The Good Council: Annika Weis und Prof Herbert Girardet

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Intro: Hello, and welcome to The Good Council, the podcast of the World Future Council. In each episode, we’ll highlight current challenges and policy solutions. And we’ll also take you on a journey of inspiring stories. Listen in to another of our intergenerational dialogues from around the globe.

Annika: My name is Annika, I’m a consultant at the World Future Council. And in this episode, I’m speaking with Herbert Girardet, who’s one of the co-founders and former director of programs of the World Future Council. Herbert is a cultural ecologist, author and former filmmaker. He’s worked as a consultant to UN Habitat and UNEP and is a recipient of a UN Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievements. He’s also an executive committee member of The Club of Rome, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a member of the World Academy of Art and Science, a patron of the Soil Association in UK, and a visiting professor at the University of the West of England. In 2003, Herbert was the inaugural Adelaide Thinker in Residence, advising South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, on his government’s sustainability policies, and how to reduce Adelaide’s carbon footprint. Indeed, his advice was fully implemented.

Hello, Herbie, thank you very much for being here today. It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to have this conversation with you. And to be able to learn a little bit more about you and your work, but also the World Future Council. So, you’ll be taking us on a rollercoaster tour of your very interesting life, which you describe as a journey towards concern about future generations. So, let’s start in the beginning, you were born in 1943. That means the Second World War was still raging, and you were brought up in its aftermath. How was your childhood, and how did that shape the person that I’m speaking with today?

Herbert: Now, of course, I was too young to really fully understand what was going on in the world. You know, I was two years old when the war finished. But I mean, the effects of the end of that war were sort of almost instant. Certainly, there was a lot of people arriving from the east. I grew up in on the outskirts of a town called Essen in the Ruhr, which was the main industrial centre, and the main centre for weapons production as well actually, for the Second World War, particularly companies like companies like Krupp, and Thyssen [which] produced the guns and the tanks and so many other weapons that were used in the war. So we were sort of in a little house on the edge of town, and we had constant arrivals, from people would come from the east to escape the Russian invasion of Mecklenburg and other parts of East Germany. And so it was, our house is always full of people, all of them kind of in worries and concerns about what they’d lost and how, what the future might hold and that kind of stuff. But when I became sort of conscious, if you like, when I was three or four years old, I very quickly became aware where we were because from my house we could see the chimneys, spewing out smoke, on the edge of Essen of the factories that were producing steel and coal and so on, coal mines, and coal power stations. And so, I could every night, we could see the glaring sort of smoke of these chimneys, and the flames coming out of the steelworks—it was an extraordinary sight. And I was, I can remember even then asking, when I was maybe four or five, asking my father, where does all that smoke end up? You know, in the air? What, is it going to do to the air that we breathe? And there was no answer to that question.

And then a little while later, when my father got his first car after the war, and he switched on the engine and the smoke came out of the exhaust pipe and I asked him, where does all that smoke go again? From small rather than a large chimney like that. And, again, you had the answer to that question.

So, I was beginning to kind of think about these kinds of things, even as quite a young kid. And a little few years later, when we went down to the river Ruhr, and there was foam, white foam on the river, and dead fish in the river. And I was asking, why are these fish dying? And again, there was no answer to those questions.

So, there was kind of a bit of a concern about these issues fairly early on in my life and so in some ways, I could say that it’s continued throughout the rest of my life and has shaped my consciousness if you like, to this very day.

Annika: That’s very powerful. What was that like as a as a child to see all of these things that no one can explain to you? That must have been very unsettling.

Herbert: Well, it was a bit unsettling, of course, it was. I mean, of course, it wasn’t all, what life was all about. And we also had wonderful things going on. I mean, we were living on the edge of a forest. And I was always climbing trees, and I was always out in the garden, helping to grow vegetables and stuff like that. So, it was not all doom and gloom by any means. But I mean, that certainly, that was part of the story of my childhood experiences.

Annika: So, then you set out to study, right? And how was that like, being a student during the, I suppose, Cold War?

Herbert: I went to study in Berlin, and I was studying something I didn’t really want to study which my father imposed that on me, if you like, to study art history, I really wanted to study politics and sociology. But anyway, so it was, quite extraordinary to live in this walled city of Berlin at that time, as you know, has just been closed off from the rest of the world, by the Soviets and by the Eastern German government. So yeah, it was quite an experience living in Berlin. And at that time, certainly the kind of anger about the history of Germany was bubbling up in the minds of many of us. I mean, we were sort of the generation who were just been shaped by the post war experience, and asking questions about what, what has happened to this country? The Nazi history was just horrible, the more you were exposed to it, the city was still full of destroyed or damaged buildings that were gradually being reconstructed. So certainly the aftermath of the Nazi era was very much a deep concern for all of us in that generation. So we were the sort of, if you like, the rebellious generation thar was trying to make sense of the world, from this horrible history that just had just swept across Germany, throughout the Second World War and before that.

Annika: And what was that like coming to terms with what has happened?

Herbert: Well, we kind of started to say can we build a new world? Can we create the new world? Can we simply kind of throw away all this horrible history and find a way of creating a sort of almost like a utopian future. And that certainly became very much part of the thinking of people, like I said. There was the new left movement, there was the beginnings of the Green Movement popping up, there was people like Rudi Dutschke, and my great friend, the German Jewish poet, Erich Fried, who was very close to me, and we were all constantly thinking about how can we make a different kind of world from the ruins of the disasters that happened to Germany in Europe just a few years before?

I moved from Berlin to London as a student. And I very quickly realized that what I had been asked to study—art history—was not for me. So, I basically I got out of university and became involved in living in Notting Hill Gate, which at that time was an extraordinary place. This really was the coming together, people from all over the world. I mean, lots of West Indians, a lot of people from Asia, from Eastern Europe and we were basically at that time really trying very hard to kind of come up with ideas for the future if you like. I mean, we did a lot of community action, we occupied buildings that were empty to turn into community centres. We were kind of holding film shows for, for trade unionists about how it could be like to have new people power establishing itself. And all sorts of amazing sort of activities. I was one of the people involved in organizing the Notting Hill Carnival, actually, in the late 60s so we had this wonderful experience of people from all these different backgrounds coming together with musical instruments and dressed up in extraordinary costumes parading through the streets of Notting Hill Gate, and basically telling the right wing sort of fascist who were trying to stop the immigration of people from all over the world to come into place like Notting Hill Gate: bugger off, we are going to determine what the future is going to hold rather than you writing bastards! It was very political time. And certainly, very creative. And there was, of course, all the coming together, often rock music and the Beatles were around and the Rolling Stones and all the other rock bands. So, on the one hand, there was a kind of cultural revolution was taking place, on the other hand, there was also a political process that was going on at the same time, all concerned with, what could the future be like if we only had a sense, if we only had the influence to shape it in the way that we were hoping we could do? Yeah, it was a very interesting, worthwhile time that’s still with me deeply today.

Annika: And what did you learn from all that time for yourself? And also, why did you even take that step to go to Notting Hill, to move to England in the first place?

Herbert: Well, Berlin was a very depressing place, because it was the walled city and I had been involved actually, in helping to build a tunnel under the Berlin Wall, with some students from the Freie University, in Berlin. And so my parents are getting very anxious about what was happening with my life and my rather rebellious ways of doing things. So they kind of encouraged me to actually move to London. But it was kind of in some ways, from their point of view, it was even worse than when I got involved. And all these rebelliousness in London, as well as. So my father, actually, basically, at that stage effectively disowned me and said, you get on with what you want to do. And, and so we were not in close contact for quite a number of years.

But then I actually got a job at the BBC as a newscaster at the BBC German service, broadcasting the news from London to the rest of the world, particularly to Germany, and so on and so forth. And also at that stage I had a young family. And so life then was partly rebellious, and partly very domestic at the same time. But always the question, what does the future hold? How can we create a world at this stage with young kids—can we create a world that these kids can actually thrive in rather than forever be burdened by history and by—pollution was becoming an issue at that time. The green movement was really beginning to spring up, particularly in the late 60s, suddenly the whole idea of creating a more egalitarian world and a more joyful world, but also a world that needed to really take care of the environment that we needed to have, to be healthy, to have a future. So all of that was coming together in the minds of young people like us. And it became a very creative, very productive time. I went back to the LSE then, to studied social anthropology, having met all these extraordinary people from all over the world who were living together and Notting Hill Gate.

For me, that became a stimulus to try and understand where we actually came from where we come from, in terms of human history. And so it was interesting to find out about African history, about ancient history, and through the eyes through the experience of leading reading about anthropology, anthropology, and all the various many tribal societies, who’ve been documented by anthropologists from this country, in Britain, but also from Germany and elsewhere. So that’s fascinating to learn about human evolution, if you like, the cultural evolution of tribes, like hunter gatherer tribes in Africa and the Amazonian tribes and the rainforests of South America and all of that became part of like the sort of instrumentation of my mind over the few years that I was at the LSE.

Annika: That’s super interesting. I’ve got many questions about your time in Notting Hill and the BBC, that must have been incredibly stimulating and an exciting time to be in.

Herbert: It was.

Annika: And I figure that when you then became a father and you had a young family, that must have been a bit of a turning point, wasn’t it?

Herbert: But it was, I mean, I didn’t stop being involved in all these kinds of activities. And my wife was sometimes a bit worried about what was going to happen next. But yes, I mean, basically the idea of the experience of having a young family, two kids growing up in Notting Hill Gate, and a house full of interesting, eccentric people in artists and musicians and, and politically minded people. Yeah. So, I mean, it was kind of a mixture of on the one hand, really making sure of young family and the well-being of our kids. On the other hand, if you like the well-being of the world all around us and so, that kind of, these two strands are always woven together and in various different ways.

Annika: And did you hang out often?

Herbert: Hang out, what do you mean ‘hang out’?

Annika: Like, did you did you spend a lot of time with them? Did you have any communal activities?

Herbert: Well, not so much in the house. But I mean, I was at that time involved at something called the People’s Association, where basically, we’ve taken over four buildings in Powis Square in Notting Hill gate, for the purpose of creating a community centre.

Annika: Really fascinating. That must have been—and you say that time still lives with you, and you probably think of it quite fondly, don’t you?

Herbert: I do, I go and visit people there still even though I don’t live there any longer.

Annika: Among all the other things that you’re doing, you’re also a poet. Right? You recently wrote a poem called “Sacrificing Tomorrow Today”.

Herbert: Yeah.

Annika: And I think it’d be really lovely if you would do us the honour and read that out loud.

Herbert:

Okay, I’ll try and do that. Sacrificing Tomorrow Today:

1 Hey folks, aren’t we having fun

roasting the Future alive,

in a furnace of ancient oil:

To burn ever more means to thrive.

2 Let us sacrifice Tomorrow

on the altar of Now and Today.

Tomorrow is there for disposal,

so why not just throw it away?

3  Steal our grandchildren’s future:

As long as we can do our living.

Taking, and taking some more,

and let’s not bother ‘bout giving.

4 Why not just get rid of Tomorrow,

we are good at playing this game.

Why care for some unborn child,

with no face yet, and no name?

5 We’re roaring into the unknown

in a souped-up luxury car,

and when we have arrived there

we’ll soon find out where we are:

6  Let us lie on a palm-fringed beach,

sipping cocktails and champagne,

with not a care in the world.

It’s so cool: we will do it again.

7  Let’s smudge our little planet

with plastics, poisons and oil,

let’s light some more forest fires

and then flush away the soil.

8  So now, what else can we do

to make our Future die

a fiery, premature death?

Are there other ways we can try?

9  Let us sacrifice Tomorrow

on the altar of Now and Today.

Tomorrow is there for disposal,

so why not just throw it away?

Annika: Thank you very much. There’s nothing like hearing it straight from the author, from the poet. Incredibly powerful—I’ve got goosebumps. What was your inspiration for it? It’s very topical, of course. And what would you say is the message?

Herbert: Well, when you look around the world today, I mean, wherever we are, we are really basically stealing our children’s future; doing that through all the activities that I’ve just listed throughout the poem, whether it’s rain forest destruction, whether it’s climate change, whether it is biodiversity loss, whether it’s what we’re doing to the oceans, in terms of plastics, whether it’s all the other ways in which we are consuming the planet. And basically robbing the future. And this is really obviously, one of the key themes that we also then focus on when we started founding the World Future Council in 2007. Basically the concern about what are we going to do, if you’re going to carry on like we are today, in terms of the lives of future generations? So these are issues that I’ve been very deeply concerned with for a long time.

Annika: Exactly. And that brings us, as you mentioned, directly to the World Future Council, which again, as you said, you founded in 2007, together with Jakob von Uexküll. What’s the story there? Obviously, you’ve spent your entire life wondering about pollution and where the fumes come from. And that then culminated in this organisation that you found them together. How did that come about?

Herbert: Well, I’ve been involved in a predecessor to the World Future Council. In London in the 80s, I got together with various people who are working in the sort of environmental field and in the sustainability field. And we called it the Council for Posterity. And that was basically just to get together people saying, well, we cannot carry on like this stealing the future in the way we are clearly doing. So that was just if you’d like to get together people but without any funding, or any major sort of support of any kind, or any publicity for it, really. But anyway, that certainly, if you like, was kind of the predecessor to the World Future Council, which came about much later.

So that, Jakob and I at that time, met around this particular theme of “Earth Emergency: Call to Action”. And then he said, well, he had the idea of trying to create a council of future generations—the World future Council, which was an interesting and exciting title. So, we basically tried to see, okay, how can we work together on this? And so, we did, we basically said, okay, let’s try and conceptualize an organization that really stands for something that is different from what has already been done by other environmental organizations, specifically focusing on the need to understand what the impacts on future generations are and how we can address them. And that’s what we set out to do.

It became very quickly apparent that we have to kind of find some innovative ways of doing that. So one idea was to say, okay, I’ve been working with the UN Habitat, that’s the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, on what we call best practice initiatives; how cities that are suffering pollution effects or that are suffering from loss of industries or whatever, and find practical ways in which to turn them around. And so, we’ve compiled this for UN Habitat, compiled together a list of initiatives in cities around the world, under the label of best practices. And it became very clear to me that just best practices per se, is not a sufficient concept if you really want to stimulate change in a deeper sort of way. So I suggested let’s focus not just on best practices, but on best policies that bring best practices about.

So when we first started the World Future Council, I managed to find a researcher with very, very bright young guy called Miguel Mendonça. And we asked him to put together a first brochure called Policies to Change the World. And he did a brilliant job. And he compiled a whole load of different initiatives on various aspects of the policies that really make a difference or could make a difference. So including wind turbine cooperatives in Denmark, the German renewable energy law, congestion charging in London urban transport solutions, on particular public transport initiatives in Bogota, and elsewhere in South America, urban agriculture initiatives, participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre in Brazil, eco-labeling of products, circular economy initiatives, plastic bag levies, mine ban treaties and various policies that have been introduced in one part of the world that we thought we could highlight and publicize. And in that way, by drawing attention to them get other cities and other countries to adopt them. And so that’s where we first got this idea to really focus on policies to change the world rather than just best practices. And that’s obviously being the kind of special quality, special aspect of the work of the World Future Council ever since.

Annika: That’s a Yeah, I mean, as you say, that’s a very innovative idea—hasn’t been done before, the focus on policies specifically. But a very innovative aspect, a unique aspect about the council, is the council itself, right? The composition of about 50 members from all over the world, your life has already been marked by getting to know very interesting people from all walks of life. And how did you then bring together all of these 50 members, obviously, slightly different maybe back then than it is today. But still…

Herbert: Well, I mean, you did it partly because Jakob had already been running other initiatives such as Right Livelihood Awards, and so they had been giving prizes, and special recognition to people from many different countries who’ve been doing excellent, extraordinary outstanding work, as well and with my network of people involved in the work that I’ve been doing, for the United Nations, about other organizations. So, we basically put together a provisional list of people who we thought we could invite, and we were very successful in really getting amazing people on board to became the core of this council that eventually ended up as you know, with 50 members, and that’s obviously, some some people have died in the meantime, others have decided not to stay involved. But we have a wonderful global line-up of people who are really outstanding in their own particular areas of work.

Annika: And what was that like just feeling this incredible momentum of brilliant people around the world trying to work for one cause?

Herbert: What I mean, Now, of course, not just working for one, cause they all have their own particular initiatives in their own localities on their own countries. But certainly, the idea of bringing together people around this theme of what can we do to ensure a future for this planet, that was obviously something that galvanized all of them in their own particular ways. And that’s obviously still the kind of main focus or the main concern of everybody involved in the in the Council. But I mean, it’s also a very difficult initiative to try and issue because future generations can’t speak for themselves. They’re not born yet by definition, so to be advocates of future generations, it’s not an easy task, particularly because when you try to speak to try governments and persuade them to really take these issues much more seriously, they say, well, there’s no votes in future generations. Why should we concern ourselves with people, not just be to be born in 50 years, or 30 years from now, but maybe a few 100 years from now? And that’s certainly become a very difficult thing to persuade politicians to take seriously, because their concern is to be re-elected, and often re-elected just for three or four or five years. So long term thinking is not very easily embedded in the existing political system of our countries or around the world. So that’s certainly been very difficult thing to persuade people to do. So certainly, when it comes to advocates for future generations, there’s only a very few countries that have embedded a future generation spokesperson in their own parliament. We’ve tried very hard at the World Future Council to do this. But the only place that has actually still has a future generations advocate, it’s actually Wales, were I happen to live for the last 20 or 30 years.

The Good Council: Annika Weis und Pauline Tangiora

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Intro: Hello, and welcome to The Good Council, the podcast of the World Future Council. In each episode, we’ll highlight current challenges and policy solutions. And we’ll also take you on a journey of inspiring stories. Listen in to another of our intergenerational dialogues from around the globe.

Annika: This is a slightly different episode of our podcast series. For starters, it begins with a traditional Maori greeting…

Kosha: Greeting

Annika: One of the most cherished Councillors of the World Future Council is Pauline Tangiora. A Maori elder and leading figure for indigenous communities, she is described as a repository for knowledge and wisdom. She is a daughter, a mother and grandmother, and not just to her family, but to many people around the world. She is also a tireless fighter and campaigner for the rights of nature, for peace and disarmament, and for intergenerational conversations—just like the one she had with me. Pauline has been a member of the World Future Council since its foundation in 2007. But I wanted to get to know her as a person, what she did before she joined, and why she does what she does. I hoped to learn about her views on life, on her work and on her community, and about her message to present and future generations.

For example, I read that Pauline’s community is much more collective than we are used to in Europe, and often lives together across generations where generations can benefit from one another. So, I asked her how exactly she practices inter-generational living.

Pauline: Well, it’s a difficult question to answer. By bringing on board—over few years that I’ve travelled overseas, taking a younger person with me, and then dropping them into the situation that they have to speak because we, we as Maori, usually do things together. Not on our own. And that’s the way that we have been doing it for several years. My travels overseas haven’t been for me, they’ve been for the younger people to learn so that they can carry on to the future or to each other. That’s the way our people live, by sharing what knowledge we have. So, everybody is on board, because of different generations have different values. And if we can’t dialogue with the generation what is happening is a generation gap if we are not understanding or not sharing that knowledge.

Annika: I was also really interested in her indigenous community. I wondered, is there prhaps a particular message that the Maori have for the WFC?

Pauline: Well, I can’t talk for everybody. I can only talk from my perspective and my community… to achieve the dreams of this modern age we have to get everybody on board and that is like in any other community, trying to get everybody on board is very difficult.

You’ve had an extra little experience of how Maori start their day, when Kosha-Joy opened with our language and introduced me. Those things are important to retain. It’s very important that every indigenous community in the world retains those introductions in a world which is so European.

But we have some young people like Kosha-Joy and that, who are working very hard to bring the “new world” to the “old world”. Cause some of us are not prepared yet for that new world. As for indigenous people internationally, in my work with the indigenous peoples around the world, many of them have looked to Maori to help them to succeed.

But at the Rio Conference, of Kari-Oca, one thing we were all united in—the over [ninety] nationalities—was that, we mustn’t lose that, which we’ve had.

