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April 10, 2016 | by  | in One Ocean |
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Environment

During my ‘experimental’ first-year of university, I took a lot of papers that didn’t end up counting towards my degree. I scroll down myQual and look with sadness at the thousands of dollars of “Additional Courses” I have to repay in my not-too-distant ‘real-world’ adult life due to my indecisiveness.

However, almost all of these additional papers changed the way I saw the world; particularly, a 100-level geography/environmental science paper. I didn’t enjoy the calculations or the technicalities of measuring temperature, and I certainly struggled with the different terms in “deep time” (what does 500 million years even mean? The 90s feels like a decade ago so my conceptualisation of time is super warped). A major idea this paper taught me was the interconnectedness of nature. The land, sea, and sky interact so intricately and allow for our humble third rock from the sun to be habitable for us. When it rains and makes my walk to uni a nightmare, I’m reminded that the Earth has been cycling its water long before I could even walk. I now see rainy days, earthquakes, and cyclones as small parts of much bigger processes that I don’t fully understand. From simply inconvenient to utterly devastating, the Earth will continue to do its thang, and if we don’t understand and respect that, we cannot live in harmony with our planet.

In old school Samoan culture, it was said that true peace is only possible once a person had established harmony within themselves, harmony between other people, harmony with the cosmos, and harmony with the environment. Samoans didn’t see their environment simply as the backdrop of their lives—it was an integral part of identity and daily life. Myths and legends drew heavily on the surrounding landscape, as people saw the rocks, mountains, and eels as a part of their world, rather than a world they’re a part of. In many other Pacific cultures, the environment is something to show utter respect to for. It is the provider of sustenance and tools we need to survive. It was not something to be exploited or ignored. We cannot afford to ignore our effect on our planet’s natural environment, the cost is too big.

We must see the environment as ours, as a part of us, to really be prompted to make moves to help care for it.

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Newtown, between 1908-10. Photograph taken by Sydney Charles Smith. 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library. 1/1-019663-G

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