Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

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I tēnei rā whakahirahira o ngā moananui, ānei rā aku TINO mihi ki o tātau whanaunga i runga i a HōkūIe’a runga i a Hikianalia. Mā Ranginui, mā Tāwhirimātea, mā Tangaroa, mā Hinemoana koutou e manaaki, e tieki, i runga i ngā ara o o tātau tīpuna. Nā koutou i whakarongo, i whakahoki ki te karanga a Hinemoana kia tū mai tātau, kia mau ki ngā taonga heke iho hei ara tōtika, hei tauira mā tātau katoa. Nō reira e ngā karere o Kiwa… ka mau te wehi – haere pai atu, hoki pai mai.

Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons

On this day, World Oceans Day, I would like to acknowledge the incredible work of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in raising awareness about the health of our oceans. We are people of the sea. It was the cry of our oceans that set me on this path, and it is the cry of the oceans that these incredible voyagers have responded to in the most profound and inspiring of ways. Since the 1970s our Kanaka Maoli whanau have worked tirelessly to restore our voyaging traditions, and that is a call that resounded across the pacific to many of their relations and to is in Aotearoa. A few years ago a flotilla from across the pacific set sail to circumnavigate the Pacific, and carry the message of our obligation to care for our oceans. Now they are taking that message even further and circumnavigating the globe. The voyage is called Mālama Honua, which means to care for our Earth, and they will carry this vital message of the need to protect our natural and cultural treasures across 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, and 26 countries.

Travel well, dear cousins, Uncles, Aunties. Bear the call of Hinemoana across the oceans, gather the tide of humanity to answer her call, to live to our fullest potential as consciously loving children of Papatūānuku. May the stars and tides guide you true, may the winds favour you, may Hinemoana and Tangaroa care for you and bring you home safely to your whānau. Mauri taiao, Mauri tangata, Mauri Ora.

Mahalo, Hawai’i

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It’s been a wonderful month for learnings, not so great for plastic waste. Both for the same reason: International travel.

I was VERY fortunate to be selected to present at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education (WIPC:E),  as a part of a larger delegation of 48 people from Aotearoa. As a group we travelled over to Hawai’i and stayed on the west coast for a few days, hosted by an amazing ohana there, before moving on to the conference in Honolulu for a week.

I’m just going to say now that it is REALLY hard to travel without using plastic. Not impossible, but I learnt a great lesson. Travelling non-plastic requires diligent preparation. Especially when you’re travelling in a group and you don’t necessarily have your own transport, itinerary, or eating arrangements.

Plastic, inside plastic, with other plastic, all wrapped together in plastic…

Plastic on planes…. ohhhh the plastic on planes. The condiments that come plastic wrapped, next to the plastic wrapped cutlery, and the plastic wrapped serviette, all provided inside their own collective plastic bag… and the plastic wrapped blanket… and pillow… and earphones…  And the consistent offerings of water in plastic cups. Do a girl’s head in. I’m writing to Hawaiian Airlines in the hopes that they’ll consider aligning themselves a bit more with the statewide move to reduce plastic waste.

So anyway I did what I could, where I could. I tried using the same cups/cutlery where possible – but like I said travelling in a group without your own itinerary or transport made things difficult. I didn’t bring my plastic waste home with me to weigh so let’s just say yeah, nah…. May has been the big ole plastic fail.

With that out of the way, I have to say, Hawai’i has been the most inspirational and transformative journey I have ever been on – and I’ve done my fair share of travel.

As we moved away from the airport and toward the west, our eyes were glued on the landscape and the beaches – The West Coast of Oahu is, without a doubt, breathtakingly beautiful, in land and in people (it has the highest Maoli population on the island). There’s an undeniable majesty to the whenua, but it is beset by a number of challenges.  The refineries, wastewater plants, and the incredible number of cable systems crisscrossing the landscape reminded us that our tuakana fight the same ngangara as we do in Aotearoa. Our first sight of a homeless camp drew a gasp from some people on the bus, but then moments later came another, and then another, and just like that we realised these communities are another part of the landscape, particularly so for Wai’anae, where these camps have been set up and supported as a means of channelling homeless away from highly visible tourist centers of Waikiki and the North Shore.

