At the beginning of 2014 I started my plastic-free journey. Through shopping at bulk inn and farmers markets, through reusable shopping bags, drink bottles and coffee cups, through cooking more at home and eating less takeaways, I managed to get my plastic waste down to an average of 30gm a month.
Later that year I started weighing the plastic waste I picked up in order to understand my plastic waste footprint. I learnt that in 20mins I can easily pick up 5-6kg of plastic waste from the beach.
That meant that – in just 20mins, I’d managed to make NEGATIVE waste, of over 5kg.
So now some figures:
(assuming 20mins = 5kg of litter)
If I pick up plastic litter for 20mins a week once a week = 19,970gm per month removed from the ocean.
If one person per household in my street did this (29 households) = 579,130gm per month removed from the ocean.
If one person per household in my town (15,768) tried this? 32,471,220gm of plastic waste per month removed from the ocean.
If one person per household in NZ were able to get their waste down to 30gm/month and pick up 5kg of plastic from the beach once a week, we would be removing 35,684,393,000 grams of plastic waste from the ocean EVERY MONTH. THAT’S OVER 35 MILLION KILOS. PER MONTH.
Play with the figures if you like, take it up to 100gms plastic waste, imagine you went twice a month or 2 times a month, imagine it were only half the households in NZ. It’s still a huge amount.
We don’t need to spend millions of dollars on “clean up” machines and developing “degradable” plastics.
WE CAN FIX THE OCEAN OURSELVES. But we have to make some changes, you and I and everyone we know. We’re all in this.
Science has shown us that as much as HALF the plastic waste in the Gyre winds up back on our beaches for a time, before being pulled back into the ocean. That’s right – each time the Gyre completes a cycle (every 3-4 years) it jettisons plastic waste, which makes its way back to the beach, before eventually being pulled back to the ocean again.
Which is why – beach clean ups are gyre clean ups.
Turn down our own plastic waste + Pick up the plastic waste from the beach = GYRE WASTE REDUCTION.
Corporations make plastic because we buy plastic. We are the problem.
Plastic waste is there because we create it. We are the answer.
So… my friend posted this article from Mamahub on his facebook page – and invited my take on it. I pointed out, first and foremost, that this man is LOATHED in many indigenous circles because he represents the very worst in cultural exploitation. The indigenous repulsion to Nelson’s book has been voiced very well, not least by the likes of Nixiwaka Yawanawá and Indigenous Rights Activist Stephen Corry and has also been voiced in other Aotearoa blogs such as Mr JDHQ and Anthsisters. I’d have hoped that Nelson would have the decency to back down but no – we’re still getting doses of his incredibly inappropriate diarrhoea-logue – this time in relation to “tribal parenting”.
Anyway I was invited to elaborate, and specifically to address the article’s focus on childrearing and cultural comparisons. I tried to post the following but Facebook kept post-blocking me (“there’s an error with this post right now” – I BET, FACEBOOK).
So here we have it:
I honestly can’t write about my opinion of what Jimmy Nelson’s said about the “traditional” child rearing practices of “the tribes” without addressing his politics and agenda – because it’s this very agenda, which is not new, and is actually quite common, which has impacted upon our childrearing practices. VERY little of what he is saying relates to my reality as a Maori woman, or those of the Maori mothers I live with, or have worked with over the years as a Maori Health Researcher and Maori Women’s Health Researcher.
There was a time we were having children as teenagers – and that was the case for young pakeha mothers as well (two generations ago most women were having children in their teens, indigenous or not) – and in those cases they were in societies and communities that supported that choice. These days, for Maori, having children at a young age is NOT an empowered cultural choice that is supported or encouraged by a community or society. It’s not, usually, a “choice” at all – so much as a consequence of many other factors, many of which are related to multiple generations of social disadvantage. It’s certainly not a choice that’s made from an empowered, and fully informed space. It’s also a choice that leads to a very disadvantaged life for Mama and baby because hey, we don’t live in tribal villages with grasshuts – and nor are our societies set up to allow us to live in our tribal groupings or even in our tribal spaces. We are subject to the same laws and economic policies as everyone else which means that being a young parent means you’re more likely to have your education truncated, you’re more likely to have a lower income, and a colder, damper home, consequently with ill children, and all the social judgement that goes with it.
Now the young Maori Mamas I have worked with are incredibly strong, resilient, caring Mamas who are up against incredible odds in raising their children – odds which would defeat many in the same situation – and many of those odds exist in systems that have been built upon the kind of racist exoticized ideas communicated by the many Jimmy Nelsons in our history. The racism inherent in our health system, for instance, means that you’re not likely to have any access at all to a culturally relevant childbearing or childrearing program, in fact you’re not even guaranteed to have great access to any health system at all if you’re Maori in NZ. Neoliberal economic policies that centralise our populations into urban centers and away from our own traditional communities, and alienate us from our own wisdom and economic landbase, function to break the kinship systems that would have, traditionally, allowed for a collaborative childrearing framework. The foundation blocks of all of these systems was research that profiled us as primitive, exotic and historic.
So to say that “in the tribes, they all have their children in their teens” well that, again, is not at all reflective of the reality that faces Maori, or many other indigenous populations around the world – it minimises the fact that this is driven by a system which disadvantages us and advantages the likes of Nelson. Who is he referring to in his answers? Is he talking about us, now? Because for all the reasons stated above, that doesn’t apply. As I understand it, he’s talking unilaterally about this notion of “the tribes” – a direct (and very fetishized) homogenisation of all that is not colonial. But I don’t fit in that model, and pretty much everyone I know doesn’t fit in that model – I know for sure Pita Sharples and the others photographed don’t fit in that model. So as far as everything he says, well I’m just left thinking “who the hell is he talking about?” and also wondering how many other indigenous people, from other cultures that he’s claiming to talk about, would be thinking the same.
“It’s a survival of the fittest. If you’re not healthy when you’re born, you die; as harsh and simple as that. Those who are born healthy, functioning, they live, and they live a healthy life.”
That’s also bollocks – and belies the fact that we have always had a very complex, and effective medicinal practice which was just as much employed for babies as it was adults. Again, he’s primitivising indigenous culture as a whole, based on a very, very limited time spent with any of them really. He spent three years putting this book together – I wouldn’t consider that enough time to speak authoritatively on any one culture’s practices let alone on the 20 odd cultures that he claims to be lumping into one nobly primitive, yet brutal group.
So when it comes to comparing cultures – this guy is the very worst at it, not just because he’s homogenised us all in the most racist of ways, and not just because he’s primitivised us all – but because he’s had an incredibly limited time of observation with an obviously western-biased lens which could only afford him a ridiculously superficial opinion anyway. A number of his images of us were taken when he set up a stall at our performing arts festival, when we are purposefully in our regalia to celebrate our culture, a supposedly culturally safe space of which he completely took advantage of and exploited our vulnerability in that space. He was there for a few days in his stall at the festival, took a bunch of pics and then left – hardly the indepth saturation within our lives that would accord him any kind of nuanced understanding around our childrearing practices. Now why would he be pretending otherwise – why would he pretend to have the knowledge to be able to answer such questions instead of saying “well hey I was only there a short time to take some aesthetically pleasing pics I couldn’t really say I know much about their childrearing – maybe you should speak to an indigenous person”. Well that wouldn’t boost his profile and stroke his ego nearly as much would it. He’s commodified us – plain and simple. He’s claimed to be “celebrating” our culture – except we’ve never asked to be “celebrated” in this way and it certainly does nothing to help us. That tired old practice of exploitation dressed up as celebration is seen time, and time, and time again.
Do I think indigenous communities have better childrearing practices? Well in a traditional sense that would probably have been the case for many indigenous communities. I don’t know about all, but I am just thinking of the many that I have been in contact with and worked alongside. That is, in my opinion, largely due to an enhanced level of connectedness. Connectedness to each other, wider kinship structures, connectedness to the environment and what our obligations to her are – as well as how to live in sync with her for mutual wellbeing.
Today it is a different, and much more complex story. We are not dying as a culture – we are vibrant and we are alive. We are fighting for the increased return of our childbearing and childrearing practices and have very innovative and interesting programs that are maintaining and reviving this knowledge, and using it alongside the very best of technological advances, and the very best of what we have grown to know through research, to provide a safe, informed, and culturally relevant journey into parenthood for our young people, and into life for our babies. And of course there are the multitude of happy, healthy and well functioning whanau Maori who, in spite of the systems, manage to forge their own culturally relevant and healthy space for childrearing. But does Random White Guy want to tell THAT story? No he’s too busy romanticizing us and selling our images and profile off as a dying breed to make a buck. A buck which stays in his pocket and does not in any way go back to assist the cultures that he’s terminally diagnosed.
We’re very much engaged with the process of reconnecting to our ancestral ways and bringing that forth to a modern context but it’s nothing like what this guy has talked about. We have our own voice on these matters, and the system that disempowers our voice is the same system that priveleges the Jimmy Nelsons of this world.
So that article was not, in any way, parenting lessons from tribes – it was parenting lessons from a random white guy who has exploited tribes around the world and appointed himself an authority on them.
Here’s the NZ reality (and I know this applies for a few others as well):
Why are there Maori who are disempowered in relation to our childbearing and childrearing practices? Why has our ancient knowledge in this area fallen into disuse?
Because chumps like this have, for 150 years, being afforded the privelege of exposure, and have provided an image of us as a primitive, brutal culture – the noble savage – a thing of the past. Legislation has been based on it. Policies have been based on it. Funding has been wrapped around these very errant ideas. It has been, and is still used, to legitimise nothing less than warfare on our ways, our language, our culture, our leadership, our kinship. Saddest of all (and this is the bit that makes me cry tears of rage) – it was a story fed to us, through the colonial school systems, and has led to multiple generations of our own believing it, and operating from very disempowered spaces.
The connectedness I mentioned earlier? That is what many indigenous cultures have that provide richness not just to childrearing but to EVERYTHING… because it’s ALL connected!!! The discussion about our childrearing is very much a social justice discussion that is linked to our fight for our language (because the transmission of this wisdom is best done IN our own language). The protection of our language is very much dependent upon our landrights (because our language is based on nature and our links to it). Our landrights are inherently linked to the fight to repatriate our ancestral artifacts from overseas museums (because those artifacts contain valuable articulation of our connection to land using the written language of our ancestors – which was art). Similarly, there are an abundance of artifacts overseas which have direct relevance and information about our childrearing and childbaring practices. Colonial frameworks view these these things as seperable – and that’s just the problem – it’s not. And if we have any hope of becoming a socially just and sustainable society, we need to get back to understanding connectedness in it’s fullest sense, which includes understanding how the privelege inherent in Jimmy Nelson’s practices relates to the disadvantage (including access to our own childrearing practices) suffered by the people that he is exploiting.
So here is my oral submission to Council, this morning.
I’m going to speak to two issues today – the first one of which relates strongly to relationships.
Relationships with mana whenua are incredibly important to me, and should be to everyone – I would expect that they should be important enough to be in the largely publicised discussion document on the Long Term Plan and I was disappointed that they weren’t. It’s my belief that this is indicative of a flaw in the value of the mana whenua relationship, and the first issue that I’m going to address today will further illustrate that flaw.
I note that $700k over 10 years has been allocated for the Waingake Waterworks Bush Restoration. Whilst I support the explicit focus of this very important area it is my belief that this is nowhere near the amount required to reduce the threats and implement a sound restoration strategy.
I appreciate the response from council on this issue which notified the budget for this work was based upon the restoration needs of this area identified by the Wildlands Report of 2003. The available Wildlands report does not include the options and associated costs so I have no way of knowing if the cost estimate is as outdated as the restoration requirements – however the fact that the foundational document is over a decade old further underlines my concerns that the initial amount allocated for this project is grossly underestimated.
As stated in my written submission – I find the council expenditure of $2.6million towards the celebration of Captain Cook’s arrival here to be perverse given that in his first 36 hours he managed to murder 5 local Maori, wound a further four and kidnap 3 – this was not uncommon practice across the Pacific for Cook, and in fact was eventually the underlying cause of his demise in Kealakeakua Bay in Hawai’i.
What I had not written in my submission was that a number of those killed in Cook’s first visit to Turanganuiakiwa were actually from Orakaiapu, on the banks of the Arai River, and were Rongowhakaata.
So can you see, how the allocation of $700k for the headwaters of the Arai River is not only underestimated but also incredibly inappropriate in comparison to the $2.6million commemoration of a date that resulted in the murder, maiming and kidnapping of Rongowhakaata ancestors. That you would give so much so celebrate this event is nothing short of a whitewash and historical amnesia.
I note that previous documents have only referenced Ngai Tamanuhiri as the relevant iwi, and wish to point out that while this may be the case for the headwaters, the majority of the Arai River runs through the heartlands of Rongowhakaata and is their sacred waterway. I appreciate that Rongowhakaata representatives are envisioned to be included in the advisory group, along with local Manutuke and Waingake representatives. Holding a position on an advisory group that sits alongside other community interests presents potential for mana whenua voices to be subsumed and belies the fact that as treaty partners, mana whenua hold distinct powers that should go over and above an advisory capacity that sits equal with all others.
With this in mind I wish to highlight and support GDC’s following policy to strengthen relationships and share decision-making with Maori:
By including all of the relevant sections of the Council in engagement processes we will support co-designed and co-located projects and processes.
I therefore wish to submit, in light of council’s intention to include mana whenua in an advisory capacity, that the Waingake Waterworks Restoration Project be a co-designed project between the mana whenua of the Arai River and GDC.
I wish to further note issues related to Gisborne’s waste management. Every year, New Zealanders use 1.14 billion petroleum based plastic bags. On average a plastic bag has 20minutes of use. However, they can take anything up to 1000 years to break down in the environment.
As a pacific country, and coastal community we are also direct contributors to the extreme levels of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, which is rapidly becoming acidified by plastic waste, and is killing fish, marine mammals, and birds at alarming rates. The World Wide Fund for Nature has estimated that over 100,000 whales, seals, and turtles die every year as a result of eating or being trapped by plastic bags.
I appreciate feedback from council which seems to communicate that according to the council’s annual litter survey – plastic waste and plastic bag litter is, relatively, not an issue in Gisborne, and is best addressed through educating people into using reusable bags.
Well, I have been carrying out my own research, on a weekly basis, for over a year now.
This took me all of 20minutes to pick up from Kaiti Beach, on the way here – you cannot tell me we do not have a problem with plastic waste on the beach.
Since the beginning of last year, I have been divesting myself of plastic waste and taken an active interest in monitoring plastic waste in the Gisborne region, particularly on our beaches. To hear that the GDC has been actively educating people to refuse plastic bags comes as an absolute surprise to me because I have never once come across any sign, or person, who has communicated this message on behalf of the GDC. Most retailers still use plastic bags and do not ask. We have two major supermarkets, one of which uses plastic bags as a default the other which has plastic bags at the point of sale, with boxes a small walk away – and both of which have recyclable bags – however in my own observation surveys I have personally noted that the majority of users still rely on plastic bags. If, as the GDC response suggests, plastic bags are not a problem in our landfill, and they are not a problem in the annual GDC litter surveys – then WHERE are they going? Because we’re certainly consuming them.
Furthermore, in relation to the litter surveys, I understand that they are largely conducted on street sites, not on beaches, which is where the majority of littered plastic bags wind up. They don’t stay on the street waiting to be picked up.
I KNOW that we have an issue with plastic bag waste because I have been down the beaches, picking the rubbish up and I can tell you that we DO have a plastic litter problem and there ARE a lot of plastic bags on the beach. As opposed to your annual litter survey – I carry out a weekly litter survey when I walk my dogs on the beach and pick up the plastic litter, bring it home, sort it, wash it, weigh it and recycle it.
In a 20min walk on the beach I will average 5-6kg of plastic waste that I pick up. I have been weighing it since August last year and measuring the plastic that I pick up against the plastic waste that I create in order to understand my plastic waste footprint. As you can see – there are plastic bags here every single time, including PaknSave bags.
Globally, and nationally – plastic bags ARE an issue, this is not an opinion it is a fact – and our plastic waste does not just remain in our region either – it becomes the issue of other regions, it becomes an ecological issue that affects our ocean which we all have a stake in. Plastic bag consumption also fosters unsustainable behaviour because they are made from petroleum and in fact a car can drive 11meters on the petroleum required to make one plastic bag.
PLASTIC BAGS ARE CREATED FROM NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES, THEY ARE UNSUSTAINABLE IN THEIR PRODUCTION, AND IN THEIR DEGRADATION. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ACCEPTABLE LEVEL OF PLASTIC BAG POLLUTION.
In short – the responsible answer is NOT to merely manage them as a waste issue but to manage them as a consumption issue, and turn the problem off AT THE TAP. They are an icon for unsustainable behaviour – so if we are to entertain any hope of having a sustainable future, plastic-bags cannot feature.
Bans come in many different forms and need not be immediate, absolute, or overly punitive – there are a range of approaches ranging from a ban on the sale of lightweight bags, charge customers for lightweight bags or generate taxes from the stores who sell them.
Major countries such as Rwanda, China, Eritrea,Taiwan and Macedonia have a total ban on the bag. In the United States there are 187 jurisdictions that have banned plastic bags, including two states (California and Hawaii) – in multiple jurisdictions across over 40 countries, plastic bag bans of one kind or another are being implemented. Here in Aotearoa Waiheke Island and Kaikoura have both committed to going plastic bag free, and weeks ago, Auckland Council’s Environment, Climate Change and Natural Heritage Committee unanimously moved to “Support making Auckland plastic bag free”.
GLOBALLY – PLASTIC BAG CONSUMPTION IS CONSIDERED THE HALLMARK OF UNSUSTAINABLE BEHAVIOUR.
It is therefore my continued submission that GDC support a journey towards a plastic bag ban for Gisborne region. This is a journey that can certainly be supported through proactive education, but must be with the explicit goal of divesting ourselves of lightweight single use plastic bags and thereby modelling responsible, sustainable behaviour.
I urge GDC to commit to reducing our plastic bag consumption through working with communities and business owners on a journey towards developing our own bylaw that will gradually restrict plastic bag use, and eventually ban them completely.
It’s been a while! The one year mark came and went and yes… I made no fanfare (well, not on here but if you’re on my facebook page you would have seen the post). I guess because it has, very much, become a lifelong journey for me. So Jan the 1st 2015 was very much like Dec 31 2014, and all of the days of that year beforehand.
Well – my average monthly plastic waste production for 2014 was 34gms. So far, this year I’ve been maintaining that. I’d say that the sooner I get a nice big PROPER maara going the better. I’m still loving on my hanging herb garden that my bro built me 🙂
But still… can’t wait til I can grow my own cabbage, broccoli, kumara etc.
My average waste collection on my daily walk down the beach was 5.4kg.
The biggest barrier? Well – for me personally – I found that travel, and sharing your living space, came with plastic. It’s MUCH easier to control your plastic waste when you’re at home, by yourself, with a schedule, rather than out and about. My response to that? Well – preparedness and open communication, really. You have to be clear and open about what is ok to bring into the house.
My highlight of the year would be…. Plastic free July – and participating in the “Buy one get one tree” campaign that our local cafe’s took part in. That was massive. Getting to go to Nagoya to support the cause of sustainability at the UNESCO Conference for Education on Sustainable Development (ESD) was also incredible – and the many, many marvellous people I’ve met while on my journey to become plastic free – hearing that they have felt inspired to take that path themselves has been a continual source of motivation for me. So for everyone who stopped along the way to say hi, who sent a letter of support or let me know that it’s inspired them to go plastic free, themselves – THANKYOU, thankyou so much.
Kia Ora Whanau – well my final blogpost for the 2014 journey is coming up, I’ve got a lot to cover, a couple of reviews, my trip to Japan, and my final tally, so it’s taking a little bit. I’m headed up to my marae, Hinerupe, to finish the post up. That’s the source of my inspiration and my puna of strength (and one day we’ll be wastefree too).
Anyways, I’ve been up there this past week, cooking, cleaning, and writing stuff up… and watching the things we do, the things we’d like to do better, and what some of our solutions could be, and this infographic bubbled forth. After sharing it on facebook I received some requests for it to be printed out so here’s the hi-res version.
Ngaa mihi o te tauhou paakeha everyone – hope you’re enjoying your summer, and will write again soon!
Been another bussssssy month! That’s not such a great thing when you’re in the business of picking up para. Lots of waste down the beach. BUT have also been a part of some fantastic projects around communities who have committed to exploring their kaitiekitanga as well… first things first. THE COUNT.
GOOD NEWS. August was my first zero tally! Wahoo!! No plastic bought, and nothing to throw away.
