Like many women, Papatūānuku is frequently underappreciated, overlooked, and taken for granted—even more so perhaps because she is indigenous and a woman of colour. We often acknowledge how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country—and rightfully so, Papatūānuku is an absolute stunner. But what’s often left unacknowledged is that we live on indigenous land, and it was forcefully taken from Māori through colonisation. When we have discourse about sustainability and the environment, it is essential that in Aotearoa New Zealand, we prioritise the voices of our indigenous peoples, as our Te Ao Māori editor Omni Arona discusses here.
But for some, it’s hard to even hear the news on climate change and the destruction of the environment, let alone talk about it. Can you blame them? We’re literally living in a world on fire in the midst of global turmoil—we have been for quite some time now; it’s easy to forget that after years of desensitisation and the normalisation of these crises (for more on defeatist EcoMedia, see page 24 by our Staff Writer Arela Jiang).
In our moments of awareness, our own problems can sometimes feel silly and miniscule compared to all the shit that’s going on in the rest of the world. But whatever you’re feeling is totally valid.
Because what’s becoming increasingly obvious about climate change is that it’s super complicated, and we can’t undo it overnight. It’s wrapped up in the intersection of many cluster-fucks that have combined to become one big knotty cluster-fuck, like the culture of production, consumerism, and—surprise surprise—colonialism; after all, the modern economy was built on slavery and imperialism.
So, while it’s nice to remember your keep cup and supermarket bags, you’re not a bad person for forgetting every so often. Because let’s remember that disposable coffee cups are free, and not everyone has the time, energy, or petrol money to get to their local farmers market 40 minutes away. That’s all to say that the systems of production we have in place make it cheap and convenient to damage the environment, and these same systems create a time-poor, financially-strained majority who are labelled personally irresponsible for that environmental damage. Olivia Bird writes more on the individual vs systemic argument on page 34.
So, for everyone else who doesn’t have time to hand-milk oats, it’s okay. We know most of us are doing our best, and that’s all we can hope for. There are also many ways to contribute to climate change activism, including but not limited to: petitioning local and national government; making space for people and women of colour in environmental discourse and change; doing personal work to unpack social narratives that drive consumerism (do you really need a treadmill, a standing desk, and a smoothie-maker to be That Girl?); having those conversations with whānau; and finally, taking care of each other and ourselves—which sometimes means giving yourself a break.
Flora Xie (she/her) and Naomii Seah (she/her)