Annika: In June 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—also known as the ‘Earth Summit’—was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a major UN conference that sought to rethink economic development and to find ways to stop polluting the planet and depleting its natural resources. But while heads of governments met in Rio, indigenous peoples had their own summit at Kari-Oca, a village outside Rio: the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territory, Environment and Development. And following their Kari-Oca Conference, the indigenous leaders shared their perspectives with the State representatives.

Pauline: One of the things that we have noticed in the international world: international companies look at some of our young indigenous peoples, they grab them and put them into places where they lose their contact with their indigenous world. And that’s a danger that all indigenous communities around the world have. And I think the WFC have given a little bit of a leeway for the indigenous peoples to come forward from their perspective, especially some of the women of Africa who have come forward planting millions of trees, the waterways; the women in India, trying to save Gujarat; the women in the Amazon, trying to stop the forest being cut down. Because indigenous peoples can only work with the environment that they’re around, those environments vary from country to country. And it doesn’t matter how big a community you have, it’s all the same, it’s retaining the knowledge of how Mother Earth works with humanity. If we don’t work this together, we are not above Mother Earth, we are within Mother Earth, and humanity must be tamed.

Pause

Annika: One thing that I learned in advance of my call with Pauline was that Maori people believe in Kaitiakitanga, which can be translated into trusteeship (of the Earth). What does this fascinating concept mean, and what does it entail?

Pauline: That number one, you have a responsibility for yourself. To make sure that you are honest, your morals are above reproach. Because unless you yourself can look within yourself, you cannot work within the environment or with the new community. Because to look after anything, you must be there for the purpose of, number one, your people, humanity, and the world as such. So, sometimes it’s a hard-y road to walk. But other times people can come to understand if indigenous peoples go to the government and say “this is not right”.

Unfortunately, the government has different values. But in my experience in approaching other governments around the world, saying “this is the way these people that I am with today, see it”—but people seem to think that you ask one or two people, how to do things, and that is why the Rio Conference in ‘92 for environment, it was set up by [Maurice] Strong [former Under-Secretary of the UN], the Kari-Oca Conference—free conference where all these 90 year old national, independent indigenous peoples of the world came together—and they decided with the Kari-Oca document “this is the way we do it”. And when Marcos Terena presented to the Rio Conference, which is only visited by heads of state, he walked in there with bare feet. And I heard somebody say “the poor man hasn’t got any shoes!”. Now, to Marcos, having his feet touch Mother Earth gave him the strength to present that document. So, if you’re a Kaitiaki, you must be able to stand for what you believe is right, but you can’t always get everybody to agree with you.

Indigenous peoples know the difference in Europeans. But if you can sit and come together, to listen to what Mother Earth is your guiding light. For instance, if I can’t hear the frogs, I know something’s wrong with the environment. Climate, and the environment is not two separate things, they work together. That’s how indigenous people see the circle is all complete. But once you start taking one thing out of the circle, and talking about just the climate, or the environment, or health, then you’ve lost the whole concept of being Kaitiaki. Because everything in that circle makes up the life force of a person, and you’re wider or your whole person is within that circle. That’s about how I can explain it to you Annemike.

Annika: Before my call with Pauline, I had the chance to speak to one of the Councillors of the WFC, Neshan Gunasekera from Sri Lanka…

Pauline: Oh, Neshan is a great man! He worked for Judge Weeramantry…

Annika: Judge Weeramantry was a Sri Lankan judge at the International Court of Justice, in the Hague. After his tenure at the ICJ ended, he took up the position of President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and became an influential figure in the area of international environmental law.

Pauline: When Neshan came onto the World Future Council, it was great to see a young person who’s come who has worked alongside Judge Weeramantry who could bring the dreams of the youth of Sri Lankra with the old values that Judge Weeramantry had. And one of the things I really admired about Neshan was that he is carried on these workshops for the young people, in Sri Lanka, for people from all around the world together, and I think the WFC is very lucky–or very blessed more than luck—to have him on board with that sort of thing.

Annika: Neshan shared with me an amazing story about a time he met Pauline in Hamburg, during one of the early annual general meetings of the Council. He told me that on a dark snowy evening, Pauline was barefoot in the snow. She encouraged others to also take their shoes off; Neshan, who is used to the warmth and sun, actually took off his shoes, and tried not to show how freezing it was. And yet, it was a lesson of bearing the elements, and I ask Pauline to remember…

Pauline: Ah yes… Well, everything is a living live force, doesn’t matter whether it’s snow, or whether it’s the rain, or whether it’s the sun. Everything is a living life force, and without that none of us would survive for future generations. So when I sit here with the birds, and look at the sunrise here just a little while ago, they are all living life forces which starts our life when we open our eyes in the morning. We must remember to pay respect to those that living life force, it may not be the same to everybody. But if we can train or teach our young people what a living life force is, then I think we’ve done the greatest part of our lives, what the Creator created us for.

I don’t think there are any boundaries of life forces, we are all the same, we need to breathe the air, and have the sun. And without those two things, we are nothing. Because the spirituality of our life comes from those areas of the light of the days. And what we do through the day will be how we can teach our younger people, my grandchildren, and some of them say they want to go into space, and live in space. And I say, how are you going to survive in space? So, we have to bring that to our young people how the space is there as a creation of the Creator, and not to take control of the space. Because nothing of our lives can be controlled, it’s controlled by the Creator. That’s the living life force that the Creator has given to each and every one of us to use, for the betterment of humanity.

Annika: Listen to this story about one of Pauline’s grandchildren… a story that reminds us also to look at our own relations with others, and between children and grandchildren…

Pauline: I remember one of my grandchildren when he was three years old. He decided he was going to climb a tree out at the back of my place. He got up to two or three branches and then he looked up sky and he said “Nanny, one day I’m going to climb up this tree and climb and have a look at the sky”. That’s some proof of how young people learn things. And when he comes back now and again, he has a look at that tree and says “see, that tree has grown taller”. And I said “Well, when are you going to climb up?” And he said, “well, it’s not yet up to the sky”, so he’s got the idea that the tree will keep growing—simple things like that. I think it’s very important to encourage in our young people. Too often they’re sitting watching the films on space and they’ve forgotten just to run around.

And look at dandelions, for instance. One day, I picked some dandelions, and he said “what are you gonna do with that nanny?” And I said, “I’m gonna make salad of them”. And he said “you can’t make salad out of the weed!”. And I said “well, you go watch because that’s what we’re gonna have for dinner”. Simple things like that. Us as elders and young people must continually come together and talk. I don’t know why is when my discussions with my grandchildren, or with my own children where I think it’s good to help have a healthy discussion. Not with the kid, the children watching television and all these programs and learn all those things—they need to talk face to face. And the elders don’t lose anything by missing out and young people show you that you might have to have another look at your world view. One of the basic things about the world view of the indigenous thinking is: never forget that you are the creation of the Creator. Unless you continually remember that, you are not here to serve yourself, you’re here to look after and be with your people.

