Inaugural Critic and Conscience Award to environmental “crusader”.
Originally published on universitiesnz.ac.nz in September 2017
Massey University academic Dr Mike Joy has been presented with the inaugural Critic and Conscience of Society Award for his work in drawing attention to the issue of water quality in New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and drinking water.
The Critic and Conscience of Society Award, sponsored by the Gama Foundation, acknowledges academic staff who provide independent, expert commentary on issues that affect the New Zealand community and its future generations. The prize of $50,000 is earmarked to support his further research.
The independent judging panel said that the winner, Dr Mike Joy, had made a substantial contribution over the past two years to raise public awareness of an important issue facing the country.
Dr Joy is a Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science at Massey University. He researches and teaches freshwater ecology and has studied the declining health of New Zealand rivers for decades. In particular, he focuses on freshwater fish ecology and distribution, ecological modelling and environmental science, producing reports for Councils and organisations around New Zealand.
He is also a well-known science communicator, media commentator and author on issues including the recent Havelock North drinking water contamination, the state of New Zealand’s waterways and its impact on biodiversity. Last year he published a book, `Polluted Inheritance` on freshwater and the impacts of irrigation and intensive farming.
Steve Weaver, a member of the judging panel and a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Canterbury, said, “Mike’s work has successfully placed a complex and difficult environmental issue on the public agenda. He’s single-handedly raised awareness of an issue that’s at the heart of our country’s primary economy and environment. While some of his messages are unpalatable to some, Mike has been a fearless crusader to ensure this issue remains a top of the agenda for central and local government, as well as for the agricultural industry.”
In receiving the award, Dr Joy said, “I’m extremely honoured to win the Award. I’m grateful for the support I have received from Massey University and especially hope that the existence of this award will motivate other academics to take up the unique but threatened privilege of being the critic and conscience of our society.”
Under the Education legislation, New Zealand’s universities have a responsibility to act as the critic and conscience of society, which underpins the important role of the public academic, and their freedom to provide independent expertise and comment on issues.
The Award is administered by Universities New Zealand which manages around 40 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships.