WELLINGTON, May 6 (Reuters) – A new school curriculum in New Zealand that tells students how to tackle climate change rejection and advises them to reduce eating milk and meat has disrupted the farming community, which is the backbone of the country’s economy.
Farmers say they feel targeted by this new program, adding to frustration over the center-left coalition government pushing them to reduce carbon emissions and clean waterways, part of the country’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Launched in January and aimed at middle school students in countries that celebrate 100% pure images, this course is based on material from leading science institutions and explains the impact of climate change and how students can contribute.
This refers to intensive agriculture as one of the causes of greenhouse gases and includes suggestions for reducing consumption of milk and meat, having a meatless day every week, eating more fruits and vegetables, driving less, recycling and buying second hand items if possible.
However, some farmers said the message was unfair.
“If they will continue to bite the hand that feeds them, and farm feed New Zealand, then they will lose in the long run,” said dairy farmer Malcolm Lumsden from the north of the state of Waikato.
Agricultural goods make up more than 60% of New Zealand’s exports, with demand for dairy products and meat from grass surging in the past decade, mainly from China.
Tim van de Molen, an MP from the opposition National Party, said he had no problems with climate change being taught in schools, but the problem was more than just farming.
“What we are witnessing right now is around proposals where people should be looking to get Meatless Monday or that dairy farming is very bad for the climate, things like that are very hard and have no clear scientific basis,” he said.
“It’s clear that agriculture has an impact on climate – so does everything, and that’s where we need to be very clear.”
However, green party member Lourdes Vano said he believed climate change represented a gap in the education system, and incorporating it into the curriculum could also help reduce “climate anxiety”.
This course is not compulsory and the ministry of education has asked the school to consult with parents and the community before including it.
The resource has been well received by the school, said Pauline Cleaver, Deputy Secretary of the Early Student Achievement Learning Association at the Ministry of Education, although she did not give figures on how many have participated in this program.
The coalition government, which faces elections in September, has defended the new curriculum because it is important for children who are growing worried about how climate change will affect their lives.
“They see the simple fact that every year they have lived has become one of the hottest on record and they expect us to act,” Climate Change Minister James Shaw said after launching. (Reporting by Stefica Nicol Bikes, writing by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)
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