It didn’t take long to learn that, like so many other nations that have a colonized indigenous population – the native communities in Hawai’i experience the greatest social and economic challenges – their lands are targetted for toxic landfills, surrounded by chemical research facilities, military training grounds GMO crops and pesticide test crops. Wai’anae is Oahu’s largest native community and has more homeless than anywhere else in the state.

And, like so many other nations that have tried to overthrow indigenous will – there is a deep, profound resilience within the people of the land. A strength underpinned by whakapapa, ancestral ties to the land that are inseverable by nature of their divinity. For all of the anguish I witnessed at the continued barrage of the government, I was inspired the unstinting resistance, the pride, and the resolute nature with which many of them stand their ground, and build toward a new future.

So for the first few days we were hosted by these guys – Ma’o Organic Farms. A non profit organisation based in Wai’anae, they grow organic produce, employing local youth, and linking them into tertiary education – while also promoting sustainable lifestyles, cultural values and community connectedness. We spent a morning working on the farm in various areas, each of the groups led by youth, and I have to say I was blown away by the strength of their character. A truly amazing outfit. They are promoting the values of sustainable practices, championing the incredibly important cause of food sovereignty, providing local youth with an education and income, work ethics, and a skillset that will provide for them and their whanau for the rest of their days. All of this in addition to a growing organic landbase.

Looking out over some of the Ma’o fields toward their solar panel field in the background

 

 

Planting up a field of kale – much respect to these youths this is hard work in the Hawai’i sun!

 

The incredible crew at Ma’o Farms – Kamuela Enos, far left, Social Enterprise Director and the amazing Terri Langley – organic kai extraordinaire…

Just when I thought I could get my head to stop spinning at the awesomeness of it all – I get to go out to dinner with Kamuela and meet his good friend Kevin Chang and powerhouse of a wife Miwa, who is the Deputy Director for KUA, an umbrella organization for a number of the grassroots environmental initiatives happening across the islands. Check out their website and prepare to be seriously blown away by some of the amazing work going on over there.

Here is Kamuela talking about the Ma’o Farms approach to resistance through food sovereignty and education.

And here’s another seriously inspiring talk on clever resistance:

Hawai’i has a LONG history of political resistance, and like our people, have had to make a stand, and hold their ground, numerous times. But it can’t always be about saying no. We need to plan our “Yes” strategy. There is a time for making a stand, and there is a time for moving ahead… and we need to be clever, and strategise, about that path ahead – because if we don’t chart our own progress, then progress will become something that happens TO us. We need to be divergent in our resistance, and arm ourselves no only with flags and placards, but also with pens, with the tools of the maara, with the knowledge of our own ancestral healing systems, with the skills of negotiation.

This resonated so strongly with me – from the creed of my whānau:

To the values of the indigenous sustainability program that I deliver – the harnessing of modern technology, the resurfacing and reapplication of ancestral knowings, the faith in a divine thread that links us to our purpose and to all things – to all that surrounds us – the positive, collaborative, progressive approach to forging our path ahead in this world in a way that maintains our identity, our integrity… the obligations we have to our tipuna to carry their ways of being, and knowing, and doing, forward to our descendents in a way that is meaningful and respectful. This is everything that I am about, so naturally my heart sung every minute that I spent around this kaupapa.
From there I went to WIPC:E – and again, there were many, MANY fantastic experiences, and wonderful workshops, and connections, and how can one not be warmed and inspired when they’re surrounded by so many empowered, gifted, intelligent, indigenous relations.

