Something has to change and it’s up to us to do it

I went to the Barrier last weekend.

You can leave your house and car unlocked there – but it’s best to have your dog on a leash, because endangered dotterel and oyster catchers run freely across beaches.

And there’s the possibility a small handbag-dog lookalike like Bruce might be mauled by semi-feral pigs on a neighbouring property, so I was warned. Sometimes locals hunt them for kai. The pigs, not handbag dogs.

It’s a place where entire pohutukawa hum because of bees – four or five to each flower – like a permanent swarm in the sunshine. Even the rockpools on white sandy beaches teem with life.

It’s a place that still has no power – solar or generator only – and books are often read by candlelight. Phone reception comes in dribs and drabs. The white-sand beaches are long and free of rubbish. Much of the surf is free of people.

And while Barrier’s history is as rich and diverse as the wildlife that lives on its 23 islands and in the ocean between, with many a battle fought on these shores, now most people seem content.

With just under 1000 residents, it has the charm of a sleepy Northland coastal town – it feels like home.

It’s perfect.

It hasn’t been destroyed by humans.

In the Dalai Lama’s 2018 book, A Call For Revolution, (written with Sofia-Stril-Rever) he addressed young people specifically. He said:

“My young friends, you are my hope for humanity…

“Your grandparents and parents lived through two world wars and multiple conflicts that wrought bloody havoc on our world, and caused the deaths of 231 million people in the last century.

“You and I have seen conflicts flare up in Afghanistan and the Middle East… the images from the Mediterranean; its waves carrying the corpses of children…

“You and I are witnesses to the imminent breakdown of the earth’s ecosystem….”

I’ve just finished the dystopian novel A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (a late bloomer I am and yes, it’s the Netflix series) and eerily, fictional Gilead and the toxic wastelands that surround it could soon be a possibility. There were various nods to the desecration of the environment, like this:

“The sea fisheries were defunct several years ago; the few fish they have now are from fish farms, and taste muddy. The news says the coastal areas are being “rested”. Sole, I remember, and haddock, swordfish, scallops, tuna; lobsters, stuffed and baked, salmon, pink and fat, grilled in steaks. Could they all be extinct, like the whales?”

That’s a little bit scary, huh?

Especially when only days ago Forest and Bird stated our crayfish are dwindling on the verge of extinction between Waipu and the East Cape.

The thing is, it’s not just people ruining the environment. It is people hurting people (domestic and sexual violence, assaults, murder) and people hurting themselves (suicide, self harm, drug and alcohol addiction).

Something is very fundamentally wrong with our society at the moment, irrespective of political leanings and whatnot.

We open up discourse about mental wellness and the suicide rate continues to rise – with 13-year-olds taking their own lives. Everyone’s more anxious than ever before – hell, I’m more anxious than ever before.

We know about the state of the environment and we still consume – the vast majority of us anyway.

It’s sort of like seeing a tidal wave in slow motion, swallowing up people and trees and parks and cars, with little power to stop it.

Except we do, collectively.

The Dalai Lama calls on us to lead the change.

Young people of New Zealand – I think we can do it. Do you?


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