As Rehua (Antares) rises at dawn, the Pōhutukawa bloom, the Kererū nest, and the days grow longer and warmer; we learn that Tamanuiterā has made his way to Hine Raumati, the Summer Maid. These were once our natural indicators to signal that summer had arrived. With summer came a new set of community tasks like catching kahawai, inanga or kōura, snaring manu, or harvesting fruits and berries from the ngahere. The whakataukī ‘Rehua kai tangata’ (Rehua consumer of men) reminds us that the summer season was also accompanied with times of war. With limited food supplies from the winter harvest, and an increase in competition amongst iwi and hapū, challenges over valuable food sources were common. In those earlier times, our relationship with the environment drove our behaviour and actions, and the same can be said of us today.
We may not realise it, but the world we live in continues to have a large influence on our day to day behaviours and practices. Some of these influences are natural, like the changing seasons that impact on the availability of seasonal foods; and then there are other influences that are man-made, like the light-bulb that lets us stay up late. Over time, the modernisation of our world has enabled us to create our own environments, but at the same time, it has disconnected us from the natural world.
In recent years, the natural world has changed dramatically. We can no longer deny the evidence points towards global warming. Despite this, many people continue to discredit the fact that Papatūānuku, Ranginui and their children have been impacted by our behaviour over the last century. If we continue to insulate ourselves from the natural world, we can forget that we are a part of nature.
So, with Christmas right around the corner, we will be largely conditioned by our man-made environment to go out and buy gifts for loved ones. Many will celebrate this time together with whānau or friends, we will share kai, and we will enjoy the summer weather. But not many of us will acknowledge our natural environment. This Christmas, I ask you to consider giving a gift that acknowledges Papatūānuku, Ranginui, and the natural world. This might be a little woo woo for some, but actually supporting our natural environment will lead to improved health, a gift not only for you, your whānau, or your friends, but for all of our mokopuna to come.
So, here are my top five taonga that can help you, your whānau, or friends give back:
1.Whakamana i a Tangaroa: Empower our oceans and buy a few cool fabric shopping bags.
Reusable shopping bags, or a kete, can help reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in our landfills and oceans. These bags take a lifetime to fully break down, and are a potential detriment to our wildlife. On a personal note, just this week I swam at Titahi Bay beach only to find a plastic bag floating past me. Of course I removed it, but we might have to reconsider our clean and green image Aotearoa.
2.Tiaki i a Tānemahuta: Protect our forests by ditching the takeaway coffee cups.
Did you know that using one takeaway coffee cup a day creates 10kgs of waste annually? That’s an entire tree's worth of paper! We throw away way too many ‘recyclable’ takeaway coffee cups in Aotearoa. It turns out that many of these cups have to be sent to Japan to be recycled! More often than not these cups end up in our landfill. So, cut back the waste and use a reusable coffee cup.
3. Hāpai i a Papatūānuku: Support the earth by cooking an organic hākari this year.
The use of pesticides in many agricultural practices has a detrimental effect on Papatūānuku. We know that these chemicals can kill off soil organisms that then release CO2 in to the atmosphere warming the planet. We also know that locally sourced, whole, unrefined and chemical free kai is much better for your tinana, hinengaro and wairua!
4. Whakauka i a Parawhenuamea: Preserve fresh water and buy a big 5L water bottle.
Water is life. Global access to clean water is under threat. With an increase in urbanisation and consumption, industry, and agriculture, soon we will not have the access to water that we have become accustomed to. Not only can you help whānau prepare their emergency pack with this taonga, but more importantly, talking about conserving water can help reduce the demand on our current water systems. Things like timing our showers, turning off taps (especially when you are brushing your teeth or shaving), fixing leaks, and eating less meat are some ways to respect parawhenuamea, and conserve fresh water.
5. Whai whakaaro mo te ahi tapu a Hine te Uira: Think about how we use energy and gift an energy efficient appliance.
As I am sure we are all aware, burning fossil fuels to create energy has a massive impact on our environment. By reducing how much energy we use day to day we can reduce the amount of carbon released in to the atmosphere. Buying appliances with a good energy star-rating is one option, or switching to energy efficient light bulbs is another. Better yet, switch your power company to one that only uses renewable energy sources like the wind of Tāwhirimātea, the water of Parawhenuamea, or the rays of Tamanuiterā through solar energy.
Kia tau te rangi mārie ki runga i a koutou katoa. Kia hari koa anō ngā rangi whakatā. Meri kirihimete.