On our first night in Honolulu we went to the Bishop Museum for the Aotearoa evening. The absolute highlight for me, that evening, was seeing the awe inspiring Dr. Kamana‘opono Crabbe – who, as the CEO for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, wrote to Senator John Kerry asking for legal advice on the sovereign status of Hawai’i – which, according to the USA was formally and legally annexed in 1898 – however the legality of the events surrounding the annexation are still highly contested, and in any case the Kingdom of Hawai’i is still acknowledged, even by the US, in a somewhat grey manner – and many consider the state to be a sovereign nation under illegal occupation by the United States. Crabbe’s letter to the Secretary of State – in demanding final transparency – was an act of political resistance the likes of which has never been seen from within a state agency. This is history in the making, and the type of savvy, powerful leadership that is required by our people in this climate.

Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe at The Bishop Museum

I found this quote about him, which aptly summarises these qualities:

“It took a resistance — and not just a resistance for its own sake — it took a resistance from one who plays equally well in both worlds: one who would [don] the suit and a malo; one who is educated at the academy and reared in the lo‘i kalo; one whose mind is firmly set in the present and whose spirit is free to roam the past. Sir, my children will know your name, and so will their children, and so will their children after them. This is my honor to you.”

A letter, yet an act so powerful, your name is immortalised.

From Oahu I went to Moloka’i to visit with ohana from Ka Honua Momona – again another inspiring initiative that is returning back to their ancestral practices as a form of provision, education, and re-connection to their ancestral roots.

Two years ago we hosted the Ka Honua Momona ohana here in Gisborne, and connections were made there that will never be broken. This whanau have a deep, spiritual, profound connection to their identity that is bolstered through engaging with their ancestral practices and developing indigenous education systems by revitalizing natural and cultural resources. After being welcomed to the fishponds by my Moloka’i sister Kauwila, we were taken to present to the Moloka’i community on our pathways and work. I was incredibly humbled by the warmth and beauty of the Moloka’i community, will never forget my time there, and cannot wait to go back to connect with the ohana again.

Mahalo, Hawai’i – in you I saw the strength of our collective tipuna – the ties that bind us are rooted in our shared ancestry, the maara that was seeded in the days of our Atua.

We are resilient, we are innovative, we are determined, and we will thrive.

April Weigh In

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40grams – up on last month. I let myself down a bit this month by being unprepared – I came back from some time away and was out of dogfood, it was late and they didn’t have biscuits at the dairy so I got a dogroll for Ella. I also accepted some crayfish that a student gave me after dropping her home, and then after removing the whitebread plasticbag that it came in, passed it on to a good friend. It’s a little bit frustrating that other plastics are still working its way out of my household from last year. My bathroom is MUCH less… plasticky (?) than it was in January. There are, however, a couple of items (mostly gifted stuff from previous years), that, with my heightened awareness of toxins, I will likely NEVER use, so I can’t see the point in holding on to them, and can’t repurpose, but hate to just throw them into the wastestream. To be honest I feel a little guilty re-gifting them too.

“Here, have some cancer causing agents. Who loves ya.”

So… I need to make my mind up about throwing this stuff into the wastestream – or giving it to someone. Maybe I’ll send it all to Simon Bridges. He’s quite fond of pollutants.

It’s been a BUSY month. Fighting petroleum/oil drilling in our region – TAG oil, to be specific, thanks to good old Simon Bridges, has been granted exploratory permits, and after a VERY lacklustre consultation process our local council granted them resource consent to begin drilling.

They only had a few weeks within which they could drill (they’re not allowed to drill in the winter months) – so we scrambled and searched for ways to hold them off until this week. First act of resistance… was karakia.

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We went to the drillsite, connected to the whenua, and offered karakia to Papatūānuku for her to prepare herself for what was to come. This was not for the oil companies – this was between us, and our whenua. We prayed to her so that she could prepare herself, and we prayed to Ranginui for more rain (because they couldn’t build their drilling platform or ford when it was raining). Some of our akonga were confused, they thought we were going there for a protest against the oil company. It opened the floor for discussing the many different forms of resistance and activism. Just holding hands and giving everyone a space to discuss their hopes, and offer their own prayers in their own way, is a potent act of resistance.

Well, must have been… the following two weeks saw TORRENTIAL rain, a couple of cyclonic weather patterns, and high enough water flows to hold them off. We now have a few months to formulate a call for a review.

