There are some striking differences in the names that we bestow.
There are some striking differences in the names that we bestow.
I didn’t grow up tramping, and I started because of a Great Walk. Tramping had seemed like something you couldn’t learn about—you had to be initiated by someone who already knew how to do it—but the Great Walks simplified things. I picked the Routeburn because it had the nicest pictures of mountains. I thought 32 kilometres was a long way, and I didn’t know what to eat or wear or bring. That trip taught me what I should have eaten and worn and brought. It taught me that 32 kilometres isn’t far, that walking all day in the rain isn’t bad, and that the people you meet in huts are some of the best around. What I did grow up with was religion. As my devotion to Christianity waned, the time I spent outside grew, and looking back, I can see that they performed similar functions in my life. I appreciated Christianity for the reminder, every Sunday, of what is essential. For the way it brought me face to face with my failings and my values. For the reminder that human connection is fundamental to life. We don’t have a lot to remind us of what is essential, and tramping is about simplicities—only after 20 kilometres in the rain do I truly understand the worth of a cup of tea and a gingernut. The outdoors strips you to the bones. It puts a dye trace on your failings and your values, and shows you when and how they emerge. It connects you with strangers—you can’t cross a fast creek in a rainstorm by yourself (and sometimes, you just have to wait). In Alain de Botton’s book The Architecture of Happiness, the British philosopher writes that cultures create buildings, objects and art that capture qualities those cultures lack—light-heartedness, perhaps, or openness. “We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them,” he writes. “We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need—but are at constant risk of forgetting we need—within.” If we’re drawn to places because we seek to inwardly resemble them in some way, then New Zealanders need something about the outdoors. Our individualism needs a reminder of the importance of others. The artificial pace of urban life needs the human pace of walking. And we seek those reminders more often in the outdoors than in religion. Last year, more of us went on a day tramp than regularly attended church. We don’t have Gothic cathedrals in New Zealand—structures that remind us that the scale of time far exceeds a human lifespan—but we have limestone karsts, coal seams, valleys carved by glaciers, and trees that were standing before the King James Version was translated. According to a 2017 Sport New Zealand survey of 33,000 people, seven per cent of New Zealanders had been on an overnight tramp in the past year. That’s more than three times as many people as played rugby. It’s more than played soccer, basketball, netball, bowls or cricket. (Tramping skews male, and vastly more Pākehā take part than any other ethnic group.) There are a lot of people who probably would like tramping, but are prevented by circumstance, or by the fact they haven’t done it before. So I want a Great Walk on every other ridgeline. I want people going door to door asking, “Have you tried tramping?” I want Great Walks to be cheaper, and I want them to be nearer major population centres. Two weeks before this issue went to print, I walked the southern third of what will become our tenth Great Walk. The track on the tops of the Paparoa Range isn’t finished yet—there’s only a poled route that would have daunted me a decade ago. On the tops are tawny alpine meadows covered in tussock, the ridgeline dropping away to the sea on one side, the Southern Alps on the other. That morning, I crossed paths with photographer Neil Silverwood and his partner Lauren Kelley going the other way, returning from taking the final photographs for this issue’s story. (Lauren is on the cover.) At the end of the day, returning to Ces Clark Hut, I realised my friend and I were the only people on the range. And as the sunlight slanted low over the ocean, turning the tussock into spun gold, I felt terrifically wealthy, then greedy, that we were the only people there to see it.
