Brent Barrett’s Home Planet: Matariki a wonderful time to be real about our connection with nature

Brent Barrett's Home Planet: Matariki a wonderful time to be real about our connection with nature

Matariki is a time to notice how we see and sense nature, the seasons, and how we might better work with nature in our gardens and food growing. Photo/Mead Norton


We’re lucky. We live in a beautiful, culturally rich country. Some say it’s the most beautiful on earth, and I wouldn’t disagree.

This year, we’ve recognized this in a new way. For the first time we’ve celebrated a homegrown holiday, inspired by indigenous culture and the natural world. A holiday that marks our place in the world and in the universe.

Matariki is her name, a time borne of indigenous tradition and knowledge, with an unbreakable connection to our natural world. The kōrero around celebrating Matariki has been strongly grounded in the sky, in nature, in the seasons, in renewal, in our relationship with the world and those around us.

I like it, and expect Matariki may become our nation’s most treasured holiday in the years ahead.

The city’s Matariki holiday festival was led by Rangitāne at Ahimate Pā beside the Manawatū Awa on Friday night. Calm and crisp, the atmosphere was pure magic. Packed with people of all ages and origins. Kapa haka, waiata, a relaxed vibe of sharing food, music and culture. It was a great way to mark the new seasons ahead, and reflect on connections with nature and each other.

The warmth of the sun, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. All supplied by nature. In the past, our ability to read and respond to nature determined our survival day to day and season to season.

This was the center of a kōrero with Professor Nick Roskruge, hosted by Te Manawa Museum on the eve of Matariki. He invited us to think about the annual cycle that Matariki marks, to notice how we see and sense nature, the seasons, and how we might work better with nature in our gardens and food growing.

It’s in these times of reflection on our connection with nature we can be real about how broken that relationship is. We’ve been born into a time where massive, long-term harm is being done to the natural world, and ultimately to ourselves and our future. The more we see, it’s clear we’re living dangerously beyond our means, damaging nature’s capacity to support life.

Many of us recognize this, and are choosing to make more earth-friendly choices. Which is helpful, but isn’t the fundamental change we need to protect the natural world and our future.

So, where to from here? Radical change is needed. Tea Earth Overshoot Day website shows just how big a change is required. It measures how many days into the year before a country is living beyond what our earth can continue to sustain.

The USA tips over the edge in early March. China in early June. In Aotearoa New Zealand we’re in between, somewhere in April. Rather sobering, eight months out of 12 we’re taking more than nature has to give.

In the same way an economy can crash, natural systems can crash when they’re pushed off balance. We need radical, practical responses. Action firmly grounded in reality. Responses that generate hope, that begin to heal our relationships with nature. As Greta Thunberg recently said at Glastonbury, we’re approaching a precipice and we need to stand our ground.

These are my Matariki reflections, a wonderful time to celebrate renewal, and to be real about our connection with nature and our shared future.

This is my last Home Planet column until October. I’m signing off to focus on campaigning for re-election to the city council. My one request is this. Please use the city, district and regional council elections to press candidates on the issues that matter most to you. And vote accordingly.

• Brent Barrett is an environmental advocate, city councilor and scientist. The views expressed here are his own.


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