Pause

Annika: We then moved on to talking about Pauline’s rich experience on the international stage. As a leading figure for indigenous communities, she travelled to Mexico to face militaries with Indigenous community members, comforted child victims of chemical weapons attacks in Iraq, and drove to Big Mountain in Arizona in a peace caravan. So, I asked her: What did you learn from representing indigenous communities on the world stage? But first, rightly so, Pauline corrected me…

Pauline: I can never represent indigenous peoples, but I can be the voice to carry to the UN. For instance, the people in Africa, South Africa, wanted their land back, the bush people, but they could not get into the UN. And through Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, we could get into the UN, and have a voice because you must be accredited as you will know. And with Kim Langbecker, we managed to get into the UN and put their case so that at the World Environmental Conference at the beginning of 2000, I was very humbly honoured by the government taking me up to see that the bush people will be given the land back because the pressure of the UN on the South African government pushed it that those bush people will now have their land back. So that’s the sort of thing I think that we must be available for other indigenous peoples—or any person—to voice their concern. The honour is not ours, the honour is of those people who we are the voices of. If we don’t pick up those concerns, you don’t win any friends on the international scene, I’ll tell you that!

Annika: In the Western hemisphere, there are currently large campaigns taking place that advocate for the rights of nature to be codified in law. This would allow for the possibility that violations of nature can be enforced in a court of law. But this consideration isn’t new. The American law professor Christopher D Stone first argued that environmental interests should be recognised apart from human ones in his book “Should Trees Have Standing?”, in 1972. Similarly, there are advocacy campaigns under way to lobby the UN Human Rights Council to consider a historic resolution on the right to a healthy environment. Again, the difference to indigenous communities is striking, for in 2017, New Zealand granted legal rights to the Whanganui River. The Maori had been fighting for more than 160 years to get legal protection for the river, relying on it for food, travel, and their livelihood.

Pauline: We haven’t put it into law. It’s a natural right and responsibility of the government to accept.  You’re talking about the river, aren’t you? The Whanganui River. The government had to accept that that was the right of those indigenous tribes of the Whanganui River. That was there was a lifeforce. To me, they didn’t need a law. But for Europeans, you have to have laws. So there’s two conflicts here: one is the ‘lore’, L-O-R-E, the lore of the people. And L-A-W, the European way of living.

Annika: And here’s Kosha-Joy, joining the conversation.

Kosha-Joy: I have a question, though. What about the Takutai Moana stuff. Does that relate to this question?

Pauline: Well, we have te takutai moana on the coast. We live on a peninsula, which is three quarters surrounded by the ocean. And we made an application because the government declared in 2004 that we had no rights to the oceans, the foreshore and seabed. But they belong to everybody. What became confusing for me, was how can you make a law to say that we who were here for hundreds of years have taken your food basket from your back door is not ours to look after. And that was why our people would have applied to the court in 2004 to have it put back into the hands of the people to look after, not after the law, L-A-W of the country and we’re still fighting that at the moment. So, there is a confusion of the L-A-W with the L-O-R-E. And Europeans have come from an ownership, nuclear ownership background of the Westminster parliamentary system, which makes it very difficult for many Europeans. And it becomes then a racial thing or discrimination: Why is one people getting more than the other? But unfortunately for the world, people forget to look back at who has looked after it for the millions of years before somebody else has moved into a country and decided that they want to do it this way.

And that’s why we’ve got within the Amazon forests all those farmers that have come in after the Second World War and taken over the forestry of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Now that’s why we’ve got forest fires going on all the time in the Amazon which is affecting the climate.

Annika: Pauline’s concerns hit close to home. Her community is protesting against letting a US-owned rocket company launch US military technology from the Mahia Peninsula, which has an impact on the local flora and fauna.

Pauline: Those people know that if you start doing that sort of thing, you’re going to affect the climate. And so it is with our foreshore and our seabed. The government saying, the government argue on behalf of the people. That’s why I was our foreshore and our seabed are becoming contaminated. Nobody was looking after it because if you want to try and do something, oh, then you’ve got a local council who says, “Oh, no, you can’t go fishing this time because this area of the foreshores and seabed must be locked down, because there’s a rocket going up, on our peninsula”.

So we’ve got this now that the local council gave permission for rocket land company to set themselves up on my peninsula where I live. And now, when that rocket goes off, that company is allowed by law, L-A-W, to close down that collection area of picking up seafoods. Now, that is wrong, you can’t do that sort of thing because our people rely on them for their sustenance, for their livelihood. When people pass away, that is the most important place that they go, to get the seafood to feed all the hundreds of people who come to pay their respects, but when this rocket is going up, that coastline has closed down. So there already is a very non-compliance of recognition, or acceptance rather, that our people, indigenous peoples of the Mahia peninsula, have that responsibility, it’s not a right, it’s a responsibility to look after that foreshore. And that’s a takutai moana [the marine and coastal area] which we have taken to the court in 2004. We’re still wanting that to be accepted. But then saying that, we have to get all our people to understand, it’s not a law L-A-W we’re going for, it’s a L-O-R-E, and that nobody will be missing out if we come together as one group because within Maoridom you have fano, which is a group of families, you have hapū [“subtribe”, or “clan”], which is when those families will come together. And you have a iwi [“people” or “nation”] group which has a responsibility to carry out those things which the people, the fano and the hapū, the families and the group of families, have come together and agreed to carry out so that the iwi group’s responsibility is to go forward and carry the request with all our people on board.

Pause

Annika: After this lesson in Maoridom and the concerns that they have about the use of the Mahia peninsula, I moved our conversation to other issues that Pauline dedicates her life to, which are also core areas of work of the World Future Council: Peace and disarmament, ocean diversity, rights of women and young people, and climate and energy issues.

Pauline is particularly concerned about nuclear issues. In a previous interview with the World Future Council, Pauline clarified that the issue is four-fold: first, the mining of uranium destroys indigenous lands. The second issue is the so‐called civil use for nuclear power plants. Thirdly, nuclear energy is used as an instrument of war, and fourthly, there are concerns about the handling of nuclear waste. Aotearoa / New Zealand became nuclear free in all four aspects in 1984, but Pauline still had to witness the nuclear destruction in the South Pacific while raising her children in the 50s and 60s.

Pauline: Well, that is a very dangerous area, the Pacific at the moment, and also north of Russia, Belarus. Because people have dumped their natural nuclear waste in the Pacific, and they say they’ve got it encased in a stone vault. Now anybody with any two-piece brain in their head will know that where it’s situated that it drives on an earthquake fault. And when we’ve seen so many earthquakes going up at the moment, spitting the land around the world, that that could damage the concrete vault, and then waste will go into the ocean. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Japan has their waste sunk which is on the edge of the ocean because it’s in big bags apparently, from the blowout of some years back. And that was opened through the climate destruction which is happening with earthquakes now as well, in Japan.

