Being holistic is not healthy


OPINION: There is a word that Greens like to use – “holistic”.

I was provoked to think about it when the climate commission’s report was published. The Commission recommends that New Zealand, as part of its GHG Reduction Plan by 2030, must cut stocks by 15% in order to finally add agriculture to the GHG grid. Very holistic, yes?

A predictable consequence is that the remaining 85% of the animals will be better fed. Since the methane emissions of the animals are proportional to the feed intake, the total emissions remain the same!

Alternatively, farmers could set aside 15% of their land and maybe plant it in trees. If they choose this option, livestock production in New Zealand will decrease by 15%. In this case, New Zealand is violating the intent of the Paris Agreement which, under Clause 1b, requires that policy should be directed towards: “Increasing the ability to adapt to the negative effects of climate change and promoting climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions“. Emissions development in a way that does not endanger food production. “

There are many other examples that show that wholeness is not always whole.

The Greens understand the importance of zero tillage. I am sure they will accept the scientific position that soil disruption is not good for soil quality.

Historically, this was inevitable because farmers had no other choice – plowing and farming were necessary to control weeds and pests. That was the situation until glyphosate arrived. It made a revolution possible; Zero tillage was now possible with all of its benefits.

You’d think that green people would totally embrace this miracle chemical glyphosate. No, they say: Glyphosate is a product of industrial chemicals and must be implicitly carcinogenic. While they go for zero tillage, they reject the technology that makes it possible!

Another perversion inherent in Green Holism is evident in their attitude towards fertilizer nitrogen.

They want it to be banned because it intensifies and therefore deteriorates water quality. That’s holistic, isn’t it, with no collateral down?

We’re sorry. A likely consequence is that in the absence of fertilizer N, more clover grows, the fertilizer N is replaced by “natural” N and, moreover, animal production increases – more animal production is achieved per kg of clover consumed.

The net effect is that reducing fertilizer N does little to reduce intensification and thus improve water quality.

This “holier-than-you” so-called holistic thinking fails on the first attempt. It fails because those who preach their message, those who claim their righteousness do not understand the biological system they are trying to change.

Holism as a philosophical topic seems to me to be a failure because no one can predict the future.

History is littered with examples of scientists researching and studying things on a reductionist level, which in turn has spawned technologies with far-reaching positive consequences.

Man is smart. Through reductionist thinking, we develop new sciences and thus new technologies that bring great benefits to society. But we find that this progression sometimes has its unintended and unpredictable downside.

What do we do?

Throw away science and technology and return to a “safe haven” of the past – organic or regenerative agriculture? Or are we pushing to develop the new sciences and technologies to solve these emerging problems?

Doug Edmeades has over 40 years of soil science experience. In 1997 he founded his own scientific consulting company, which has evolved into agKnowledge.


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