Sunday, November 28, 2010

Transmitting knowledge

Dear Family and Friends,
I recently read the book shown in the photo.
My friend, Metta, has been working towards it almost as long as I've known her. As I've said in my review, below, it made me think a good deal about the importance of cross-national, cross-cultural transmission of knowledge.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy by Metta Spencer.
Lanham, USA: Lexington Books, 2010.
Joanna Santa Barbara
In 1982 I was in Moscow with Metta Spencer, the author of a remarkable book on the transmission of ideas, in this case, ideas about peace. We and several other Canadian peace activists were on our way to participate in an international peace conference in Vienna. Metta had a telephone number of a dissident peace organisation in Moscow. We found our way to a small apartment and met with members of the Trustbuilders Group. This group aimed to counter Cold War mentality on both sides of the Iron Curtain by fostering people-to-people relationships and joint projects. The members were being persecuted, for example by being fired from their jobs, because they stood as independent thinkers outside the government system. Metta established relationships with the people in this group that have lasted to this day, and began pursuing a 28 year-long trail led by her curiosity about the impact of western peace researchers and activists on the tortuous development of Russian peace and democracy.
The Trustbuilders exemplified what Metta called ‘barking dogs’, those who spoke up outside the system, the critics. These people suffered, often seriously, from their courageous expressions. Her typology of actors includes ‘termites’, those within the system who were quietly critical and actively searching for new ideas. When Mikhail Gorbachev, a termite who had assimilated the most important concepts peace research had to offer, assumed power, history took several dramatic turns. The typology is completed with ‘sheep’, the large majority of citizens who accepted life as it was, and largely accepted the framing of reality presented by the state.
We learn how the ideas of the great 20th century peace researchers, such as Anatol Rapaport, Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer reached the inner circle of Soviet policy-makers around Gorbachev, and how, much earlier, President Kennedy, influenced by Charles Osgood’s ideas on Graduated Reciprocation of Tension Reduction (GRIT) made several unilateral disarmament moves. Each was immediately reciprocated by Khrushchev in a series abruptly ended by Kennedy’s murder. GRIT, the ideas of common security, non-offensive defence, reasonable sufficiency in weaponry (rather than ruinous arms races), confidence-building measures, non-intervention in other states, the necessity for nuclear abolition were assimilated by Gorbachev and became part of his ‘New Political thinking’. Lithuania, after becoming an independent state, even adopted the idea from peace research of civilian-based defence.
While peace theory took root, a highly creative process of citizen diplomacy occurred through the 1980s. Brilliant solo players such a Norman Cousins, Jeremy Stone, Bernard Lown and Ernst van Eeghen played their parts, backed by organisations such as the Dartmouth Conferences, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Pugwash, and Parliamentarians for Global Action.
These processes seeded new ideas in receptive Soviet minds, worked out implementation processes together and formed relationships of trust. Many readers of this review will have played some role in this chapter of history. Metta reviews the outcome to the present – the transformation of Eastern Europe without violence, the end of proxy wars, avoidance of nuclear war and progress in nuclear disarmament. She examines the sad question of why Russians are willing to tolerate authoritarian government, reversing the moves towards democracy that Gorbachev began. She focuses on the low levels of social trust in Russia, between people and between citizens and their government. It is worth considering what community-building processes might remedy this.
Metta has an engaging style of writing, very like a personal conversation. The book is deeply interesting for its theoretical content, and fascinating for the cameos of extraordinary people who appear in the pages. Metta has created a website with photos of these people, and the full texts of the hundreds of interviews that provided the substance of this work. ( )
I found myself pondering after I finished reading. When the cross-national transmission of ideas can yield such important results, what are the responsibilities of intellectuals and activists? Are these processes relevant to the other daunting task many of us face – how to end the destruction of Nature through human economic activity and population growth, most acutely in climate change and biodiversity loss? It is extraordinary to consider that, whereas in the historic episode Metta documents, it was the impact of ideas on Soviet minds that was the focus, now it is US and Chinese minds, as well as those in our own societies that might be thought crucial. Might cross-fertilising conversations with two-way learning get us over the present terrifying stalemate?

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Working together

Dear Friends and Family and other readers of this blog,
We recently had a rather marvellous day working on building a huge compost heap and preparing stuff to stimulate micro-organism growth in the soil.

Posted by Picasa

I discovered through last week's communal garden building for the Motueka Community Garden, and this week's Biodynamic Day at Atamai (more explanation
later) how much pleasure I can get out of a community working effort.
I have for decades enjoyed the pleasures of working with others towards important goals in peace, and latterly ecological issues. Sharing intellectual capacity, creative ideas, working hard together, sharing laughs has for a very long time been one of the good things in my life. But, amazingly, there's even more of a 'high' for me in joint physical work towards a shared goal. Two weeks ago it was the creation of a community garden for the township of Motueka, a large project that will require more work. I personally won't benefit from this, but people who want to grow things but have little or no land on which to do it will benefit. It was a great feeling to be on a wheelbarrow or wield a shovel alongside others, strangers getting to know each other while we worked alongside each other, and seeing the garden grow while we worked.

This last weekend, Atamai was the host for the regional biodynamic group. This group, followers of Rudolf Steiner's ideas about agriculture, meets once a month on someone's property to see what they're doing and work together according to biodynamic principles. I have an ambivalent intellectual relationship with these ideas, some of which seem quite mystical to me.
However, I'm challenged by data that suggest that biodynamic horticulture really is more productive, stores more carbon in the soil, and so on. And I'm entirely unambivalent about the people involved, who comprise many of my good friends. So the group, ranging between a dozen and 30 at various times of the day, consisted of about half Atamai people and half outsider biodynamicists who came to put in a day's work. Adrienne, a committed biodynamic gardener (and nurse) works most days at Atamai taking care of the orchards, and was the host for this day. (Her orchard work is sweat equity towards the acquisition of a lot at Atamai. She has done a lovely job on the orchards, which are looking beautiful.) Adrienne began working towards this day months ago. The cow manure, necessary for both compost building and biodynamic preparations (something like fertility stimulants) had to undergo special processes before it was ready for use. She had worked for months removing gorse from gullies in the orchards, and had made big cylindrical piles of rotting gorse for use on the compost pile. She had cut large bags of nettles grown (deliberately) on her own property. As she passed through Picton a month ago on her way back from a retreat for anthroposophical nurses (this is Steiner's philsophy on health), she had bought a load of seaweed, and it came in a large winebarrel.

The biodynamic way of making hot compost involves using hay or grass with the dew still on it. Adrienne started on the land by torchlight on Saturday morning, about 5.30am. When I got up at 6.30, I could hear her mowing over on the hillsides. The time for gathering for raking the grass was 7am. I got there at ten past, and there were already four people (outsiders) raking. We raked for a few hours and Adrienne, seemingly out of nowhere, began cooking buckwheat pancakes, which were eaten with damson jelly of her own making. I provided the tea in big thermoses. Coffee was made over a clever device in which a double metal cylinder holding water between its two walls is placed over a little fire. The inner cylinder acts as a chimney for the fire which draws well and heats the water. We sat around eating this feast for a while, then got back on the rakes, wheelbarrows, forks and shovels. By that time we were also forking gorse and shovelling manure in layers on to the compost pile. This pile began with a 9 1/2 x 3 metre base. There were a few layers of nettles, which to my astonishment, people handled with their bare hands, while I went to look for gloves. 'Doesn't it hurt?' I asked. 'Only a bit,'
was the answer. At various stages layers of seaweed (very smelly), ground dolomite, and rock dust were added. Every layer got a sprinkle with the hose. The manure, after its long treatment, wasn't at all smelly. Adrienne compared the process to baking a cake. After about 4 hours of work, the pile was two metres high. You couldn't see people working on the other side.

Adrienne climbed on top, used a crowbar to make eight deep holes through the layers, and dropped little clods of special biodynamic preparations down each hole.
Everyone cheered and rejoiced and then went home.