What’s going to happen? Who’s gonna feed the world because 75% of the world’s surface is oceans? How do all these millions and billions of people who live around the coastlines going to feed themselves? It’s a living disaster. And before we talk about climate change, we have to look at how are we going to deal with the disaster which is sitting under our noses but we don’t want to address it. The scientists need to first come up with something, you’re getting all these warm oceans, and the warm oceans will destroy the streams. So, the basic is the nuclear waste is really hot. So that’s where you really have to start looking at Belarus, Russia, and the Pacific Ocean. Because nobody has thought about why is the Pacific Ocean warming up? Recently, people of the Pacific have said to me, “Well, naturally, if you’re warming up those concrete slabs which the nuclear waste is in, naturally that’s going to warm the ocean”. Because the nuclear reactors, when they’ve dumped all that nuclear waste, it will naturally heat up the concrete vaults which they’re contained in. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that.

Annika: To Pauline, this constitutes the greatest threat to the environment.

Well, there won’t be any humanity left. That how simple it is. The damage will kill us. The environment will die down, humanity will die down. I’m not a scientist and I’m not a bearer of bad news or good news. It’s only common sense that with the Ocean, even though we’re near the Pacific, where’s the food going to come from? Already, the fish is contaminated with mercury poisoning. And that’s not very well known. Many people buy fish overseas, that’s already contaminated with mercury poison, unless we as humanity are going to go otherwise, it won’t be even humanity if you’re going to damage the oceans like that.

Annika: So, what are her hopes for how we can improve this?

Pauline: Number one: war—sou stop the wars; you help to stop the destruction. But we don’t need nuclear bombs. You don’t need nuclear fallout. That’s how simple it is… War does not bring peace to anyone. If you look around the world today, the wars are a destruction, killing humanity on every continent, that’s very simple. Stop the wars and start living peacefully together.

Pause

Annika: Pauline has already done so


Shownotes

& weitere Informationen



Intro: Hello, and welcome to The Good Council, the podcast of the World Future Council. In each episode, we’ll highlight current challenges and policy solutions. And we’ll also take you on a journey of inspiring stories. Listen in to another of our intergenerational dialogues from around the globe.

Annika: This is a slightly different episode of our podcast series. For starters, it begins with a traditional Maori greeting…

Kosha: Greeting

Annika: One of the most cherished Councillors of the World Future Council is Pauline Tangiora. A Maori elder and leading figure for indigenous communities, she is described as a repository for knowledge and wisdom. She is a daughter, a mother and grandmother, and not just to her family, but to many people around the world. She is also a tireless fighter and campaigner for the rights of nature, for peace and disarmament, and for intergenerational conversations—just like the one she had with me. Pauline has been a member of the World Future Council since its foundation in 2007. But I wanted to get to know her as a person, what she did before she joined, and why she does what she does. I hoped to learn about her views on life, on her work and on her community, and about her message to present and future generations.

For example, I read that Pauline’s community is much more collective than we are used to in Europe, and often lives together across generations where generations can benefit from one another. So, I asked her how exactly she practices inter-generational living.

Pauline: Well, it’s a difficult question to answer. By bringing on board—over few years that I’ve travelled overseas, taking a younger person with me, and then dropping them into the situation that they have to speak because we, we as Maori, usually do things together. Not on our own. And that’s the way that we have been doing it for several years. My travels overseas haven’t been for me, they’ve been for the younger people to learn so that they can carry on to the future or to each other. That’s the way our people live, by sharing what knowledge we have. So, everybody is on board, because of different generations have different values. And if we can’t dialogue with the generation what is happening is a generation gap if we are not understanding or not sharing that knowledge.

Annika: I was also really interested in her indigenous community. I wondered, is there prhaps a particular message that the Maori have for the WFC?

Pauline: Well, I can’t talk for everybody. I can only talk from my perspective and my community… to achieve the dreams of this modern age we have to get everybody on board and that is like in any other community, trying to get everybody on board is very difficult.

You’ve had an extra little experience of how Maori start their day, when Kosha-Joy opened with our language and introduced me. Those things are important to retain. It’s very important that every indigenous community in the world retains those introductions in a world which is so European.

But we have some young people like Kosha-Joy and that, who are working very hard to bring the “new world” to the “old world”. Cause some of us are not prepared yet for that new world. As for indigenous people internationally, in my work with the indigenous peoples around the world, many of them have looked to Maori to help them to succeed.

But at the Rio Conference, of Kari-Oca, one thing we were all united in—the over [ninety] nationalities—was that, we mustn’t lose that, which we’ve had.

Annika: In June 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development—also known as the ‘Earth Summit’—was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a major UN conference that sought to rethink economic development and to find ways to stop polluting the planet and depleting its natural resources. But while heads of governments met in Rio, indigenous peoples had their own summit at Kari-Oca, a village outside Rio: the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territory, Environment and Development. And following their Kari-Oca Conference, the indigenous leaders shared their perspectives with the State representatives.

Pauline: One of the things that we have noticed in the international world: international companies look at some of our young indigenous peoples, they grab them and put them into places where they lose their contact with their indigenous world. And that’s a danger that all indigenous communities around the world have. And I think the WFC have given a little bit of a leeway for the indigenous peoples to come forward from their perspective, especially some of the women of Africa who have come forward planting millions of trees, the waterways; the women in India, trying to save Gujarat; the women in the Amazon, trying to stop the forest being cut down. Because indigenous peoples can only work with the environment that they’re around, those environments vary from country to country. And it doesn’t matter how big a community you have, it’s all the same, it’s retaining the knowledge of how Mother Earth works with humanity. If we don’t work this together, we are not above Mother Earth, we are within Mother Earth, and humanity must be tamed.

Pause

Annika: One thing that I learned in advance of my call with Pauline was that Maori people believe in Kaitiakitanga, which can be translated into trusteeship (of the Earth). What does this fascinating concept mean, and what does it entail?

Pauline: That number one, you have a responsibility for yourself. To make sure that you are honest, your morals are above reproach. Because unless you yourself can look within yourself, you cannot work within the environment or with the new community. Because to look after anything, you must be there for the purpose of, number one, your people, humanity, and the world as such. So, sometimes it’s a hard-y road to walk. But other times people can come to understand if indigenous peoples go to the government and say “this is not right”.