Our towns and cities are lacking something important, and I was reminded of this during a recent visit to Hong Kong. There, senior citizens fill the social niche that teenagers do in Auckland. They loiter in the local square with their mates, laughing raucously. When they exercise in the park, their music precedes them, emanating from tiny boom-boxes clipped to their backpacks. Each morning, I woke to their voices chatting in the street, three stories below, over their first cigarette of the day. This is a city New Zealanders like feeling superior to. “We don’t want to turn into Hong Kong,” we say, worried about intensified housing. But Hong Kong has something we don’t. It has elderly people hanging out in public, everywhere you look. Its residential areas are packed with spaces for people to meet, gather, and linger—squares, plazas, tea-houses, corner stores, tiny parks, giant parks, streetside seats—while ours are not. And we suffer for it. Ray Oldenburg, an American sociologist, first noticed these places in the 1970s. Or rather, he noticed that European cities had them, and American cities didn’t. He named them ‘third places’, because your first place is your home, and your second is your workplace, but your third place is where you relax in public, where you encounter familiar faces and make new acquaintances. These places are cheap or free. They’re open to people from all walks of life. New Zealand has a great third place—the outdoors. My favourite third place is a DOC hut, any of them—the one space in the country where anyone is up for a yarn. But I can’t stop in at a DOC hut on my way home from work, and neither can the other 86 per cent of New Zealanders who live in urban centres. Reading Oldenburg’s book, The Great Good Place, I began to wish for an urban equivalent. “A community life can exist when one can go daily to a given location at a given time and see many of the people one knows,” writes another American sociologist, Philip Slater, author of a book on loneliness. When a city has lovely spaces for people for people to stroll in, or loiter, or meet friends—and importantly for our senior citizens, when these places are close to home—then the requirement for one’s house to be large and nice enough for entertaining is lessened. And when you have places to meet your neighbours by chance, you can get to know them without the pressure of inviting them over. Oldenburg describes third places as neutral ground: no one has to play host and everyone is at ease. “If there is no neutral ground in the neighbourhoods where people live, association outside the home will be impoverished,” he writes. “Many, perhaps most, neighbours will never meet, to say nothing of associate, for there is no place for them to do so.” Why is all of this important? Because a third of us said we were lonely in the 2014 census, and one in five of us will seek treatment this year for depression or anxiety. And because our cities aren’t bolstering one of the most significant aspects of mental health: a sense of community. Yet we blame this lack of community upon ourselves—we haven’t tried hard enough to build it—when the problem is in fact the lack of a venue for this to take place. It’s akin to wondering why no one plays pick-up basketball when there’s no court, hoop or ball. As we rapidly expand our cities, as we solve our housing crises, we have the chance to correct this. We could shift away from the prioritisation of cars as a method of transport, and make our streets places for strolls and encounters. That means living a little closer together, placing useful things within walking distance, perhaps forgoing individual parcels of lawn for large, shared parks. When our third places are a drive away, elderly people are fastened in retirement villages, and teenagers stuck in suburbia. We could treat the city as our living room, kitchen, dining room, back garden and sunny deck. We could value connection over privacy. The tiny-house dwellers featured in this issue are bravely striking out for a new way of life—one where we value the spaces we share with others as much as the spaces we keep to ourselves.
We are lucky enough, in New Zealand, to have a bird which runs towards us rather than in the opposite direction. We’re so used to seeing them as the local louts mucking around, leaving road cones in the middle of the highway for a laugh, that it hasn’t quite occurred to us how special they are. “It surprised the hell out of me that no one was working on kea,” animal-behaviour biologist Ximena Nelson told me. “I haven’t tended to study birds, because in general birds are overstudied.” She wonders if kea slipped under the radar in New Zealand—there’s a lab in Austria working on kea intelligence—because they’re so conspicuously smart. “There’s an element of, ‘Why would you look at this? Everybody knows’,” she says. “We make lots of assumptions about what’s obvious, and when we look into it, it’s not.” It’s hard to compare cleverness between species, because there are so many different aspects to it. But kea have quite a few of them: they’ve got social skills, which allow them to collaborate with one another, they’ve got a problem-solving streak, born of their need to extract food from hard-to-reach places, and they’re adaptable. Kea are one of the few species to have taken advantage of humans living and tramping and cooking and operating forestry businesses in their habitat. We’ve given them numerous new sources of food, to the point that some kea now specialise in ski-field or motor-camp foraging, and have trouble finding sustenance when relocated elsewhere. We provide them with toys, like vinyl seats and solar panels and road cones, and they’ve responded by playing with them. There’s a poetic justice to the efficiency with which they demolish the human structures that have invaded their habitat. The more I researched kea, and the more I watched them, the more I became convinced that many elements of our national character are innate kea qualities. We may think we’re original, but they precede all our best attributes. They’re the mad geniuses of the bird world, experimenting with things just for fun—like the group of kea in Fiordland who were filmed setting off stoat traps using sticks. (They weren’t even retrieving the food from the trap—just making it go bang.) They’re self-sufficient, and have the air of being able to figure things out themselves—or failing that, with brute force and the multitool attached to their faces. They have little sense of caution, and don’t think through consequences, but they don’t do anything half-heartedly, either. We should be proud that they’ve held their territory so firmly, that they announce their presence so raucously and destructively. Perhaps we could grant them space to recover their numbers, safe from lead flashings and stoats. We could adapt to live with kea as they’ve adapted to live with us—boldly, and with cunning.
