A political ecology of New Zealand dairying as foodgetting

RegNet Informal Seminar


Associate Professor Peter Andrée


Seminar Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU


Thursday, 16 April, 2020 - 12:30 to 13:30

This seminar addresses the conjuncture of globalised food systems, colonialism and the climate crisis through the story of dairying in Aotearoa/New Zealand as foodgetting.

“Inescapably and at once both historical and natural,” for Friedmann (2017) examining human foodgetting means considering the historical socio-ecological relationships and processes through which people alter environments to get food. Aotearoa was settled by migrants from eastern Polynesia 800 years ago, the ancestors of the people known today as Māori. Foods they introduced (e.g. rats, dogs, kumara) entailed significant consequences for the unique biodiversity of these islands, while the Māori themselves adjusted to (and in some cases contributed to the extermination of) foods like the flightless Moa that had evolved there. These profound human-environment interactions can be juxtaposed with the even more violent consequences of the settlement by British and other pākehā five centuries later. The latter included intensive efforts to colonize and transform land that involved both learning from and subjugating the Māori. By the 1880s, New Zealand was exporting milk products from cows introduced in the 1840s. Fast forward to 2020: Our globalized world is in climate crisis, and Aotearoa/New Zealand is a ‘progressive’ state committed to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. This commitment entails intense political conflict in the now fully neoliberalized dairy sector, which primarily exports powdered milk and butter fat to Asia.

Dairying is responsible for almost a quarter of national greenhouse gas emissions, but industry actors often interpret sustainability narrowly in terms of on-farm actions like fencing off water courses to reduce aquatic pollution. This seminar seeks to contribute to the discussion over what ‘sustainable’ agriculture means in the context of globalization by unpacking Aotearoa/New Zealand foodgetting over the longue durée. It will show how contemporary efforts by New Zealanders to reconcile dairying and climate change can be (and increasingly are being) informed by lessons from the past about how human inhabitants and users of these distinct environments, both Māori and pākehā, developed governance mechanisms to manage foodgetting collectively.

About the speaker

Peter Andrée is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Carleton University. He is also cross-appointed in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and in the Institute of Political Economy. Peter’s research focuses on the politics of food and the environment. He practices and teaches community-based participatory research methods.



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