place of outdoor education

Jo Martindale

 

It was an idealistic assumption, that if you cared, you would just naturally act, but that’s not the case at all and  you need this intrinsic motivation which is far greater than just caring.

Jo Martindale is an outdoor educator.  Her current research concerns place responsive outdoor education.  She tells us how she is developing approaches to reconnect: how to transform caring into intrinsic motivation to look after your place.

 

Shane: Let’s turn to our guest tonight who’s Jo Martindale. She’s an outdoor educator, welcome to the show.

 

Jo: Thank you.

 

Shane: Jo, where were you born, were you born here in New Zealand or …?

 

Jo: No, I’m from the North of England, lovely county called Cumbria. Generally, I’ll refer to it as the Lake District because it has that within it but I actually come from the industrial part of the bottom. But you can forget that because luckily I had the lakes to go and play in, as a child.

 

Shane: All right, so what brought you to New Zealand?

 

Jo: Oh, the typical old story. Met a kiwi guy back in the UK, he wanted to come home. Sounded like a great adventure and here I am.

 

Shane: What was it like growing up in Cumbria? I mean, you had the lakes to go and play with and though that’s quite an amazing and beautiful area of England but it’s quite changed from what it used to be. There’s lot of sheep farming there, and it’s quite a modified landscape. It’s an old ancient landscape isn’t it?

 

Jo: It is and there’s certainly heaps of history there. I know just going and exploring the local villages, you’d find ruins of old castles and I used to go and climb around the walls and imagine what it must have been like when it was actually a full building. I think it was a great place to grow up. I was in an actual town but it took nothing to get into the countryside.

I suppose now living in New Zealand and seeing a lot more of the natural environment, I can now understand that how modified it was but as a child you just knew no different.

 

Sam: It’s interesting how far people in the UK travel to get to those supposedly natural environments. I remember being taken sailing from somewhere and travelling for 2 hours to get to their boat which was on Ullswater . Then sailing for couple of hours and then driving 2 hours back again, through the industrial north. It very much does enhance that kind of sense that nature is out there somewhere.

 

Jo: Yeah.

 

Sam: We can go and visit it sometimes. It’s nice to have it there and most of the time we don’t go and visit, which living here we just don’t have that same disconnect. You and I both come down past the harbour every day.

 

Jo: Yeah. That’s definitely very true actually. I remember when I got my first job in an outdoor center and it was mainly working within a city, students coming out and I was amazed that they’d never seen sheep in real life before. You’d walk around the lanes and you’ll be picking blackberries and things and they just couldn’t believe you could pick food to eat it. They thought it came from cans and other such things. They just had no understanding.

 

Shane: Well I taught in a central London school as well. Some of the kids didn’t actually realize that milk came from cows. They thought it was just like something else you drank like soda or whatever. Were quite horrified when they realized. They didn’t make the connection between the cows on the bottles to actually the animals and that’s where the source of the milk was coming from. That was something that wasn’t their experience and it was really shocking for me. It was obviously very traumatizing for some of them but it was quite shocking for me to realize that these kids just had never actually been outside the city. A lot of them hadn’t.
It’s probably hard for people in New Zealand to understand just how big London or this big metropolitan area is, just how vast they are, how far into the countryside they travel and how hard it is to get actually into this thing in 2 hours, well that’s nothing if you live in London and you’re trying to visit a beach.

 

Sam: Sorry, we can’t spend the whole hour reminiscing about living in central London. What did you want to be when you grew up?

 

Jo: Well apparently at the age of about 3 when I got my first climbing experience, I did tell my parents I wanted to be a climbing instructor when I grew up.

 

Shane: That’s pretty good.

 

Sam: What did you do at school to achieve that?

 

Jo: Yes, school was something I went to because you had to go to, and I spent most of my time daydreaming looking out of the window wishing I was in the fields and things over there and just made sure I got good grades at the end of it. Schooling itself had nothing, no bearing on it. I did manage to during PE, get my PE teacher to allow me to go climbing at the local leisure center instead of attend PE classes.

 

Shane: Sounds good, that was pretty awesome.

 

Sam: What did you do when you left school? What got you into working in outdoors?