BAD NEWS. This month’s is pretty big – on the bright side most of it was, again, me working plastic from last year out of the house (that process is taking aaages). I see it pretty positively though. Every time I throw that plastic away, I know I’m not going to replace it with more plastic. Ka rawe. 🙂
SO September tally – 80gms.
So, purchased this month was one iphone recharge cord (to replace the one in the pic). Guts.
The rest is pretty much just divesting plastic out of my household. Yays.
And picked up so far this month? Well… actually this is just from two and a half walks down the beach – 12.4kg
SO total plastic footprint: -11.6kg 😀
A LOT OF EXCITING THINGS TO REPORT THIS MONTH.
Over the past weekend our family celebrated love and togetherness over and over again. New love was celebrated as new partners were welcomed into the family. Anniversaries were celebrated. My Uncle’s birthday was celebrated, a permanent memorial of love to his mother was unveiled and celebrated, my brother’s birthday was celebrated, my nephew’s birthday was celebrated, and… the greatest highlight… after 16 years and thanks to the change of some pretty archaic laws, my sister was finally able to marry the woman that has made her dreams come true, and loved her unstintingly through some pretty significant challenges. I gotta tell you – to have so many people that you love so dearly in a state of celebration and love and happiness for one another is a pretty big buzz! It was a pretty awesome celebration of being there for each other.
AND GUESS WHAT… My sis and her darling even made significant efforts to have the wedding be as minimal waste as possible.
It was a close, intimate ceremony at home, on the farm.
Gorgeous solar powered paper lanterns and fairylights made for a magic festive ambience.
Bamboo cutlery, recycled cardboard plates, cups that compost in under 45 days…
Earth. Composting. Portaloos. FTW.
Clearly signposted bins lined with bags that compost in less than 40 days… like the signs?
they’re made from REPURPOSED wood planks 😀 (Queen Repurposer in that shot, my sisinlaw Cleo Thorpe-Ngata – helps to have a kickass artist in the whanau)
The Lotusbelle tent for the wee’uns to play in all day/night long.
…and what better souvenir to take away from a beautiful day like that than your own photobooth shots. Love you my sis. Happy happies.
I just LOVE my whanau for making these little efforts. I never expect people to do these things for me, and when they don’t it’s not like I scorn them – I’m quite realistic about where we’re at in our plastic consumption psyche and if it were otherwise then I wouldn’t be here writing this blog. As I’ve observed a few times now, it’s a journey, not a one-step destination. It’s the effort that matters. So Danni and Karena, thankyou so much, I really really do appreciate that you guys made the effort that you did. And that you feel affected by the journey I’m on… well that is ALWAYS an amazing and humbling thing to hear from anyone. Much love <3
When I first thought to do this, I really did consider it as a personal journey. Much like the day I sat behind a cattle truck in my car, and just decided at that point that I didn't want to keep pumping my weekly pay into that industry, or pretend that I wasn't propping it up with my constant investment. I didn't want to turn away from the fact that, through my consumption choices, I was responsible for the animals being in that truck, on the way to the abbatoir. So I changed my purchase habits. In the same way – last year when I decided I wanted to explore going plastic free – it really was a personal choice to front up to my personal contribution to what was happening to our oceans, to Toroa, to our whales, to our fish. All of it really. It was a personal choice but when my friend Marama suggested I blog about the journey I though “sure why not, someone might get something out of it”.
10 months later I’m amazed by all of you that have engaged in this discussion. It gives me hope for this cause, and for ourselves. Having connected with you all, I can’t imagine what this journey would have been without having you all to share it with. Your letters, emails, and comments of support (on the blog and in person) have really meant a lot, and I appreciate every single one of them. When strangers approach me to say that they’re inspired by the blog, well it just makes my day to know that even one person has considered, and made, a change in their lives. I beam, and feel like blowing a little kiss to Papatuanuku.
In the past month I’ve had a tv crew swing by to share this journey/kaupapa on Maori television (will link that when it’s televised).
I’ve also been nominated, supported, and then invited, by UNESCO, to participate in the 2014 World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, in Japan next month. This means more than I can possibly say. To be able to carry the kaupapa of indigenous rights and wisdom on sustainability to this type of a forum is a dream that I hadn’t even dared to expect coming true in this way. The global plan for sustainabile development education will be launched from this conference – another very exciting prospect, and no doubt a document that will influence countless subsequent movements for change across the globe. Thankyou whānau, thankyou tīpuna.
While I’m there, I’m hoping to be able to connect with as many environmental sustainability initiatives as possible, and to connect with our Ainu whanau as well (and learn more about their initiatives). I’ve started a few auctions to raise funds to enable this – if you’re keen on scoring one of my bags or artworks then here is the link to my auction list.
(Straight from Nana’s Bach to your shoulder 😉 )
And if you simply feel like donating, then thankyou, thankyou, ngā mihi NUI and here is the fundraising page.
Again, thankyou for everything – even if you’re not buying something or donating, just thanks for being there.
You know… I just read someone going OFF about Te Ururoa referencing Tūtanekai in his speech regarding same-sex marriage. Starting with the same old “I got nothing against gays BUT… (followed by ridiculous hate message)”. No coincidence that racist comments often start the same way.
So yes, there are aspects that are specific to each struggle. But we share TOO MANY important similarities for an anti-gay agenda to make any kind of sense in an indigenous space.
Because guess what, Maori… Tutanekai was BI. Handle it. And LOOOOADS of our tipuna were queer and it was ALL GOOD. You better believe that any move towards heteronormativity within Māoridom has happened as a result of settler colonization and imposed religious ideals. That’s not just true for us, but for many, MANY other indigenous cultures too.
Yes that’s right – many indigenous cultures have, within their own culture, traditional frameworks for a variety of sexual preferences. It was a natural part of our community and society. Notions of heteronormativity have been absorbed into our cultures as a part of the process of settler colonization. It’s important that the queer voice within our cultures and our histories be celebrated, and promoted – or we risk, as indigenous cultures, being misrepresented, oversimplified, and homogenised. Clive Aspin and Jessica Hutchings have produced rich research around this area for Māori.
Many other indigenous and queer academics have also written about it. It’s not new information.
As Andrea Smith writes:
“a conversation between Native studies and queer theory is important, because the logics of settler colonialism and decolonization must be queered in order to properly speak to the genocidal present that not only continues to disappear indigenous peoples but reinforces the structures of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and heteropatriarchy that affect all peoples”
You cannot form an argument for basic human rights to be afforded to one group, and yet withhold it from another. To argue that you should not subject to violent and hostile attacks, systemic bias, or any other kind of discrimination because of who you are rings true regardless of whether this is related to ethnicity or sexual orientation.
In both instances we are experiencing a lack of wellbeing, or harm, related to control or restraint of love and acceptance. In the case of indigenous culture this relates not only to the love and acceptance afforded to our ways of being, but also the love of the land. As a HUMAN RACE we should be seeking to move closer to a space of positivity, love and acceptance. We need to do this in order to heal ourselves, and that includes becoming closer to the land, acknowledging that our own wellbeing and future depends upon the recognition of a wider experience – the wellbeing of the plants, of the trees, of the soil, the waterways, the fish, birds, insects and animals… the entire notion of biodiversity and ecological interdependence compels us to acknowledge that we must consider the wellbeing and rights of all that is around us, and not just from our perspective but from their perspective as well. Biodiversity tells us to acknowledge and allow for diversity in order to survive.
The land is suffering because of our incapacity to do this. The people of the land are suffering because of our incapacity to do this. It is in our interests, as indigenous people, to model the love and acceptance that we require for our land, toward each other. Hell the entire PLANET is suffering because of people’s inability to think justly, and fairly, and with love – it’s in our best interests as a SPECIES to change our attitudes.
So let me be patently clear on this point – if you participate in anti-queer agendas, you are moving further away from where we need to be as a human race, further away from where we need to be in indigenous rights, and further away from where we need to be if we have any hope of evolving into a population that exhibits sustainable behaviour. You think homosexuality will wipe us out? We’ve done just fine with it in our communities for 200,000 years. No, if anything’s going to wipe us out it will be our own ridiculous ignorance.
Still not clear enough? Then here: WE’RE ALL FIGHTING THE SAME FIGHT, SUCKER.
Taku mea e haramai nei, ē
He whakahou mai ki ahau, ē,
He torotoro i tō waimanu, ē,
E mau nei, kei te paheke, nā
E hua noa ana te ngākau, ē,
He haohao i aku mahara, ē,
Taria ia rā kia tuakina, ē,
Katea ia rā kei te marae, rā.
So today was a beautiful day. A niece of mine has begun her sacred lunar cycle, and I was so honoured to share that sacred space with her through the day – sharing stories of our ancestresses, of our divinity, of the incredible power that lies in this process. I shared my first time with her, what it was like… I shared what I knew of how it was for our Nannies. We talked about cramps and sickness and volume and length and all of the related realities. We spoke of our genealogical lineage that goes all the way back to our divine beginnings. We spoke of whenua (land/placenta), of kurawaka (sacred red earth)… we spoke of inspirational women, admired empowering wahine Maori art, listened to inspirational music, we sung, we prayed. We painted hue (gourds) and made cloth pads, while talking about the healthiest way to care for our whenua within and our whenua without.
We are fortunate to have remnants of songs and prayer that reference the divine power – and we’re incredibly fortunate to have people like Ngahuia Murphy, who’s seminal work on menstruation in pre-colonial Maori world, Te Awa Atua has collated these remnants to rebuke the dominant, dis-empowering colonial discourse and provoke a vital, and long overdue discussion around the reclamation of indigenous voice, most especially in relation to our sacred spaces. This woman is a taonga for our people and I have endless love and respect for who she is, the kaupapa she carries, and how she carries it.
I drew from what I knew to create our own ceremonial celebration today – and I would implore all women to do the same for our young wāhine as they step into this, the most powerful aspect of their femininity.
I’m late with my weigh in again… well I DO weigh in on time but inevitably the write up gets put off pending completion of a bunch of other tasks that were put off earlier. You know… work/writing/meetings/blahblah. Poor blog hasn’t been getting the attention that it deserves. Pat pat. You’ll survive.
SO…. 40gms 🙂 A packet of Huancaina sauce that a good friend brought as a gift from Peru added considerably… sigh. I couldn’t turn it away. Well I could, and I started to… anyways you gotta know the friend I’m talking about to understand.
So on to the tally it went. Oh and an old iphone charge cord that just doesn’t go. Some receipts, and some plastic that was stuffed inside a cardboard delivery box. I decided that I’m going to start weighing the plastic that I pick up when I walk Ella and Benny down the beach to offset that against my plastic waste measurement. A plastic footprint, if you will. So, as I only managed to get in two walks from that decision to weigh in, here’s what I picked up in 2 days – 5kgs. Some of the identifiable objects were jandals, ice cream containers, take away containers, drink bottles, caps, drink bottle rings…some polystyrene meat trays… a lot of plastic bags…. a nappy… a bong…
Yep…. so my waste production for July was 25gms – and I picked up 5kg of plastic from the beach for 2 days (and there’s no way I’m going to be able to do monthly amounts)…. leaving a footprint of -4.6gm.
Even better news though… is that at this stage of the month (late July) I don’t have any plastic waste and am looking at my first truly plastic waste free month. Weehee!
Also, of course, we had Plastic Free July. What started out in Perth a few years ago is now a worldwide event. Here in Gisborne we ran the “Buy One Get One Tree” initiative with 3 cafés – where they kept a tally of every time a customer brought in their own cup for a coffee. For each coffee sold in a reusable cup, the Women’s Native Tree Project planted a tree. Frank and Albies, Morrell’s Bakery and Verve Café all had a shot but it was Frank and Albies that went off the charts with a whopping 430 coffees for the month!
So here’s what that looks like in an infogram. easel.ly
Thing is… that’s only about 50 trees. In actual fact the nearly 500 trees that we wound up planting for Plastic Free July just wouldn’t of course, fit to scale on that size paper and isn’t that a beautiful thing. If we can make that kind of change in just one month, with three cafés, then imagine what you can do in a year – imagine what you could do with 20 cafés.
This was a pretty easy initiative to roll out – everyone was a winner, really. The cafés got some publicity, the Trust did as well. It was just bringing some synergy to what was already there, and adding some intent. You know… I’ve been thinking a lot about personal power – it’s kind of been a theme for this month. What we were able to achieve through that initiative shows us that we CAN make a big difference, a significant difference, with just a few different choices (or even just one). Here’s one of the planting sessions behind Ohako marae, where rakau were planted as riparian vegetation alongside the Te Arai River.
We can do a lot you know – just with a few small changes.
Here’s another thing that we can do that doesn’t take much but can make a big change… VOTE.
In case you didn’t notice – things are pretty crud. Our whānau are sick and goodness me but our whenua and waterways are very very sick. This government has levelled abuse at Papatūānuku time and time again. Asset sales, the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, RMA reforms, Freshwater Plans, The Maori Land Act review… all combining to create a more permissive climate for “development” (read: environmental devastation).
Know this: National government have a specific goal and it’s very simple. It’s called short term $$ gains for a very small group of people (and if you’re reading this blog you’re probably not in that group). All at the expense of our water and whenua.
Papatūānuku is under attack and our strongest weapon is coming up on September 20th. National are banking that you won’t use it. For gods sakes, let’s use it.
I get it… I know… we’ve been dicked over time and time again. Native Land Court. Suppression of Rebellion Act, Native Reserves Act. Foreshore and Seabed. The systems and agencies that surround us are biased…. They’re biased when they’re Labour, they’re biased when they’re National. The system is broken and we need to denounce the system. We deserve a better system, one that looks after us better.
Here’s the bitter pill: We have to participate IN the system in order to change the system.
And change has already happened. The beast our grandparents faced was very different to what we face today. It’s no walk in the park… but we have kōhanga reo, we have kura kaupapa, we have Maori seats, we have Māori Television and Radio – and many of these things were helped by those who kept standing up, re-engaging in the struggle, and fighting again.
We’re not beaten. And we’re not victims. We kick ass on the sportsfield. We kick ass on the haka stage. We kick ass in business. And we can kick ass for Papatūānuku too. The John Keys of this world… the Don Brashes, the Bill Englishes, the Judith Collins’, the Gerry Brownlees… they WANT you to feel beaten. They want you to give up. They want you to not vote.
It’s the same with our local councils. We have some very good councillors. And we have some very good people and groups working within councils. But boy do we have some wanker councillors too (and certainly they’re not going to be effectively regulated by environmental legislation). There are some that simply don’t seem to care about the environment unless they’re forced to – and then you have those who would rather serve their own agendas, permit activity that will benefit them and their families and friends and cost the land, cost us, cost future generations… and how do they get away with it?
Enough of us have stopped caring, stopped even looking, for those types to be doing this in broad daylight and getting away with it.
Here’s a few examples:
In Gisborne, we have a couple of VERY good water advisory groups. There are some people on there that care more about industry, but there are also people on there that care a LOT about our water quality. They’re informed and engaged, and are placing pressure on council to take decisive action regarding our waterways.
SO – Taruheru River. Flows through our town and it’s currently, often very very toxic. We have a Taruheru Restoration Plan. However – at the same time our Council is planning to flood the river using a weir so that it can be used as a flatwater sports facility (the feasibility study results still aren’t back yet by the way). Why are we even courting the idea of such large ecological impacts when we can’t even sort out our own wastewater issues?
We also have a Waipaoa restoration plan. YET Council are granting consents for oil and gas exploratory drilling that is undoubtedly negatively impacting upon the tributary streams to the Waipaoa.
We have raw sewerage being flushed into our rivers. Our people are falling ill with Giardia. Giardia for crying out loud. When they flush the sewerage into our river, our council say that upgrading our pipe system is a priority. BUT when the vote went to council to prioritise the upgrade, all but three rejected it.
