Distance

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Kia Ora Everyone…

It’s late at night and I’m sitting in the wharekai of our humble, beautiful little marae in the backblocks of Rangitukia (not that I’m sure Rangitukia has frontblocks but anyway)… I’ve been going through scholarship applications with my rural students before they embark on their second year of tertiary study, my Uncles are snoozing discreetly next door (my Aunties are the loudest snorers in our whānau and none of them are in the whare tonight), my cuzzies are sitting out back in the kauta swapping dive stories. They’ve all been working away all day putting a new roof up on the wharenui. It’s a warm night, so all the doors are open. Outside, Hina is full and heavy above the horizon, highlighting each angle and plane of our whenua and bathing everything in an iridescent blue light. Above, Ranginui stretches out, resplendent in his diamond-studded korowai, and again, as always, I look to the stars with an instinctive notion to seek guidance, just as all my ancestors have done before me.

So I’m relaxing in the soft interplay of familiar noises when another one barrels over the top – our old fridge rattles and starts whirring into action – with a force that sounds like it’s trying to create it’s own internal iceage. It only goes for a short while and even though the cacophony stands out – it still sort of fits and in any case it makes me smile. Because, like pretty much everything else in our beautiful whare – it’s humble. Our seating is a mix of pews, wooden dining chairs and aluminium framed plastic chairs – and a broken lazyboy. We have a bunch of donated glassware, our cutlery doesn’t match, the bare wooden floor is unpolished but carries the patina of generations of bustling foottraffic.


Here, come sit with me in the broken (but still comfy) lazyboy and listen to the sounds of our whare kai at midnight (best with headphones).

The cheeky laughter of my cousins outside and distant soft snores of my exhausted Uncles next door are all that is required to feel rich in this space. When I hear those, I look around at the humility of everything else and it all comes together. Like the old knitted jersey that your mum makes you. Like nan’s recipes for simple old school cheese scones. These things have our heart. We make do, and there’s an honour in making do. There’s value in something having a history, in being a part of your history, of playing a role in your life. I don’t just love our whare in spite of these things – they strengthen my feelings and make me smile, GENUINELY smile, and feel thankful for what we have (especially each other), and what we can make do with in order to keep what we have (especially each other).

This is, for me, a really important part of this journey. When I consider what it means, as a Māori, to be Non-Plastic, all of these things are related. I consider the fact that it’s simply not necessary to buy the newest, the flashest, the next model up… Just a generation ago people stitched their socks, they fixed their appliances, and they purchased more locally – they consumed less and interacted more. What does our throwaway culture means in terms of how we view and treat relationships?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publishing of “No Ordinary Sun” by Hone Tuwhare, and last night I went to a moving performance piece based on 8 of Tuwhare’s poems. It stirred me, and immersed me in a pool of thought about relationships. Relationships with each other, relationships with the whenua, and even relationships with our material belongings. It is just this most recent generation that has become the “throwaway” generation… and I can’t help but also consider the many states of distance this generation experiences. The distance from our ancestors, the distance from our rights, the distance from our land, the distance from our impact upon the land, and, of course… the distance from each other.

tuwhare
The very talented Puriri Koria, Teina Lee Moetara and Pereri King taking us on a journey with Hone Tuwhare.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t abhor any and all technological advancement. Some of it is invaluable in helping us to maintain and strengthen our relationships – some of it can be of great use to help bridge these distances. Of course there are times when we NEED to upgrade. But much of our consumption is for consumption’s sake, and much of our upgrading is for upgrading’s sake. Many of our rights are given away when we become complicit in these systems of high consumption… a perfect example is the personal investment each of us pour into petroleum based plastics, and by that I mean plastic bags, cellphones, polyester clothing, plastic packaged food, and well… pretty much most things plastic. This, of course supports the industry that exploits fossil fuels at the expense of many of our rights (human rights, land rights, and indigenous rights). So while some of these purchases may be necessary – let’s face it, most of them aren’t. But we do it anyway, because we distance ourselves from the impact of our actions upon the environment. And in doing so we’ve distanced ourselves from the environment – and particularly for Tangata Whenua that means we have distanced ourselves from ourselves. By that, I mean, the most authentic version of ourselves.