At 4pm people reconvened for the next phase, coming to a higher terrace on the orchard for the process of making and spreading biodynamic preparations. This was the more mystical side of biodynamics, but the quietly sceptical also joined in. You can see me stirring the mixture (first clockwise, making a vortex, then reversing) and Jack sprinkling the mixture on to the soil.

Finally we had a wonderful picnic on the still sunny terrace, with the many little kids rolling themselves down the grassy slopes and laughing.

This was the first large occasion of communal work at Atamai, although our tree planting last year involved 8-10 people at some stages. We plan in the future to build an implement shed, and a picnic shelter in this way. There are many other possible projects.

Warmest wishes,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Atamai Village Update

Dear Friends,
I'm eager to give you an update on us and on the village. We're well and quite busy - Jack with tree-planting on the land around and sloping down from our house. In the previous two autumns there have been large-scale plantings of mainly natives for wind-break and slope protection. In the last month and continuing there has been planting of fruit and nut trees on the sunny terraces - cherry, plum, pear, nashi (a Japanese pear), peach, almond, hazelnut. Apples yet to come when we can get the varieties we want.
I'm largely occupied with the people side of the village - helping where it's needed, organising the communal meals and the village council meetings. A big day coming up is next Saturday when the regional biodynamic growers' group will meet here for a compost -making day and also to make biodynamic preparations. (Adrienne, who cares for the orchards, is strongly oriented to biodynamic growing.)

As you can see, the house is progressing. It takes an inordinate amount of our time too. Millions of mini-decisions.

Jurgen has just written a whole village update, which I'll now include. It gives you a good overview of where we are in village development.
This image is part of the garden Jurgen is developing adjacent to his house site. The house doesn't yet exist, but will be Japanese in character.

Posted by Picasa

Hi everyone
Looking for the last update sent to everyone I realise that 10 months have gone by without a word from us to the friends of Atamai far and wide. Not surprisingly it is not due to all being quiet in the village but rather an unintended by-product of intense activity. Including everything that has happened and is going on would see you read for hours, so here is just a selection of some of the more important developments:
The land
Over the last months a good number of property changes, boundary adjustments, title issues and acquisitions have happened. A block of adjacent land of about 10 ha has been added to the village as well as another one of the existing houses on the ridge top. The house, a 400 sm high quality residence including a large independent flat, is being retrofitted with solar panels, an additional room and some landscaping changes and will be available for sale as part of the village at the end of the summer.
Food security, which was mentioned already in our mailout last summer as an upcoming crisis point is now emerging rapidly as an issue of serious concern around the world. Food prices are expected to rise by up to 30% in short order and food shortages in many countries are expected to continue to make headlines again. Last week a UN conference on the issue was called.
In the tradition of transition towns Atamai continues to work on practical preparations for local food security. The Mediterranean garden is in very good shape this spring, a private and established leasehold garden plot has been added to the village production pallet for a number of years and row crops are being put in for the first time for bulk staple foods.
The community orchard has been extended significantly over the winter planting season and is being lovingly cared for by Adrienne, who is now on the crew full time.
The nursery had an additional well water source added which we don’t expect to ever run dry.
Over summer we will put up the new green house to have more scope for shoulder season production (see nursery remarks below).
More maintenance and food production equipment has been purchased for the village including a small tractor with mower and front loader.
Village Development Process
We were fortunate to have two very talented landscape designers from London, Paul and Anise work for us over winter developing a Permaculture landscape design methodology which can now be used for the planning of all the new private sections. It makes the creation of effective permaculture systems a much easier, structured and satisfying process. It also saves a lot of effort and provides a means of integrating landscapes on private titles into the bigger Atamai permaculture picture.
The Sustainable Villages development team achieved a significant milestone and filed the application for the second residential stage of Atamai Village last month. This second stage comprises the balance of the larger sections scattered around the denser village core. The denser village core is the third stage which completes the village. The third stage is now planned for consent filing mid next year.
Stage two consists of 24 new residential sections, 7 of which are ‘sold’ or spoken for at this stage. The plan for the sections has been posted on the web site.
Building projects & Sections
Jack and Joanna’s house will have the ‘roof shout’ party for the first Atamai Eco House on the 29th of October. The roof is on, structural timber walls are up, windows are going in and it is making progress in leaps and bounds due to the diligent work of Greg Law and his ‘ORCA Development’ crew. Greg is looking forward to build as many of the homes and buildings at Atamai as possible.
One of the next buildings to be put up will be a stone clad implement shed on the commons.
Village community
Quite a few changes have happened and there is now a number of households living on the Atamai land. Craig and Tracey and their little son William have moved onto the site (renting), as have Wulf and his son Christian into their house and Greg and Isabel and their 4 children Noah, Sophia, Fin & Nathan (renting as well). Craig and Tracey will be starting to build as soon as possible on Lot 4. Greg and Isabel are waiting for their section (Lot 9, stage II) to become available. So all in all there are currently 6 households already on site with Adrienne and Lynda keen to join as soon as possible. Plans for Adrienne’s house on Lot 5, stage I, are also close to complete.
Sadly Geoff and Leonora have decided to stay in Nelson at this stage and have put Lot 0, which they purchased last year back into the pool of available properties. Their lot 0, stage I is one of the two only elevated properties currently available with brilliant views.
Rob and Lisa have decided to be part of Atamai and intend to purchase Lot 8 Stage I, as has Lynda.
With more people on site the social aspects of the community are coming along nicely and a number of events, pot lucks and working bees are planned for those interested to join in.
One of the more hazardous aspects of the emerging village live is that one has to watch now for increasing numbers of little knights with wooden swords on wooden cycles ambushing residents and practicing their chivalry skills on unaware passersby.
A good number of visitors have announced themselves for summer this year to check out the site or stay for a little while to see if they like the village project. We really look forward to welcome you all.
Business Opportunities
The brick/block making operation has now been fully set up and three varieties of bricks are in production. The first batches of about 8000 bricks have been made and most of them will be used in Jack & Joanna’s house and for landscaping. Atamai recently acquired a large production green house and a nursery utility building at an auction and they have been moved onto the village grounds and should be completely installed over summer. Lynda and Joni Bridge will be operating the nursery initially until either an enthusiastic owner operator comes on board or a cooperative forms itself.
A business plan for a third enterprise, the production and sale of the Terra Preta soil conditioner has been completed and is also awaiting an owner operator.
So if you are interested in taking up either of these three ready to go businesses as a livelihood, let us know.
Rob Malloch has converted the Hangar at TeMara into a well equipped engineering workshop as a base for his village business and has spent a number of months now bringing all of the machinery and vehicle fleet up to scratch. His next project will be to complete development of the Lister engine powered generators.
Organisational Changes
After more than two years of planning, preparation and legal work the villages governing body which will also hold all the commons asset has now been formed and is duly incorporated as a society. It is officially called ‘Atamai Village Council Inc’. The trust, which is the ‘developer’ of Atamai, has been renamed ‘Atamai Trust’ so we could keep the more appropriate ‘Council’ name for the actual village body.
The next step in the formation process is to split the trust into the charitable part which will undertake the educational work in the future and a private trust which will complete the village implementation and then dissolve.
The earthworks for Jack & Joanna’s section were completed last summer. The sections 9 & 10 started in late autumn but have been stop and go all winter and spring due to persistently unfavourable rainfall patterns and amounts. Some progress has been made in spite of it and the drainage systems and silt retention measures have coped well with the abundant rain. The ground is now drying out now a we look forward to have the sections completed before the end of the year.
Web Site
As part of a major advertising initiative to sell the remaining sections of stage I and II the web site will get another major overhaul in the next weeks. Information on the sections, layout, pricing, updates on developments, progress with the permaculture land use planning and implementation will all be posted as a resource.
Expect another email update when it’s ready!
kind regards
Jurgen Heissner, Executive Board Member

Back to my comments now: this is a complex and difficult project, and I feel good about how far we have come. The people side of the village is coming together. The nicest aspect of this is the delightful kids involved. Conflicts, of course, have already arisen,as expected. Is someone experienced enough to keep a cow on their land? Does adding biochar conflict with organic gardening principles? I'm confident that we are dealing with these in a constructive way, although we will have to attend closely to the process of living in this way, partly communally, as distinct from the way we have all been socialised.