On February 1, 1968, two Memphis rubbish collectors took shelter from pelting rain inside their compactor truck. Moments later, the dilapidated and defective vehicle malfunctioned, crushing Echol Cole and Robert Walker in its machinery. For the city’s 1300 mostly black sanitation workers, the men’s horrible death was a spark in their long-simmering protest against miserable pay and dangerous working conditions. Ten days later, they went on strike, demanding the right to belong to a union and to earn a living wage. [caption id="attachment_241440" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bimini mangroves[/caption] Through February and March, while trash piled up in the streets of Memphis, the workers marched to City Hall to voice their protest. They faced intimidation and police brutality. Photographs from the time show wary workers walking past a phalanx of young white National Guardsmen holding rifles with fixed bayonets. The workers wear placards around their necks saying “I am a man”—a line from an address by Rev James Lawson, a Memphis pastor and chairman of the strike committee. “For at the heart of racism is the idea that a man is not a man, that a person is not a person,” he had told the workers. “You are human beings. You are men. You deserve dignity.” In March, Lawson invited Martin Luther King Jr to join their protest. Now that civil rights, his great life’s work, was written into legislation—the Civil Rights Act of 1964—King was turning his attention to the intertwined and inseparable evils of poverty and racism. When he heard that the sanitation workers of Memphis were receiving little more than a dollar a day for their labour, and were forced to pick berries and trap rabbits to feed their families, he wept. He would later say that the question that formed in his mind was not, “If I stop to help these sanitation workers, what will happen to me?” but rather, “If I don’t stop to help these workers, what will happen to them?” King travelled to Memphis to march with the workers and address them in public meetings. A large demonstration was scheduled for April 3, and to gather his thoughts for the speech he would give on that day, King visited the tiny island of Bimini, off the coast of Florida. He had been to Bimini before, in 1964, to write his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, and now he returned to the island, seeking again the solitude of the island’s fringing forest of mangroves. It was to those same mangroves I came in 2009, while researching a book on the world’s fast-disappearing mangrove forests. A resort developer in Bimini was planning to bulldoze a large swathe of mangroves for a golf course. The marine scientist who was showing me around suggested I meet a renowned Bimini boatbuilder and bonefishing guide named Ansil Saunders, a man who knew the mangroves well. I visited Saunders one afternoon at his boatyard on the King’s Highway. He pulled the dust covers off a newly finished speedboat whose lacquered sheen spoke of hours of patient sanding and generous applications of varnish and paint. The hull was the deep blue of oceanic water. The deck and much of the interior was the rich red-and-blond grain of Bahamas mahogany, which locals call horseflesh. [caption id="attachment_241444" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ansil Saunders, Bimini boatbuilder and Martin Luther King Jr's boatman.[/caption] We spoke of trees and timber and hurricanes and how mangroves form a living breakwater, protecting boats and homes from storm waves. Then he told me something unexpected. He was the one, he said, who had taken King into the mangroves to think and write. The first occasion, in 1964, had been joyous, and Saunders remembered it well. “Birds overhead, tide trickling by, fish running under the mangrove roots, stingray burying and reburying in the sand,” Saunders said. “At one point King said to me, ‘There’s so much life all around us here, how could people see all this and not believe in God?’ Today I call that spot holy ground.” Four years later King’s mood was somber. “He looked tormented,” Saunders said. “He knew the FBI was after him. He’d been told if he came back to the South he’d be killed. He’d been told that many times, but this time it got to him. You could see death in his face. He had often said he would never make 40 years old. He was 39 when he wrote that speech.” The speech was King’s last oration. It is striking for the way King uses it to summarise his life, as if he knew it was about to end. Today it is known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, but it could equally be known as the “I’m Happy I Didn’t Sneeze” speech. That line came when King spoke about an attempt on his life ten years earlier, when a woman came up to the table where he was signing books in a department store in Harlem and stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. When police arrived, an officer warned King that the blade was so close to his heart that he shouldn’t speak, he shouldn’t even sneeze. Surgeons who operated on King later