Io – Universal Spirit, by Liam Barr
“The vibrational song of the earth is reserved for those who are prepared to listen. Here the Tiki figure embraces Papatuanuku as an infant gains comfort from its own mother’s heartbeat. Tuatara act as guardian to the infant and offer guidance and wisdom in the ways of being.”

We are people of the land – the very term “Plastic Māori” from which I derive my moniker is a reflection of the relative value of ‘synthetic’ to ‘natural’ in Te Ao Māori. When we call someone a “Plastic Māori”, “Plastic” takes the position of all that is inauthentic and therefore untrustworthy in this world, in direct conflict to the word “Māori” which relates to all things natural. We are, as Māori, at our most peaceful when we are in nature. Many traditional healers consider plastic vessels inappropriate for natural medicine. There is a resonance in all of these facts, that being: We are our most authentic selves when we are in touch with nature. The further from nature we shift, the less in touch with ourselves we become.

The natural symbiosis of the environment – the interconnectedness and interdependence of Rangi and Papa, of Tāne, of Hine Moana, and all their mokopuna across the spectra of genus and species speaks to us, with every breath, and in every way, of the importance of relationships. A healthy community is a symbiotic community where every member has a contributing role. This is as true for a whānau as it is for an ecosystem – and of course it is a truth that exists with us as an equal contributing member of an ecosystem, one that affects, and is affected by it. As Tangata Whenua, our whakapapa extends beyond our Aunts and Uncles, beyond our Nannies and Koroua and Tīpuna Tangata – it extends to tipua, it extends to Atua, and it extends to rākau, to manu, to pēpeke. It expands beyond our islands and across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa to our Pacific ancestors both beneath and above the waves. It expands celestially at the same time as it stretches forth terrestrially. We hold a space in a multi-dimensional genealogical chart that includes all manner of denizens from the realms of ocean, forest, and sky. We simply cannot hold this space effectively, as Tangata Whenua, and continue to turn our backs on the impacts of our actions that cause harm to our Whānau Taiao. In claiming our rights as Tangata Whenua, we need to understand what this truly means in a balanced sense… and that can be a challenging notion for many of us. Is our “Tangata” balanced with our “Whenua”? Or are we living as TANGATA whenua. These are the notions that I’m exploring and engaging with on my journey. The preciousness of our relationships to each other, to ourselves, and the world around us… and how bolstering one, can strengthen the others.

Mauritaiao, Mauriora.
xo

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Foiled!

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SIGH…. Ok so my Aunty wanted some Monoi Oil from Rarotonga we ordered it last year and after a long journey it finally arrived… Packed in 3 courier bags because I had to send the courier bag for it to come back in (and I’m grateful that they reused that to keep it from leaking when they sent it to me ) and then it had to be resent because of the awesome courier. Funny thing about going plastic free – this much plastic in the house feels like an abomination! Ok sooooo… I guess I can retrieve the bubble wrap for re-use! :-/

Plastic Bag Ban in Bali

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Less than a day after that last post and I’ve come across a petition for the ban of plastic bags in Bali!
Here is a great write up, along with some shocking pictures of the pollution I was referring to in last night’s blog post

Young Balinese surfer Sonny Perrussel and his friends are calling for a more permanent solution. “It’s just disgusting and really sad,” Perrussel said. “It’s really bad for surfing because it smells and your skin gets oily.” Sick of surfing in the foul water, they started an online petition to ban the use, sale, and production of plastic bags on the island of Bali. Luckily, Governor Pastika promised the boys that if they obtained one million signatures, he would honor their plea.

Word has gotten out, and the petition has gained more than 20,000 signatures in the last few days. Currently, it has just over 38,000 names, still far from the million needed.

Let’s help them get to 1,000,000! Here is the petition: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Byebye_Plastic_Bags_On_Bali/?cPcZNgb

Please sign and share!

Thanks Plastic Is A Drug for the heads up on this!

Month 1 tally, highlghts, a recipe, and the interconnectivity of capitalist markets, social justice and environmental consciousness

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Here ’tis!

My first month’s tally… if I’m looking meh about it that’s just because, well… I’m meh about it.

