“We are the protectors,” Max reminds others as he sets off up the wharf with bucket in hand. Once a month a ‘flashmob’ of locals, liveaboard boaties, and visitors find the 90 minutes ‘Earthcare Opua’ gathering is not only rewarding but surprisingly enjoyable!
Earthcare Opua remains deliberately unstructured. With no-one in charge, newcomers and regulars alike simply assemble in assorted hi-vis with bucket or bag and a protective glove. The group searches for litter across Opua, ‘harvesting’ debris from roadsides, tracks and the wharf. “Knowing what I have picked up may keep a seabird or fish safe, means a lot,” explains Janie, “It’s something practical I do once a month that really makes a difference!”
“I can’t believe all the cigarette butts,” a local says. “I must have picked up 100 or more, including a pile outside my mate’s business! Today I’ve found out butts contain plastic and when seagulls feed them to their chicks, it kills them. That’s so crazy! Tomorrow, I’ll be down to chat with my mate! I bet he doesn’t even realise! Maybe it’s his workers, maybe customers, but a sand can for stubs wouldn’t be hard eh?”
Amongst the liveaboards from the marina, a competitive element develops. “Anyone else find more than a dozen cable ties, ‘cut and dropped’? “ A discussion begins around small bits of rubbish washed by yesterday’s under the hard stand fence. “Another rain and they’d have been floating in the ocean!” says one overseas yachtie who sees the practical impact her work has had. ‘it’s good to help out, and, I’ll be more sparing with cable ties from now on!”
An Aucklander has come with his Opua friends. He’s shocked by the number of pie wrappers he’s picked out of marina gardens! Mainly though, he’s pleased his friends persuaded him to come along. “It’s been great to meet all you guys. I love coming up here and now I’ve done my bit to care for the Bay!”
Earthcare Opua meets outside The Opua Store the first Sunday of each month at 9am. All welcome. *Opua Store and the Marina Café kindly support volunteers bringing a reusable cup with a complementary tea or coffee after the pick-up.
Are you unable to make Earthcare Opua next month but want to do your part to protect the Bay?
Opua Business owners – your business no doubt depends on the health of the sea. Is there something more you can do to support your customers and workers to care for our Bay?
Seafarers – how many cable ties do you really need?
Smokers – could an empty Eclipse Mints tin in your pocket/bag/car be your new ‘butt holder’?
Pie lovers –Would you be willing to consider being a role model for protecting the bay?
Householders – Still taking packaging you dislike home with your purchase? Help businesses step up to their responsibility to talk with their suppliers about earth-friendly alternatives by handing packaging back in at the store. #timetoasksupplierstochange
Jane Banfield is a Paihia grandmother with a passion for the ocean. Her first introduction to yachting was to marry the Kiwi yachtsman who 35 years ago happened upon the remote island school in Vanuatu where she was a volunteer teacher. A keen kayaker, sailor and almost-daily swimmer, Jane is a self-styled ‘zero waste granny’ who has chosen a low impact packaging-free lifestyle and supports others in the Bay of Islands to do the same.
Imagine a day, not too far off, when each encounter you have is met with empathetic understanding. The person who has mistakenly tail-ended your car, the phone company employee, the government official, the person whose view on vaccination differs from your own, each listen with care to what you have to say. What if, for the first time since the decline of collaboration as the social norm 10,000 years ago, we humans have the wherewithal within easy reach to transition to a collaborative, empathetic and peaceable world?
As I see it, the happy arrival of two widely accessible social tools, Social Media and the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model changes the ballgame. My vision is that these two concepts used together now open the way for a #gopeacable movement to emerge and ‘go viral’, normalising nonviolent interactions between people across the globe. I’m now looking for two co-visionaries to explore this vision further.
If you feel weighed down by the judgemental labels flung across social media, family dinner tables, political forums, and woven into self-talk, that separate us from each other, you are not alone. Indeed, as Johann Hari points out, “It’s no sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.” What I sense is that people are poised, ready for a transformational way to safely negotiate difference and restore community. When the ship is sinking, passengers search for lifebelts.