confirmed that the tip of the blade was resting against his aorta, and that a sneeze could well have punctured the artery and killed him. In his speech, King recalled the many letters and telegrams that were sent to him by well-wishers after the stabbing. One letter in particular stood out. It came from a schoolgirl in White Plains, New York. “I looked at that letter,” said King, “and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, ‘Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School. While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.’” “I want to say tonight,” continued King, “that I am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. . . . If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, been in Memphis to see the community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.” It is in the last lines of his speech that King, evoking the prophet Moses, all but predicts his death. There would be difficult days ahead, he told his audience, “but it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. . . . And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” The next day, April 4, as he stood at his balcony in the Lorraine Motel, King was killed by a single bullet fired from across the street by James Earl Ray. He was 39. As for the Bimini mangroves, in 2012 a bronze bust of King was installed on a pedestal in the secluded lagoon where he contemplated nature and penned his timeless words. The proposed golf course has not eventuated.
One of the greatest mysteries on our planet is the capricious behaviour of the continent we arrived at last of all. Granted, Antarctica doesn’t look like a mystery. It looks like a blank space. It’s mostly made of water. It’s shaped like a child’s first attempt at a pancake. On its surface, nothing moves except wind, snow, and some of the least sensible forms of life: human beings attempting to prove something, and the comedy acts of the animal world, waddling to and from the ocean. Yet within Antarctica is a complicated infrastructure built of ice, pressure, wind, snow, air and ocean currents. The entire continent flexes in response to changes in other parts of the world, and it runs on its own internal logic. We’ve learned that it has two settings: freeze and melt. Right now, it’s busy freezing. But at some point—perhaps soon, perhaps not—a shift will take place somewhere within, and its glaciers and ice sheets and ice shelves will pour themselves into the sea. There will be no foreshadowing of this. So it isn’t like the seasons. It’s more like waking up. This reversal has taken place several times in the past, but because Antarctica was the last continent we stood on, we’ve only been watching it for a hundred years, and it’s been deceptively inert all that time. Scientists learned about its melting mode from looking at layers of mud on the seafloor, but the geological record doesn’t tell us what kind of invisible hand flips the switch. Once, humans raced from one part of Antarctica to another. Now, we are racing to figure out the system that runs Antarctica, something we appear to understand less than deep space or atoms. In this issue, we transport you to the heart of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest platform of floating ice in the world. Underneath there is a dark, covered ocean we’ve barely visited, one of the world’s biggest blank spaces: the Ross Ice Cavity. It hasn’t had any concerted attempt at measurement, or understanding, for almost half a century. Beneath, in layers of sediment, is written Antarctica’s history. Within that, clues to its future. Antarctica is difficult to talk about because there aren’t very many certain things we can say, and possibilities don’t make for good stories. Moreover, uncertainty seems to make people suspicious about science, that maybe the job hasn’t been done well, that the scientists have the wrong end of the stick, or maybe they are deceiving us about what kind of stick it is. Humans prefer simple stories, even when they’re wrong. And we prefer to be sure, even in a world that tries to show us, over and over again, that little is certain. But science works in the gaps that uncertainty makes. There is uncharted territory to be charted, whether underneath ice shelves at the bottom of the world, or underneath our feet in the soil we’re only just properly getting to know. “In the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act,” wrote one of my favourite authors, Rebecca Solnit. “When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone, or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.” It’s hard to tolerate complexity. It’s an effort to comprehend something that lies in many pieces and won’t come together to form a whole. But at New Zealand Geographic we know, and are grateful, that you relish the challenge of embracing large, wobbly, shapeshifting ideas. Welcome to the 150th issue of the magazine. Over the past 29 years, our form and style has evolved, but our mission remains the same: to communicate curiosity, discovery, and a desire to understand.