You can learn more details about Atamai on our website

Warmest wishes to all,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can soil carbon sequestration contribute to mitigating climate change?

Posted by PicasaThe images here are intended to illustrate two aspects of soil carbon (or organic matter) - firstly the production of good food (on my kitchen bench), secondly the need to reforest and to implement careful management of soil to enhance its organic matter (a slope at our new place). Increasing soil and biomass carbon will decrease atmospheric carbon, thus having a significant impact on global heating.

Dear Friends,
I continue to fret about Climate Change. In January, after the shocking failure of the Copenhagen talks, several of us got together to share our distress and work out what to do next. One person suggested we push for the personal carbon quota. In this system, everyone has an equal share of the total allowable annual carbon emissions. You have a strong incentive to live with less than your budgetted amount, and then you can trade the extra with someone who wants to exceed their budget. The total allowable amount diminishes with time.

Jack wanted to explore the role of global elites - the ultra-wealthy, the media controllers and so on, in blocking action on climate change. Since then he has been conversing with folk in the International forum on Globalization about a possible project on that topic.

I wanted to explore the idea of carbon sequestration through agriculture and forestry - by biological means. It seemed to me that the focus had been on fossil fuel carbon emissions and alternative energy. Several points began to become evident to me, alongside one that is well-known - carbon losses through deforestation.
*Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are a significant proportion of the total - 13.5% globally, about 50% of emissions in New Zealand. The global figure rises to 51% if land use and land use change are included in the calculation. That's emissions from deforestation. The emissions comprise nitrous oxide, largely from the enormous and rising use of nitrate fertilisers; methane from the guts of ruminant animals; carbon dioxide from deforestation to clear more land, soil management practices, fertiliser manufacture and fossil fuel use in agricultural machinery. Many readers of this blog will know that nitrous oxide and methane are many times more potent in reflecting solar heat back to earth than carbon dioxide is.
* There are quite well-known ways to cut agricultural greenhouse emissions, and many of them, eg no-till agriculture. . Furthermore, there are multiple ways to build soil carbon. That is, not only cutting emissions, but pulling down CO2 from the atmosphere into the soil. Some of those ways are designed to keep stable carbon in the soil for centuries. Composting would be the best known of this cluster of strategies. Biochar burial in soil is another.

* Better still, all of the practices referred to above shift agriculture from being an unsustainable practice, exhausting the soil over time, to a perhaps perpetually sustainable activity.

* Better yet, some of these practices bear the promise of greater food productivity. Not all of them.

So we should surely talk more about this issue.

I registered for a conference on New Zealand Soil Carbon. With the help of my friend and mentor, soil scientist Don Graves, I put myself through a little crash course on learning about soil. I cycled to Don's one day to pick up a primer in the nature of soil. I had to come back with the car to collect the ten volumes of essential reading Don had for me. What a revelation! It's another world down there! And to think I've been walking around on top of it all, largely oblivious to the teaming life in ultra-complex systems beneath my feet.

The conference was an interesting experience. The participants were mainly farmers, fertiliser makers and soil scientists. Highlights in my quest to answer the question that heads this blog were:

* the presentation by Australian climate activist (and much else) Tim Flannery. Here are his major points:
o Half of avoided emissions to deal with climate change need to come from the biological systems of agriculture and forestry.
o Emissions need to start coming down by 2015; this requires rapid action. (Agriculture doesn’t even enter the NZ ETS until 2015.)
o Carbon can be sequestered in soil in three ways – holistic stock management; enhanced humus production and retention (by a variety of methods comprising biological farming); and charcoal sequestration in soil.
o NZ’s effort in research in this area, $5million per annum, is ‘pathetic’. Much more is needed.
o It’s good that NZ at least has an ETS (compared with Australia) but it needs major revisions to incentivise individual farmers to sequester soil carbon. (I noted that many farmers present were anxious and negative towards the ETS, concerned that they wouldn’t be rewarded for their carbon achievements.)

The other highlight was a ‘break-out session’ hosted by me on the potential of Soil Carbon sequestration to contribute to Climate Change mitigation. These were the major points:
1. There’s loads of potential for increasing soil C in NZ; in fact, it will be dangerous if we don’t do so and fail to retain C in some soils.
2. Biological farming is the way to do it. Get C deep and stable by means of plant choices.
3. We need to be able to measure it.
4. You can make changes that have to do with increasing soil carbon very quickly eg in a year. This contrasts dramatically with the lead time needed for other CC mitigation strategies, eg alternative energy solutions.
5. We need to incentivise the costly transition to biological (different from subsidising production). But note – Carbon and Energy footprint reducing measures are often intrinsically money-saving.
However, on a panel of six speakers later asked about the potential of biochar, several were sceptical because of cost-benefit issues and the carbon costs of transport of feedstock and making the biochar compared with carbon savings in sequestration. One was enthusiastic.

Where do I go from here on this? As soon as I complete another major task I'd like to address this one. It feels very urgent. I'm not sure what the next step is. Probably to get a few minds together. If any reader of this blog wants to go further on this issue, please let me know.

Also, I can send my full notes on this conference to anyone who wishes to see them.

Warmest wishes,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eating locally, Atamai progress.

Dear Friends,

Transition Town news.
On Saturday we held an Eating Locally event, to both celebrate our local foods and to explore ways of further localising our food consumption. I'll go into a bit of detail, becuase we were happy with how the event played out, and think this may be helpful to others considering something similar.

We held the event at Riverside, which has a large kitchen, all that you need for a potluck meal for lots of people, and facilities for music performance. We put some trouble but little money into advertising - posters in shop windows, library display with appropriate books, fliers, radio, newspaper and online ads (all free). People were invited to bring a potluck meal made with local ingredients, together with its recipe to share.

On the day we prepared a beautiful display of local produce, as you can see above. In the picture is Tanja, a remarkable young woman, who did a huge array of things, usually two or three at a time, always with little Leenas (seen here) strapped to her back, and with her 4 and 7 year-old girls nearby, the 7 year-old being a real help in any way she could. Also in the picture is Richard, the Good Bread Man, who baked a batch of sourdough rye especially for the event. The aroma of the baking bread greeted the guests on the day.

We began with an intro of why we should eat locally. We can think of many reasons, as you will see below. Then the 7 year-old sang a food-blessing in Maori and we enjoyed some very creative ad delicious food. Our friends, Dawn and Emery, played mellow jazz and folk on the piano as background.

Then we reorganised the tables to use a World Cafe procedure. Some of you will have experienced this applied to other topics. It was my first experience and I recommend it. It's fast -moving, gets people thinking about the issues, and good ideas emerge. In this case we considered firstly what we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, how far it travelled to get to us. Then we thought about how we could make that meal local, and finally we thought about the 'gaps' - food from far away that we can either think about growing nearby, or substituting something else, or doing without.

There was then a competition for the best menu using local foods, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prizes were donated by local producers. Finally a brilliant group of local musicians, the Northern Lights, entertained us.

We had about 40 people there, some very original food (yakon, radish seed pods, chocolate chestnut pie, achachas stuffed with feijoa and goat cheese), good ideas and great music.

Atamai Ecovillage news
The village has been working at its formal structure, with the help of lawyers. To have Commons land doesn't fit well with normal legal structures, so it has taken a lot of work to shape the necessary entities. There will be an Atamai Land Trust whose task is to develop the land into individual lots and the shared Commons. The Trust uses a company, Sustainable Villages Ltd to carry out the development. The lots are sold to individuals who also buy a share of the Commons, and agree to certain covenants. The Commons will be owned and governed by the Atamai Village Council Inc., comprising all villagers who have bought into the Commons. All the normal developers' profits will go to the Commons.

Jurgen and Kyoko, and our builder, Greg Law and his wife, Isabel, have just bought one of the existing large ridgetop houses and will share it, for as long as it takes to be able to build their own homes on lots they've selected, This means that we'll soon have five little kids as neighbours, ranging, I think, from 3 to about 9.