Also spent this month putting together a presentation for WIPCE, in Hawai’i – where I’ll be speaking on the environmental degree I’m very blessed to be given the task to facilitate and deliver. Well, environmental sustainability, governance, leadership, succession and resource management degree (or we can just call it a kaitiekitanga degree). Was also attending to my own studies, and delivering another presentation at the National Permaculture in New Zealand Hui. Ahhhh such a beautiful group of people speaking my language of connectedness, progression, care for Papatūānuku and interdependence. Very empowering, and soul-nourishing weekend there. Then back home, tutorial, and then off to run the Tū Marae challenge – great team-relay from Takipu Marae to Mangatū Marae – 20km all up. Wonderful day – 154 competitors ranging from 8 to 80 years. Loved seeing all the beautiful whānau teams especially all the nannies and koros running/walking with their lil mokos beside them. Too cute. I got the 5km hilly run leg. Hard work but great to connect with the whenua that I usually drive through. Even got to pick up some plastic along the way.
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Mel, Me, and Char on the last leg (and my last legs…)

And here are all the whānau, warming up – and warming my heart :D

And so, in keeping with my own doctrine of loving yourself so that you can care for others, I had to take some time out to just catch my breath when I got back home this past week… which meant hanging out with Ella and Benny, and tending to my treehouse.

Much love, whānau.

Chat soon! xoxo Mauriora.
T

March Weigh In!

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feb weigh in

YUSSSS a significant difference! :D

26 grams. Consisting largely of a plastic box-casing I found that was wrapped around a couple of japanese sushi bowls and chopsticks that was sitting in the bookcase (it really looked like a book when I bought it however long ago).

ANYWAYS – what I’m most happy about is that it really only consisted of a few things this month:

A couple of plastic bags that I found in a spring clean.
An old synthetic flower that once belonged on a hairclip (also found in the cleanup)
a phonecharge cord that died on me
the plastic case for the new phone charge cord
a paracetamol sleeve
receipts
the plastic bladder of one of my major weaknesses of all my days – Kewpie Mayonnaise (purchased last year – byebye kewpie addiction).

I am SO getting there!!! :D

Awesome morning meeting with the very cool local councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown and eco-comrade Ness regarding our plan to make our town plastic bag free.
We’ve started to gather public feedback, and initial signs are that it’s supportive. Our town SHOULD be green leaders in this cause – we rely so heavily on our natural resources – but we have twice the national average of plastic in our wastestream.
So phase one really is – getting the word out there, scoping support, beat the feet on the street with some petitions, draft a submission for our environment committe, get a questionnaire out there, and start engaging with some schools.

LOTS to do really – but absolutely do-able – so… just keep swimming.

Galsies (and Menses)

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So… tampons suck.

How’s that for a conversation starter. But honestly… nobody LIKES them, only some of us might prefer them to pads… which also suck. Ok I’ll stop pairing the word suck with menstrual products now.

I’m going to do a comparative review of non-plastic menstrual products in a later post (here’s a great divacup review by Hine Taiao). But first I want to talk a little bit about this topic.

I also want to say – Men – this post is for you to read too. Let me outline a couply reasons why:

1. Only half the world understanding the oppression of women that is characterised by the putrification of a completely natural process, will not bring about the change that is needed. When you freak out and turn your back on a completely natural process, you’re not only CHOOSING to be less supportive of the women in your life, you’re validating a message that the subject of menstruation is taboo, unmentionable, and aberrant. That is offensive in the extreme. It is a natural process, that relates to the most divine function of bringing children into this world. If your mother did not menstruate, you would not be here. If that thought made you cringe then you DEFINITELY need to read this post (a few times).

2. If you have children, this is an incredibly important example to set for them. Your daughters need to know that you do not see them as weird or dirty for one week of every month. Your sons need to see that their primary role model treats women with respect for who they are as nature made them. I’m not saying you all need to go sit down with them and talk the whole thing through (if you think you can without mortifying them then by all means do). But you certainly can be receptive, open, use positive language that DOESN’T pose menstruation as unsanitary or aberrant, educate yourself on the realities of what women go through, and support your children in doing the same. Honestly I can’t go past THIS GUY for the perfect example of what I’m talking about. Legend.

