I had a lot of fun illustrating this comic which explains what swimmable means.
Like Cameron, I too grew up reading and drawing science fiction and exploring nature. This year my ‘journey of discovery’ took me deep into the Waitakeres for my own Avatar experience.
There, in the moonlight, I crouched in the middle of a small stream prodding and splashing away like a child. Like Jake Sully I was enchanted with tiny animals that (unlike glowworms who glow for hours) release a bright burst of bioluminescence. The limpets I was teasing are called Latia and they release bioluminescent slime as a defensive mechanism.
You won’t find these alien limpets anywhere else in the world and you also will no longer find them in most New Zealand streams. They need clean water, and we have filled our lakes and rivers with too much sediment for them to survive. Our waterways are far from 100% pure. Most of the rivers that are pristine are high in the South Island where it is too cold for Latia to survive.
Our government wants to treat our streams and rivers like drains. The legislation they have proposed sets extremely low standards for our waterways. I agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment – sediment is one of the three big issues affecting our waterways. Yet our Government has not included sediment as an attribute in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, and we can’t manage that which we do not measure.
In the 100% Pure ad James Cameron tells us that ‘curiosity is the most powerful thing we own’. My curiosity has changed the way I see the New Zealand environment. It has altered my enjoyment of the New Zealand wilderness. Where before I just saw bush, now see invasive plants. Having heard the morning chorus in our wildlife sanctuaries I am let down by our silent mainland forests.
So a few years ago I started a personal project about the positive stuff – the things that make New Zealand unique. MostNZ.com is a website showcasing what we can celebrate about New Zealand, how to experience those things and most importantly how to keep them. It’s a lot more honest than the 100% campaign but it’s still advertises New Zealand.
We can grow tourism and the economy by growing, protecting and restoring our wilderness. But to do it we need more, James Cameron; more curiosity, more imagination, more vision.
Let’s at least try for 50% pure. Let’s focus on the quality not the quantity of our exports. Let’s start doing restoration at an industrial scale and let’s really invest in our scientists who dream of a predator free New Zealand.
Like the narrative arc of James Cameron’s blockbusters we have tasks to master, battles to win and transformations to witness. The New Zealand story must have our unique environment at its heart.
James Cameron ends his Ted Talk with ‘‘No important endeavour that required innovation was done without risk.” – “Failure is an option, but fear is not.”
I have been working on this project for the last few years.
It has been a lot of fun to make, the video work was challenging but also the most rewarding. There are 20 pages with an additional 11 fun facts, but there are so many more I want to add. Most of them involve going to remote locations and sitting quietly for a long time, so I have done the easier ones first. If the site proves popular I will add more pages. I wish it did not have ads but if the site makes money then I can easier justify working on it more.
My hope is that New Zealanders who experience the site better understand how special the New Zealand environment is and thereby value it more. If it proves popular the site may increase domestic and international tourism to wildlife destinations. I think this would be a good thing because growing our economy via tourism means better protection and investment in our natural assets. Where as growing our economy via primary industries means more industrial scale environmental degradation.
I think my favourite fact is probably the one with the worst video New Zealand has the most nosy bird was so much fun to shoot. I spent a few nights wondering around looking for kiwi after helping with the kiwi monitoring count at Tawharanui regional park. I had never before seen kiwi in the wild and given its slow metabolism and the cold night I was expecting a quiet, slow and shy bird. But were so fast – hooting off through the bush if I surprised them and so noisy – snorting away like pigs! I hope I get to spend lots more time in the wilderness with these birds and all the other creatures I captured on camera.
Stoked to have helped out with these posters which will go in every NZ Herald for 3 days running. Dave Gunson ( the illustrator ) is amazing. The messages ( especially the Goat Island one ) are really important.
Last night I found myself standing in the middle of a bubbling bush clad stream. The full moon danced on the water, I turned my headlamp off and suddenly the stream banks came to life with glow worms. But the best bit was when I looked back down at where I had been walking. You see I had heard this was a great place to see the only bioluminescent limpets in the world. I was blown away by how bright they were, when disturbed the limpets release a bright green slime – so my footprints were lit up like a Michael Jackson video. My wonder was not displaced by my guilt for disturbing them and I proceeded to disturb more in order to document the behaviour (sorry guys). We need stronger bottom lines for fresh water quality if we are to keep wonderfull little creatures like these for future generations.
“No!” This is how we teach restraint, over time the child masters the rules and becomes a functioning member of society. But he finds pleasure in the quiet places where no one can yell “No” at him, places where the rules don’t apply, where he can be wild and free.
There is a huge psychological transformation that occurs when you’re outdoors and find that you are no longer alone. Every imaginable cultural judgement can be projected in just a single person. They are not just changing our behaviour they are changing how we think, making us self conscious.
Some people feel this more than others, but perhaps this is why humans bleat and stomp about environmental rules. Because when we are in the wild with all those wild things, we feel wild too. We feel free from all those rules and judgements, those “No”s. So we fight those that tell us “don’t go there”, “don’t kill that” or “leave that alone”. Because they are reducing our freedom, which is true. But unfortunately we live in a world of human expansion and decreasing environmental resilience, our choices now have a greater cost than those of previous generations. We are slowly learning we can longer afford to be wild, we have to share our freedoms, not just with this generation but the next one too.
The reason the human population has grown so fast is because we are so adaptable and culture (our behaviours and technology) has evolved and will continue to evolve much faster than our genes. Those that are following the rules, participating in restoration, conservation, trash removal, pest eradication, citizen science and moving from eating to recording wildlife are developling a new culture. This new culture is already growing fast and with it some of our wilderness is coming back, building resilience and expanding our freedoms. We are finding a new way to be wild and free.
Thanks to Tom for the links