Mayor Meng Foon stood in front of a room full of people and lied last night – saying that we have solved the issue of the ‘para’ in the harbour. No we haven’t. The effluent pipe is still flowing out into the harbour. The wastewater is still being flushed out raw at the same regularity. Nothing has changed. Oh wait… now GDC tell us when it’s happening. That’s changed.
This last month we’ve also had a by-election – and lo and behold we have a fresh, young, Maori councillor. Hooray for better representation… Hooray for Maori getting out there to vote and most of all hooray for that being reflected in the results.
The system still needs to change – and just like we effected change in those instances above… just like we effected change to get support for kura kaupapa, kohanga reo and wānanga… we can change these decision making systems too but we need to back ourselves – like we do on the stage….
like we do in sports…
That’s how we have to approach voting, and making change with government. We gotta back ourselves… And you gotta participate. You gotta bug council, let them know that you’re on to them. You gotta keep getting up and fighting. It’s not easy – hell I’m still trying to get the wheels back on our bid for a plastic bag ban in our town (we WILL get there)….
Here’s the other really important thing I’ve got to say about this – yes, we have to keep pressure on the system to change… but we CAN’T WAIT FOR ANYONE TO SAVE US. No law will do that, if we can’t make that fundamental change, ourselves… in our hearts.
Go along to a tree planting project.. Minimise your waste. Take your own coffee cup, and refill your own water bottle. Start a small maara. Go and see if your local marae maara needs a hand. Go for a walk down to your awa. Find out what’s going on with your awa and whenua.
This is a matter of returning to ourselves. Our tipuna were one with the environment. It adorns our wharenui and frames our identity:
We sing of it… we pray of it… we weave it… we paint it… we wear it… we carve it.
So here it is… my review of menstrual products for non-plasty rebels. First of all – there are a LOT of reviews out there, and I’ve found most of them very helpful – it’s always a good idea to get a few different reviews from the likes of Plastic Free and Vegan , Beth Terry, and this SUPER detailed cool one by Lauren Wayne
Initially I tried the Natracare products – so – first things first. The regular (as in non-applicator) tampons are wrapped in plastic.
In every other way, though, they are much better than “mainstream”(haha punny) tampons. Certified organic, unbleached, non-GMO cotton. The pads, however, are NOT wrapped in plastic – and are fully compostable.
In both cases I found them quite comparable to any other tampon and pad, did the job just fine. I’m not a huge fan of pads, though, especially ones with wings. Maybe I’m un-co I’m not sure but they always seem to bunch and move about and the wing bit sticks to the base bit and gaahhh… it’s kind of like a sticky tape disaster except your undies are involved. Hōhā.
Now you have a few options here – you can make your own, by hand even. I’ve heard of others repurposing an old sock as well. Or you can purchase them online – Environmenstruals have a decent range or, again, at Commonsense Organics (I picked mine up from the central Wellington store although they don’t appear to be on the website).
COMFY! I’ve found mine to be pretty handy, actually. I did have a little problem with it shifting around a bit but hey… couply safety pins and you’re good to go. I still use mine for back up with my cup. Only thing is though – once they’re at full capacity you really need to be at home because you can’t exactly rinse/wash them out and then put a soggy cloth pad in your bag or pocket – not to mention it’ll probably be a bit awkward at a communal bathroom sink.
So THIS I was excited about. I looked at a bunch of options on Environmenstruals and decided to go with the Femmecup – I liked the measuring lines for tracking your flow and thought the little cloth bag was cute. Unfortunately it arrived wrapped in plastic (which made it’s way to my plastic tally for that month). Anyways – they’re usually made of latex, soft plastic, or in the case of mine (Femmecup) medical grade silicon. The cup is held between the vaginal walls, just below the cervix and catches the flow in the cup rather than absorbing it. Apparently they last longer than tampons but so far I have had to change mine more often in the first couple of days… although maybe that’s a user interface error 😛 . Just to be safe, I use my cloth pad on the first couple of days. They don’t dry the vagina out the way that some tampons can, you DON’T wind up putting bleached cotton with residual pesticides etc inside your whare tangata and you know what… it’s just better for you to become acquainted with the flow, texture, and colour of your Awa Atua. Really – stop putrifying it, that’s medieval patriarchal bollocks. I’ve never been a fan of how we treat our sacred sheddings as waste anyways – so I’m pretty happy to be using an alternative. I’m now at the point that I’m considering how to use it rather than simply disposing of it – so far I’m a fan for using it as fertilizer for a really kickass plant – like a Venus Fly Trap. I shall call her Gladys.
Anyways – the cup is a little finnickity to work out at first, but once you get your technique down it’s ok… you need to fold it and then twist as you insert. It’ll form a seal between the walls. Like I said… I’m still using a cloth pad for back up on days 1 and 2 but after that I’m all goods (reading through some reviews while writing this, I’ve seen a couple of more technique tips that I may try out). I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know my flow better and of all the options this one will give you the most information on how much you’re shedding and what that might look like. Observing your blood can give you valuable information about your health and fertility.
Another option is sea sponge – I haven’t used one myself but here is a GOOD review on them by Raising My Boychick.
So there you have it, folks – no need for us to be using those toxin-loaded, GM cotton, petroleum plasticky baddies in or anywhere near our whare tangata.