 

Jo: I’d met a local fireman down at our local leisure center who just loved introducing people to climbing. That’s how I got into it before I left school. As I left, I just decided I had enough. I was going to go off and work. I was going to travel and do all these other things.

 

The same guy that I came to New Zealand with, ended up with a job in a center in North Wales. I just decided to follow down there, and just went down as a campus system, no real experience just enormous spare time, run off to help with the sessions and they put me through my single pitch training while I was there that summer. The end of the summer finished and it was like I just knew that was what I wanted to do.

 

I think a lot of it was working with the inner city students. I had this idealistic notion that by taking them from their environment and putting them into what I considered to be my environment that I could make them somehow realize that if they just looked after their environment a little bit better, it would be nicer place to be in and therefore in general life would be better and nicer for them, as I said very idealistic.

 

Sam: The thought was that they would be in this nicer place enjoying themselves outside, having a good time?

 

Jo: Yeah, and get that connection and go back and be able to reapply it in their own, in more suburban environment.

 

Sam: We’ll certainly come back to that. You got yourself in New Zealand.

 

Jo: I did.

 

Sam: Then what?

 

Jo: I tried to get a job in the outdoors but I was very land based and didn’t know anyone here, really struggled. I went and volunteered for 6 months, at what is now Hilary outdoors and Tongariro. During that time taught myself to Kayak and realized that most of those staff there had come through the Aoraki Polytech program. I decided it was time to road trip. Came to the South Island and on my way around popped into Timaru and decided that I would have a chat to them and just started studying there the following year in their 3rd year.

 

Sam: Eventually to a degree?

 

Jo: Yeas, so I did the 2 years at Aoraki and then went off. I had no real, where I was going. I was just feeling my way through and headed up to Nelson, to just climb for the summer as you do and hung out of Paynes Ford and someone told me about this climbing wall that was open up in Nelson and that they were after people to work there and guide at Paynes Ford. I thought, “Ah! Sounds pretty good.”

 

Went down for an interview, found myself in that job and decided that, it didn’t really have enough meaning and purpose and so ended up going down to what we came forlorn to do and got an interview with them working with American teenagers and they do this one day personal development day, is the best way push it, where they sow the seed and expand these teenager’s lives.

 

Sam: You do that in a day?

 

Jo: No, not at all. Yeah, good concept and it was great work. It was actually not until 2008, I went back to doing my degree at CPIT.

 

Sam: You did some study there, you were looking at secondary school teacher’s perspectives.

 

Jo: Yeah, that’s what I did for my research while I was there, because I’d worked with so many schools and so many teachers and I had this grand concept of what education outside of the classroom was and I wanted to find out whether teachers actually also believed in this idea that it was cross curricular and that it should be for every subject area and how they can come together.

 

It’s like on an intellectual level, they all understood that. Yet when you got them down to the practical level of asking them about applying it, it always ended up falling back with a conversation to PE and health and doing school camps.

 

Sam: How is it actually structured in terms of school curriculum. Is there a thing that says outdoor education or is it scattered across everything else or …

 

Jo: Well outdoor education does come under PE within it but education outside of the classroom is just a guideline that can be picked up for anything. Any field trip, whether it is for geography or history, art, anything is classed as education outside of the classroom.

 

Sam: They don’t need to be kayaking or climbing mountains in order to get that benefit?

 

Jo: Not at all.
Sam: But it will make it more fun?
Jo: Potentially.
Sam: Can you get that same benefit across the curriculum, if that’s what you’re doing. If you’re camping or kayaking and things, does it still have the benefits?
Jo: It can though. I depends on how you actually teach it and how you apply it. As one of my … It was actually for one of my post grad papers, I designed a year 8 camp for the local high school where I was living at the time, which is a water based camp, it was in Warren Place and managed to get links into English, Art and all the technologies as well as the PE and health side of things.

 

Shane: How would you get English in there because a lot of people would struggle to figure out how you get English Literature into camping?

 

Jo: Well with English Literature, I mean it’s about them writing so you can get them to either write poems or stories or even just about what they’re actually doing. With many places around New Zealand, you can find books that have been written about it whether they’re fictional ones or factual ones that you can then do for reading, so you can then tie, say a fictional book which is just based in a real place, into the real place when they go there.

