Grieving As One.

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.” Haile Selassie I

I te tuatahi, te tika ka mihi aroha ki a ratou kua riro atu ki a Hinenuitepō. Rātou ngā ringa tū i te rangimārie, ehara rātou ngā toa pakanga, engari ka hinga tonu i raro i taua kaupapa. Ahakoa ko wai, ahakoa nō whea, ka tangi te ngākau mō koutou kua hinga, mō o koutou whānau i roto i te whare mate e noho ana, e tangi ana. Nō reira haere, haere, haere atu ra ki o koutou tīpuna, okioki ai.

I was given the honor yesterday of conducting karanga, in order to bring our students’ families into the pōhiri space for their end of year conference. It’s always an honour, and often a last second one. On this occassion I recalled one of the first karanga I was ever taught by one of my Aunts:

“Mauria mai o koutou mate, ki te taha o o mātou mate, kia tangi tātou katoa… haere mai”

Bring your dead with you, and lay them beside ours, so that we can grieve together.

Indeed, in our pōhiri processes, and even in our less formal greetings for groups, we acknowledge those that they may be grieving for, we offer them our love, and a space next to those we are grieving for. If it is very recent, then we specifically mention the tragedy – and we will often go out of our way to check if there is a tragedy that should be acknowledged for them.

And we do – we grieve for them all.

And today I’m absolutely grieving for our world. I’m grieving for those lost in Paris. I’m grieving for those lost in Kenya. I’m grieving for those lost in Beirut, and in Baghdad, for all of those who have never sought battle but have fallen to it anyway, and for a world that is torn apart by greed, manifesting as war.

Mauria mai o koutou mate, ki te taha o o mātou mate.

Bring your dead, and lay them beside ours.

I’ve never appreciated this aspect of our culture more than now.

Now, when those experiencing such immense loss around the world are feeling as though they just don’t matter.

Now, when those who ask to be joined to the grieving process, are being told to just “back off and let us grieve for this right now ok”.

Now, when lines are being drawn, and emotional hierarchy applied, because some people just seem more like “us”.

Now, when it feels, more than ever, that we need to be taking more notice, and connecting from a deeper place, to the grief, and suffering. of those who are NOT like us.

During the pōhiri, there are two distinct groups – the US and the THEM. It is a welcoming ceremony, but importantly it is one where we acknowledge each other’s different space, and our commonalities, and in doing so bridge our distance. Like the kaikaranga, the orators will also speak to those that have been lost for the visiting group – they will acknowledge the losses of others across the land, those that we know and that we don’t know – and we join our grief to theirs. There are also times that we will draw the lines of commonality between ourselves, and sometimes there are also lines of commonality between those that have passed as well.  Challenges are laid, solutions are sought, but always, there is a space for, and acknowledgement of, those lost.

The pōhiri process is one of navigating difference, of formalizing our separate spaces, and purposefully working towards a common space of trust and sharing.

Sometimes there is much common space.

Sometimes all we have in common, is our loss.

And that acknowledgement is often all that is required to bridge that distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It feels inherently MĀORI to me, to acknowledge the losses of everyone. Not only because it is a part of the Māori experience to be marginalised by state and media… but also because this is something we are taught to do. Out of aroha, and out of practicality. Because for our tīpuna, the loss of human capital held great consequences – and so we MUST consider the broader context of loss – if only to mitigate its recurrence.

We cannot hope to have a healthy Mother until we are in a healthier space ourselves. So I will continue to grieve for all of us, I will continue to speak to the continued grief of the marginalized, and that is not to detract from your grief, but to invite us all together to grieve, as one.

Mauri ora.


Busting the Top 3 Fossil Fuel Industry Myths

***This opinion piece was originally written for the Gisborne Herald, the newspaper for our region – which is currently debating the potential costs and benefits of allowing fossil fuel exploration off our coastline – at first I was asked for the references that informed my opinions, and upon supplying them, was told that I draw too long a bow. Rather than edit what I genuinely believe to be fair conclusions from the available science, I’ve opted to blog instead.
Self-censorship has never been my strongpoint.***

(image from Climate Justice Taranaki)

Although climate change has been discussed and debated for a number of decades, since 2009 the scientific community have managed to reach consensus around a range of climate change facts.

Like many other issues, it will often take a little bit of time for that consensus to reach a similar level of acknowledgement among the general populace, who are more susceptible to economic and political bias. Nonetheless, when faced with the economic ‘opportunities’ of fossil fuel extraction in our region, we must take full stock of the scientific findings, and actively dispel the myths. So let’s start the list:

MYTH ONE: The fossil fuel industry is well monitored and regulated to avoid environmental risk

The New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found in her 2014 report that our regulatory system is NOT adequate for managing the environmental risks of oil and gas drilling. This is exampled in Taranaki, where consistent, multiple consent breaches by the oil industry has resulted in considerable environmental damage.

Our inability to effectively respond to oil and gas crises was perfectly exampled by the highly criticized response to the Rena oil spill. Since then, we have experienced a further 363 spill related events, largely contributed to by offshore exploratory drilling, resulting in almost four tonnes of oil spilling into New Zealand harbours and oceans.

MYTH TWO: Investment in the fossil fuel industry is safe, and ethically permissible

The unavoidable obvious question being: “Is investing in the fossil fuel industry a reasonable, ethical move?” The scientific community is clear: NO.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), informed by thousands of scientists, are equally unambiguous: Nations must immediately begin the process of reducing carbon emissions to zero.

The current level of investment already poses too much risk, and further investment is suicide. Whatever carbon resources exist under the ground MUST stay there in order for us to keep our planet survivable.

If we consider the risk equation offered by the ESR crown research institute:

Well obviously the level of risk detailed above from our own Parliamentary Commissioner on the Environment, the multiple consent breaches, and the high level of oil spills, means that the likelihood = HIGH
Oil spills have long term devastating consequences for marine environments, killing off bird life, fish life, marine mammals, algae and plantlife, and aquatic microorganisms, In addition to killing many sea dwellers, oil spills can also impact the health of those that survive. Oil can modify invertebrate feeding habitats, disrupt their shell development, and cause slow suffocation. Oil polluted environments have high carcinogenic consequences for all animals that are connected to that environment including humans. So consequence = VERY high.

Of course those are the immediate short term risks, the long term risks (which may be beyond the moral scope or capacity of some) of contributing to climate change are not just likely, but definite – and the consequences are irreversibly disastrous.

It is quite obvious, therefore, that investing in this activity places our region at high risk, and is therefore unethical.

Is it financially risky? Well, would you want to invest your money in the industry that is experiencing historically unequalled divestment, has an increasingly poor financial profile, and that the Governer of the Bank of England himself labels a huge risk? Which brings us to….

MYTH THREE: The fossil fuel industry will provide beneficial economic outcomes for our region.

Science has again spoken on the matter and it is clear: We cannot continue to invest in the fossil fuel economy, whilst entertaining the idea of a future. It is one, or the other, and the two are very much mutually exclusive.

The further risks involved in this investment include increased intensity and regularity of drought/flood events that will devastate our farming economy, extreme loss of species upon which the broader ecology (and economy) depends, loss of seafood and fish stocks, and the loss of water recreation sites upon which our tourism depends.

We cannot be guaranteed that these risks will be outweighed economic gains – and of course the long term damage can never be accounted for by short term economic gains. To take the economic example of Taranaki, according to the NZ deprivation index, the Taranaki region continues to experience extreme levels of deprivation. The rise in regional GDP and median income levels, when placed next to the rising levels of unemployment in Taranaki, indicates a concentration of wealth for a very small number. The increase in poverty for Taranaki corresponds with the general effect that fossil fuel investment has on other economies.

Fossil fuel investment is not the answer to our region’s economic deprivation. Next month the world’s leaders are gathering in Paris for crucial talks on climate change – NOT to consider the reality of the climate crisis, for that much is already agreed upon. Rather they are meeting to consider HOW to improve our responses to the crisis, at all levels.

To permit the growth of the fossil fuel industry in our region flies in the face of not only scientific opinion, but global, and local need – the only ethical response of our council can be to stand against it.

***To sign the petition asking GDC to OPPOSE oil and gas mining in the East Coast and Pegasus Basins, click HERE***