After Sir Peter Blake's death, The Blake Trust was set up to continue his work educating people about the state of our oceans and getting them to do more to protect the marine environment. NZVR, a partnership between Blake and New Zealand Geographic, does just that by bringing the ocean to our country's classrooms. It uses virtual reality to show rangatahi what it's like under the surface, introducing them to issues like over-fishing and pollution and, ideally, inspiring them to take action.
As Blake's Alice Ward-Allen says: "Often they ask us stuff that I have never thought of. Kids just think in such different ways. The reactions we get every day are completely different. The questions we get are always different as well. They're the next generation, the ones who are going to have to step up and take care of our environment."
Dave Lowe's journey with the atmosphere began in 1970 as a 23-year-old physics graduate, where he made the first measurements of carbon dioxide levels in New Zealand. The data he collected at Baring Head became an important part of David Keeling's research into the seasonal changes of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere - and, due to the steadily increasing levels he charted over the years, an inescapable record of what humans were doing to the planet.
"I think everyone's aware now that the climate is changing very rapidly, but this is a horror I've had to live with for over 50 years," Lowe says.
So can we turn the tide? "The thing that Covid-19 has taught us was that when there's an existential threat that's in your face, human beings can collectively get up and do some remarkable things. And in the same way, human beings can get to grips with global heating and dramatically reduce carbon emissions. We know how to do this."
The human brain may be the most complex object in the universe and scientists are only just beginning to understand how it works and why it malfunctions. We examine the strange and terrible history of mental illness, from the first surgical procedure to ‘release demons’ to modern remedies such as Prozac, the wonder drug for depression.
Untangled Landscapes started off working with domestic jungles, transforming them into well-manicured ornamental spaces. None of what they did was regenerative, however, and eventually the weeds would return. Since then, their approach has evolved and it's more about untangling people from the need to use chemicals and industrial materials in their gardens. They have stopped using poisons and weed mats - in part because they just don't work very well - and have instead started using natural principles and techniques borrowed from regenerative agriculture.
As Matt Bates Cummings says: "Too often we see a symptom of something and we go 'I can't have that. I need to stop this.' And then you stop the regenerative process. We need to let things play out a lot more. It needs a bit of trust. You need to trust the process and watch it and observe it until we understand it completely."
An ecosystem in balance is marked by diversity and abundance. An ecosystem out of balance is a desert of monotony. Here at Nordic Reef, snapper populations have been depleted by overfishing, kina populations have exploded and devoured all the kelp, sponges and algae.
Snapper congregate in the shallows of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve at an abundance and maturity that may closely reflect the original snapper populations of the Hauraki Gulf. There are three to four times the number of snapper inside the reserve as outside and up to ten times the number of crayfish.
What was once a mess of mud after being chomped and stomped by cattle is now teeming with tūī after flax and cabbage trees were planted on the land more than ten years ago and pest control was undertaken. "The wetland has returned to its original function of being the kidneys of the land," says Dean Baigent-Mercer. "It slows down water during floods and cleans the water as it goes through."
Fishing effort, day after day, century after century, has changed the shape of this place. It’s still heaving with reef fish, but the predators are gone. It’s still resplendent with sargassum weed, but kina that were once devoured by snapper and other reef predators are tearing holes through the fabric of the ecosystem.