Jo and Jack
We've both been involved in the evolution of the village, and I've spent time on the Eating Locally event and also on my radio programme. I've been writing bits and pieces for the Reconciliation book, some of which readers of this blog have seen. One you haven't seen is on reconciliation in East Timor, which is, I think, a case study in what happens when one party is immensely more powerful than the other. Basically, the big power gets away with murder, multiplied many times over.

We've spent a little time on the house, which now has its concrete foundation. Jack has spent a lot of time with a team of six, planting 2000 trees, bushes, grasses to stop the terrace slopes from washing down.

The village baby, William, turned one yesterday, so we had a birthday party for this happy little chap.

REcommended film: Mao's last Dancer. Wonderful ballet in this.

Now, here are 15 points about eating locally:
Why do we want to eat locally?• It’s nutritious. And delicious. More nutrients in fresh food.
• It reduces carbon emissions, and helps mitigate CC.
• It helps prepare us for coming fuel scarcity, when the faraway food might not get to us at all.
• It gets us growing and considering what’s in the soil, or puts us in contact with the grower,, to inquire about pesticides , herbicides etc.
• It’s cheaper.
• Strengthens the local economy.
• Helps our kids understand where food comes from
How do we do this?
• It means we eat seasonally, and learn to preserve summer’s abundance for the winter.
• It may mean we’re prepared to do without some things eg bananas.
• It means we read labels when we shop, and try to buy Top of the South whenever we can.
• Some of us grow as much as we can in our own gardens. No food miles or km, just metres.
• Some of us further strengthen the local economy by trading for our food in TALENTS.
• What we don’t grow, we get mainly from the following places (showing the map): Motueka Sunday Market; Riverside Friday Market; Arcadia Organics; Toad Hall; Victoria Gardens.
• We keep our eyes open for roadside stalls and buy from them when possible. (Asparagus, lemons, nashi, kiwi fruit, blueberries – lots of wonderful things, usually just picked.)
• Some of us get our milk direct from a farm to avoid the long distances milk travels, at high energy input. We make our own yoghurt and cheese and butter.

OK, that's it for now, dear folks.
Much love,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reconciliation , large and small-scale.

Dear Friends,
An Autumn update.
We have gained confidence as trampers in doing short overnight stays in some of the wonderful huts on tracks in this country. Above is a photo of the track to Wainui Hut, and of us keeping cosy in this old hut as night fell. The thrid os of us with friend, Katerina, outside the Bushline Hut, a much newer constuction. It's enormously refreshing to be immersed in forest and mountain beauty.
Our house is slowly proceeding. We have the root cellar dug into the side of a hill, the foundations of the shed for the solar panels, the cistern for the composting toilet, the slab for the shed, and now, the foundations of the house already done. The shed is up.
A team has begun work pressing the bricks, none too soon.

The huge amounts of time required for the house have detracted from other things we want to do. I'm eager to spend more time finishing the book on Reconciliation, and on revving up work on Transition initiatives. I have begun again, after a break, the Transition Towns radio show, with interviews of a woman promoting local eating and a climate scientist turned educator. David Lowe was an atmospheric chemist and lead author of IPCC reports. He felt that continuing to publish papers was not going to save the situation; perhaps getting into schools and talking to people might, so that's what he's doing. Admirable guy. I've done one on care of the local aquifer, and another on local democracy. Next week I've lined up someone on The Natural Step principles, and a fascinating sheep farmer who has replaced his pasture with lucerne to adapt to climate change, and is sequestering lots of carbon at the same time in the deep roots o the lucerne, thus helping to mitigate climate change.

I've been pulled back a little into the arena of developing knowledge of soil carbon and biochar, but I'd prefer to defer this until the book is finished.

I recently made one of my periodic trips to Wellington to do a session on Peace through Health with medical students, and then to meet with colleagues in International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. With the modest steps Obama has taken and the Nonproliferation Treaty Review on now, this was a good time for us to meet. It's not entirely easy to think what New Zealand can contribute to pushing things forward to nuclear weapons abolition, but it has provided a dramatic example in the past of how to move out of the nuclear weapons orbit. Regarding what small non-nuclear countries can do, I was inspired by reading today of how it was the Irish UN representative at the time, Frank Aiken, who skilfully and persistently raised and steadily pushed the idea of a nonproliferation treaty forward. It took ten years from when he first raised it to the accomplishment of the treaty.

A small nice thing happened today. In my last blog I included an essay I wrote on Maori-Pakeha reconciliation. I wanted to have one or more Maori review it, and had found this difficult to accomplish. When a Maori man we know had been working on chopping our felled trees into firewood for the local marae, Jack had asked him about this. He said he'd ask an elder. I assumed he had forgotten about this when nothing happened. Today I met him in the supermarket. One definitely notices Matua; he's big, very dark, and has a wreath of leaves tatooed around his face. 'Hey', he said. "I got Uncle Tahi to say he'd read your essay, and he'll meet with you about it.'

Atamai, the village
There is a developing sense of a village community. The young couple, Craig and Tracey Ambrose, have helped with this in establishing Friday night pizza and beer meals. They make the dough, and we all bring toppings and/or dessert, and beer, of course. Tracey and Kyoko are also establishing an organic foods co-op. Now I buy milk in bulk, straight from the farm (not our farm). I just made butter from the cream.

Three of the neighbours are mounting a coordinated campaign to harrass and discredit Atamai. They have tried unsuccessfully to oust Jurgen from his temporary housing on his land; they have complained unsuccessfully to the council that we are mining our land to make the bricks, one has posed as an interested investor to the local building society to try to find out about financial arrangements. Another gave a false name in order to try to extract information from the project lawyer. They're afraid, unnecessarily I think, that their peaceful rural way of life will be upset. We proposed mediation, but they rejected the offer.

Transition Town Motueka
The TALENTS currency is growing in use. We are planning a big session on Eating Locally. The car-pooling scheme is going well.

In turning back to the topic of reconciliation, I wondered how the concepts might apply to our relationship with the Earth, and wrote this exploratory essay. Don't feel obliged to read it. I daily hope that we can find some way to move toward reconciliation with our unhappy neighbours. With time, I'm sure we will.