Unfortunately, the government has different values. But in my experience in approaching other governments around the world, saying “this is the way these people that I am with today, see it”—but people seem to think that you ask one or two people, how to do things, and that is why the Rio Conference in ‘92 for environment, it was set up by [Maurice] Strong [former Under-Secretary of the UN], the Kari-Oca Conference—free conference where all these 90 year old national, independent indigenous peoples of the world came together—and they decided with the Kari-Oca document “this is the way we do it”. And when Marcos Terena presented to the Rio Conference, which is only visited by heads of state, he walked in there with bare feet. And I heard somebody say “the poor man hasn’t got any shoes!”. Now, to Marcos, having his feet touch Mother Earth gave him the strength to present that document. So, if you’re a Kaitiaki, you must be able to stand for what you believe is right, but you can’t always get everybody to agree with you.

Indigenous peoples know the difference in Europeans. But if you can sit and come together, to listen to what Mother Earth is your guiding light. For instance, if I can’t hear the frogs, I know something’s wrong with the environment. Climate, and the environment is not two separate things, they work together. That’s how indigenous people see the circle is all complete. But once you start taking one thing out of the circle, and talking about just the climate, or the environment, or health, then you’ve lost the whole concept of being Kaitiaki. Because everything in that circle makes up the life force of a person, and you’re wider or your whole person is within that circle. That’s about how I can explain it to you Annemike.

Annika: Before my call with Pauline, I had the chance to speak to one of the Councillors of the WFC, Neshan Gunasekera from Sri Lanka…

Pauline: Oh, Neshan is a great man! He worked for Judge Weeramantry…

Annika: Judge Weeramantry was a Sri Lankan judge at the International Court of Justice, in the Hague. After his tenure at the ICJ ended, he took up the position of President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and became an influential figure in the area of international environmental law.

Pauline: When Neshan came onto the World Future Council, it was great to see a young person who’s come who has worked alongside Judge Weeramantry who could bring the dreams of the youth of Sri Lankra with the old values that Judge Weeramantry had. And one of the things I really admired about Neshan was that he is carried on these workshops for the young people, in Sri Lanka, for people from all around the world together, and I think the WFC is very lucky–or very blessed more than luck—to have him on board with that sort of thing.

Annika: Neshan shared with me an amazing story about a time he met Pauline in Hamburg, during one of the early annual general meetings of the Council. He told me that on a dark snowy evening, Pauline was barefoot in the snow. She encouraged others to also take their shoes off; Neshan, who is used to the warmth and sun, actually took off his shoes, and tried not to show how freezing it was. And yet, it was a lesson of bearing the elements, and I ask Pauline to remember…

Pauline: Ah yes… Well, everything is a living live force, doesn’t matter whether it’s snow, or whether it’s the rain, or whether it’s the sun. Everything is a living life force, and without that none of us would survive for future generations. So when I sit here with the birds, and look at the sunrise here just a little while ago, they are all living life forces which starts our life when we open our eyes in the morning. We must remember to pay respect to those that living life force, it may not be the same to everybody. But if we can train or teach our young people what a living life force is, then I think we’ve done the greatest part of our lives, what the Creator created us for.

I don’t think there are any boundaries of life forces, we are all the same, we need to breathe the air, and have the sun. And without those two things, we are nothing. Because the spirituality of our life comes from those areas of the light of the days. And what we do through the day will be how we can teach our younger people, my grandchildren, and some of them say they want to go into space, and live in space. And I say, how are you going to survive in space? So, we have to bring that to our young people how the space is there as a creation of the Creator, and not to take control of the space. Because nothing of our lives can be controlled, it’s controlled by the Creator. That’s the living life force that the Creator has given to each and every one of us to use, for the betterment of humanity.

Annika: Listen to this story about one of Pauline’s grandchildren… a story that reminds us also to look at our own relations with others, and between children and grandchildren…

Pauline: I remember one of my grandchildren when he was three years old. He decided he was going to climb a tree out at the back of my place. He got up to two or three branches and then he looked up sky and he said “Nanny, one day I’m going to climb up this tree and climb and have a look at the sky”. That’s some proof of how young people learn things. And when he comes back now and again, he has a look at that tree and says “see, that tree has grown taller”. And I said “Well, when are you going to climb up?” And he said, “well, it’s not yet up to the sky”, so he’s got the idea that the tree will keep growing—simple things like that. I think it’s very important to encourage in our young people. Too often they’re sitting watching the films on space and they’ve forgotten just to run around.

And look at dandelions, for instance. One day, I picked some dandelions, and he said “what are you gonna do with that nanny?” And I said, “I’m gonna make salad of them”. And he said “you can’t make salad out of the weed!”. And I said “well, you go watch because that’s what we’re gonna have for dinner”. Simple things like that. Us as elders and young people must continually come together and talk. I don’t know why is when my discussions with my grandchildren, or with my own children where I think it’s good to help have a healthy discussion. Not with the kid, the children watching television and all these programs and learn all those things—they need to talk face to face. And the elders don’t lose anything by missing out and young people show you that you might have to have another look at your world view. One of the basic things about the world view of the indigenous thinking is: never forget that you are the creation of the Creator. Unless you continually remember that, you are not here to serve yourself, you’re here to look after and be with your people.

Pause

Annika: We then moved on to talking about Pauline’s rich experience on the international stage. As a leading figure for indigenous communities, she travelled to Mexico to face militaries with Indigenous community members, comforted child victims of chemical weapons attacks in Iraq, and drove to Big Mountain in Arizona in a peace caravan. So, I asked her: What did you learn from representing indigenous communities on the world stage? But first, rightly so, Pauline corrected me…

Pauline: I can never represent indigenous peoples, but I can be the voice to carry to the UN. For instance, the people in Africa, South Africa, wanted their land back, the bush people, but they could not get into the UN. And through Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, we could get into the UN, and have a voice because you must be accredited as you will know. And with Kim Langbecker, we managed to get into the UN and put their case so that at the World Environmental Conference at the beginning of 2000, I was very humbly honoured by the government taking me up to see that the bush people will be given the land back because the pressure of the UN on the South African government pushed it that those bush people will now have their land back. So that’s the sort of thing I think that we must be available for other indigenous peoples—or any person—to voice their concern. The honour is not ours, the honour is of those people who we are the voices of. If we don’t pick up those concerns, you don’t win any friends on the international scene, I’ll tell you that!

Annika: In the Western hemisphere, there are currently large campaigns taking place that advocate for the rights of nature to be codified in law. This would allow for the possibility that violations of nature can be enforced in a court of law. But this consideration isn’t new. The American law professor Christopher D Stone first argued that environmental interests should be recognised apart from human ones in his book “Should Trees Have Standing?”, in 1972. Similarly, there are advocacy campaigns under way to lobby the UN Human Rights Council to consider a historic resolution on the right to a healthy environment. Again, the difference to indigenous communities is striking, for in 2017, New Zealand granted legal rights to the Whanganui River. The Maori had been fighting for more than 160 years to get legal protection for the river, relying on it for food, travel, and their livelihood.

