Mana Pacific gets in behind practical solutions and engages cultural strengths in response to environmental issues.
Philosophical positions, politics and policy alone are inadequate. Practical solutions, capable of impacting the scale of the issue, are also necessary. Impactful innovations emerge when communities tap into their cultural strengths in combination with practical solutions. Two examples of combined practical and cultural solutions are discussed here: the Tonga diaspora natural disaster response and waste management.
Disaster struck Tonga on 15 January 2022 with the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai eruption, tsunami and ashfall, causing an estimated US$90.4m in damages and affecting 80% of the population. The Tonga diaspora in New Zealand mobilised, led by the Aotearoa Tonga Relief Committee, and sent more than 80 shipping containers of family-to-family food relief drums to Tonga. Mana Pacific came in with practical support sourcing 200L drums for the central region Tonga relief effort, supported packing and data entry requirements in the Manawatū, and sponsored a 20-foot container for Manawatū family-to-family and school-to-school relief. The family-to-family focus meant food relief got to families more directly, and could be shared at the village level with extended family and neighbours. This practical solution reflects what Mallence Bart-Williams called ‘sharity’ - where communities have resilience and resolve to find solutions within, rather than the focus being that of ‘charity’. The Tonga relief effort was a success because it harnessed the strength of cultural structures and values to provide much-needed “aid”. Mana Pacific is committed to supporting community-led, practical initiatives that will make a difference.
Practical solutions are also needed to address waste management in our atoll islands of the Blue Pacific (Moana) and here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Mana Pacific hosted a delegation from the Tuvalu Department of Waste Management in 2018, with the programme including visits to Xtreme Zero Waste in Raglan and the Manawatū waste management facilities. This led to a number of local initiatives in Tuvalu. One initiative was a wearable arts community event, reusing waste materials; but what happened to the art after that? Is it not still on-island and perhaps now in the landfill anyway?
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, too much waste is sent to landfill. Although it might be out-of-sight-out-of-mind, landfills produce greenhouse emissions and toxic leachates. Despite huge recycling effort, waste to landfill has still increased in the last decade according to Ministry for Environment estimates. With the overseas market for Aotearoa New Zealand's recycling dried up, local authorities in our city had to send 440 tonnes of stockpiled mixed-grade plastics to landfill last year. Our industry networks in the region share with us that there are other stockpiles building up; and that, already, an average of around 671 tonnes of waste per day is sent to the major regional landfill. When even the recycling is getting sent to landfill, what else can be done?
A multi-pronged, practical approach is needed. The oft-cited waste management hierarchy includes redesign, reduce, reuse and recycle as priority actions - but recovery of energy and resources from waste is also part of the hierarchy of action and has a part to play in this multi-pronged approach. A report by BCG concluded that amongst the hierarchy of solutions, “plastics conversion – specifically pyrolysis – can play an important role in mitigating the environmental impact of plastics in the near to medium term.” Pyrolysis of medical PPE also shows an “environmental advantage by reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by 35.42 percent compared to conventional incineration and energy saving by 43.5 percent from landfilling” according to a recent study by Cornell University. Technology is developing all the time, and pyrolysis for energy and resource recovery is an innovative, practical solution.
Mana Pacific is serious about engaging practical solutions, such as innovative clean technologies to address waste management, to deal with the scale of waste in our Blue Pacific and in Aotearoa New Zealand. New energy and resource recovery technologies have real potential to protect the moana (oceans) and land. Such protection and restoration of our environment is resonant with Moana cultural perspectives on time and space and our relational ways of knowing, being and doing. Powerful change is possible when both practical solutions and cultural strengths are embraced, to address the critical environmental issues facing our communities.
The Tonga relief effort was a success because it harnessed the strength of cultural structures and values to provide much-needed “aid”. Mana Pacific is committed to supporting community-led, practical initiatives that will make a difference.