Warmest wishes to all,

Reconciliation with the Earth
Is it not stretching the concept of reconciliation too far to consider such an interaction with a system without consciousness – the Earth? We cautiously propose that it is not for the following reason: the biosphere and those parts of the soil, rocks and oceans on which the biosphere depends (sometimes summarised by the mythically-derived term ‘Gaia’) is an extraordinarily complex system of systems. It appears to have an emergent long-term self-regulating property with the goal of maximizing life. The human population of the Earth, a conscious component part of the biosphere, has grown in numbers and technological capacity to the point of affecting the huge, complex self-regulating Earth system. The result of this interference is changing the conditions of life on Earth, contributing to the sixth major episode of extinction of biodiversity and to deteriorating conditions for human life.
. Life on planet earth is an improbable event; the biogeochemical evolution of our planet is, as far as we know, unique in our solar system, and likely beyond. If there is anything that is indeed sacred, it is the unique conditions and interplay between the inert matter of our special planet and the living systems that arose from this inert matter. We humans are, of course, part of that web of life. We are also the only species that have caused not only local disruption of these complex systems, but also planetary disruptions that now threaten the complexity of the unique phenomena we so take for granted – living systems. This is harm on a grand scale. And where there is harm, there is a need for reconciliation. Understanding the nature of the harm, who is harmed, and how they are harmed, influences how reconciliation might be approached.
The nature of this harm has largely been an unconscious phenomenon for humans, recently and currently becoming increasingly conscious. The processes of acknowledgment of harm, guilt, remorse, determination not to continue or repeat the harmful behaviour, repair of the damage and recovery and maintenance of a peaceful relationship are all highly relevant to this situation. So, according to James Lovelock, is the concept of revenge, though he does not assume consciousness in the process. Lovelock and many others foresee the possibility that a warming Earth, due both to increased heat from the sun and to human generation of greenhouse gases, will become seriously inhospitable for humans. The possibility of human extinction, in the short rather than long term, presents itself. This would be revenge indeed.
Let us see where the application of concepts of reconciliation in this situation gets us.
What harm has been (and is likely to be) done?
We will need to consider harm to humans and harm to other species. Where we considered harm to relationships in other case studies, here we need to consider harm to complex systems of relationships between multiple species and their sustaining substrate – in other words, ecosystems. For once let us consider other species before we consider humans.
• Harm to other species. We are accustomed to thinking of the basic needs of humans, and how these translate into human rights. Let us consider that other species also manifest most of the same basic needs in their behavior. They need security from death or injury and will seek to maximize this by evolutionary adaptation or by dramatic measures in the face of immediate threats if they are a mobile species. They need well-being and will employ the same long-term and short-term measures to ensuring this. They need freedom and will usually attempt to get it when it is denied them. The very many social species, from ants, sardines and crows to wolves and humans need to be able to congregate with their group, group inclusion. In humans, we think of this as a need for identity; this is the concept advanced consciousness associates with group inclusion, a very basic need. In humans, particularly over the last century, we have formulated the idea of rights to fulfilment of these basic needs. There is no consensus on whether, from our perspective, other species have rights. It is very clear that they have basic needs.
The magnitude of the harm done is already very severe, and includes death, not only to large numbers of individual organisms, but to entire species. Humans have encroached on the habitat of other species through agriculture, massive urbanization, roads, dams and mining . They have appropriated 25 to 40% of the net products of photosynthesis, the process on which the entire food chain (and our own food supply) depends . As one of millions of species, this is an extraordinarily large share of the biosphere’s production to commandeer. Hunting, fishing, pollution of soil, water and air, contribution to global warming and ocean acidification have added to these effects to lead to a massive extinction phenomenon , , comparable in magnitude to the five other extinction spasms in the history of the biosphere. This loss is likely to include animals to whose existence we are sentimentally attached such as koalas, polar bears, whales, gorillas, and also forms of life with which we have no familiarity, such as beetles, moths and micro-organisms, some of which may be crucial to their ecosystems. This harm is irreversible. Once the last koala or elephant has died, they can never again enjoy life, nor make their contribution to the life around them. We can never again enjoy such creatures accompanying our time on Earth. Their genetic code has gone forever.
• Harm to ecosystems and the biosphere as an integrated system of systems. Damage to ecosystems involves harm to the multiple species interdependent in the system. Examples of such large-scale harm are rainforest destruction, dead zones in oceans due to damaging effluent from large rivers, the loss of freshwater life in rivers and lakes and the global loss of soil swept by erosion into the ocean. Some damage is reversible, such as recovery of rivers and lakes when toxic effluent is stopped. This cannot happen if species have become extinct, or if damage has engaged positive feedback loops and worsens exponentially. In addition, as ecosystems attempt to adapt to climate change, the resilience provided by rich diversity will have been diminished. Human knowledge of the intricate interconnexions of ecosystems and the whole biosphere is scanty, and we interfere at our peril. For example, insufficient appreciation of the functions of coastal mangrove ecosystems as flood protection and as ocean fish nurseries has led to widespread destruction and loss of these ecosystems, increasing vulnerability to flooding of coastal areas (such as New Orleans) and to diminution of fish populations .
• Harm to humans
Since humans are part of the biosphere, and utterly dependent on it for survival and well-being, the harm we have done and continue to do to the biosphere is harm we do to each other. But this harm is not equally distributed. There is broad agreement that it is the poorest segment of local human populations and of the global population that have suffered and will suffer disproportionately from ecological damage of all kinds .
(i) Forced human movement. In Bangladesh, several hundred thousands of people have already had to move because of rising sea levels due to climate change. They largely move to the slums of Dhaka . The number of such internal migrants, forced to move because of sea-level rise, climate-induced famine or water shortage is estimated to be in the tens of millions by mid-century . Forced migration is costly to those affected, often meaning loss of capital goods and means of livelihood, loss of supportive community structure and culture. It is likely to be costly to those resident in the areas of new settlement too. The first populations to suffer climate change effects alongside the Bangladeshis are the small Pacific Island states, and the Inuit of the Arctic. It is projected that over the next century, sea level rise will affect many of the world’s largest cities which are close to sea-level . It is easy to project conflict arising out of these population movements into already heavily occupied areas, and the possibility of violent conflict.
(ii) Health effects of multiple forms of ecological damage . A hotter climate will diminish productivity; humans work less efficiently at higher temperatures. This will particularly affect agricultural and factory productivity. The former is especially worrying in the light of declining global grain stocks. Infectious diseases may become more troublesome as changing climate alters the distribution of vectors, and populations with low immunity are affected. The frequency of natural disasters of flooding, drought, hurricanes has increased due to climate change, causing immense suffering to affected areas.
(iii) The economic well-being of large populations deteriorates under conditions of desertification, deforestation, soil depletion, water pollution and diversion.
(iv) Harm to the beauty of the Earth. There is something in us that thrives on the beauty of wild places – an untrammelled river, the deep forest, an unspoiled beach. We seek it out. In the 21st century we have to seek harder and harder, as Earth’s beauty becomes obliterated by ever-enlarging cities, by roads, factories and agriculture. For many people, this beauty, once the common treasure of all humans, has become entirely inaccessible.
(v) Harm to future generations of humans. We who are alive now will leave the Earth in much worse condition than we found it. We are drawing down on Earth’s ‘natural capital’ instead of living on the interest. William Catton points out that when a population of any species overshoots the carrying capacity of its environment, what follows is collapse of the population . We are depleting the resources available to the next generation. We leave serious problems, created by human activity, to those as yet unborn to solve. If they can.
(vi) Finally, possibly curtailing the span of humans on Earth. The Earth is heating anyway, apart from human activity, and its hospitality for our species will not be perpetual. All species have a limited span in the history of the Earth. By altering the temperature and the climate severely, we may have hastened the time when the Earth can no longer support our species .
If the reader will allow a little stretching of the concept, usually reserved for conscious pay-back after a perceived insult, there is something worth understanding here. Revenge in primate society, including humans, is a crude and flawed self-regulating justice system. Another self-regulating system, the human body, deals with invasion by a species causing harm to its functioning, such as parasites, bacteria or viruses, by changing the internal environment of the system through immune response to exterminate the invading species. The analogy put forward here is that humans, having multiplied to a prodigious extent to occupy every zone on Earth, and appropriating an entirely disproportionate amount of Earth’s photosynthetic output , are, through their technology and numbers, doing severe damage to the biosphere. The unanticipated outcome of this damage is a change in the environment towards suboptimal conditions for survival of the species. The expectation is that large numbers of humans will die, that complex civilization will disappear, and that much smaller numbers of humans will live in less complex societies at lower levels of technology, and less capacity to harm the biosphere. This is conceived of as the ‘revenge’ of Gaia.
