Imagine this. We have dodged the climate crisis bullet. We have arrived at 2050 and there is sufficient evidence that carbon drawdown is happening and we have stalled global warming.
Looking back, we only could have achieved it with a series of transformations. Tai Tokerau was heavily dependent on commodity exports. We found that a big part of the solution to reduce emissions and to sequester carbon was in our food systems and in the way we use land. So we had to transform our food systems, our economy and our communities to transform our landscapes – and we made landscapes that people had reasons to be in.
The landscape is now a mosaic of diversity. The awkward patchwork of pines, native forest and pasture has softened as we have diversified and healed the land. Native forests are restored, possums are rare and kereru so abundant that people can harvest them.
Food and trees are grown where they suit the land. We no longer grow and harvest huge acreages of pine. Our forests are more diverse. Following the lead of the Northland Totara Working Group we have a growing supply of sustainably harvested totara. We no longer trash the land with mass harvest clearances. All farms are now regenerative and pastures that sequester lots of carbon raise healthy animals. Farms typically integrate horticulture on soils and microclimates that suit. The banana industry is thriving.
Our farms only rarely import fertilisers, supplements and biocides. Regenerative practices have seen most farmers reduce their fertilisers down to tiny amounts as they build fertility naturally. Consequently our streams and rivers are running clean, with abundant tuna and koura. People swim at the Town Basin in Whangarei. Riparian plantings connect up with other native forest so native birds can fly from Auckland to the cape and have plenty of kai along the way. Eamon Nathan of Reconnecting Northland has retired, his job done. With waterways protected, sedimentation of of harbours has slowed right down providing a better fish nursery. Millan Ruka’s work has paid off!
Rather than chasing big volumes of commodities to ship overseas, we are now producing more diversity and processing a lot of it here. Food imports dropped dramatically as the strength of the local food movement grew. Now people eat more fresh and locally produced food. We still trade, and people further afield love our pasture fed meat and dairy. Our fresh produce has always been good, and now it is even better.
A lot of people have returned home to Northland because renewable energy is abundant here. We were told back in 2019 that the Future is Rural. Every few kilometres there are villages and papakainga. People stay connected through the Internet and many have incomes from online work.
The biggest transformation was in the way we think. We had to disentangle ourselves from identities as consumers. Collectively we had to work out ways of organising an economic system that wasn’t predicated on growth. And we had to work out how to engage effectively with one another. Our love for the planet as our home grew and we developed empathy for each other and the rest of our human family.
This is a first of many attempts to envision Tai Tokerau in 2050. Seeing a future and seeing ourselves in it is a good stop to imagining the possible and taking tangible steps towards it. I have woven some individuals and organisations into the story. Please leave comments about others that you are aware of and make a contribution to this vision.