Navigating the tides of climate change and challenging human behavior

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

As the Tahitian ocean voyaging vessel Fa'afaite moves around Aotearoa for Tuia250, the conversation on land is centred around sustainability in the Pacific Ocean, where islands like Tahiti are facing the reality of climate change, plastic pollution and overconsumption.

Hinano Teavai-Murphy is Associate Director of The University of California Berkeley's Gump Station: a world-leading research station on Mo'orea focusing on biocomplexity and sustainability.

Hinano Teavai-Murphy says, “Can we change our mind to just look at the ocean like a person and wonder what can we bring to the ocean how can we tiaki, how can we care about our ocean, so that it will be there for our next generation.”

The effects of global overconsumption are being felt throughout Te Moananui a Kiwa - the Pacific Ocean.

“With the plastic, with the pollution, with climate change and the rise of acidification of the ocean, those are really big issues that we have to take care now”, says Teavai-Murphy.

Through Tuia250, the Moananui Te Paepae o Tangaroa Oceans Symposium weaves together hose who are exploring the challenges facing Te Moananui a Kiwa - the Pacific Ocean.

Tuia250 community engagement conducted by the crew of three waka: Fa’afaite, Ngarihaka and Haunui, is providing a platform for people in the community to learn about voyaging with the intention of positively influencing the way people perceive their relationship with the ocean.

In Tahiti, and now in Aotearoa, the waka Fa'afaite delivers the message of ocean sustainability to the various island communities.

Teavai-Murphy is also the President of the cultural association Te Pu Atitia, which aims to preserve and promote Tahitian biocultural heritage for the wellbeing of local people.

“Raising awareness among the children like doing activities for the children, as soon as possible when they are young watching this canoe evolving, and having the masters here to teach them. To see who we are, to know that we are the ocean and to care, and to talk about the responsibility", says Teavai-Murphy.

A school teacher and an education advisor for Polynesian language teaching, Hinano Teavai-Murphy draws parallels between the erosion of indigenous culture and the loss of sustainable practices.

“We care because we are losing our language and we all know that the language carries the soul of a culture and if we don't have that we're missing the vision of the people of tangata tumu, the tangata whenua.”

With much of the public attention around Tuia250 focused on history, how can more focus be put on changing attitudes towards ocean sustainability?

“We can't wait for anybody else, it starts with you. What can I do in my community to raise awareness in the community to stand up and to do something right away?” Teavai-Murphy says.

The visit by Hinano Teavai-Murphy is supported by the Royal Society Te Apārangi