Mik Aidt Recreation Conference Reflection: The Islands of Natural Beings

"Help us care for New Zealand."

Already while sitting in an airplane, before arriving to the islands of Aotearoa for the first time, I am introduced to the country with a video about the Tiaki Promise. It asks me to 'act as a guardian' and to recognise the traditional Māori stewardship for nature and natural beings.

New Zealand is a country of impressive natural beauty. Anyone who has watched Lord of the Rings will know that. Even if we didn't, travellers arriving to Auckland Airport realise this as they walk through long corridors decorated with huge wall posters of impressive landscapes and natural scenery. New Zealanders are obviously proud of their land and are eager to protect it.

What I didn't know was how the indigenous Māori principles of sustainability and preservation, rather than ownership, has merged with the Western lifestyle and structures into something that is very powerful. A resource of inspiration which the world can learn from.

As the entire world is in the process of entering a new ecological consciousness, New Zealand is at the forefront of thinking, drawing from the most powerful Māori concepts of Kaitiakitanga - which is the idea of caring for the environment in a sustainable way and protecting it for future generations, expressed in one single word.

Transformation starts with the language and at the Recreation Conference I was impressed to learn how Māori and English language can knit together, creating a sense of connectedness and openness towards something which is new.

So, I didn't just learn how a swimming pool has been able to reduce its climate-footprint from 158 tonnes of carbon emissions per year to 43 tonnes. I also learned about Tūrangawaewae - which means a place to stand, feeling empowered and connected to the land, and the significance of that feeling. An attendee told me that Māori in its essence means 'natural beings' - "I am a natural being, living naturally in my natural environment."

In an age of unprecedented change, danger and uncertainty, ideas will be our strongest weapon.We'll need new ideas based on old indigenous traditions to restore and protect nature and build a forward-thinking society where we will not only survive but thrive. As we enter 'the decisive decade' of how this unknown future will turn out, I'll say this to both the lovely Recreation community, which I met at the conference, and to the people of Aotearoa as a whole: never think you are too small to make a difference. I believe you are onto something big.

Mik Aidt (Denmark/Australia)

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