beyond Wanaka.

Their father, Charlie, took over the property from his father and he has worked hard over the years to make sure the same opportunities existed for his children.

His daughters have not only accepted those opportunities created for them, they have grabbed them with both hands  and are beginning to stamp their own mark on the family’s farming and helicopter businesses through hard work, grit and determination.

I got my money’s worth from this story by itself, and there’s plenty more good reading in the magazine: two sides of the debate over irrigating Canterbury; some of the people who are improving performance on Maori farms; a look at rural broadband; carbon farming . . .

A recession may not be the best time to launch a magazine, but if this one continues as it has started it should not just survive but prosper.

Circulation & Readership


The circulation for newspapers and magazines counts the numbers of copies sold.

What’s more important for advertisers is how many people read them.

For most publications, readership is higher than circulation.

Magazines are one of my vices and I subscribe to several. Once I’ve read them I pass them on to others and when they’ve done the rounds I pass them on to the local hospital.

However, not every magazine which comes in to the house gets well read, or even read at all.

 While doing some – obviously overdue – tidying I came across the April, May and June issues of Skywatch, the magazine which comes with the subscription to Sky TV. All three were still wrapped in plastic.

If this experience isn’t unusual the magazine’s circulation will be much greater than its readership.

Power games


Sometimes the Waitaki River runs higher than normal even though there hasn’t been rain or snow melting in its catchment.

The locals reckon it’s because Meridian Energy is letting water out of its hydro dams to generate (ouch) a shortage so it can put up the price of power.

The company denies that.

Whether or not it’s true, the way the system works means that power companies can benefit from shortages because the spot price for electricity rises.

The Electricity Review  , released yesterday by Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, suggests compensating consumers if they face conservation plans which will be one way of disincentivising companies from manufacturing shortages.

That’s good in theory, but there are concerns that the elderly who tend to be very thrifty anyway, might not heat their homes properly in order to save power. When it’s cold if you don’t have an alternative to electrical heating, you’re faced with using power or freezing.

Other recommendations in the review are:

* governance improvements with the Electricity Commission replaced with an Electricity Market Authority. 

* line companies allowed back into retailing 

* a reallocation of assets among SOE generator-retailers to increase competition in wholesale and retail markets.

Security of supply and affordability are two factors which concern consumers most.

Some in Central Otago also took environmental concerns into account. The Otago Regional Council’s clean air policy prompted some to convert their home heating from wood burners to heat pumps but they now find they can’t afford the power bills.

While individuals can make savings, one of the biggest wastes of power appears to be in transmission.

I’ve yet to find a definitive answer to the question of how much electricity is lost getting it from where it’s generated to where it’s used, but even if it’s less than 10% (and no-one has suggested it’s that low), the cost of wasting that much all day, every day ought to provide an incentive to generate power as close as possible to the end user.

August 13 in history


On August 13:

1860 Sharpshooter Annie Oakley was born.


1888 Scottish inventor of television  John Logie Baird was born.

1899 Alfred Hitchcock was born.


1913 Stainless steel was invented by Harry Brearley.

1926 Fidel Castro was born.

1940 The Battle of Britain began.

Sourced from Wikipedia.

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