Categories
conservation biology maori

Learning from rongoā Māori

Dr Rob Whitbourne works in conservation in Whakatāne. We talk about how he came to be involved in conservation and how this is driven by
Rongoā Māori medicine.

(note: We apologise for the sound quality of this conversation, the main recorder failed, so this is the back-up. All hail the back-up).

Talking points

Always into nature

Lucky that our playgrounds and experience in life was always based around the bush. My father was always a bushman…when you grow up with people like that they impart on you a sense of understanding….You grow up knowing the names of the trees, where different birds nest, how trees change during the seasons

Sense of curiosity and understanding

(after teenage years in Australia) For a long time after I came back I had this sense of the New Zealand bush as this foreboding dark forest

I went to a rongoā wānanga, a workshop on traditional medicines…it opened my eyes, gave me a feeling of really knowing the bush

PhD focussing on traditional crops and how their significance is maintained today…The bigger question: how indigenous communities engage with research institutes?

The social side of knowledge, isn’t given the same focus – especially when it comes to Western Science and indigenous knowledge systems – the focus is often on factual knowledge and deeper assumptions, ontologies.. and the social stuff isn’t given that much attention..and that leads to a focus on difference…here’s the body of knowledge that one system has, and here’s the body of knowledge that this other system has, or a deeper level, we see the world this way and you see the world that way. That tends to draw out difference and it doesn’t give much room for common ground or interaction.

If we put more attention on the social side of things, on the practitioners, how can the people who do Mātauranga Māori, or people who practice indigenous knowledge in Peruvian communities, how can they best interact? How do the people interact? So the questions are of who has decision making control? How do you respectfully engage with and respond to each others knowledge traditions?

It’s too easy to say these indigenous ideas of nature having a spiritual element, well empiricism doesn’t deal with that so they’re incompatible. But if we say people who work and live in urban institutes and others who live in rural communities, they speak different languages, they have different values, they make decisions in different ways, how can those come together? That gives you more scope to work together.

We lose knowledge when our people are depleted. The two are the same.

We might be lucky to name 5 or 6 plants. We know the world we are familiar with, today we might know 300 logos, before it was 300 plants and animals.

How do we get people connected, to feel part of those places? We are those places

We need to find the spark that’s already there for people – in my case it was rongoā o wananga.

It’s a love of those places, and a love for each other in those places, we are those places.

Environmental management is really people management

A Māori perspective – we are all family (people and land), do you know your family, do you care for them? I’m surrounded by my family.

It reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Activist: Yes, I’ve always stood up to confront and fight for the positive. In a sense of accelerated disruption and destruction there’s a real need for urgency.

Superpower: A genuine commitment to the world around me and its people. I’m an idealist, positive. Maybe that comes from the sense of being I have.

Challenge: conservation on Māori land.

Advice: All of these things require the collective, none you can do on your own.

Categories
democracy dunedin ecology local government

Environmental strategy

Jinty MacTavish

We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.


Chair of the Dunedin City Council’s Community and Environment Committee, Councillor Jinty MacTavish on the draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.
Good friend of the show, Councillor Jinty MacTavish is back to talk us though Dunedin’s draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.

The draft strategy has three themes:

  • Theme 1: Treasuring the environment / Kaitiakitaka
  • Theme 2: Healthy natural environment / He ao tūroa, he ao hauora
  • Theme 3: Environment for the future / Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei
  • Consultation on the strategy is open until the end of August.

    Talking points

    Not having had an environment strategy has been a fraught thing for five years because it means that environmental concerns or issue have, I think, been inadequately considered as part of report development and subsequent Council decision.

    This is a starting point for conversations rather than a final document.

    Staff went back through the last 5 years of submissions, 11,000 submissions and pulled out the key themes people we telling us about the environment.

    (Mayor Dave Cull’s introduction – all part of the Dunedin Ecosystem) Yes, I don’t think we’re entirely there yet, that concept of humans as part of ecosystem isn’t quite reflected right the way through the document, but he intent is there.

    .

    Ecotourism is an activity that leverages environmental strength

    (11% of City protected, cf 33% nationally) Proportionately, we could be protecting more of our land. In terms of a gradation from natural environments to human dominated space, we’ve got a bit of work to do in thinking about projecting land for its natural value alone.

    When we started this strategy, we quickly realised that if we were just doing for Council’s influence in terms of land it owns, it would be pretty limited when we’re talking about the environment.

    I fought hard to get in here human connection with environment… there is challenge for us in helping people understand their role in the ecosystem when they are only seeing a very small part of it.

    The presence of the Otago Regional Council as an environmental regulator doesn’t mean that we ought not have people dedicated to getting outcomes on the ground in terms of this strategy. we’re hoping for feedback from the community on the types of roles that will be needed. The Economic Development Unit, for example, is populated with people who are charged with delivering on specific projects under the Economic Development Strategy.

    Working with different stakeholders, range of mechanisms and incentives…

    Whenever you are writing an environment strategy, it is tempting to think of the environment as something that it “out there, that we can put a fence around and as long as we’re protecting it from possums and not developing it then it’s fine”, but we all know that that’s not going to work, that we are part of this ecosystem and that we need to be adapting and changing the ways that we are operating if we are to ensure that our environment in the broadest sense has a future.

    Clearly our systems are not sustainable. We are too carbon intensive, we are destructive in that how we create our systems at present. We need to be starting to think about how we design our infrastructure and systems that support positive environmental outcomes rather than being just less bad.

    Unless we as a population really understand what it is to be part of an ecosystem, and understand and treasure and feel connected to the ecosystem of which we are a part, we’re simply not going to care about protecting it. You need that motivator, you need that connection, you need that physical connection.

    We should be designing infrastructure that enhances connection, not cutting off connection.

    I would love to hear from people what parts of the environment they don’t feel connected to, and what would facilitate that connection.

    The theme is about community connection, it’s not just about me caring.

    I think there is a growing sense of the collective

    We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.

    We need to move beyond the minimalist mentality, the mentality that says we can only ever do less bad. Then we can start to think about setting some aspirational targets in terms of giving back to our environment.

    You can clearly have appropriate development, and you can have inappropriate development – and what this document is saying is that we want to set some pretty high standards for the type of development into the future to ensure that environmental concerns and aspirations are wrapped up in that development and taken into account at the front end. So that we don’t see the sort of development that erodes the life supporting capacity of our systems.

    We have to as aspirational with this document as we have been with all of the others.

    We have to be aspirational with our environmental goals, because when we get to conversations about trade-offs or synergy points, the environment strategy needs to be putting just as strong a stake in the ground as any of the other strategies.

    (Is it possible to tell the percentage of Council spend that will come under this strategy?) No, everything the Council does will be influenced by this strategy.

    Categories
    communication community computing

    Playfully supporting system change

    Stephen Blyth

     

    Playful ways of engaging people in a way that gets people’s attention – a laugh or a smile is vital.  If we are browbeaten into being involved, who’s going to last?


     

    Stephen Blyth works to empower people in Tangata Whenua, community and volunteer groups.  He is a Net Squared Ambassador and we talk about that role – it’s not about a long list of apps, but about getting a better understanding of where technology fits in to support social change.  Stephen found himself helping to create the first version of CommunityNet Aotearoa in 1998.  He’s barely turned his back on the community and the internet ever since. After leading this pioneering community website he has worked in a wide variety of advisory, capacity building and communications roles for government agencies, and tangata whenua, commuity and voluntary sector organisations. Currently he is instigator of Common Knowledge, a provider of services to good causes to help them effectively use the web, and works part-time for Community Research.

    Talking points

    I decided to spend my career involved in change.

    There’s a large number of people on the planet, we’re a finite planet, the quality of life that we’re experiencing is very different in different parts of the world and even within our own country.

    I believe that everyone could have a good life, with rewarding work, healthy families in an environment that is sustained for all our future generations.  But unfortunately we seem to be trapped in a pattern that is going against the inbuilt and inherent care that we as humans have for other people.

    What has to change is quite a lot, but in a way it’s getting back to living out some of the human values that have been brushed over in what I consider a very materialistic, individualistic society.

    It’s not about doing without. The way that we live,  highly urbanised, driving everywhere, thinking that we can buy happiness – just doesn’t gel for me.

    We really have to fight to make sure that other world views are heard.

    We need the time to create things, we’ve gotten sucked into the idea that we have to buy everything.

    A 40 hour work week is the norm – more for many people –  is that as satisfying as it could be for an individual,  or could some richness and other benefits come from being part of an active community?

    People participating on their own terms.

    Often in a workplace the work is about the skills and experience you bring, but not about you – you have to leave yourself at the door – there’s not a role for the fuller complexity of your life.  In a community setting you can be more yourself.

    We undervalue the important services, but its not about the individuals, it’s about the structure that we’re in, and it’s a structure of great inequality.

    There’s an inbuilt inertia and an inbuilt set of set of incentives for a certain group of people to maintain things as they are.

    There’s a different way of doing things, we don’t all have to become mini-businesses.

    We’ve held ourselves hostage to a set of assumptions that a health society is about growth.

    The danger of monetising everything, costing harm as monetary harm, that it leads “pay it  off, pay some money and eliminate the harm”  – but its a falsehood – the harm still exists.

    I want to encourage more cooperation – individual achievements still respected, but people coming together in a common place.

    People are no longer loyal to one community group – I like this cause now – so a lot of work has to go into staying visible.  But ethics and a good perspective are key.

    Technical tools for social change.

    (On campaigns such as Greenpeace’s polar bear costume) You’ve got to appeal to people, and its not just about ideas.  That’s one of the traps for people who really believe in good causes – “if only people understood the rational, logic of the ideas about parts per million, or the concentration of this…” that would win people over, but its actually also about your heart.   So you need to attend to both.

    I know that there’s a lot of bad stuff, but I choose to get involved in things that will give me the energy to carry on.

    My personal line on activism is where it causes harm to others, I struggle with this, and I respect others for the line they walk – sometimes a very fine line.

    Local groups are about engaging people in local stories, the numbers (of people) don’t matter so much.

    We can’t privilege one set of knowledge over another.

    Activist?  Change maker.  Activist sensibility in critiquing and wanting to challenge.  I’ve definitely had my moments.

    Challenges: Fighting apathy and cyncism.  The challenges we face are so huge.   It worries me deeply, especially as a father – what world are we creating for our children?   So I’m challenged by my own sense of whether I can make a change.    I involve myself in things that reward me and give me energy to carry on and make a change.  As long as I’m involved in the fray in the smallest way I’ll be happy.

    I wish to stay positive and surround myself with people that have that sense of positivity that we can bring about the change that we so deeply need.

    Advice: Be kind to yourselves, be dedicated to the sense of change but have fun.  Whatever we need to achieve won’t be achieved in our own lifespan.  We’re not going solve this just by our intellects, we have to bring our full selves, so allow yourself to have some fun.

    Categories
    computing planning visualisation

    Dr Olaf Schroth

    Olaf Schroth


    Dr Olaf Schroth works for the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  CALP focuses on accessible solutions that bridge research and practice by bringing rigorous science and modeling, visualizations, innovative environmental design and participatory processes to community and landscape planning.

    In this extended interview Olaf talks with Samuel Mann about participatory collaborative planning through visualisation.