Posts from NZAEE (3): Metiria Turei

Posted on February 17, 2008


It must be hard representing a small party in NZ politics. Greens MP Metiria Turei who spoke at the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education is the spokesperson for Biosecurity, Conservation, Disability Issues, Education, incl. Tertiary, Environmental Education, Fisheries, Health (Assoc. Alcohol and Drugs), Local Government, Maori Affairs, Senior Citizens, Tourism, Trade (Associate), Treaty Issues, Youth Affairs, and Associate for Health (Alcohol and Drugs) and Trade.

I think the only way someone could carry that load is by having a strong set of core beliefs and Metiria demonstrated just that. She talked about models of teaching, using the saying that “children are not vessels to fill but candles to light”. She talked then about how we must recognise children’s capacity for learning and understanding. Children today, she said are well aware of the dislocation between our claimed care for the environment and rampant consumerism. More of the same will not help close this gap and for this reason, Education for Sustainability must be transformative.

She says that EfS must recognise that children can be creative and mature and want to be involved in decision making about their own environments. She sees no separation between caring for people and the planet.

The danger, however, is the extent to which sustainability is the new black, with significant risks to those who are interested in “real sustainability”. The trick, she says will be to get everyone to a position so that even when the sustainability word fades away, people have adopted sustainability as core practice.

To do this we need to encourage people (and organisations) to make commitments (financial, personal reputation) to sustainability. This way, she argues “it will be harder for them to get out when the going gets tough”.

She worries about the “bureaucratisation of EfS” and hopes we

don’t lose the sense of wonder and direct experience.

The next government, she says, whoever they are, will be under pressure to cut costs and we need to make sure our efforts to move to sustainable organisations are visible and made with long lasting commitments.

She finished, as did many other speakers, with reference to Ed Hillary. She talked of the connection of wellness of ecology and people, and about attributes of modesty, kindness and resourcefulness – all values inherent in EfS.