 

Shane: All right, and then you could follow the book around and that kind of thing around.

 

Jo: Yeah, definitely with some of them.

 

Shane: What kind of other activities would you be able integrate, what other subjects? Obviously, History might be one.

 

Jo: Yes, History, with a lot of places in New Zealand you’ve got both Māori History and then the European History that follows on later. New Zealand might be a young country but it’s really rich in History.

 

Shane: Do teachers understand that? I mean obviously you might have some teachers who were taught in the old method and aren’t used to these concepts. How did they receive them?

 

Jo: All of them received it really well. I mean when you talk to them, it’s like they say, on an intellectual level they definitely understand it. I think for a lot of teachers, their workload is really high. One of the biggest barriers was actually time to be able to actually develop things and then of course they’ve got that whole trying to organize time tabling and it’s really hard for teachers to get any students out of the class, other classes.

 

Shane: How do the kids like it?

 

Jo: Personally I think that students benefit greatly from getting out of the classroom and most of the research I’ve read would agree with that. I think there’s only so many people can learn in these abstract subjects and most of us need to be shown real applications for things for it to really sink in and understand.

 

Sam: You did your finishing degree at CPIT?

 

Jo: I did, yes.

 

Sam: Then what?

 

Jo: From there, I was running my own business, I was still working so I did work pretty much full time throughout doing my degree as well.

 

Sam: That’s taking students from a whole pile of different institutions and school and things on these camps and so on.

 

Jo: Yeah, definitely and working with different Polytechs at that level as well. I realize that I’d enjoyed using my brain as part of the degree and initially thought I’d go into teaching and do my post grad in teaching. Only, I discovered that a lot of the teacher’s colleges, well one, don’t let you do it by distance and two, the ones that did talk to me, as if I was just a school leaver and I didn’t really enjoy being talked to like I was about 19 when I was actually in my late 20’s at the time.

 

I used to work on the PE camps throughout the PE school here at Otago University. On one of them, I came into the room and I had Mike Brown was in there and Allan Hill was in there as well and I was just chatting to both of them sussing out their varying post grads thinking good to keep my brain going and talking about the pluses and minuses of both of those. Essentially, I went with Mike Brown due to the fact that I could do my post grad by distance and it didn’t have to be in the location it was happening.

 

Sam: You were running for a while, you were running or helping run the outdoor education program at Aoraki in Timaru.

 

Jo: Yes I started …

 

Sam: It was mostly an Alpine course?

 

Jo: No Aoraki is definitely multi skilled.

 

Sam: Okay.

 

Jo: They are definitely known for being strong for their mountaineering. They’re also really strong in the white water kayaking and the rock climbing as well.

 

Sam: That’s teaching people to do what?

 

Jo: I worked on the level 5 Diploma. That was teaching people basically to become outdoor instructors.

 

Sam: To teach other people to do …

 

Jo: Teach other people so that basically when they left at the end of the level 5. They’d be I suppose entry level instructors in the outdoors.

 

Sam: Were they teaching people how to kayak, or were they teaching people math and science through kayaking?

 

Jo: No, there it was definitely much more about teaching the basics of the kayaking and the climbing. I suppose bush and tramping is probably become my most passionate area of outdoor education due to the fact that it’s got so much potential for being able to integrate things easily.

 

I did spend a lot of time with the students getting them to think about how to get people to really integrate with bush and a recent assessment I actually ran with … One of the activities they ran was actually about drawing while they were out there in the bush. You can pick the back of tree and things. You can get actually get them drawing on that while they’re out there. You can actually even use the natural materials or leaves if you’re around Dunedin.

 

Sam: I suppose that’s really about that grand concept that you talked about, about the education outside the classroom. One way to achieve that is by getting the teachers to be aware of the outdoors. The other end of it is getting the people who know about outdoors, to know about education.

 

Jo: Definitely, very slowly yeah. To some degree, there’s the research out there to show why all this should be happening. I think there’s a real disconnect between the research and people reading it and applying it. I would say that probably a large number of outdoor educators, one, have gone into it because they like doing practical things, not reading academic papers. A lot of it, I think is getting a lot of this research put into normal terminology and accessible for people to actually get to understand.

