Tapping into our Taiao
Saiah Claydon-Wade (he/him)
Let me paint the picture for you.... My friend and I were out at the beach not long ago, sharing whakaaro and having deep kōrero about life, digging in deep details about our eventful lives and what events have occurred down in Welly town. Stuck in deep reflection on my ever so eventful life, my friend asked me “Where do you see yourself in the world, in 5 years?”.
In all honesty, I looked around the beach and thought to myself, shit. F**K. The world that I’ve come to see and know, our world, is crumbling much like the crumbling of these colonisers and their colonial bullshit. Enough of that, times are changing and certainly in 5 years they better have or there’s gonna be beef, I mean there already is sis. We’ve been forced to follow and conform to these western structures and ideas that have diminished our own indigenous knowledge our tūpuna left to us. NO MORE WHĀNAU. We’re saying goodbye to conforming and hello to transforming. For the betterment of our climate and our people. What world do we want to create for Ourselves?
Te taiao, te whenua, te moana as our tūpuna once knew is not a world they’d want to know now. At the hands of Papatūānuku and Ranginui, climate change is detrimental not only to our earth, but to us too. Hence, on this waka of living more sustainably and creating a better earth for our mokopuna, it’s important that we learn and understand other indigenous perspectives.
So then, we can awhi Papatūānuku and leave this earth as the taonga it is. As I once read from Jacqueline Paul in ‘Living with the Climate Crisis’:
“Te toto o te tangata he kai, te oranga o te tangata he Whenua.
Food is the blood of people, but the welfare of the people lies in the land.”
This whakataukī embraces the significance of why our climate is integral to the survival of us. We live and breathe off the whenua. How is this land meant to be sustained for future mokopuna and tamariki if it’s dying beneath us? The indigenous knowledge of our whenua is a key component for working with the whenua, to ensure it’s health and strength can reflect onto those living on it. Because sis, you know what? That Western knowledge (if we can even call all of it that..) of our land ain’t been doing shit since the 19th century, it ain’t it and it’s time to change. Those Westernised institutions/ ideas have majorly impacted our taiao by prioritising a thriving economy over a thriving environment, and you know the saying, “There ain’t no wealth on a dead planet”. We’ve seen the devastation of contamination to our moana, a place once where our tūpuna sourced their kai. The pollution filling our air and our taiao, just because people are too lazy to find a rubbish bin, recycle their shit properly or even just the excessive use of transport, our taiao was once clean and fresh. How the f**k did we get here? A pātai we’re too familiar with. So, I reached out to other tauira of indigenous backgrounds on climate change, to explore and understand their views and knowledge, hearing their whakaaro on how it affects them as tangata whenua and how they are tapping into their taiao.
Nai Ronaki (she/her)
When I anticipate the threat of climate change, I become overwhelmingly concerned with the world our mokopuna will live in. We must be conscious of our future generations and how this environmental crisis will impact their identity, papakāinga and culture.
From my perspective, as a woman of Māori and Fijian descent, majoring in Health Policy, we as a society need to seriously consider the implications climate change has on the health of our indigenous whānau and Communities.
Climate Change reflects the health of our environment, which is inherently connected to the health of tāngata whenua. The state in which the ecological environment sits directly influences its people due to indigenous communities having a strong connection to the land and relying on it to provide food, water, and shelter.
Despite the diverse contexts of indigenous populations, the underlying similarities of the consequences this emergency will create will be our Māori and Pasifika whānau, at varying rates but equally detrimental. Chronic health conditions are prevalent in indigenous communities and are often climate-sensitive and widen the health inequities and outcomes. Indigenous peoples are highly adaptive and innately work as a collective to mitigate risks. Yet, there continues to be a substantial barrier in access to resources to aid in an effective long-term response.
This climate crisis is inevitable, and we must try to rectify our past shortcomings for the betterment of our children’s future. The actions we take at a personal level supports a greater collective climate action to mitigate the irreversible effects climate change will have on the whenua and how our future generations will interact with the world.
Ruiha Evans (he/him)
To be honest, climate change hasn’t really affected me directly to a massive degree. However, climate change has actually had a somewhat positive impact on some of the things that I do and some of the habits I have/used to have.
To do my bit to try to contribute less to climate change, to maybe try and combat the issue, I have become far more conscious of my carbon footprint and anything I do that could be detrimental to the taiao. Including things like no longer eating red meat, sourcing kai sustainably and doing my part to be a tidy kiwi with rubbish and recycling.
Climate change is a bit daunting and scary to think about at times, but I feel like more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious which gives me a bit of hope that we can turn things around a bit to preserve our whenua and look after our people a bit better.
Reni Broughton (she/her)
Climate Action is like a touch rugby game.
You know the rules, strategies and have perfected your skills over the years. Your team will win if they listen to you & follow the rules & strategies you’ve outlined - But your team are cocky dumbasses who think they’re the shit—so they flex their mud stepping skills, drop the ball, and are always offside. You lose the game. Maori & our fellow tāngata Moana know how to look after the planet—we were the first, the OG’s in this space. But our knowledge, skills and people are constantly side-lined and Papatūānuku is suffering because of it. We’re suffering because of it. Put tāngata whenua/tāngata moana in the decision making positions & we might have a chance to heal the mamae that has been inflicted.
Ko au te whenua, ko au te moana.
I am not separated from the land or sea.
Saiah Claydon-Wade, (he/him)
It’s hard not to worry about the effects of climate change, especially when the people we look up to don’t even know the price of a block of cheese, all tea, all shade. Because our earth is the core (no pun intended) of everything we are as a society. The health of our whenua, the health of our moana, the health of our taiao, are all linked together and linked to the health of us.
The health of our country, coastal iwi, hapū, hapori, Pasifika communities and their haukāinga are facing the brunt of climate change. It’s an injustice to indigenous communities, it reflects back on the poor decision making within these western institutions and how that’s affecting us now and future mokopuna. No thank you ma’am. Not today, not ever.
I used to look at climate change and believe that it came down to individual responsibility, within the choices we make in society and how those choices will reflect upon our taiao. However, it comes down to not one of us, but all of us. That collective drive is key to implementing systemic change, that will improve the health of our country and embed a sustainable future for us and our mokopuna.
Our exposure to climate change forces us to look deeper than just the surface. Subsequently, diving into systemic change will have to involve that indigenous knowledge on social, economic, political issues that affect the health of our hapori. There’s no longer a choice to look beyond the issues, they are here and it’s time now to channel that collective drive towards a better climate.
Going back to the kōrero with my friend, I still don’t know where I see myself in 5 years in the world, I can’t even see a week ahead, let alone 5 years. However, what is that 5 years going to look for Papatūānuku? These colonisers have had their time and it’s our time now, it always has been boo. To connect with our people, to connect our indigenous knowledge and to hold those people accountable, let them hear it. LET THEM HAVE IT.
Express your tino rangatiratanga. Let your ancestors navigate the way for you much like they navigated their way here. We have the knowledge there, if it’s going to influence systemic change, pave the future for our mokopuna and save Papatūānuku -- don’t let nothing get in yo way!
Ask yourself this pātai, how will you tap into your taiao?
Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou, Saiah Claydon-Wade Nai Ronaki Ruiha Evans Reni Broughton
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air