OPINION: Ko au Emma Tepaeru Kainuku-Walsh and I am 25 years old, of Cook Islands, Samoan and New Zealand descent. I returned home to the Cook Islands three years ago. In this time, I have developed a deep understanding of our connection to our land.
As a voyager and explorer at heart, I am passionate about the enua and the moana; the environment in which our people derive nourishment and healing.
Just as I believe we should treasure and nurture our bodies, we too should do the same for the earth in which we live. Life is a cycle and I believe everything operates in flow. What we put out into the world, we receive back. In order to have healthy bodies, we must tend and care for the earth, and, in order to tend and care for the earth, we must have healthy bodies.
As Pacific Islanders we are made to be warriors of the land and guardians of the earth. Volunteering my time for Te Ipukarea Society, I have guided visitors up and across Te Rua Manga and to the Takitumu Conservation Area.
With panoramic views of Rarotonga, our visitors are able to take a moment and embrace the strength of our island. I share knowledge of our plant species with them and help them to understand the importance of preserving our paradise.
Visiting schools in Rarotonga together with Te Ipukarea Society, I have had the opportunity to see the delight and excitement in the eyes of our tamariki as they learn agriculture and develop their school composts and worm bins.
As this programme continues to develop, this will flow into a planting cycle while teaching our tamariki traditional planting methods. Their planter boxes will produce healthy and nutritious growth that will in turn feed the bodies of our tamariki and teach them entrepreneurial mindsets from the ground up.
I wish to continue inspiring youth to acknowledge their traditional heritage and return to the practices of our ancestors. Recently I was invited by Te Ipukarea Society to co-facilitate the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp to help inspire our Cook Islands’ young leaders into future careers in marine science and natural resource management.
Using traditional practices, we can encourage a more sustainable way of living and preserving our world.
I am a realist, so I understand that for a successful and sustainable future we do need a healthy blend of modern-day technologies and ancestral practices. Environmental engineering is my core focus for 2020 which I will study to align the importance of these sustainable technologies.
Leaving you in the words of Jason Momoa, the understanding that all land, no matter how big or small, floats on the ocean like a canoe in the middle of the sea.
“Our planet is nothing more than an island floating among an ocean of stars. Life on a floating vessel has limited resources, it requires strict conservation practices, carefully planned navigation to ensure survival. We must work together as a global community to best steer our canoe in the right direction. The direction of a healthy and abundant future on earth that we call home.”
Emma Tepaeru Kainuku-Walsh