How we perceive the world around us is determined by the language we speak. Language affects how we think of ourselves, how we relate to others, how we organise time and space, even the types of thoughts we’re able to formulate. Not all languages have a past, a present and a future. Not all languages can give the same directions or describe the same relationships. For native English speakers, Māori offers a very different way of looking at and arranging the world. Here’s just one example: English has one word for ‘you’, but Māori has five. It is much more concerned with who ‘you’ are—whether you’re one person, or two, or many, whether I consider myself part of your group or apart from it. The language is a treasure, a lens, a record of culture, a place where stories and poetry and wisdom live. It’s limited in translation by the narrower definitions of English words, and the fact that English takes ten words to explain an aspect of Māori culture which te reo can accomplish in one. To keep a language, though, you can’t just use it ceremonially. You have to be able to say hi, talk about the weather, order McDonald’s. Jeremy Tātere MacLeod of Ngāti Kahungunu is one of a group of people around the country working to create more opportunities to speak Māori in daily life. Despite recent and well publicised complaints about the use of te reo on Radio New Zealand, the vast majority of the New Zealand public want it spoken. Surveys of non-Māori people conducted between 2000 and 2009 showed a rapid upswing in support for the language to be taught in schools and used in public life. In 2009, 65 per cent of non-Māori believed the government should encourage the language’s use. (In 2000, it was 24 per cent.) The change in attitude has been rapid; letting the language soak into public life will take longer. It takes a generation to lose a language, says MacLeod, but three to get it back again. One of the first things you learn in any language class is how to introduce yourself, but in Māori an introduction requires more than your name: it also involves describing where you’re from. Perhaps, one day, we’ll all be able to locate our childhood not just with the name of a primary school but with mountains or rivers or harbours, the immutable geographical features that stood beside us as we learned about the world and our place in it. This different way of thinking came into focus for me during my research for the kauri dieback story. I look at rickers, young kauri, and my mind leaps to objects: lamp posts, masts. Others look at kauri and see members of their family. In Māori cosmology, kauri are our older siblings; we are simply the last-born child, and the living world is formed of our relatives. It is Māori and community groups that are driving action against kauri dieback. What communities can achieve has come to the foreground during New Zealand’s most recent natural disasters, and as a result, there’s been a shake-up in civil defence thinking, as Charlotte Graham has found. We’ve long depended on individuals to prepare for disasters on their own—which means the less able and less capable get left behind. Naomi Arnold also delved into future-planning for her story on robotics. Our population of retirees will overtake our youth at some point in the next 20 years—but how will we care for this contingent of elderly? This issue invites you to try on another view of the world: to see it from the time scale of a kauri, through the nose of a dog, and with the eyes of fellow humans who experience disasters on a daily basis.
