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Farmer Subjectivities and Imagined Landscapes - a project at the Centre for Sustainability

Farmer Subjectivities and Imagined Landscapes: Responses to climate change in New Zealand

Principal investigator: Professor Hugh Campbell

Staff involved: Hugh Campbell, Chris Rosin, Mark Cooper

Brief abstract

This project examined the influence of climate change on farmer subjectivities and their perceptions of and engagement with the farmed landscape. Its intent was to gain insight to the role of farmer subjectivities in the emerging agricultural landscape.

Research in the project interrogated the lack of concern and relatively low sense of responsibility with regard to climate change impacts among New Zealand pastoral farmers at the time.

Factors that emerged in the interviews included a persistent commitment to maintaining or increasing production levels as an indicator of good farming practice; the status of farmers and farming as a vital part of New Zealand society and economic stability; a strong sense of a lack of economic 'fairness' in regard to competition with European and American farmers.

As a result, the farmers with the strongest opinions tend to challenge the legitimacy of claims for anthropomorphic climate change utilising arguments about the 'naturalness' of pastoral farming.

Some more pragmatic farmers indicated their willingness to mitigate and adapt to climate change, subject to the availability of viable strategies and technologies. The remainder interpreted climate change governance as a misguided government attempt to further constrain the independence of farmers.

The findings from the project contributed to subsequent MAF-funded research and formed the basis for ongoing investigation of farmer engagement with climate change by means of a national survey.