3. If you have a partner who is feeling emotional/sick/tired/bloated because of her moon phase, then showing a little bit of understanding will go a LONG way. I don’t mean patting her belly or asking her if it’s “that time” again (unless you fancy being impaled by The Look). What I mean here is – you have demystified the subject for yourself, and over your relationship you have been mature enough about the topic of menstruation to develop a space where she can feel safe to discuss it without being looked at strangely or judged, or having it used against her. It means you are aware of the power of running a warm bath for her, or giving her the space she needs. You know (and acknowledge) that what she is experiencing (difficult or not) is a manifestation of a much larger, divine process – a process that is necessary for the continuation of humankind. Believe me – take this point on board and you will be considered a Jedi partner.

4. What I’m discussing here is the the empowerment and protection of your future generations, as well. You should want to be a part of this discussion.

So understanding that we’re lied to about what we consume is not a new thing, for me – but this journey has highlighted it. This high-consumption economy doesn’t work for men or women – but, especially for women, there is an element to this economy that tells us we aren’t pretty enough, we aren’t attractive enough, we aren’t sexy or hot or desirable enough unless we buy THAT new product, or emulate whatever current fashion is being dictated – and a lot of it goes back to the imperative that we need to look like pretty chattels. You’re only allowed hair on your head, not your body, you should only show flesh if you’re a certain size, here wear this dress, here put this chemical on your skin, here insert this inside you, hide that sweatpatch it’s unseemly – smell like this, look like this, walk like this. We all need to stop blindly trusting that voice – and women in particular need to tell it to naff off. I’m not saying to STOP wearing dresses or cosmetics. I’m saying be in control of when you want to, and how you want to wear these things rather than being the passive recipient of toxic thought and product. In being a passive recipient you are enslaving yourself to an economy that is ultimately telling you how to perceive yourself, and respond accordingly (by consuming). The difference is illustrated by the questions you ask when you look in the mirror – are they related to how happy YOU are, whether you are reflecting your own desire and happiness – or whether you are constantly judging yourself with the assumed voices and thoughts of others.

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Originally, in this journey I applied the term “stealth plastic” to the packaging that looked non plastic but, after opening, you’d find some plastic inside of it (inevitably I’d do a little shaky-fist kind of “currrse yoooou” dance). Now, however – I’ve found the notion of stealth plastic to be a lot more insidious, and far-reaching. Growing my awareness about the level of toxicity that I’ve been exposed to all my life to this point has been a scary, and often angering process. It’s REALLY highlighted my notion of kaitiekitanga in relation to not only our land and resources, but of my own body, and as a woman, in particular – being a kaitieki for future generations. I’ve come to clarity about the fact that the battle for Papatūānuku begins within us – and so it should be that so often we find women at the forefront – not only for the fact that we have borne the brunt of this economy’s tactics for so long but also because, as women, we are the micro of Papatūānuku. We are Mother Earth, manifested. The relationship between what we have allowed to happen to Papa is a direct reflection of what we have allowed to happen to ourselves.

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“Papatuanuku – Earth Mother” By the very talented artist Wiremu Barriball.

We have been lulled into a space where we place faith in what others provide to us – and those others have ulterior motives. We have become the passive recipients of toxic suggestions and products upon, and within, our bodies – and that, first and foremost, needs to stop. How we perceive and respond to the issue of menstruation is perfectly reflective of this – we insert chemical laden products into the most sensitive part of our body – our whare tangata – and over our lifetime each of us women will do that roughly 16,000 – 24,000 times – all the while perceiving it as a “sanitary product”, the inference being that menstruation is an unsanitary process. Keep in mind that whatever we absorb through our skin is not broken down in the same way saliva and stomach acid breaks down what we eat, so toxins can arguably be even more dangerous – and some of these toxins are being absorbed into our bloodstream at the most vulnerable point of our being – our whare tangata, where the skin is most delicate and the absorption swift and direct.

