Time To Ditch Sustainability

Time To Ditch Sustainability

This weeks environmental article is written by Te Ipukarea Society Executive Member June Hosking.

I have often talked about Andrew and I developing a sustainable lifestyle in Mauke; assuming people see this as a good thing. However, I am aware that the term 'sustainable' is neither good nor bad. For example, cycling is considered a 'sustainable activity' because it doesn't use fossil fuels (thus good for the environment), isn't costly (thus good for the economy) and provides exercise (thus good for health/ community). But, if one has a bad knee or crook hip then cycling is no longer sustainable for that person.

A wasteful, self-focussed person could argue that they're living sustainably simply because they can afford to sustain such a lifestyle, no matter how bad it is. In our case, sustainability isn't just about lessening the negative impact on the environment, we also have to consider our economy e.g. we had no income for the first few years in Mauke so our cats that strayed into our lives were desexed and hunted rats as their main source of food. They got bits of whatever we were eating, but buying cat food just isn't sustainable for us. It must be noted that we have no shortage of rats; our cats bring in one or two rats most nights.

When considering economic sustainability, a person recently said to me that we needed the income from Deep Sea Mining for the sustainability of the Cook Islands. I wonder what they think will be sustained by money? I'm thinking it's time to ditch the term sustainable in favour of REGENERATIVE living because that better reflects how life works.

We need to consider how to work in harmony with the intersecting cycles of life so that life continues to regenerate. For example, in Mauke we recycle grey water, human and other organic waste to enrich the nutrient cycle. Producers feed consumers, who then feed decomposers, which then feed producers and the cycle continues. Plants are left to reseed, with each new generation becoming better adapted to our conditions.

Another example of regenerative living to maintain our Cook Islands' special character should include well trained Cook Islands teachers. Each year around 10 teachers are ready to retire or leave for various reasons. Therefore, we need at least 10 new Cook Islands teacher trainees entering the system each year.

How might regenerative living apply in your situation? Lydia Marsh and I looked after TIS's booth at Careers Expo 2023. We talked about the qualities required to work for TIS. Some of these qualities include having a curious mind, always questioning, learning and seeking creative solutions. Actions on the ground must consider how we enhance ecological development, rather than breaking those cycles of life, of which we are a part

At the TIS booth there was an interactive section where students were invited to write their thoughts based on three questions: What if Muri lagoon was totally cleared so that the bottom was just sand? What if the Cook Islands bans all single use plastic? What if the Cook Islands say NO to DSM in our Marae Moana? It was pleasing to see both pros and cons noted and that most considered the environment. Some thought we needed the money from deep sea mining (DSM). To this I reply that we're living without that money now. Furthermore, as demand for metals mined from the ocean drops because large companies refuse to buy them, prices will fall, income will fall and by the time the companies cover their costs and take their profits, what will be left for us? One said the bottom of the ocean just has little worm things so it doesn't matter if they die. I asked what would happen if we killed all the little things like microbes, worms etc in our soil. A sobering thought, it really is time for regenerative thinking.

There are still far too many unknowns and knowledge gaps in regard to the deep seas connectivity cycle. A cycle that if impacted, could have detrimental long term effects for generations to come.