 

Sam: You have been today with Otago Polytech Outdoor Adventure Diploma out at the aquarium?

 

Jo: That’s right, yeah.

 

Sam: That is because they do get some education about the science?  Is that so that they can be interesting, guides, they can talk about the fish and stuff, what’s the reasoning behind that?

 

Jo: I mean that’s definitely part of the reason. We definitely talk about value adding when you take your students, clients, whoever they’re, out. Part of that is being able to talk about the environment that you’re in. Today, we were out of the marine centre and that was looking at activities they could use. Also making sure that they understood a little bit about what was actually going on in the marine world. It was definitely very much linked back to the whole, how everything is interconnected and in an intricate web.

 

We often see that given to us on above or on land version. But it’s very rare, we actually put into the ocean and look at how that is all intricately linked. I think one of the biggest messages the students got today, was how, we talk about all these multiple oceans and seas around the world but ultimately it’s just one ocean and how it actually affects everything.

 

You had this beautiful NASA images up there showing how the varying sea currents transport things around the world and it really is linked. Just trying to get them to see that. Just because we live on land, how everything we do on land still affects the sea vastly as well.

 

Sam: The Otago Polytech tagline is that every graduate might think and act as a sustainable practitioner. What does it mean to be a successful practitioner as a outdoor practitioner?

 

Jo: I suppose with that, often for outdoor people they will go immediately to the environmental side of things and think about protecting the national parks, the trees, the plants, if they’re more kayakers stopping damming of the rivers and pollution. I think that often failed to see the sustainable side of when you’re back at home. It’s one of those things that definitely is a little bit of a push pull inside of me because I know that to some degree outdoor education really pushes consumerism with all of the beautiful gear that we have.

 

A lot of our clothing and equipment is made from petrochemicals, it’s all plastic based. There’s definitely a lot of thinking to go on there. I know there’s some courses that do some amazing stuff around getting students to really start thinking about, where everything they use comes from and what actually is going on and even down to how far they’re travelling to get into the outdoors because we say we’ve got the harbour right here yet so often when we talk about doing the outdoors. We pack our students into buses and we’ll bus them out to a national parks somewhere and that’s then deemed to be wilderness and the outdoors, when it actually is literally on our door steps.

 

Sam: But compared to some other activities, the impact per well-being benefit, I just invented a measure, must be okay.

 

Jo: Definitely, yeah.

 

Sam: It’s not like they … You’re not teaching them jet boating.

 

Jo: No.

 

Sam: Although you have been a quad bike guide, I see.

 

Jo: Yeah, it was quite good fun for a little while.

 

Sam: They are aware of that kind of balance?

 

Jo: Yeah definitely, yeah. I think the younger ones probably struggle with it. We do get a lot of school leavers come in and there’re still teenagers. It is definitely more about them, it is more about having fun. It’s definitely about drip feeding that awareness into them. I think a lot of that probably does come to that, even New Zealand students are getting less and less exposure to I suppose essentially, the natural world.

 

Sam: I suppose we in the West are the ones that can teach outdoor education – it’s a luxury, these outdoor experiences, kayaking, climbing whatever, that’s a pretty selfish hedonistic act. On the flipside of that, you’re teaching people how to be guides and to look after people. There’s an interesting balance on where they sit on that.

 

Jo: There is and you definitely, I mean you’re right. Rock climbing, mountaineering, it is very selfish at end of the day and it’s very much a middle class white European thing to be doing. Sometimes you go, “Well why are you climbing that random bit of rock?” I think a lot of it does come down to, even just that being outside and that whole well-being and feeling of well-being that you get from being outside in nature and those wonderful hormones that are released to make you feel good.

 

You’re right, when you transition from the level 4 to the level 5, you spend a lot of time actually really explaining to them that they’re now moving into the more professional realm of taking other people out and that, I’m actually quite brutally honest with them and tell them that it’s no longer about them, It’s now about other people and that they need to actually get that mind shift, it’s like when they gotten their own time, that’s when it’s about them. When they’re interesting or guiding, it’s now about others instead.
Sam: You’re now working on a Masters in Sport and Leisure Studies?
Jo: I am.
Sam: Tell us what the topic is?
Jo: My topic is looking at the place response of outdoor education. I suppose in a synopsis that’s more about, for me not going necessarily often to the wilderness. It’s much more about using the local natural environment, and getting people connected to their place, so that they actually get to know what is here and that you can do all these amazing things close and locally, learning about the history.