We might also consider the point of view of the human and conscious part of the biosphere in the future, perhaps in 2150, contemplating our own generations, particularly those responsible for much of the harm to the Earth. The spotlight falls on the affluent countries of high economic growth after the period of the industrial revolution. Will they feel anger and rejection towards us for leaving them such a damaged Earth? They will have no capacity to punish us for our ecological sins, though.
The alternative route is to speedily adapt the impact of human presence in the biosphere to a level which no longer involves damaging activities, no longer draws down on resources faster than they can be renewed and produces wastes beyond possible rates of natural processing, and which repays the ecological debt to be discussed below. In other words, the harm must cease, the conflict of incompatible goals resolved and reconciliation of the relationship engaged in.
Ending the harm
Ending the harm is an enormous task. The formula for the harm introduced by Paul Ehrlich and used by many others since is I= PAT . I is Impact on ecological integrity of the biosphere. P is Population size. A is level of Affluence or consumption of the population, T is Technology used in terms of ecological damage. (For example, electricity produced by a coal-fired power station will do more damage than electricity from a wind farm.) Ending the harm then involves tackling all factors in the equation. We would need to stop blowing up mountains to extract more coal, burning which then deforms the atmosphere, which results in overheating the Earth and damaging many species. This we might consider as direct violence to the Earth. We would need to curb or halt economic growth, which demands more and more throughput of materials and energy in a never-ending and logically impossible sequence on a finite Earth. This is structural violence deeply embedded in the structure of our economies. But most strikingly, we would need to tackle the cultural violence of our convictions about every one of the factors in the IPAT formula – belief in our imperative to populate the Earth with many offspring, belief in our right to affluence and waste and assessment of technology by its capacity to generate profit or enhance convenience, no matter what the externalized cost to the Earth and the global commons, which all of us share.
Resolving the conflict
The observed goal of the biosphere is to maximize life. The complex goals of humans counter this goal, sometimes severely and perhaps terminally. Working out a ‘transcending’ solution to this conflict is theoretically possible. It would mean living at levels of population, affluence and technology congruent with Earth’s carrying capacity. It would mean transmitting from generation to generation the values, skills and knowledge to sustain these limits while improving on life within these limits. Humans would enhance the beauty, integrity and resilience of the biosphere instead of destroying them.
In this case the processes of resolution and reconciliation merge, as follows.
There is a global furore about acknowledgment of human contribution to the destructive processes listed above, particularly to climate change. It is deeply embedded in dominant cultures that the Earth and its resources are for human exploitation, that ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’ are opposed, and ‘Man’ will conquer ‘Nature’, that Earth’s resources are endless, and it has endless capacity to deal with the effluents resulting from human activities. These embedded attitudes, together with the near-worship of ‘economic growth’ are, as suggested, a very close match to the idea of ‘cultural violence’ – the beliefs and attitudes that support violence in its many forms. Many indigenous cultures, on the other hand are imbued with a profound identification of humans with the natural world, a deep respect for species other than humans, an awareness of limits in use of resources and proscription of going beyond those limits. (It would, however, be a mistake to see indigenous cultures as ideal in their relationship to Nature. Many extinctions of food species were caused by such societies.)
Yet, acknowledgement is proceeding. Recognition of the damage our species is causing is steadily advancing. It is entering school curricula and university programmes. Environmental Impact Assessments must be done before further interfering with Nature in many governance systems. Environmental laws are passed to minimize further damage. The Precautionary Principle implies a humble acknowledgement of the paucity of our knowledge of natural systems – that we shouldn’t interfere unless we are sure we can avoid all damage. Full acknowledgement requires full shared understanding of the damage humans have done, and we are quite a long way from that state. We resist understanding, and deny the evidence before our eyes, because we benefit short-term from drawing down on Earth’s natural capital. In addition, there is powerful organized resistance to this acknowledgement, some of it funded by coal and oil industries .
We are a long way from the condition of a general shared deep respect for the integrity, beauty and resilience of Nature and all its intricate parts, the kind of respect that would lead to extreme caution before any interference or depletion.
There are further complications in this acknowledgement. Rich countries, with their history of one to two centuries of industrial development powered by fossil fuels are responsible for most of the gases in the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect. The most severe impacts of global warming will fall particularly on people and other species in poor countries, where droughts will limit what can grow, and floods will carry away stock, crops and wild species . Poor countries are demanding acknowledgement of this in climate negotiations, preparatory to making claims on rich countries. The acknowledgement is slow in coming.
Guilt and remorse
Many who become aware of how severely the Earth has been damaged feel guilt and remorse. Among them, some believe the damage is irreversible, or at least partly so. This perspective is deeply depressing. Remorse involves the intention not to repeat the harm, the wish to undo the damage. This emotion can energize activism to change the course of events.
This is irrelevant in relation to a system without consciousness, except in a symbolic sense to affirm the intention not to continue or repeat the harm. But perhaps such an apology to Gaia and all she nourishes, including our own descendants would be a good start. Such an aspiration involves enormous changes in human civilization. Governments are beginning to work at lowering carbon emissions, but show no signs of lowering them far enough and fast enough to avoid the agreed-upon dangerousness of having the global average temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius. There is very little discussion of rights-respecting ways of lowering human population numbers, or changing economies to function within the biophysical limits of what the Earth can provide and absorb. Groups in civil society work away at some of these issues; governments do not mention them. We should consider apologizing to our children and grandchildren who will have to cope with what we have done.
Restoration of damage
The term ‘ecological debt’ is used in two senses. One is seen as a debt owed by the (over)developed countries to the underdeveloped countries. The former have damaged the biosphere disproportionately as they developed their economies on burning fossil fuel over the last century and more. The less developed countries continue to have large proportions of their populations living below sufficiency levels. They need help from the developed countries if they are to provide adequately for their people without damaging the biosphere even more seriously .
The other sense in which the term is used is the debt to future generations of humans (and other species) of damaging the Earth to the extent that it is depleted in its resources and the ecosystem services such as carbon absorption, flood protection, climate regulation on which human life depends. We have made life much harder for our offspring. As we are dealing here with the relation between humans and the biosphere or Gaia, we will deal with the second sense of ecological debt, not the first.
Can the damage be restored, the debt paid off? Obviously the first consideration is how to stop the damaging processes, as above. To restore the injured Earth, the highest priority is likely to be returning some of the carbon sent into the atmosphere back to biomass, soil or rock. (The acidified ocean cannot store more.) This can be partly done with changed agricultural and pastoral practices, particularly organic methods . Reforestation, increasing the proportion of land under permanent forest cover, stores carbon in tree biomass and assists with debt repayment .
Bringing Earth’s population below levels congruent with its carrying capacity for humans, curbing consumption to levels of sufficiency rather than excess, learning to run steady-state economies below Earth’s biophysical limits are all measures that will allow restoration of the biosphere, if a tipping point has not been passed.
Restoring a peaceful, cooperative relationship
It may be hundreds or thousands of years before Earth recovers from its present human-induced illness. Excess carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for periods in that order of magnitude. If recovery of a generous, bountiful relationship is possible, humans will need to change their behavior henceforth. They will need to curb their population numbers and their consumption, and their astounding technological capacity for heedless harm to Nature. All of human cleverness and wisdom will need to be dedicated to learning to live well without harming the biosphere. Reverence for all life forms will need to enter human cultures, together with knowledge of the intricate integration of the great biosphere of which we are a part. Humility before this unknowable system needs to be part of our values, transmitted from generation to generation. Perhaps we will succeed in making peace with the Earth.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Relating to aboriginal peoples