Normalising nonviolence could avoid the ship of humanity sinking. After all, the hierarchical model of power over others so entrenched in our society is not the only way. I worked alongside the forest dwelling Ba’aka people, hunter gatherers, in Central African Republic. Like Quakers, the Ba’aka social model is based around collaboration not competition, and their is no hierarchical leadership. We in the West could structure things differently too: research shows our one year-olds are naturally collaborative until they are socialised in childhood to see right/wrong thinking and competion as the acceptable norm. So imagine our common future once organisations, government, school, and business, are redesigned for empathy and collaboration to be the expected standard.
A grassroots social movement with groundswell strong enough to open the way for the emergence of empathy as the norm for the 21st century may seem fanciful, yet it’s surely worth exploring. Let’s consider the ‘seeds of war’ in judgemental behaviour, the power of the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) way of life to transform human interactions, and how social media could role model nonviolence into the furthest reaches of the globe.
“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” Martin Buber
Culture wars about ‘who is right’ and ‘who is wrong’ disconnect us from each other, yet judgemental language is currently normalised and accepted in all strata of society. Perhaps you yourself still view others through a lens of ‘who is right’ and ‘who is wrong’?
In contrast, the NVC model provides a tool to create judgement-free interactions. The approach was developed by clinical psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg (1934 – 2015) out of research into the causes of violence, and how to reduce it. Rosenberg was curious why some people remained non-judgemental and open however those around them behaved; while others shifted into blame, judgement, and retribution. He encapsulated his findings into a practical tool. For the first time, the option of a nonviolent response is in easy reach of everyone for each face-to-face, email, group or social media encounter.
It is not always clear that ‘nonviolence’ is not an absence of something. It’s actually an affirmative choice about how to show up in the world: the ‘Ahimsa’ philosophy behind Gandhi’s movement. ‘Non-violent’ people simply avoid violent acts; those practising ‘nonviolence’ choose their behaviour to build peace. That hyphen makes all the difference!
“All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions.” Marshall Rosenberg
Nonviolent communication is a simple process and easy to learn. With an understanding that all humans share the same array of ‘universal basic needs’ and this is what connects us, practitioners learn to reframe dialogue in a non-judgemental way, following a four-step process: Observation – Feeling – Need – Request. With judgement removed, a person finds it straightforward to honour the needs of ‘the other’ as well as their own, needs often hidden deep below the dialogue.
It’s 5 years since a friend explained how there was an alternative way to relate to others called ‘nonviolent communication’. It was news to me: I’d been brought up to believe winning arguments and tolerating judgements that others came out with was simply ‘how the world worked’. Now that I have adopted this alternative approach to life, judgements from others (and self) no longer restrict my spirit, the bouts of depression that used to burden me have gone, and adopting an NVC approach has made interactions with others so much less stressful.
Take what happened to me last week for example. “Jane, you’re disrespectful and uncaring,” my neighbour, with whom I normally get on well, called out. Years ago, I would have reacted with self-justification, grovelling apology, or verbal counterattack, perhaps all three. No longer. At the core of NVC is the understanding that in every action or behaviour, ‘everyone is meeting their needs the best way they can at the time’, and I recognised my neighbour was doing just that, albeit in a clunky way. For unrelated reasons she’d had a difficult week, and my genuine mistake, not noticing where a friend had parked, had triggered her anger. Though her words were set to push us apart, I could look beneath her words, guessing her hidden longing for connection and empathy, and that was what I honoured. The potential ‘seeds of war’ germinated into deeper closeness.
After developing the NVC approach, Rosenberg initiated peace programs in war-torn nations, held workshops in 60 countries, and set up NVC schools. Today hundreds of NVC trainers across the globe teach this nonviolent approach to life, while many other initiatives such as the Alternatives to Violence Project, Restorative Circles, and Alcoholics Anonymous similarly seed peaceable engagement into diverse communities. At the same time within western society, growing numbers seek to transition to lifestyles in flow with the earth and their peers. Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy calls this shift, ‘The Great Turning’.