This issue of New Zealand Geographic went to print almost 20 years to the day after a science-fiction film by a young screenwriter and director from Paraparaumu opened in cinemas in the United States. It envisaged a future where people are genetically engineered, creating an upper class of physically ‘superior’ humans and an underclass of ordinary people whose parents couldn’t afford to tweak their DNA. Gattaca was Andrew Niccol’s first film. It bombed at the box office, but has since acceded to the rank of a classic. In 2012, it topped NASA’s list of the “most-realistic” science fiction films ever made. I was dubious about paying a return visit to its vision of the future, but I discovered that Gattaca has barely aged: its concerns about genetic engineering are the same ones we are still facing today. Since 1997, we haven’t come any closer to answering the question: If we can edit our DNA, where do we draw the line between the eradication of disease and the improvement of other physical qualities? We can’t wait another 20 years to decide. Since 2012, we’ve all of a sudden become really, really good at editing genes. Though we’ve been able to tinker with DNA for decades, only recently has it become possible to make very precise changes very quickly. That’s because the tools are different: we’re using a scalpel rather than an excavator claw. The technology described in Kate Evans’s story is going to dramatically reshape the world around us. So we need to make up rules for how we will use it, and fast. Trouble is, the technology for editing genes—known as CRISPR—has outstripped our understanding of genes themselves. “A geneticist said to me, ‘It feels like we’re building the plane as we’re flying it’,” said ethicist Josephine Johnston, at a public talk in Auckland about gene editing. Data deficiency is a bit of a theme in this issue of the magazine. We don’t know very much about whitebait, except that we’re probably on the cusp of losing them, and we’ll need to make a number of decisions in the absence of complete data if we want to be scoop-netting them every spring for the next 20 years. Nor do we know very much about what lives in the vast blue expanse of our territorial seas, or how our actions impact those species, yet we will increasingly be called to make decisions that affect them. We cannot let the unknown prevent us from taking action. As Jennifer Doudna, the first person to demonstrate how CRISPR works, said of the tool she helped invent: “People will use the technology whether we know enough about it or not.” One place to begin is to address the values that we, as a society, hold close. When we lack data about the species in the world around us, we make decisions—such as decisions to learn more—based on those values. Concerns over gene editing causing discrimination against certain people or characteristics exist because those attributes are already discriminated against. Gattaca’s gene-edited humans are tall and strong and healthy and beautiful because we’re biased against the sick, the weak, the short, the ugly. Social views dictate our use of science, not the other way around, and we should begin any decision-making process by taking a careful, open-minded look at our values and the shape of the society that we want.
We have five parakeet species that we can call our own. One lives in the subantarctic, one on the Chathams, and three on the mainland—red, yellow and orange. If you’ve visited a sanctuary, you might have heard their chattering and glimpsed a flash of lime green in the understorey. You might have even got close enough to tell what you were looking at—to see the red mask over their eyes, or a yellow stripe rising over their heads like a mohawk. You probably didn’t see an orange-fronted parakeet—and you’d be able to tell by the pumpkin-coloured band above their beak—because orange-fronts are in a terrific amount of trouble. We’re not very good at protecting them, and it’s not for want of trying. The Department of Conservation has already attempted the interventions that have worked for other species. DOC kills more than 95 per cent of the predators that roam the forest valleys in Canterbury that the orange-fronts call home. A sanctuary breeds the birds in safety, then they’re released on offshore islands, where, free from threat, the birds fail to thrive. Today, the orange-fronted parakeet is widely described as “stuffed”. It looks likely that the destruction of the parakeets’ habitat is driving their decline, and that’s difficult to fix. Whatever the orange-fronted parakeets require has been lost, and we can’t recreate it for them because we don’t know what it was. Perhaps the layer of the forest that they prefer to browse has been stripped by deer and goats. Perhaps their preferred food is no longer available, and, added to all the other environmental changes they have faced in the last century, they