Ok so let’s look at the physicality of what I’m saying here: The comparitive review I mentioned earlier? I had, at one point, intended to include paper applicator tampons in my review until I found out that the paper applicators get their smooth finish by the inclusion of phthalates. Phthalates are plastic chemicals that disrupt our hormone balance and have been clearly linked to breast cancer.

So that’s the applicator – what about the tampons themselves? What is actually IS IT that we are placing inside our whare tangata every month?

Largely, it’s cotton, and/or rayon. Non-organic cotton will have been sprayed with a variety of pesticides and may well also be from GMO cotton crops (50% of the world’s cotton crops are GMO). Rayon is made from cellulose, which is derived from woodpulp. To be specific – it’s cellulose xanthate, which is woodpulp derivative that is treated with caustic soda. All tampons undergo a bleaching process using chemicals such as chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide. The exception to these are the organic, bleach free alternatives such as what’s on offer from Natracare. Organic, plant cellulose, bleach free, and compostable in your back yard.

So – if you’re using tampons, there you have it, a nasty little chemical compound inside your whare tangata every month. The home of all of your future generations. You alone have the power to protect it and you alone must make the choice to do so.

So now let’s have a look at pads. Most pads contain crude oil plastic, odour neutralizers, phthalates (yes that nasty hormone disruptor that’s linked to abnormal cell growth and cancer), and other plastic chemicals. In fact your standard pad contains the equivalent of about four plastic bags. Consider that if we are using an average of 16,800 pads per lifetime that’s a LOT of plastic going to landfill or for incineration (The National Women’s Health Network estimates some 12billion pads going to US landfills every year – that’s the equivalent of 48billion plastic bags).
padmadness

Not good huh. Again, the exception to plastic content in pads here would be the organic options such as that offered by Natracare.

OR you could always make your own:

Needless to say I won’t EVER be using standard tampons or pads again.

So let me be clear in what I’m saying – we would ALL benefit from severely reducing the amount of plastic in our lives. It has become patently clear to me, however, that as women, we are under particular pressure to consume products laden with toxic, plastic-based (and often carcinogenic) chemicals. Many women spend a lot of time giving out to others without due consideration of care of self. My time in Māori health has taught me that Māori women IN PARTICULAR are prone to falling ill to lifestyle illnesses that are directly related to caring for everyone else, all the time, and not being vigilant enough in their self care and self protection. Philosophically and spiritually, this practice leaves us in a weakened state – physically – the results are that we overburden ourselves, consume convenience products, do not safeguard ourselves against toxins, and the results are that we are constantly over-represented in illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

In understanding that our language has the following meanings:

Whenua = Land/Placenta
Whānau = Family/Birth
Whare Tangata = House of Humankind/Womb

here, then is what I’m talking about, in a visual form:

KAITIEKIWAHINE

What I am suggesting here is that we all must have multiple spheres of protection – each of which require OUR OWN protection from toxic suggestion, toxic behaviour, toxic perception and toxic products.

These spheres begin in our inner sanctum – protecting the whenua within, the place of birth, the House of Humankind. Within that space stands Hineteiwaiwa.

There is then the space of tinana (body) – the embodiment of wellbeing – the outer sanctum of our temple that must also be protected and cared for as the context and grounds within which your whare tangata must survive. Within that realm stands Hina.

Then there is the realm of whānau (family) – The realm which women hold to protect and provide for those around them. Within that realm stands Hine Korako.

Then there is the realm of whenua (land) – The macro of ourselves, where humankind dwells, and we hold the space of caring for the land so that it can nourish us, and our loved ones. Within this realm dwells Kahukura ki Uta.

Understand that these Ātua Wāhine sit within my own conceptual framework of the spheres of protection. Yours may well differ and that is fine – my point is that within each of these spheres there is a space for you to erect a pou and remain viligant in your protection of this sphere.