“While the initial activity might seem to exist only at the fringes, when their time comes, ideas and behaviours become contagious: the more people pass on inspiring perspectives, the more these perspectives catch on. At a certain point the balance tips and we reach critical mass. Viewpoints and practices that were once on the margins become the new mainstream.” Joanna Macy
Nonviolence still hasn’t mainstreamed though, despite these pockets of peaceable engagement. So that’s where social media, often slammed for its destructive effects on community, comes in. Like fungal mycelia that spread unseen through the soil, social media has the capacity to carry a countercultural message of nonviolence into the heart of every community in the world.
I’ve been spending an hour or two each week over the past two years on Facebook and Twitter, experimenting with NVC. I seek to engage with the angriest or most abusive person I can find and the outcomes are heart-warming. The angry, anti-government gun-toting Republican ‘antivaxxer’ turns out to be an anxious father wanting the best for his pre-schooler; the climate change denier is simply prioritising fears about mortgage payments on his family’s home if he lost his job in the oil-industry. For me, there’s still a sense of wonder every time the dialogue opens up as the other person realises there is no judgement, no ‘being right’ or ‘being wrong’.
There’s a challenge with engaging peaceably on social media though – its countercultural, so can feel lonely and rapidly drains my capacity. In a world geared for people to hold power-over positions, at times when support is lacking, it’s easy to feel like retreating to old adversarial ways. Other times, I find myself on the verge of giving up: pushback feels intense when a person swears, aims to diminish my value, or mocks my words. And while for me the words of Marshall Rosenberg hold true, “There’s no information about the person being judged in a judgment,” it’s not something I’d want others to face alone.
I envisage people coming on board #gopeaceable as self-created three-person ‘seedpods’ to ensure no-one attempts NVC without mutual support. If a person has others to mourn with when things don’t go right, and to celebrate with when they do, they are much more likely to continue with the as-yet countercultural NVC approach to life. Apps could support the movement with online NVC training and access to experienced NVC trainers, underpinned with information crowd-sourced, Wikipedia-style.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has. ” Margaret Mead
As I see it, a #gopeaceable movement with robust support would reclaim social media as a peaceable public space. (Remember when Facebook was just a way to connect with friends?) Encountering someone who has dropped judgement of others inspires curiosity and seems to be catching. Furthermore, social media provides a perfect practice space for learners of NVC because written dialogue leaves time to think. Imagine the culture of nonviolence reverberating throughout virtual spaces until it spills out across the real world.
And that’s where you may come in. Inspired by the famous injunction of Margaret Mead, I’m seeking two others to join me to meet as a ‘#gopeaceable pod’ online for the next 8 weeks to co-vision how a #gopeaceable movement could take root and grow. Are you one of them?
“Leadership is the ability to create change,” explained Martin Luther King. I long for change in the way we connect with each other and with the natural world so I know I need to step up as a leader. But ‘What is mine to do?’
Ko Papatūaānuku tena koe Greetings to our earth mother
Ko te whare etu nei , tena koe Greetings to this building
Ko ōku hoa mā, tēna koutou katoa Greetings to all of you, my friends.
As I see it, First I need a super strong vision so as to gather in others to share a journey together.
I’m tasked today to share details of my ‘leadership style’: that’s the ‘gathering others’ part. To explain 3 ways I choose to show up as a leader, I’m going to use a superb model developed by David Emerald around relationships. Healthy relationships he suggests can be viewed as a TED or Empowerment Dynamic Triange. To explain three ways I choose to show up as a leader, I’ll be moving around the 3 vertices, being a CREATOR , being a CHALLENGER and being a COACH .
But first, my vision! I hold to 2040 being the time when in my neighbourhood, my district and, (rather outside my current circle of influence as a leader) my world, we experience flourishing communities, flourishing ecosystems, flourishing children. We arrive at this flourishing because we humans put violence behind us. We eschew violence.