 

That, the ethic of care you can get by having that connection with your people in your place, how it might manage to lead to you actually, talking care of and looking after and improving your place. It was another of those idealistic assumptions I had that if you cared, you would just naturally act and through my research I’ve basically discovered that’s not the case at all and that you need this intrinsic motivation which is far greater than just caring.

 

Sam: How did you find that out? What did you do?

 

Jo: I actually worked with a local school for my research. We started off at this school and we biked from there into the centre and we actually went to Otago Polytech. We went to their edible gardens and got a tour around there. We had Ron Bull actually join the group. He did a kōrero  to start the journey off and he unpacked that while we were at the Polytech for the students and really linked beautifully through his story telling, how we really are part off the whole world and nature rather than a part from which is how we often see ourselves as humans.

 

From there we continued biking into North East Valley, and we actually got to camp at Bethune’s Gully for the night. The big focus was to go slow and make sure we really took things in along the way. We then had a local herbalist join us as we walked over Mount Cargill to explain a lot of plants and things and their uses and what they could eat along as we went. We got down to the other side of the Cargill Road and we had an educator come in from Orokonui, who explained the forest and some of the legends of the whole place.

 

Then basically carried on round to Quarantine Island over the side to the Albatross Colony and then final leg was to bike back to school. The whole way around was meeting with local community groups and local people so that it was local people that were telling the stories of the varying places. For those students, most of them hadn’t even been to some of these places even though they’re literally right here.

 

Sam: Encouraging them to experience and to celebrate the place, their place.

 

Jo: Yeah, definitely

 

Sam: Did they?

 

Jo: Yeah my interviews at the end definitely showed that suddenly their picture of Dunedin had improved incredibly. They had gone from saying that the shopping malls were the best thing about Dunedin to starting to talk about some of the beaches and the inlets and the places we’d visited, which was amazing to see.

 

From there we then ran some environmental advocacy sessions which was basically more taking them through their journey again and looking over some of the issues they’d actually seen as they’d gone around and helping them actually formulate how to plan out an action that they could take.

 

Sam: Just nice and slowly through that: connection to place.

 

Jo: Yes, connection to place, got a big tick.

 

Sam: What was the next bit in the …

 

Jo: The next bit was a few sessions to actually look at the issues they’d seen while on the journey. Because obviously there’s plenty of issues around Dunedin. They talked about them. It was ones they remembered. They worked out which ones they were really interested in and felt like they’d liked to look at further and they were taken step by step through how to make a plan of action.

 

Sam: Connection to place and they got from that, concern for the environment in particular around that place.

 

Jo: Yeah.

 

Sam: Then you got them to think about advocacy on the basis of that.

 

Jo: Yes.

 

Sam: That worked?

 

Jo: That part of it did beautifully. The bit that I left very airy fairy with them, because this was the crux of my research if you like was whether or not they were to actually do the action. All they knew as I was going to coming back to see what had happened within those sessions post that time.

 

Sam: Did they?

 

Jo: They did do a small action. There was a whole heap of things that really shrunk what they did. But within that interview part of my questioning was around whether or not they would continue, would they get into anything else and that was where I think I felt a little bit crushed because essentially, there were two that said they might mainly through things like the Enviroschool’s schools groups that they have running or other environmental groups. I think there was one mention that if they have time and I got a couple of outright no from them.

 

Sam: Nice and slowly through his, connection to place tick. Environment advocacy plan, tick.

 

Jo: Yes.

 

Sam: Environmental advocacy, half tick?

 

Jo: Yeah.

 

Sam: Transfer from that to a general ethic of care, no?

 

Jo: An absolute no, yeah.

 

Sam: Okay, so why not.

 

Jo: The reasons that I came down to were primarily priorities, was what it really came down to, is that they just didn’t see it as a priority that everything else in life was far more important. When I reflect on that, I think that’s how we often end up putting it as well. For a lot of us, we prioritize things and so the more the lovely environmental side of things gets shoved down because all this other stuff we deem to be more higher priority, yet in the grand scheme of things it’s quite I suppose short sighted.

 

I think that the other problem is, is that often because of the way the message has always been put out around sustainability, I think the students naturally went to the looking at almost making more work on what they may have to give up. Through this whole thing I read a fascinating book by, was it Per Espen Stoknes called “What we think about when we try not to think about Climate Change“.

 

It was a fascinating book which took me into the environmental psychology realm which I hadn’t actually delved into before. A lot of his message is that, when we’re talking about trying to do environmental things, it’s nearly always about giving things up and what we should no longer do. His big message is that we need to start thinking as educators about re-storying that and about the benefits and the gains we get from changing rather than always looking at what we’ve got to give up.

 

Sam: In this case, you would have thought that they would see the benefit of looking after the place because they’ve enjoyed it.

 

Jo: It’s that disconnect still between how they live up at home and place. Their biggest thing that really struck them was the plastics from the Albatross Colony, they were horrified, the birds having eaten the plastics and how it can kill the chicks. They decided, because we along the way did some little bits of beach clean ups.

 

They decided that their big thing was they needed to somehow help stop the plastics. Their way of thinking about it rather than trying to reduce, I suppose plastic use in some way and how you could go around that, was more about we need to get better at recycling.

 

Sam: How do we take this initial interest in the place, even the caring in the place, how do we turn that into some deep seated wanting to make a difference and making a difference?

 

Jo: From all of my extra reading, I think the biggest thing is there’s no one magic pill as the big thing. From having now delved onto that psychological side of things, a lot of it comes down to the fact that you need to start being able to look beyond yourself and that being able to look beyond yourself means that as a person, I suppose essentially you’ve got to have pretty good well-being which took me down the track of positive psychology and looking at what they’ve been doing around well-being and getting people basically to look beyond themselves and to start thinking a lot more about others.

 

Sam: Is there a message in there for education outside the classroom that it’s not so much about just going outside and them enjoying it, but going outside and somehow being beyond themselves so that they can enjoy helping other people when they’re outside the classroom learning about science?

 

Jo: Yeah. I think definitely actually, there’s certainly research around how by helping others it makes you feel better as well and that you can see things actually changing and happening. Definitely just taking people out to enjoy and thinking that change will happen. It might do for a very minute percentage but for the majority of us it will be no deeper than enjoyment.

 

Sam: I’m presuming that you would still see a balance on the side of going out and doing outdoor education.

 

Jo: Definitely, yeah. For the overall well-being of people. There’ve been so many studies done on taking people into nature. By nature it just needs to be green space, whether its forest, bush or just green open fields and the beach and how it really does improve people’s well-being. There have been a few studies done even on how it can enhance your academic performance.

 

Sam: How green does the green space have to be?

 

Jo: Well I know they’ve done studies in hospitals where they’ve actually just been able to look out of a window and see something green. I know there was a university study done for students sitting tests and they actually just showed them pictures of green space and it still had some effect.

 

One that I was reading was about getting people to walk outside and one of them had route that was very much trees, grass, the more rural and the other was very much urban on pavement, concrete around them, and when they did the retesting, those that were in the natural setting, definitely had greater sense of well-being.

 

Sam: Somehow we need to be able to do that without making worse that problem what we started with, with the “nature out there somewhere”.

 

Jo: Definitely.

 

Sam: The city is our environment too. Is it worthwhile getting people to do urban orienteering, urban treasure hunt, sort of stuff? Does that have enough benefit to make it worth doing for outdoor education?

 

Jo: I don’t see why not. I mean it’s still using the same skills, it’s still going outside and I suppose it ultimately depends on your definition of what outdoor education is. If it’s more about education just being outside, then definitely. I know in Dunedin they’ve started putting, looking for those little sections of nature within the city. There is that campaign about putting little billboards up around the spot to help you see that there is nature everywhere.

 

Sam: Okay, some questions to finish with. What’s your go to definition of sustainability?

 

Jo: I always struggle with this one because it’s such a hard to define word. For me it’s definitely about making sure that you do not exceed the resources of the, I suppose the planet, of the place. You’ve got to live within your means, so that you’re not degrading it, in any way and that it’s here for future generations.

 

Sam: Hard to scale that though. It’s hard for me to know whether or not this thing that I bought is exceeding that limits somewhere else.

 

Jo: Yeah.

 

Sam: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?

 

Jo: The biggest success?

 

Sam: Yeah.

 

Jo: Oh. I’m stuck on that one, I‘m sure there’s lots. I think probably when I got to actually get … I really wrote the environmental paper at Aoraki before I left and got that running. That was definitely on the back of having just done my environmentally sustainable education paper, through my post grad. I’d got such a far better understating of what environmental action was and that whole idea that it needs to be about, actually trying to find solutions to the problems rather than just band aids.

 

Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Because you appear on Facebook, on beaches and stuff before dawn and up top of mountains before dawn. I know what literally gets you out of bed in the morning but what motivates you?

 

Jo: Well, apart from the sunrises, I actually think that getting outside and fresh air first thing in the morning is just the best way to start any day. It’s people. I absolutely love working with people, at the end of the day and knowing that, ultimately trying to get people to make their place better, it makes the place better because it is so intricately interlinked.

 

Sam: Do you consider to yourself to be an activist?

 

Jo: Probably not. I tend to like to do things on a low key way.

 

Sam: What’s the biggest challenge you’re looking forward to in the next couple of years?

 

Jo: The biggest challenge is actually trying to, I suppose get my ideas more into fruition around place and getting people intrinsically motivated to actually take action and to improve their place and to form that connection with it.

 

Because I still think that as New Zealanders we’re quite disconnected from our place. We may know where we live and where we’re from but we don’t necessarily have that deep rooted sense of connection, as well as hopefully find a more permanent job.

 

Sam: You live in a nice place.

 

Jo: I live in a beautiful place.

 

Sam: Is there something about New Zealand, feeling of being a young country do you think? I mean places like Cumbria, it’s not a natural landscape, it’s a very modified landscape. You very much know that people have been there for a really long time.

 

Jo: Yeah, definitely. I think some of its perhaps, New Zealanders like to think about always travelling off to distant places and it takes them to go away to realize what they genuinely had. I think it’s also just starting to creep in more as people spend less time outside and more time indoors, more with electronics stuff, instead of actually being outside and just playing and getting to know.

 

Sam: There’s a premise that New Zealanders’ relationship with environment is a raw one. It’s more like we’re still breaking the country in.

 

Jo: There’s definitely still a lot of that more pioneering I suppose attitude.

 

Sam: Is that a different relationship with place?

 

Jo: I would say so because that’s more about on the whole, I suppose controlling the place rather than actually necessarily living harmoniously with place. If you look at the calendar that were used here, we’ve just taken the calendar that was over in the UK, and plonked it here.

 

As a real simple thing, we celebrate Easter in Autumn  and we celebrate Halloween in Spring and it’s like we’re celebrating death when we’ve got new life and new life when we’ve actually got death. We’re just very topsy-turvy with even those things, just disconnect you further from the land.

 

Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur, by tomorrow morning, probably about 4:30 or something knowing you and Mr. Thompson, what would that miracle be?

 

Jo: That miracle would be for people to stop, I suppose essentially … Perhaps see the benefits of actually changing, actually see how ultimately, we’d all live better if we perhaps started to look more locally for things rather than having to have everything imported in, and that we actually lived in communities because by living in communities it’s not just communities of people, it’s also communities with the land and what is around us. That way we would actually know our place with so much more depth and have so much better support systems around us as well.

 

Sam: Lastly, do you have any advice for our listeners?

 

Jo: I think my advice would definitely be to go out, explore and learn about your own backyard and where you actually live and actually really get to know and get to know the people. I mean how often do we not even know our next neighbours or the people that live across the street. Actually start to form some of that community bond and be able to help each other a little bit more.

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Samuel Mann

An Associate Professor with a background in both IT and land management, Sam has developed applied IT for regional government, crown research institutes and large organisations. He has taught computing since 1994, at Otago Polytechnic Information Technology since 1997, including five years as Head of Department. Sam has published over 150 conference and journal papers in the fields of augmented experiences; sustainability; and computer education. Sam is responsible for the development of Education for Sustainability at Otago Polytechnic where we are committed to every graduate thinking and acting as a sustainable practitioner

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