Dear Friends,
The image here is of Jeff and me at our local marae, or Maori centre. We were attending Matariki, the celebration of the New Year.

I'll give you a little of our news, and then get into the substance of this blog, which has to do with relating to aboriginal peoples. This is an essay I finished this afternoon (though it may undergo further revision.) Why should you look at it? Most readers of this blog probably live in one of my previous two homelands - Australia and Canada. Both of these, and my present homeland, together with the United States, have incompletely reconciled relationships with their aboriginal populations. (It's also the case that these were the only four countries who voted against adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.) I'm a slow learner; it has taken me a long time to come to grips with this. Working on the issue of Reconcilliation , as I am currently, has created a context for this exploration.

So, first a little chat. Would you like a cup of tea?

Jack and I.
We're well. Jack has become a tramping addict, and we're now equipped to do overnight tramps.We have lovely sleeping bags, and backpacks so complicated you pretty much need a weekend workshop to learn to use one. The visit from Germany of our dear friends, Nicola and Ralph was a wonderful excuse to take time off and go tramping. Under the skilled mentorship of our friend Katerina, we went on our first overnight tramp. New Zealand has a system of government-maintained huts on major tracks, so you don't have to carry tents. Some even have gas stoves, although most don't. I had fun working out food that would be delicious after a long day's walking, and also very light to carry. After this wonderful few days, we celebrated Christmas together, and then went on a tent-camping trip on the Abel Tasman Track, reaching our starting point by water taxi.
Jack and I have since done another overnight on the Abel Tasman by ourselves, staying in a hut that was a farmhouse 100 years ago.
Working on designing the house still takes a lot of time. The earthworks are finished and it all looks rather like a moonscape.