Tama tū, tama ora, tama noho, tama mate says the Māori whakatauki :
He who stands, lives; he who sits, perishes.
‘Anti-violence’ is the stand I take, and means I choose to reduce the violence of my actions on the world:
Its why I’ve shifted to a plant-based ‘vegan’ diet;
aspire to living zero waste going to landfill;
drive an electric car;
and it’s why I am studying Te Reo Māori, to understand more of how to truly be an ally and to address my own inbuilt institutional racism.
For the past 6 years I have been studying and practising ‘NVC’, non-violent communication, a way of relating to others with respect, now practised by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. Yet, “There are many people,” says Miki Kashtan, advocate for non-violent communication and global systems change, “Who are committed to non-violence in action, far fewer are committed in word, and way far fewer to non-violence in thought.”
While practicing non-violence in my own communication and thoughts towards others and myself remains a work in progress, as a leader I choose to show up as a CREATOR. I’m a believer in the need to ‘synergize’. Was anyone else inspired years ago by ‘the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people’? SYNERGY is habit 6, the creative energy that appears when 2 or more people focus on a challenge, be it someone’s personal challenge or challenges the Council seems unable to resolve. It’s the fun energy in ‘brainstorming’, in ‘blue sky thinking.’
Seeking that creative energy is why I recently to turn down a role leading a local community organisation. “I believe 2 heads are better than one,” I told the committee, “lets create a co-leadership role,” but they can’t yet see past a single leader ‘at the top’. IYears back, when my husband died, I ended up running a sizeable business alone. It’s a lonely place at the top, embedded in patriarchal concepts. I don’t believe its how human beings function best. In our changing world, organisations need the synergy that comes not from ‘power over’ but from ‘power with’.
Getting the best out of others can also mean being a CHALLENGER : a person who calls forth growth in others. Being a challenger means using my assertive energy to get needs met without punishing, to support others in becoming responsible and accountable.
Yesterday , I respectfully asked a lady, “Please don’t take this personally,” I said, “But I do worry about wildlife”’ I began. As I walked towards here I’d notice her stubbing out and leaving here cigarette behind, so I asked whether she was aware that seabirds feed cigarette butts to their chicks which ide of starvation. As I was speaking, she simply went back and picked it up. Her choice, no malice, job done. I spoke up, she listened. It took courage on my part, and that’s where my commitment as a leader to my vision works for me.
And as a challenger, I value seeing people move closer to the edges of their courage… its precisely at that edge that I believe we find our calling.
This weaves in to what 84 year old retiring Silver Ferns coach , Dame Lois Muir, said this week, ‘A coach helps people discover themselves.’ Part of being a leader is to be a COACH. How do I support others be the best they can be, to bring forth their gifts and vulnerabilities, qualities to make the world work for all of us?
One choice I make as a coach is no longer to use praise and compliments. Through my studies in NVC, I see praise as a tool to manipulate, to reward compliance and to perpetuate cultures of dominance, of judgment, of ‘power over’ (watch this space for my next speech!)
As I lean into the role of leadership alongside others, new threads of understanding weave in. For now, I feel called to lead others into a flourishing 2040 by showing up as a CREATOR, A CHALLENGER and a COACH, standing firmly in the call to ‘anti-violence’. I believe, in these challenging times, each one of us is called to respond in leadership in our own unique way to that question the universe puts to us, ” What is mine to do?“
(First presented as a speech to Topstart Toastmasters Kerikeri 11 June 2020)
What follows is the vision of our ‘Far North Citizens Waste Minimisation Group’ and our request for support – that I gave via FNDC Annual Plan hearing video link on 6 May 2020 – to our Far North District Mayor and Councillors.
I know that 4 pilot resource recovery projects will add hugely to this year’s Annual Plan. I’m going to explain why. But first, a story from the Solomon Islands:
It is 2015 and I’m a volunteer management and accounting trainer who knows nothing more about rubbish than what I too can clearly see is gross – plastic floating out to sea.
“Jane, would you talk to our school about rubbish littering our coast?” Researching the topic before my first talk, I discover the enormity of the global waste crisis. Here I am, being looked up to as an ‘expert’ asked for advice, the assumption being that back home where I live in ‘developed’ New Zealand, we have wastefulness sorted!
It soon dawns on me that I’m preaching: I’m a case of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’
I return here to the Bay of Islands. I choose to complete a Masters researching Māori approaches to wastefulness and find ways to ‘walk the talk’ myself as a self-styled ‘Zero Waste Granny’.
Perhaps that longing to ‘walk the talk’ and reduce rubbish touches a chord in you too? It’s certainly brought a group of us here in the Far North together over lockdown to give practical voice to our common deepfelt feeling that wastefulness isnt ok. We aren’t looking for perfection, but seek that :
90% of what can be composted in the Far North will be composted
90% of what can be recycled will be recycled
FNDC’s current Waste Management and Minimisation Plan 2017 – 2023 calls all of us to “Waste nothing of value or use while working towards zero waste” and
“Reduce the harmful effects of waste and improve the efficiency of resource use”
The strategic business plan our Far North Waste Minimisation Group has drafted – finding favour with local hapū and Pakeha alike – honours these council goals by increasing resource recovery capacity 3 ways :
- 15 Organic Farmlet enterprises collecting kitchen waste – small market gardening businesses solving a social issue
- 10 more Community Recycling drop-off stations – access for everyone as easy as to supermarkets
- 2 more full size Resource Recovery Centres – engaging in reuse, repair and repurposing
But why insert pilot resource recovery projects into this year’s annual plan?
1. Employment (1 tonne waste kept out of landfill is evidenced to create up to 10 jobs)
2. Community resilience – Around NZ more than 30% of kitchen waste goes to landfill. Its madness to be wasting this! 5+ A Day means 5 lots of 80g that’s 400g of fresh produce. We can do this easily in our district. And urban farms build local food security, create hubs for social cohesion and add wellbeing into neighbourhoods. Moreover as my own recent Masters research evidenced, people feel better when they recycle, compost and stop being so wasteful.
3.Climate change mitigation – recycling food waste reduces carbon emissions, so does less trucking waste out of the district while improving the quality of soil enhances biodiversity which in turn removes carbon from air .
Things have changed with Covid19. All 5 sectors of our Far North Economy …
iii. Those protecting and regenerating our common natural spaces and ecosystems on behalf of us all
v. Local & national government
…. are calling for regenerative recovery solutions.
This plan is excitingly simple, low cost, builds on tried and tested concepts and builds into the circular economy.
Our growing network of practitioners around the Far North wants to see the district not only achieve the goals of the waste minimisation plan but for our district to be demonstrating leadership to other districts by dealing with food waste at a community level.
2 pilot farmlets* and 2 pilot community recycling stations can be operational by the end of this year. A strategic business plan with costings is already drafted and 10 of us will meet again tomorrow night. We want to open discussions with council urgently.
Not only will these resource recovery pilots provide jobs, Community-led resilience and mitigate climate change mitigation , our network’s vision IS Council’s vision!
As the Mayor himself stated in 2017, regarding Council’s target of reducing landfill waste from 320kg in 2016 to 200kg by 2023 :
“This is an ambitious goal, but a necessary one, if we are to become a more sustainable District. We cannot keep building new landfills; they are expensive to operate, and harmful to the environment as there is potential ground water contamination and methane release to the atmosphere. They are also a legacy our children and their children won’t thank us for leaving them. We need to do better, and we can do better.
“How did we get so lucky here in Tai Tokerau, Grandma?” a child in 2040 asks one of the community elders. “It all started,’ she explains, “when five local groups came together after the Covid19 crisis…..
The Local Government Amendment Act 2019 gives Councils responsibility to ‘Promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities in the present and the future.’