Pauline: We haven’t put it into law. It’s a natural right and responsibility of the government to accept.  You’re talking about the river, aren’t you? The Whanganui River. The government had to accept that that was the right of those indigenous tribes of the Whanganui River. That was there was a lifeforce. To me, they didn’t need a law. But for Europeans, you have to have laws. So there’s two conflicts here: one is the ‘lore’, L-O-R-E, the lore of the people. And L-A-W, the European way of living.

Annika: And here’s Kosha-Joy, joining the conversation.

Kosha-Joy: I have a question, though. What about the Takutai Moana stuff. Does that relate to this question?

Pauline: Well, we have te takutai moana on the coast. We live on a peninsula, which is three quarters surrounded by the ocean. And we made an application because the government declared in 2004 that we had no rights to the oceans, the foreshore and seabed. But they belong to everybody. What became confusing for me, was how can you make a law to say that we who were here for hundreds of years have taken your food basket from your back door is not ours to look after. And that was why our people would have applied to the court in 2004 to have it put back into the hands of the people to look after, not after the law, L-A-W of the country and we’re still fighting that at the moment. So, there is a confusion of the L-A-W with the L-O-R-E. And Europeans have come from an ownership, nuclear ownership background of the Westminster parliamentary system, which makes it very difficult for many Europeans. And it becomes then a racial thing or discrimination: Why is one people getting more than the other? But unfortunately for the world, people forget to look back at who has looked after it for the millions of years before somebody else has moved into a country and decided that they want to do it this way.

And that’s why we’ve got within the Amazon forests all those farmers that have come in after the Second World War and taken over the forestry of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Now that’s why we’ve got forest fires going on all the time in the Amazon which is affecting the climate.

Annika: Pauline’s concerns hit close to home. Her community is protesting against letting a US-owned rocket company launch US military technology from the Mahia Peninsula, which has an impact on the local flora and fauna.

Pauline: Those people know that if you start doing that sort of thing, you’re going to affect the climate. And so it is with our foreshore and our seabed. The government saying, the government argue on behalf of the people. That’s why I was our foreshore and our seabed are becoming contaminated. Nobody was looking after it because if you want to try and do something, oh, then you’ve got a local council who says, “Oh, no, you can’t go fishing this time because this area of the foreshores and seabed must be locked down, because there’s a rocket going up, on our peninsula”.

So we’ve got this now that the local council gave permission for rocket land company to set themselves up on my peninsula where I live. And now, when that rocket goes off, that company is allowed by law, L-A-W, to close down that collection area of picking up seafoods. Now, that is wrong, you can’t do that sort of thing because our people rely on them for their sustenance, for their livelihood. When people pass away, that is the most important place that they go, to get the seafood to feed all the hundreds of people who come to pay their respects, but when this rocket is going up, that coastline has closed down. So there already is a very non-compliance of recognition, or acceptance rather, that our people, indigenous peoples of the Mahia peninsula, have that responsibility, it’s not a right, it’s a responsibility to look after that foreshore. And that’s a takutai moana [the marine and coastal area] which we have taken to the court in 2004. We’re still wanting that to be accepted. But then saying that, we have to get all our people to understand, it’s not a law L-A-W we’re going for, it’s a L-O-R-E, and that nobody will be missing out if we come together as one group because within Maoridom you have fano, which is a group of families, you have hapū [“subtribe”, or “clan”], which is when those families will come together. And you have a iwi [“people” or “nation”] group which has a responsibility to carry out those things which the people, the fano and the hapū, the families and the group of families, have come together and agreed to carry out so that the iwi group’s responsibility is to go forward and carry the request with all our people on board.

Pause

Annika: After this lesson in Maoridom and the concerns that they have about the use of the Mahia peninsula, I moved our conversation to other issues that Pauline dedicates her life to, which are also core areas of work of the World Future Council: Peace and disarmament, ocean diversity, rights of women and young people, and climate and energy issues.

Pauline is particularly concerned about nuclear issues. In a previous interview with the World Future Council, Pauline clarified that the issue is four-fold: first, the mining of uranium destroys indigenous lands. The second issue is the so‐called civil use for nuclear power plants. Thirdly, nuclear energy is used as an instrument of war, and fourthly, there are concerns about the handling of nuclear waste. Aotearoa / New Zealand became nuclear free in all four aspects in 1984, but Pauline still had to witness the nuclear destruction in the South Pacific while raising her children in the 50s and 60s.

Pauline: Well, that is a very dangerous area, the Pacific at the moment, and also north of Russia, Belarus. Because people have dumped their natural nuclear waste in the Pacific, and they say they’ve got it encased in a stone vault. Now anybody with any two-piece brain in their head will know that where it’s situated that it drives on an earthquake fault. And when we’ve seen so many earthquakes going up at the moment, spitting the land around the world, that that could damage the concrete vault, and then waste will go into the ocean. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Japan has their waste sunk which is on the edge of the ocean because it’s in big bags apparently, from the blowout of some years back. And that was opened through the climate destruction which is happening with earthquakes now as well, in Japan.

What’s going to happen? Who’s gonna feed the world because 75% of the world’s surface is oceans? How do all these millions and billions of people who live around the coastlines going to feed themselves? It’s a living disaster. And before we talk about climate change, we have to look at how are we going to deal with the disaster which is sitting under our noses but we don’t want to address it. The scientists need to first come up with something, you’re getting all these warm oceans, and the warm oceans will destroy the streams. So, the basic is the nuclear waste is really hot. So that’s where you really have to start looking at Belarus, Russia, and the Pacific Ocean. Because nobody has thought about why is the Pacific Ocean warming up? Recently, people of the Pacific have said to me, “Well, naturally, if you’re warming up those concrete slabs which the nuclear waste is in, naturally that’s going to warm the ocean”. Because the nuclear reactors, when they’ve dumped all that nuclear waste, it will naturally heat up the concrete vaults which they’re contained in. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that.

Annika: To Pauline, this constitutes the greatest threat to the environment.

Well, there won’t be any humanity left. That how simple it is. The damage will kill us. The environment will die down, humanity will die down. I’m not a scientist and I’m not a bearer of bad news or good news. It’s only common sense that with the Ocean, even though we’re near the Pacific, where’s the food going to come from? Already, the fish is contaminated with mercury poisoning. And that’s not very well known. Many people buy fish overseas, that’s already contaminated with mercury poison, unless we as humanity are going to go otherwise, it won’t be even humanity if you’re going to damage the oceans like that.

Annika: So, what are her hopes for how we can improve this?

Pauline: Number one: war—sou stop the wars; you help to stop the destruction. But we don’t need nuclear bombs. You don’t need nuclear fallout. That’s how simple it is… War does not bring peace to anyone. If you look around the world today, the wars are a destruction, killing humanity on every continent, that’s very simple. Stop the wars and start living peacefully together.

Pause

Annika: Pauline has already done so