November 30, 2023

Māori knowledge can help us combat climate change

Māori knowledge can help us combat climate change

Watch video: In part eight of our 10-part video series, The Way Forward, Rod Oram looks at big new ideas that can lead our response to climate change

Around the world, indigenous knowledge is playing a growing role in helping societies respond to the climate crisis. Tribes and other indigenous entities own a high proportion of native forests in many countries, for example and they are applying their traditional knowledge to restore that land and other natural resources

This expanding practice is evident, for example, in major chapters on such knowledge in reports by the IPCC, the United Nations’ climate science body, and the roles indigenous leaders are playing at the UN’s annual COP climate summits.

Likewise, here in Aotearoa mātauranga Māori is working hand-in-hand with Western science to help us restore our ecosystems. For example, that partnership is one of the five principles of our 11 National Science Challenges; and in Environment Aotearoa 2022, our most recent national environmental stocktake.

The role of such indigenous knowledge in Aotearoa is the subject of this 8th episode of The Way Forward, our Newsroom video series on the first seeds of transformative change in our responses to the climate crisis.

To explore it, we visited three examples inspired by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei in Tamaki Makaurau – on its marae at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point); at its Pourewa nursery and food garden nearby; and its contribution to the redesign of Quay Street in the heart of the city.

Our guide was Kingi Makoare, the iwi’s Environmental and Cultural lead.

At the heart of all this is Te Āo Māori, the Māori worldview of the inter-connectedness of all living things. That understanding helps we humans understand our impact, roles and responsibilities in solving the climate crisis and other great challenges of ecosystem restoration.

Commitments to Te Āo Māori can be found in the likes of Fit for a Better World, our national farming strategy, and the work of the Aotearoa Circle, an organisation of senior business and government leaders working on strategies to enhance our nation’s natural capital.

Te Āo Māori is also an indigenous expression of the principles that underpin the Circular Economy, which is a fundamental rethink of human activity needed to achieve our deep and lasting sustainability.

The inclusion last year of Matariki in our public holidays was a sign of increasing interest in mātauranga Māori. Appropriately, the festival marks the time each year when the Matariki star cluster (the Pleiades constellation) is visible again in the north east sky at dawn. It marks the beginning of a new year, a new beginning, in the Māori lunar calendar.

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