The wellbeing that is fed to your innermost center flows naturally up and out into the outer spheres and circulates back through from the whenua back into your being as well. In this way do we receive and return our wellbeing between ourselves and the taiao (environment). As you can see from the diagram – the harmony of this process is reflected in the synonymous terms for our feminine center and the other realms. Coming to grips with this is infinitely more beautiful than anything you will find on a magazine cover.

shave2

Last week I went ahead and shaved my head for cancer (thankyou if you are one of the many who donated to the cause). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my “wth am I thinking” moments leading up to the shave. A lot of people who had shaved before spoke of how liberating it would feel. Well, to be honest – I felt proud (and a little chilly). I thought a lot about my Aunty Lena, who is battling cancer and is a MASSIVE inspiration to me. I thought about my other close family members and friends who have battled it, some who have won, some who still battle on, and of course, those that have lost. All of these thoughts flicked through my mind as the locks came off.

Here is the liberation, though – I get to define my beauty all over again, and I get to defy the long-locked, or styled ideal that rests so easily with many of us.

At the same time, the “#nomakeupselfie” campaign swept through facebook – and there were many critics of this campaign. Terms such as narcissism and superficiality were bandied about…. and really – even though I myself didn’t take a non-makeup selfie shot – I ENJOYED the campaign. Helped that I knew it had raised over $6M NZD in a couple of days for breast cancer. Still – even without that – I enjoyed the wave of natural beauty sweeping across my newsfeed. Many cancer sufferers worry a lot about their appearance, and the augmented beauty in the media only makes their experience worse – so I enjoyed the wave of profile pics that defied the imposed standards of beauty. I enjoyed the mutual support for one another, and ANY opportunity for us to remind ourselves that we can be beautiful in our most natural state should be taken… because honestly – we DO spend too much time and money on trying to achieve imposed measures of beauty, rather than deciding and defining for ourselves what beauty means.

I work closely with young women in my other job as a health researcher – and I’m so very keenly aware of the pressure women are under to look a certain way – and of course, under the same pressure to consume massive amounts in order to look that way. Cosmetics, cleansers, fragrances – again full of the same harmful phthalates that are linked to cancer and premature birth. This of course is in addition to the microplastics found in exfoliating scrubs. BIG UPS to New York and California who are legislatively banning microbeads in cosmetics. As far as scrubs and soaps go – my personal fave (gawd how I love their soaps) is Lush. As for cosmetics – I rarely wear them anyway, save a bit of eyeliner… but am keeping an eye out for organic eyeliner that doesn’t have a plastic lid.

But you know, really the last line of defence (and often the only line of defence) is ourselves, ladies. It’s for us to be discerning in the content of what we consume and the level of our consumption. And you know what else – I think we owe it to our whānau to police this area for them as well. This, of course, also applies to the many wonderful amazing fathers who are in positions of defining the environment their children are in. I came across this blog a few weeks ago and can’t applaud this woman enough for the lengths she is going to in maintaining a healthy environment for her whanau:

http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/p/non-toxic-avenger.html


“After coming to terms with the fact that the autism and cancer which had impacted her family were most likely the result of environmental toxins, author Deanna Duke undertook a mission to dramatically reduce her family’s chemical exposure.”

I already know that I won’t go back to consuming plastic once this year is done, and I’m very grateful for people like Deanna Duke who is sharing her story, and providing me with inspiration on how I can detoxify my environment even more.

I am a Ngāti Porou woman. I am the kaitieki of my body, whānau and whenua.

Serious as…

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Today we’re going to get serious as, well… cancer.

Most who have looked into the harm of plastics will have heard at some point about the links between plastic and cancer.

Last month for World Cancer Day (and National Cancer Prevention day in the US), leading health and environmental experts, including Dianne Cohen from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, were in a panel discussion in Washington DC that looked at how we can reduce risks for Cancer by promoting healthier lifestyles and environments.

Less Cancer Board Members (l) Veronique Pittman, Bill Couzens, Stormy Stokes Hood
National Cancer Prevention Day February 4, 2013 Capitol Building, Washington, DC

The links between plastic and cancer have been discussed for quite some time, but recently more and more clarity is being provided about these links – and it’s becoming quite conclusive how very direct these links are.

