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October 2, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Mike Joy Receives Critic and Conscience Award

Ecology academic Mike Joy has been named the recipient of the inaugural Critic and Conscience Award by Universities New Zealand.

Joy, a senior lecturer in ecology and environmental science at Massey University, received the award in recognition of his efforts to bring awareness to fresh water issues over the last two years.

His research has brought attention to the negative environmental impacts that intensive dairy farming has on New Zealand’s waterways; in a 2015 article, he estimated that the industry, through run-on effects like nutrient leaching and soil compaction, has caused “between NZ$2.1 and $15 billion” of damage on a national scale.

Joy has also been outspoken about the need to stop commercial whitebaiting, as four of the five native species that comprise whitebait (fish in their juvenile stage) are threatened and at risk of extinction.

“I spoke truth to power,” he told Salient. Joy expressed his anger towards large corporations and “politicised” government departments that “pull the wool over the eyes of the New Zealand public.”

When asked about his plans for the future, with regards to the $50,000 prize money he received with his award, Joy stated that he intended to carry on as before.

“I think there’s quite a strong negative relationship between getting awards and getting funding,” he observed, noting that those who speak out against government institutions are often denied research grants.

He warned of a culture of manipulation, where students saddled with debt move into jobs in which they are discouraged from speaking or thinking freely. According to Joy, this culture, combined with the politicisation of the public service, stifles thought and debate.

The Critic and Conscience award is designed to celebrate Academic Freedom, which is protected under the Education Act 1989. Joy believes the award is important in highlighting the role of criticism in academia. “When I start giving my colleagues who work in government and other places a hard time, I can say to them ‘It’s not personal, it’s my job to be a critic.’”

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