Last month I went to Australia to help celebrate my mother's 90th birthday, which was done in three parties, all of which she greatly enjoyed. I was delighted to be present when my niece, Sky de Jersey, chaired the first meeting of a Transition Town in her part of Sydney. The group will set about creating vegetable gardens on footpath verges. In Sydney, I met up with our son Jeff, who is now in Paris, Ontario, to work on a film with friends.

OK, now for the essay.

Because I fear I might lose some of you before you get to the end of the essay, I'll say goodbye now, and how very much I appreciate the comments many of you make about the blog.

Very warmest wishes,

Posted by Picasa

Maori-Pakeha Reconciliation

There are many situations throughout the world where two or more peoples living alongside each other and interacting with each other have a history of having harmed each other. Usually there is a power difference and one side has hurt the other disproportionately. Post-colonial relations are one category of such situations. Seen in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Africa, the Basque areas of Spain and France, the relationship may have involved superiority in military technology and manpower, with domination of indigenous people and their culture backed by violence of various kinds.
Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. It is thought that they came to the islands of New Zealand, also called Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud) from Polynesia in about the 13th century Common Era. Beginning in the early 19th century settlers, mainly from the British Isles at first, began arriving. Later other Europeans immigrated to New Zealand, from Germany and Scandinavia, and later still, from the Pacific Islands. Initially, Maori mostly welcomed the newcomers, seeing benefits in new technologies and plant varieties. They agreed to land sales, envisaging a cooperative relationship with, at that point, small numbers of new settlers, known as ‘pakeha’.
But things were changing rapidly in ways they could not foresee. The British were interested in protecting their access to the timber, flax, seal and whale resources of New Zealand. They were aware of growing French interest in the country, and of a private company forming with the purpose of taking boatloads of settlers there. They wanted to secure their sovereignty there and, it should be said, there were those in the Colonial Office in London, who were genuinely interested in protecting the indigenous people from abuse by Europeans. (These same people were involved in the anti-slave trade movement at the time.) These several motivations led to the presentation to certain Maori leaders of a document devised by James Busby, the appointed British Resident, called the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand. In signing it in 1835, the Maori aristocracy affirmed their sovereignty over the territory of New Zealand. A further step was the forging of what came to be called the Treaty of Waitangi (after the place at which it was discussed and signed) in 1840.
The Maori version of this treaty, which was discussed by several score tribal leaders at Waitangi, and eventually signed by hundreds of Maori leaders, gives the right to govern the land to Britain, (likely assuming this applied to the two thousand sometimes rather lawless Europeans). Maori retain the right to govern their own communities, lands, forests, fisheries and ‘treasures’. Land sales, it was agreed, should be strictly voluntary, and only to the Crown. The English version was somewhat different. In it, sovereignty is ceded wto the British Crown, in exchange for protection. The signing of this ambiguous treaty opened the country to a massive influx of Europeans and an incessant hunger for land. Maori were overwhelmed, and lost control of land transfers.
Only a few years after the signing of the treaty, Maori armed resistance to what were regarded as inadmissible land deals had begun. Maori were initially successful in these encounters. They also used nonviolent land occupations to resist land transfers. The imperial response was to call for troops from Australia, until, in the 1860s, the Governor of New Zealand had 20,000 troops at his disposal, including settler volunteers. This was at a time when total Maori population of both islands was fewer than 56,000 people. Imperial force eventually prevailed. The government imposed crippling punitive land confiscations on the Maori in the most turbulent areas, depriving them of means of living.
Resistance to one of these confiscations was the scene of the most famous of Maori nonviolent actions. Prophets Te Whiti and Tohu regularly preached nonviolence in the village of Parihaka , on the west of the North Island. In 1881 they sent out teams of women to pull up survey pegs at night and teams of men in the day to plough and fence the land soon to be taken over. Again and again these teams were arrested, and more were sent to replace them. Eventually the government sent a force of 1600 men to enter the village. They were met by hordes of singing, skipping children who offered them food. Nonetheless, the village was destroyed, the leaders arrested and imprisoned without trial , the people dispersed and the land taken over.
Throughout the 19th century, population numbers of Maori steeply declined, from about 100,000 at the time of first contact to about 45,000 at the end of the century. This disastrous decline had many causes. Two major causes were not deliberate aspects of the quite explicit settler intention to dominate and assimilate Maori and their resources. Maori had poor immune resistance to European diseases, and died in large numbers of measles, influenza, whooping cough and tuberculosis. Maori fertility was affected by syphilis and gonorrhoea.
Maori culture included intense intertribal competitiveness. Once it became possible to acquire European firearms, there was an arms race between tribes, and the so-called Musket Wars in the 1820s and 1830s caused a loss of a large proportion of the population.
Maori considered that the promises of the Treaty of Waitangi were broken many times over. The Treaty was, in fact ignored by government institutions for the following century. In 1877, Chief Justice, Sir James Prendergast, ruled that ‘the whole treaty was worthless – a simple nullity [which] pretended to be an agreement between two nations, but [in reality] was between a civilised nation and a group of savages…’ Land continued to be transferred from Maori control in huge amounts.
In addition, land transfers often included promises to Maori to reserve land for them, to build hospitals, churches and schools. Many of these promises were not kept.
In the second half of the 19th century, Maori life expectancy was affected additionally by malnutrition, as the remaining land was insufficient for their sustenance, and their initial successful adoption of European agriculture and horticulture was economically overwhelmed by larger farms.
Who and what was hurt?• Having a population decline in numbers to less than half over a century translates into all living members of a population having to deal with sickness and death and the pain of childlessness, and into watching villages depopulate. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was expected that Maori were a dying people and that the end was near.
• The remaining population suffered hunger and malnutrition, unemployment, lower state benefits or none, substandard housing.
• Maori cultural and spiritual traditions declined for many reasons – voluntary adoption of the dominant culture, assertive missionary activity, deliberate suppression of Maori language in schools, suppression by law of aspects of Maori culture, urbanisation of Maori in the 20th century, and demoralisation.
• Weakening of community functioning meant the loss of community support, a vital social and spiritual resource for Maori.
• Deprivation of their resource base of land, forests and fisheries meant most Maori suffered poverty.
• While Maori health has improved through the 20th century, there is still a life expectancy differential of 11 years compared with the Pakeha population. The loss of 11 years of life is a very significant deprivation .
• Loss of trust and goodwill for the Pakeha portion of the population after repeated infractions of the solemn promise between the peoples in the Waitangi Treaty and many other promises.
• Currently many Maori perceive that they must resign themselves to persistent racism in the Pakeha population, and know that this impedes their life chances. Some continue to feel angry over all that has happened to them and their ancestors.
• It is possible to consider that this racism, derived from 19th century colonialist encounters, also harms those who hold such attitudes, although few would feel aware of this harm, and its effects are far less painful than those suffered by the object of racism.
Who hurt whom?
Parties particularly responsible for the many injuries to Maori and their lifeways were settler companies, land developers, the government, the military, missionaries. Maori killed settlers, soldiers and a few missionaries in the course of the several wars. In the 21st century, harm continues to be done by Pakeha ignorant of the necessity of redressing historical injuries. Such people see compensatory actions to Maori as unwarranted favours to a special group. This strand of sentiment is strong enough to create anti-Maori backlash at times, and the potential to be cynically used by political opportunists.
Process of healing
The Maori population did not die. There was a resurgence in population numbers, in language and in culture. There were improvements in physical health and a surge in fertility. Maori representation in Parliament steadily increased. A Maori party formed, and is part of a ruling coalition at the time of writing. There was a renewed focus on the promises of the Treaty of Waitangi, and it came to be seen as the founding document of the nation, to be incorporated into relevant legislation. The Waitangi Tribunal came into existence for the purpose of settling and redressing wrongs in failures to observe the terms of the treaty. Numbers of Pakeha learned to speak Maori; many attended workshops on the Treaty to deepen their understanding of the injuries of history that required reconciliation. School curricula changed to incorporate learning that would help all New Zealanders understand the history of the relationship between Maori and Pakeha.
How did all this come about?
Firstly, Maori never submitted to the injustices perpetrated on them. There was no historical period in which they paused in their attempt to protest their grievances, especially the removal of almost all of their lands. Before the Land Wars of the 1860s, a powerful Maori grouping had proposed parallel parliaments, shared sovereignty and cessation of land sales. In 1894 there was a Maori attempt to introduce a Maori Rights Bill into Parliament. Maori communities set up committees to abolish the Native Land Court which facilitated land transfers away from Maori. They used their disproportionately small parliamentary representation to struggle for successive improvements in Maori rights and lives throughout the early decades of the 20th century. Many of these efforts failed at the time, but created momentum for the next attempt.
The role of parliamentary action in this long struggle highlights the importance of democratic functioning in adjusting the relationships between peoples. But only after the introduction of a proportional representation system of parliamentary elections in 1996, did Maori begin to have numbers of parliamentary representatives proportional to their population. Their influence accordingly increased.
The courts too have played a role in recovery of a just relationship. For example, a successful legal challenge led to the requirement that the government spend significant amounts of money on promotion of the Maori language.
In addition, civil society organisations, such as the Maori Women’s Welfare League , the New Zealand Maori Council and urban protest groups, played a crucial role. Highly effective Maori leadership was an important element, including remarkable women leaders. The ability to adapt the means of protest, using mass media to convey the message, was a significant factor.
In the 1970s these protests became more insistent. In 1975 there was a great Land March from the northern tip of the land to Wellington, the seat of Parliament. This politicised Maori with a unity of purpose in the struggle against colonisation. There were several notable land occupations resulting in removal of occupiers by police and army. These nonviolent actions made clear the degree of unrest in the land. Equality of rights, restoration of land and language were the major themes of protest.
In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was set up by an Act of Parliament, in order to examine any future challenges to Treaty provisions. Among its helpful activities, the Tribunal recommended action to promote Maori as a living language, eventually to become an official language. After a decade of Maori agitation on Treaty issues, and motivated by a desire to retain the Maori vote, in 1985 the government made the scope of the tribunal retrospective. This initiated an avalanche of claims against the Crown. As each major settlement has been made, an apology has been issued by the Crown, in the person of the Prime Minister. When decisions have been appealed in courts, an evolving understanding has developed that the Treaty was ‘essential to the foundation of New Zealand’ and is ‘part of the fabric of New Zealand society’.
Efforts to regenerate Maori education began in the 1960s, but surged in the 80s with the established of language immersion from infancy. In the same period, Maori schools and universities began. Many refer to a Maori Renaissance.
Concepts of identity are changing. Some refer to ‘tangata whenua’, the people of the land (Maori) and ‘tangata tiriti’, the people of the Treaty (Pakeha). There is the idea of a bicultural society within a multicultural society. Historian Michael King questions the concept of a bicultural society, because of the actual and desirable interpenetration of each culture with the other.
These latter changes imply that the Pakeha population of New Zealand have changed over time too, from an unquestioned attitude of superiority supporting dispossession, towards greater understanding and respect for Maori. Needless to say, this shift is not universal. Backlashes flash from time to time, racism is still endemic at a lower level.
Why the change? The 20th century was one in which the value supports of colonialism and racism were repeatedly challenged and partly demolished. The idea of the universality of human rights became firmly established. New Zealanders displayed an astonishing degree of civil protest in response to a rugby tour of an apartheid South African rugby team in 1981. This turned the attention of some to the racism in their midst. If the Treaty had not existed, there would be moral imperatives for these changes, but the treaty had standing in law, and this helped immensely.
What is yet to be done?Maori do not think full redress for past wrongs has been made. The Waitangi Tribunal is still plodding through hundreds of claims and will be for some time ahead. Maori think that the promise of self-determination over their lands, forests and treasures has not been fulfilled. There are several Maori propositions for a dual system of power-sharing, in the belief that this will constitute a just relationship. In moving towards a just and generous relationship, it is important that New Zealanders learn from an early age the history of the relationship, the progress of reconciliation so far, national values of justice, cooperation, generosity and rejoicing in diversity, in order that they might carry it forward.
In such a large-scale, long-term reconciliation process, it can be seen that all the elements of reconciliation run in parallel over time. The demand that society and the offending group (in this case one and the same) hear the grievances is not yet fulfilled. The Waitangi Tribunal has a long list of cases which will take years to clear. This demand also requires that the injuries against Maori as a people be recorded and learnt as a common history of New Zealand for generations ahead. The acknowledgement of these grievances (in this case as in many others, the heart of the process) must proceed as the grievances unfold. Apologies are formally proffered as settlements are arrived at. In 1996, Queen Elizabeth II apologised to the large tribal group who had been subjected to invasion by imperial troops and punitive land confiscations in 1860. Reparations proceed as settlements are made. Some of these are monetary, some are land returns, some involve rights to resources, such as fisheries, and some involve reversion to Maori names of places. There are more to come.
Has there been forgiveness by Maori of Pakeha harm? Hard to say. The process of acknowledgement, apology and reparation is not yet complete, for one thing. Another issue is that for some Maori, the harm of endemic racism continues. Yet many Maori-Pakeha relationships appear free of the burden of the past.
The process of reconciliation received a major setback in 2004 when, despite massive protests by Maori and others, and a contrary recommendation by the Waitangi Tribunal, the government passed a law assuming sovereignty over the foreshore and seabed of New Zealand, traditional Maori resource areas. This Act has been successfully challenged in court and awaits revision or repeal. The government is said to be moving toward a form of co-management, an interesting shift towards a Maori worldview of non-ownership. This issue, one imagines, must signal to Maori the need for continuing vigilance over transfer of land and resources. Yet, unlike the depradations of the 19th and 20th centuries, this one was halted in three years after passage, and may lead to working with a blending of values about the resources of Nature.
Further comments
The harm to indigenous people in colonising relationships backed by power to kill and other kinds of violence is very severe, and continues for centuries after the active phase of colonisation. For example, the appalling numbers of sad and hopeless Canadian Inuit boys who have committed suicide in the last decades can be linked to the history of harm in colonisation. The cumulative suffering is enormous. There are current situations in which the colonisation is active and acute, for example, Israeli colonisation of Palestine and Chinese colonisation of Tibet. When the acute harm is ended we can expect the time of healing to be very prolonged, a task to be carried out for many generations ahead, as in the case history above. This case illustrates the typical situation in which it took nearly a century and a half to begin to have grievances acknowledged formally. An intergenerational task must be carried forward by education and value transmission.
It is foreseeable that the century ahead of us will be one in which the impact of population growth, peak oil and climate change on sea level and food production is likely to cause much movement of peoples. There are no new territories to occupy, so those who move will necessarily move in on the land and resources of others. In many of these cases, the immigrant people will probably be the less powerful, vulnerable to resistance by the indigenous to use of their possibly scarce resources. Sea level rise causing Bangladeshis to move inland is one of the most worrying future projections. It is also conceivable that armed invasions could occur, particularly where land has been purchased by one state for food production in another. For example, China and the Gulf States, among others, are engaged in systematic very large land purchases in every continent for food provision to their populations.
We would do well to try to minimise future suffering by planning now to act on both the causes and effects of these foreseeable human movements. Better to learn the lessons of the suffering incurred by population movement in the past and apply them to prevention than to address centuries of suffering with reconciliation in the future.
Sources for this section were:
Consedine T., Consedine J. Healing our History: the challenge of the Treaty of Waitangi. (2nd edition) Penguin, 2005.
King, Michael. The Penguin History of New Zealand. Penguin, 2003.
King, Michael. Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native. (2nd edition) Penguin, 2004.
Website of Network Waitangi Otautahi:

Well, if you got this far, you are a devoted reader, indeed! My congratulations! Of course, I welcome comments on this, as on other material.

More warm wishes,