can’t cope. DOC lists about 2700 threatened and at-risk species, in varying degrees of trouble. Some of those are clawing back ground—record breeding seasons of takahē, kākāpō, kiwi and whio being among the success stories. But some native wildlife does not have a good prognosis, and this issue’s story on orange-fronted parakeets will be the first in a series examining the fauna most at risk of being lost without dramatic intervention. Keep an eye on nzgeo.com/curtain-call. These species are diverse, but have one thing in common—our one-size-fits-all backup strategy doesn’t work for them. We rely on being able to rescue endangered wildlife by sequestering breeding pairs on predator-free islands. But the species in our curtain call all have habitat requirements that those islands can’t provide. Some of these species might surprise you. Some of them seem numerous now, but their population is in freefall. Some of them you have probably never seen in the wild, but you may have heard their calls, or eaten them for lunch. We look to the Predator Free 2050 moonshoot as the universal saviour of our threatened species, but evidence shows that the orange-fronted parakeet’s problems don’t all have four legs and a stomach. It would be concerning if support for a wide range of conservation services—research, habitat restoration, ecosystem preservation—is withdrawn in favour of predator eradication. And in the case of the orange-fronts, a predator-free mainland won’t make a difference. Either we fund the research and intensive care the parakeet requires, or witness this long goodbye, where conservation staff have just enough resources to try, but not quite enough to make a difference.
What does the Supreme Court decision mean for the rest of New Zealand?
Why did an Antarctic explorer carry with him a painting he'd made in Switzerland a decade earlier? And how did it end up on the western edge of the Ross Sea, 700 kilometres north of where he travelled?
This issue’s cover posed a challenge: to present cannabis in a way that was recognisable, but that didn’t immediately call to mind a number of associations. An image of a cannabis leaf has layers of meaning attached to it. We wanted to make it possible for readers to take a fresh look. We are, as a nation, taking a fresh look at cannibis. Last year a survey found that nearly two-thirds of us didn’t have a problem with people using it for fun, and even more people thought it should be available for medical purposes. As with alcohol, we seem to be happy to leave the risk calculation up to the individual. (I think my dad summed up the views of those two-thirds of New Zealanders quite well: “You should be free to misuse your body however you like.”) In another survey, most people said that of all New Zealand’s environmental features, rivers and lakes were the worst-managed—and two-thirds of people believed dairy farming to be the culprit. In other words, we shouldn’t be free to misuse land however we like. We shouldn’t be allowed to spread certain substances on the nation’s pastures. Less management of cannabis, please, and more of freshwater. Our social views change slowly enough that the government ought to be able to keep up. On these issues, it hasn’t. As we begin to value things differently, the costs of them change, too. Since European settlers arrived in New Zealand, the nation’s waterways have been treated as a pre-fabricated sewage network—put it in the river, and the river carries it away. We don’t want to use our rivers in this manner anymore, but the primary sector has been caught by surprise at the change—not to mention the need to invent a brand-new nationwide nutrient-drainage system from scratch. As Kennedy Warne describes in his story on rivers, agriculture and environmental tipping points on page 36, a large group of scientists are working on this problem, but the solutions aren’t free or easy. Animal-derived foods cost more than the price we pay for them, and our waterways pay the difference. We can remove this cost from our lakes and rivers if we take it on ourselves, but the size of the issue means that it can’t be left to individual decision-making—regulation is required. Meanwhile, our other value change is looking better for the nation’s bottom line. Treasury has already done the maths on the revenue it stands to gain via GST and company taxes on legalised cannabis—and it’s in the hundreds of millions. Not to mention the potential savings to police of no longer enforcing prohibition. Costs, returns, values—it is a complex public equation, but I invite you to open this issue and make a fresh calculation with an open mind.
Thanks, you're good to go!
Thanks, you're good to go!
Ask your librarian to subscribe to this service next year. Alternatively, use a home network and buy a digital subscription—just $1/week...
Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes