Word of the day


Futzing – idling or busying oneself aimlessly; wasting time or effort on frivolities, playing around;  dealing with or handling idly, reluctantly, or as a time-consuming task; dealing with tediously and nigglingly.

Sowell says


Organic farming can’t feed enough


Ukraine crisis reveals folly of organic farming – Bjorn Lomborg

The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine disabused many politicians of the notion that the world could make a swift transition to green energy powered by solar, wind and wishful thinking. As food prices skyrocket and the conflict threatens a global food crisis, we need to face another unpopular reality: Organic farming is ineffective, land hungry and very expensive, and it would leave billions hungry if it were embraced world-wide.
For years, politicians and the chattering classes have argued that organic farming is the responsible way to feed the world. The European Union pushed last year for members roughly to triple organic farming by 2030. Influential nonprofits have long promoted organic farming to developing nations, causing fragile countries like Sri Lanka to invest in such methods. In the West, many consumers have been won over: About half the population of Germany believes that organic farming can fight global hunger.

The rise in food prices—buoyed by increased fertilizer, energy and transport costs—amid the conflict in Ukraine has exposed inherent flaws in the argument for organic farming. Because organic agriculture shirks many of the scientific advancements that have allowed farmers to increase crop yields, it’s inherently less efficient than conventional farming. Research has conclusively shown that organic farming produces less food per acre than conventional agriculture. Moreover, organic farming rotates fields in and out of use more often than conventional farming, which can rely on synthetic fertilizer and pesticides to maintain fertility and keep away pests. 

Taking this and the lower production in a given field into account, organic farming produces between 29% to 44% less food than conventional methods. It therefore requires as much as 78% more land than conventional agriculture and the food produced costs 50% more—all while generating no measurable increase in human health or animal welfare.

This higher cost is untenable in developing nations, and it was irresponsible for activists in wealthy economies to push inefficient farming methods on them. Nowhere is this tragedy more obvious than Sri Lanka, where the imposition of organics has been calamitous. President Mahinda Rajapaksa ran for election in 2019 promising a transition to organic food production. This policy produced nothing but misery. The eschewing of fertilizer caused rice production to drop by 20% in the first six months after the switch to organic farming was implemented. Last winter, farmers predicted that tea yields could fall by as much as 40%. Food prices rose; the cost of vegetables quintupled. Protests finally forced Sri Lanka mostly to give up its organic foray this past winter, too late to rescue much of this year’s crop.

Sri Lanka’s example underscores the irresponsibility of organics. Organic farming rejects synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, but there is currently far from enough organic nitrogen to feed the world. It turns out that synthetic nitrogen is directly responsible for feeding four billion people, more than half the world’s population.

Wealthy consumers can take the related price increases, but many poor households in the developing world spend more than half their income on food. Every 1% hike in food prices tips another 10 million people into global poverty. Advocating for global organics implicitly means suggesting that billions should forgo food.

It is easier to ignore these inconvenient details when food shortages aren’t in the headlines, but the war in Ukraine has put world hunger on everyone’s mind. Russia and Ukraine normally provide more than a quarter of the world’s exported wheat and significant supplies of corn, vegetable oil and barley. Almost a third of global potash, a potassium-rich product crucial for plant growth, comes from Russia and Belarus and most is likely subject to sanctions. Russia also produces 8% of the world’s nitrogen, the price of which had already more than tripled over the two years before the invasion. Most nitrogen is made from fossil fuels, and many factories have had to stop production as the pandemic and climate policies have raised the price of nonrenewable energy. And it doesn’t help food prices that the costs of transport have more than doubled since the pandemic began.

The result will be devastation. Rising fertilizer prices could decrease rice yields by 10% in the next season, leading to a drop in food production equivalent to what could feed half a billion people.

Policy makers and nonprofits must urgently focus on ways to produce more food for the world’s poorest at less cost. Genetic engineering, better pest management and more irrigation would go a long way toward increasing yields. Ramping up the production of artificial fertilizer, as well as considering removing regulation that makes its fossil-fuel inputs more expensive, will also help. These simple, common-sense approaches can curb price hikes, avoid hunger and even help the environment. Agriculture already uses 40% of the ice-free land on the earth. Increasing its efficiency will allow us to keep more land wild and natural.

It’s time to let go of this self-indulgent obsession with organics and focus on scientific and effective approaches that can feed the planet.

Far too much of the push for organic farming is based on politics and emotion with little if any understanding of farming, economics or science.

Organic farming can produce food for the wealthy who can afford to pay more for less production but it’s a recipe for starvation for the poor, and the humanitarian crisis and social unrest that would accompany it.

Speaking up for free speech


National MP Simon O’Connor speaks up for free speech:

SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki): Against the spirit of free speech, Mr Speaker, may I suggest that for mine, you can turn your hearing aid off for five minutes and then turn it back on.

To illustrate the very problem that the left and the radical left are putting across tonight, I would just like to say I have found every contribution from the Labour Party and the Greens—$200,000, Chlöe Swarbrick—offensive. It’s hurt me. I’m mentally anguished by what they’ve said. My tribe, my community, and my identity has been deeply offended, and no one on that side could dare to critique that, because that’s my experience.

Don’t you dare question what I’m feeling. My feelings trump anything you think and anything your group thinks. My tribe, my feelings, are right, and I am very upset tonight.

I want everything that the Labour Party and the radical Greens say banned. I don’t want to see them on the universities, because if I walk there tomorrow, I could have a hurt feeling. I could have a hurt feeling.

Do you know what—do you know what? I could go to a university and someone could say “Simon O’Connor, we don’t agree with you.”, and do you know what? That’s just going to cut—according to the Labour Party—so much to my heart. They’re going to say, “Gosh, you’re a Catholic.” Oh, what terrible sin could that be? That’s a terrible thing, you know, and I’d feel really hurt about that. “You’re an academic—you’ve studied. You’re privileged.”—gosh, that’s going to hurt.

I’m doing this as parody, because what doesn’t seem to get the left is that freedom of speech relies on the ability for, actually, an array of ideas. The whole point of freedom of speech is not for the speech we agree with; it’s the speech we don’t, and, unfortunately, our universities have been captured by a bunch of left-wing progressives.

It only needs one quick example: Auckland University of Technology—I’ve written to them recently. Guess what? A bunch of women—that’s probably the wrong pronoun and collective pronoun, but anyway. A bunch of women—I want to be really specific about that gender; a bunch of women—wanted to go on to the university and talk about women, and do you know what happened? They were banned. Women were banned from talking about women’s rights, and not only that; they were abused, they were given hateful speech, they were harassed, and they were bullied from people who called them inclusion officers—from academics. It’s an absolute disgrace.

It’s an absolute disgrace, and let’s be under no illusion here: this is nothing to do with freedom of speech from the other side; it’s all about control. You will only be allowed to think, say, and preach what they believe in. That is autocracy, that is a totalitarian mind-set, and it infects like a virus our universities. It’s an absolute cancer, and like any cancer—and the doctors know this—you rip it out, and the best way you rip it out is some sunlight.

There is an absolute arrogance, an arrogance of the highest degree, from the left and the radical left that they know best. The thing is that you don’t, and I can say that with confidence, because I might be on the other side and I might have a different opinion, but do you know what? I don’t think I know best. I think I have an opinion; I could be wrong.

I’m actually willing to be told I’m wrong without having a bloody cry-baby in the corner—”I need a safe space.” Grow up.

To those academics, those of you who responded to the survey talking of freedom as some appropriated colonial concept: get out. We pay our taxes; you’re an absolute disgrace. To those academics, including those who fought for COVID, who bullied and harassed other academics, those seven who stood up at the Royal Society—an absolute shocker and a shame. To those COVID scientists being paid huge amounts of money by this Government who were harassing their colleagues—an absolute disgrace.

So we need legislation like this. We need more legislation like this, because at the end of the day, our universities are no longer filled with academics. They’re filled with activists, and their mind-sets are weak—and they shake their heads on the other side. We know it’s so weak, because they cannot even sustain the most coherent, simple, basic arguments without crying.

University has flourished throughout the world. It’s been given to New Zealand. By the way, universities are appropriated into New Zealand—I just thought you left-wing academics needed to grow up. They have a lineage of free speech and ideas.

So the final message is really simple. To those on the left, to those academics who do not believe in freedom of speech: grow up. And if you’re not prepared to grow up, go and become a kindergarten teacher.


The link to the transcript takes you to the full debate which includes speeches by Labour and Green MPs speaking against free speech.

Saturday soapbox


Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.

I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded peoples re the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.–  Christopher Hitchens

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