So why does the Statement of Intent of our Council’s company Far North Holdings focus solely on financial outcomes? Surely our ratepayers’ company is best governed in the broad long-term interests of us all?
What follows is my reminder of this ‘oversight’ – via FNDC Annual Plan hearing video link on 6 May 2020 – to our Far North District Mayor and Councillors.
The corporate arm of Wellington Council is entrusted to:
“Exhibit a sense of social and environmental responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when possible.”
I am going to explain why good governance by our own council calls for amendment throughout this year’s Annual Plan to reflect the responsibility to promote all 4 aspects of wellbeing. But first, a story …..
It’s May 6th 2040 and our children, grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and their peers are celebrating! They are stakeholders within a flourishing and regenerative Far North district and revel in how no-one is left out. All residents have the means to access their preferred choices for fresh healthy locally-produced food, warm homes, safe communities and sports, learning and outdoor recreation opportunities.
“How did we get so lucky, Grandma?” a child asks one of the community elders. “It all started,’ she explains, “when five groups identified within our local economy came together after the Covid19 crisis. It felt wierd at first, meeting online together. We representatives of hapu, of householders, of businesses, of ecosystems, and of local and national government met together regularly and realised in our hearts was a common goal: to gear up for a future for you children to grow up in a flourishing and sustainable district where no-one would be left out.“
“Remember”, another kuia reminisces, “How we talked with that economist, Kate Raworth? We came up with 2 questions:
‘How many benefits can we generate in how we design our Far North Economy? ‘ and “How can we build in good along the way?“
“It all seemed too big a task eh?” The first elder continued. “But then we found we all agreed where we needed to start, with effective citizen-led governance for ‘Far North Holdings’, the business we all had a stake in, or rather we thought we did…..“
I’m here to add to the voice for change to FNHL from fellow SEA CHANGE members. I reiterate the need to reflect all 4 wellbeings, not simply one, in our council company’s ‘statement of intent’. FNHL is, or should be a ‘social enterprise’. Let me remind you again of the clause Wellington Council, who clearly understand the concept, use in their Statement of Intent:
“Exhibit a sense of social and environmental responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when possible.”
The 21st century corporate adventure means doing things differently. There’s a clear shift from the old thinking of ’How much financial value can I extract?‘ to a new mindset: ‘How many benefits can we generate in the way we design the system? / How can we do good along the way ? / Is the organisation regenerative by design?’
Corporate analysist, Marjorie Kelly describes 5 criteria of a 21st century company:
- Purpose – what is the mission? Is it ‘Increasing market share’ or a ‘safe and flourishing Far North’?
- Governance – what incentives do staff have ? Are they around increased profits or are they around cutting water use, cutting carbon, and further wellbeing outcomes?
- Networks – do these align with others who share their values ?
- Ownership – who are the stakeholders – how impactful is their voice?
- Finance – where is the voice of finance situated? Is it ‘how much financial value can we extract from this’ or does finance add to the wider benefits that are generated by the organisation?
Council’s responsibility is governance not management : it is to be the dog not to allow the tail to do the wagging!
It’s time to walk the talk of wellbeing. An informed understanding cannot come from metrics of dollars or numbers of jobs in the district. Wellbeing is when people are able to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them. For wellbeing to arise post-Covid19, financial factors alone will never get us there.
21st century understanding recognises how wellbeing deends upon social, cultural and environmental factors alongside financial aspects. Amending Council systems, wordings and processes to reflect its mandated responsibility for ‘wellbeing’ is a no-brainer. The simple task of updating Far North Holding’s statement of intent will become a role model for Council’s mission to be a visionary collaborator with the other 4 elements of the formal and informal Far North Economy: Hapu, Householders, Guardians of the natural commons and Businesses. If what we seek is a flourishing and sustainable Far North where each person finds purpose, balance and meaning with none left behind, will Council start the ball rolling and update FNHL and the Annual Plan on behalf of our children?