It wound up being more than I’d hoped for – so some of it is stuff that was actually bought last year but has only been used this year and I’ve not included those things that I did accidentally pick up this month, but am re-using (like the antipodes bottles which are now my reusable water bottle and my vinegar bottle, and the ginger beer that is now my sesame oil bottle). It consists of some cellotape, a sauce sachet, some plastic bags (from last year), some wetwipes packets (shuddup I liked the freshness ok) let’s see what else… oh yes the pill bubbles that Ella’s worm medcation came in,  plastic razor packet (from last year), tampon wrappers,  some plastic wrapping from Ella’s last Chunky dog roll which she finished early Jan, gladwrap from the kaanga waru I had made over Christmas, thermal receipts AND… tin cans that I THOUGHT might just be tin but were lined with plastic inside. Flippin’ stealth plastic grr.

Sorry Toroa. :-/

So my plastic waste weighs in at 45gms. It’s ok, I’m kind of ok with that for my first month, but had better expectations, and I certainly hope that’ll go down in future months.

Overall, you know… it’s not been as hard as I thought it was going to be, and so many people have remarked to me “oh my gosh it must be SO hard!” that it’s making me double check myself to see if I’m cheating… if there’s something else I should be missing out on that other people are factoring in, that I’m missing.

But no, I think in general it’s just a mind shift, and we make it seem harder to ourselves than it is for whatever reasons. In any case – I haven’t found it a major inconvenience at all. When I say I miss wetwipes, well… I DO but I don’t pine for them, I’m fine without them and am happier knowing that I’m not creating unnecessary waste just for the sake of a convenient freshness fix.

So…. tip of the month this month?? Has to go to the cuz Te Hamua Nikora who shared this pic with me on how to repurpose an old tshirt into a bag:


Great way to stop those plastic fibres from entering the waste stream. 🙂 Made me want to rifle through my draws and pull out all my t-shirts to see if they’d make cooler bags than they do shirts. Ok that is what I actually did.

Best recipe? Most definitely, hands down… the almond/banana ice cream. Good Goddess in heavens above and around and all the saints and satyrs and demi gods there ever were…. it. is. YUM.

Like… ‘even-if-I-could-go-back-to-buying-plastic-I’d-still-go-for-this’ yum.
Pic courtesy of “Eat lean, Train mean, Live Green” (I got 2/3 of that equation SUSSED. Well… most of the time)

Extra bonus was making my own almond butter… I LOVE that stuff but it’s soooo expensive and I just knew that the glass jars had plastic in the lids so I haven’t bought any. My almonds only cost me $10 at the Bulk Inn and I only needed like… a cup of them. That made me a decent amount of the icecream and I still had a punnet of the spread left afterwards. SOOOOO GOOOOO ARRRGHH….

You know, by and large, people have been just really lovely. A few of them read the article in the local paper, or heard the radio interview, and have gone out of their way to be supportive. Like Lois at Warehouse Stationery

Who scoured the store for a plasticfree rubber and then got a paper bag especially for me – she was very helpful and incredibly supportive and just all round bubbly and supportive in a way that makes you even happier to be doing what you’re doing.

Similar experience at Bunnings today in the Garden section – even if they don’t stock what I need they’ve still gone looking for an alternative solution in their store, or have tried to figure out with me what an alternative might be at home, or even another supplier that might have plastic free alternatives. People have genuinely wished me well and believed in what I was doing, which made me wonder why more of us aren’t giving it a go, too. Anyways… I guess that’s a whole nother story and a good portion of why I’m doing what I’m doing is to demonstrate it’s achievability and make it even more achievable for others. In any case – all the lovely support made me think there probably is something that we can do, as a community.


So this is Te Tūranganui a Kiwa, Tūranga, Gisborne, or Gizzy. BEAUTIFUL city, gorgeous beaches – and unfortunately produces twice the national average of plastic waste. In this past year Hawaii went plastic-bag free

“Being a marine state, perhaps, we are exposed more directly to the impacts of plastic pollution and the damage it does to our environment,” Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter, said in 2012. “People in Hawaii are more likely to be in the water or in the outdoors and see the modern day tumbleweed — plastic bags — in the environment.”

