05 December 2018
Scientist Invited to Play a Greater Role in the Public Form of Ideas
• This would help offset the popularist one-liners and ill-informed slogans
Scientists are being invited to play a greater role as informers and moderators in the public forum of ideas and debates
about the environment and agriculture.
Speaking at a conference of soil scientist in Napier today, Hawke’s Bay farmer and former AgResearch chairman Sam
Robinson said in a world where there was tension between farmers and the wider community, scientists could play a very
constructive role in explaining what is realistic and practical.
He said public opinion was too often swayed by popularist one-liners and ill-informed slogans, sometimes misleading the
public about the genuine efforts of farmers.
“We live in a world where proper debate has been cleverly undermined or superseded by catchy slogans and purely
emotional campaigns; and this is a very hard “tide’ to swim against.
“It appears people don’t want to be bothered with the facts, discussion, or sound arguments… but they’ll accept glib
“So, it has never been more important for the science community to confront these false prophets in our society; and to
find a way of communicating that resonates with people through the channels to which they are tuned.”
Robinson said that since the industrial revolution society has become organised so that about 1% of the population
produce the food for the other 99%.
‘This 99% are removed from farms, often by large distances, and the reality now is that the 99% reserve the right to
tell the 1% how things should be done; and express their horror and surprise when practices are not as they imagine or
“On the whole, farmers are conscious of the demands of the 99%’s expectations and have been quietly and diligently
“Soils are the nexus between agricultural production and the environment and in an era of nutrient plans, ETS
obligations, higher standards and new government policies, soil scientists have a role to play in explaining what is a
realistic and practical time in which to expect improvements to occur.
“They could also help raise awareness of the progress that has been achieved over this time in terms of environmental
mitigation, such as the majority of farmers who have fenced off thousands of kilometres of streams and rivers.”