We also know that cancer rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, and are projected to continue to do so unless we make some serious changes to our diet and lifestyle choices. With what we now know about links between plastics and cancer, I’m going to suggest that those diet and lifestyle choices need to include LESS plastics – less plastic packaging, and prevention of plastics going into our waste stream, and into the environment where they are also entering our food chain, through worms, and through fish.

Cancer doesn’t JUST restrict itself to class, ethnicity or income level – however we also know that the lower to middle income groups suffer with the highest rates of cancer, and that this is both linked to lifestyle AND to access to appropriate health care. So again, I find myself reflecting on what this means to me within a Māori context, in light of the fact that we also suffer the highest cancer rates in Aotearoa. Our health systems pose serious barriers to our people being able to access early diagnosis and health care. Those structures do need to change but structural change of the kind that we need takes a long time.

Meanwhile – here’s what we can do. We can make healthier choices for ourselves, our whānau, and our manuhiri. We can recognise that we are a PART of nature. That when we pollute nature, we pollute ourselves and make ourselves (and our children/future generations) more vulnerable to cancer. We can promote that within our whānau and communities so that the message spreads, and more of us are making better choices.
So, while we’re talking about raising awareness, and cancer – here’s what else I’m doing:

March 24th I’m shaving my head.

So shaving your head is big, for women… and it’s big, for Māori too. We have all sorts of cultural and spiritual attachments to our hair. One of our most commonly known stories of haircutting was that of Taranga, Mother of Maui who fished up the North Island – who, believing Maui was dead as a baby, cut off her hair, wrapping it around him and casting him to sea (hence his name Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga, “Maui, of the topknot of Taranga”).


“Taranga” by artist Robyn Kahukiwa – see original in gallery here.

Through such narratives we can see the cultural attachment and significance of our hair, as Māori. Hair cutting is a form of grief expression, and had many other spiritual uses as well. I was having this discussion with a dear sister the other evening. We spoke, over skype, about the meaning of hair, about hair as a shield, about vanity, and perception, and identity – and how all of it was influenced and framed by our hair. We were discussing whether or not I could, or should, go ahead and shave my head to raise funds and awareness for cancer (and also, importantly for me this message goes hand in hand with the links between plastic and cancer). In the middle of this I get an email from a friend whose 9 year old daughter Liv has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This is Liv:

Isn’t. She. An Angel.

So I hung up from my sister and started chatting with my friend about Liv’s battle, about the battle they are all, as a family, fighting alongside her. I honestly have no words for the respect and admiration I have for Livia and her family. I recalled fighting that battle alongside my father, and seeing through his final days… and the many other people in my whānau that have fought this horrid disease. I thought of all the young children just like Liv who are spending their days in hospital right now, and their parents who sit, lives on hold, breath held, by their sides. I wept a lot that night… and I realised – my hair’s big but in relation to THAT… it’s not THAT big. It can go. If it can raise some money to help ease a family’s load through this journey they are facing, it can go. If it can bring more awareness to the links between plastic and cancer, it can go. If it can make someone who DOESN’T have a choice about keeping or losing their hair feel better, it can go.

If you’d like to sponsor me – here’s the link. Please also consider donating to Liv’s fund (details are on the picture or you can find her facebook page here).

Now…. MY PLASTIC TALLY FOR FEBRUARY! It’s not been a great month… I kept getting couriered things and each time they arrived in a plastic bag :-/ I’ve saved the bubble wrap for a little project I have in mind (will show you when it’s done).

febtally

Weight: 40gms Yep… an INCREASE on January 

The bulk of it is due to me still working the plastics out of my household from last year (shampoo and conditioner is now all gone, as is the sugar from last December’s baking blitz).
A few bottle tops (that’s fast becoming my achilles heel, so going to make a concerted effort to have my drink bottle topped up with yummy lemon-honey water).
Receipts… always receipts…
and the aforementioned courier bags.

MARCH, COME AT ME! I’m going to aim to half that weight this month.

Mauriora everyone. xo