I was told there were celebrations on at a Marae (communal and sacred meeting place in Maori culture) in a town near to where I live, so we decided to travel there and see what was happening.
What I discovered
This weekend was the 9th anniversary of the coronation of the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki. The Kingitanga (Maori King Movement) arose when some Maori tribes decided to create a role equivalent to the monarch of the British colonists, in n attempt to stop the colonists claiming their lands.
The Maori monarch is now a role with no legal power recognised by the New Zealand government, though for the tribes that recognise the movement the Maori monarch is the position of paramount chief. Particularly in the area we live in, the Maori monarch has a high level of power among the local tribes.
I am trying to share the importance of Kingitanga to Maori from this area to my non-Maori acquaintances (friends and family). This is a small action, but when I learn new things about Maori culture, I have a desire to share it with people I know that see Maori culture as ‘nothing to do with them’. Because Maori culture is an inextricable part of New Zealand culture, and I am sure that ignorance (by choice or circumstance) of Maori culture by a proportion of the Pakeha community is contributing to the communities being divided and the persistence of stereotyping and casual (as well as not-so-casual) racism.
I have some issues with the mainstream education system. It failed to support a number of people I love dearly, and while I managed to succeed academically in the mainstream system, it came at a great cost to my emotional stability and well-being. I am definitely not saying it doesn’t have benefits, nor am I suggesting it works for no-one. However, since both my partner and I struggled in it (very differently, but we both suffered), I have wanted to explore alternative education options for our daughter.
What I have discovered
There are a great number of alternative education options available, even in the relatively small city we live in. While I look up to parents and guardians that home school immensely, I do not feel this is something I am able to do.
I briefly attended a Montessori school (for the first year of my primary education) and so spent some time reading about that approach to education. I do really like the approach of free learning within certain boundaries as well as the mixing of age groups. However, I am somewhat apprehensive because there are few Montessori secondary schools and there seems to be limited information about how children transition from Montessori primary schools to mainstream secondary schools.
I also looked in to Waldorf/Steiner schools, which aim to support the creative and empathetic sides of students, as well as minimise quantitative assessments and standardised tests.
As well as these two kinds of school, I read about several different pedagogical philosophies (experiential education, popular education and progressive education) and pedagogues (Dewey, Fröbel, Steiner and Freinet).
Our daughter currently attends a total immersion Maori daycare, which she loves and which really supports her. I am keen for her to continue alternative schooling as she grows older, though this will require probably multiple conversations and discussions with my partner (which is good, as it is an important decision, after all). So my action for this theme is to engage in conversations with my partner so we can explore the various local schooling options and find the best one for our daughter.
I went to get our tyres checked today and discovered there are a number of fuel-efficient tyre models. I had heard of fuel-efficient tyres before but when I last read about them they were still relatively new and there was little information available about them.
What I discovered
Fuel efficient tyres can increase fuel efficiency by about 8% and are highly likely to save over the life of the tyre. https://www.energywise.govt.nz/energy-labels/energywise-approved-tyres
I didn’t end up purchasing certified fuel efficient tyres as they were considerably beyond our current budget, but I did have our tyres filled with nitrogen instead of air (apparently tyres deflate at a slower rate with pure nitrogen, so tyres are more likely to remain at optimum pressure if still checked regularly) and I bought Enviro Tabs (which increase your fuel economy and reduce the emissions and carbon particulates in exhaust fumes).
Someone recently contacted me to ask some questions relating to education for sustainability. They were from a school running a programme called Stars, where senior students are mentors to year 9 students.
What I discovered
After looking in to the programme and the ideas behind it, I discovered that research shows young teenagers (especially those struggling to fit in in school and society) often benefit from having a peer mentor. Based on this premise, the Ministry for Youth Development has developed the multi-faceted Stars programme, of which one component is engaging the students in community initiatives.
The school that contacted me wished to have ‘sustainability’ as the theme for the community initiatives and wondered if I might be able to support the students with their projects. They said there was a budget to pay for my services but that it was limited, and so I decided to give them for free. (And it turns out that was a wonderful decision as the warm welcome and kind words I have received from them have been a very positive experience for me.)
Since moving to New Zealand I have learned the story of what happened to the flagship of Greenpeace, the Rainbow Warrior. In 1985, French intelligence officers sunk the ship in Auckland harbour as it prepared to protest French nuclear testing in Moruroa (an island in the Pacific Ocean). One person was killed in the attack, and the event has shaped foreign and domestic policies in New Zealand.
On the 10th of July it was the 30th anniversary of this event, and the Rainbow Warrior III was in Auckland harbour preparing for her next journey. The ship was open to the public and so my daughter, a friend and I went to see her.
What I discovered
I discovered that taking a 2 year old and an adult in need of support on a ship when it is raining is rather stressful, and I spent more time trying to make sure neither would fall over (or overboard!) than listening to what the Greenpeace tour guides were saying.
However, it was a super experience, and I discovered that the Rainbow Warrior III is an wonderful example of sustainable ship building, with every item being transparently and ethically sourced.
I increased my monthly donation to Greenpeace to help fund this voyage and their other work.
As a fundraiser for Hamilton Homeless Trust, I went to see Russell Brand’s documentary ‘The Emperor’s New Clothing’ (trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4Geq8dM13k).
What I discovered
I actually learned a lot from watching this film. Perhaps one of the things that has stuck in my mind is discovering that it was British Prime Minister Thatcher and USA President Reagan that pretty much brought in the free market economy, which before them was seen as a radical and extreme economic ideology and is now the dominant economic ideology in Western societies.
The documentary explored a lot of apparent causes of the growing financial inequality in many societies and I would recommend watching it (even if you aren’t a big Russell Brand fan).
After watching the film and then reading up on different left wing political theories, my excitement about political activism was renewed. I became a member of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as put myself down as a volunteer for them.
I came across the idea of ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in 2006 when I read Richard Louv’s ‘Last Child In The Woods’. I partly agreed and partly disagreed with what I read, but I have noticed the idea of children (and people) needing to spend more time outdoors for health and well-being purposes is growing in popularity (which I do see as positive) so thought it would be good to recap on my understanding of Nature Deficit Disorder
What I discovered
I knew Nature Deficit Disorder was not a medical diagnosis but I think the first time I read Louv’s work I thought he wished it would be (which I did not really understand or agree with). Re-reading his words and about his work I now understand it was never designed to be a medical diagnosis but instead simply refers to the apparent link between people (especially children) spending less time outdoors, and the rising number of people with health and behavioural problems.
I do believe spending time in nature is important for health and well-being. But I am not too sure about the idea that children who grow up without exposure to much nature grow up unsympathetic to environmental causes (as I grew up in big cities with limited access to nature and care about the environment immensely!).
Having said that, I do want my daughter to grow up with a lot of exposure to nature (I’m not taking any chances!) and so as my action for this week I have committed to spending more time outdoors with her, especially in our garden (which she loves). To start this off, we spent an afternoon planting seeds in pots to take to the Hamilton Homeless Trust community garden.