10 May 2019

James Cameron takes on Kiwi farmers

11:51 am on 10 May 2019

Farmers have received a blast from Hollywood Royalty.

Environmental activist Suzy Amis Cameron
with her husband, hollywood director James Cameron, at the Just Transition event.

Environmental activist Suzy Amis Cameron with her husband, hollywood director James Cameron, at the Just Transition event. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Their contribution to climate change was compared to "some kind of illness", but they still had time to change.

The words came from the director of Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron, and his environmental activist wife, Suzy Amis Cameron.

The Camerons have a farm property in south Wairarapa, growing flax, industrial hemp and vegetables.

They had been invited to address the Just Transitions conference in Taranaki yesterday.

They told their audience progress on climate change was vital, animal products were environmentally costly, and more plant based proteins were the way to go.

"The cow in the room here, is obviously animal agriculture," he said, adding a vegetarian or vegan diet could be part of the solution.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Cameron said he realised his words would not be a welcome message for farmers.

"You know, I think it is like finding out you have some kind of condition or illness that has to be treated," he said.

"But you have time, and you have solutions."

Mr Cameron went on to say he had sympathy for dairy farmers, many of whom had high levels of debt.

He said that was all the more reason to move away from dairy into products that were not captive to volatile international markets.

He added a change like this would be supported by trends in international markets.

Mr Cameron's wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, went further.

"It [moving from animal to plant protein] really is the way of the future," she said.

"That's where the markets are going, you just need to follow the money and see where big companies are investing.

"Either you are leading or being led, but change is inevitable."

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne hit back at Mr Cameron's description of farmers' environmental practices as a condition, or sickness.

"Describing it as a condition is an interesting way to put it," she said. "Yes, we do have a condition, and it is needing to eat."

Ms Milne said New Zealand farmers had a lower carbon footprint than overseas counterparts. Moreover, much farmland is bumpy and hilly and so is unsuited to work by crop harvesting machines - but four legged animals can go just about anywhere, she said.

"Also it is very important for the early stage of growth in early childhood - the first thousand days of human life - to have access to animal proteins."

Mr Cameron was asked how optimistic he was about the world actually being able to beat climate change.

"I have zero confidence, but I have a lot of hope," he said.

"When I am here, I feel a lot more hopeful, because I see a proactive Government and people being proactive.

"Things like this summit show a fundamental difference in the way things are done here compared with the United States, where it is all about denial and party politics and nothing is done and there is complete paralysis."

Mr Cameron added human ingenuity was a powerful tool for improvement, especially in New Zealand.

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