All of which apply to Aotearoa/New Zealand… and in particular to a coastal community, like Gisborne. I can only speculate on what the precise reason is for us having such high plastic waste but it would not surprise me at all if it is linked to the low income stats in our region, and that brings me to another, important point. Our local councillor Manu Caddie is travelling around Asia at the moment and recently posted his observations on the high levels of pollution that is seen there. I recall being appalled at the pollution I witnessed in Indonesia as well… It reminded me of when people say that environmentalism is a luxury for the rich and middle class.

That much is true, to a degree, but I also think it’s a radical over simplification. To commodify environmentalism and say that it’s something you can afford overlooks the fact that OUR hyper-consumerism directly contributes to the pollution in ‘developing’ countries. ‘Developing’ countries who are often the ones mass-producing and packaging the products that we are consuming, and producing high levels of pollution and waste whilst doing so. ‘Developing’ countries who provide incredibly cheap labour to us and unregulated work environments, trapping workers in cycles of poverty and exploitative, toxic work conditions. ‘Developing’ countries like Indonesia which we go to, and revel in their poverty so that we can feel like intrepid travellers, and then add to their pollution, and, having turned our noses up at their waste issues, return home to our tidy high consumption lifestyles. I write ‘Developing’ like that because most if not all of these countries labelled as developing are actually enslaved by debt which hinders their self determined development (but contributes toward the economic development of capital market players in stronger countries) – and it’s unlikely that they will ever ‘develop’ in any fashion other than that determined by their creditors. My point here is that when we frame environmentalism as a “luxury” we evoke guilt for caring about the environment – nobody should feel guilty for caring about the state of the environment. Rather, we should be mindful that our own LACK of environmental consciousness exacerbates environmental issues in other areas of the globe arguably moreso than in our own backyard. We should be mindful that waste production for us AND for overseas countries begins with where we spend our money and what we spend it on, not just what we do with the packaging. We should also be aware that environmental issues are inextricably tied to issues of social justice, which we can also pay better attention to rather than judging the populations, or, even worse, judging environmentalism. The very least we can do is acknowledge the link between our complicitness in an economy that places over 40% of the world’s resources in the hands of 1% of the population, and supports 500 multi billionaires while 3.8billion live on less than $2.50 a day – and the social burdens of these poorer populations that place them in survival mode.

40percent

Here’s why the “environmentalism = luxury” line starts to annoy me – because it turns people away from the very measure that could ameliorate that problem in the first place. Living more sustainably, investing in local economies, being more aware of your impact upon the global economy by way of your own expenditure and lifestyle choices… in short, taking measures to divest yourself of the role you play in the global capitalist economy – THAT MATTERS. Understanding that when you ignore social justice issues, there will be a raft of ramifications including environmental ones… THAT MATTERS.

So taking this back to a local context – yes – we have a relatively low income level for our households here on the East Coast – but rather than conceptualising that as simply a short cause and effect relationship between low income and high pollution – we should be viewing both of these factors as being symptomatic of a gravely flawed system that has causes both economic and environmental harm to our community. The economy and the environment exist hand in hand. Economic improvements CAN occur through environmentalism. There are many sustainable practices that actually save us money and so encouraging and promoting these practices CAN lead to economic improvements and lessen social burden. But also, environmentalism can occur through recognition of indigenous rights. Environmentalism can occur through recognition of housing needs. Environmentalism will occur through an improved education system and healthier children. Acknowledging the burden that these issues place upon households IS doing something for the environment, and doing something for the environment IS doing something for these households.

SO ANYWAYS – here’s what I’m doing (apart from the non-plastic path)…

I’m going to make our town plastic-bag free. Well…. me and a good couply thousand friends. We’re all going to do it… and if you want to sign our petition and put a few words in as to WHY going plastic-bag free is such a good idea – then please do – just click on this image:

petition

Don’t be shy just because you’re not from here – like I said – environmentalism has meaning and impacts far beyond local boundaries… not to mention that the more signatures and points made, the better (and we can still see who has signed from Gisborne for the purposes of local numbers anyway). So feel free to share, too. Then we can all say we’ve done something just now, for the environment, and for social burden too.

HAPPY FEBRUARY! Hey like the new look blog? I doooo!! Mauriora everyone!