IUBS General Assembly 2007

Education for Sustainability

1:00 PM

Māori and Western World Views
Shape a Strong Environmental Ethic
in Aotearoa/New Zealand


New Zealand is a bi-cultural society with a well-developed environmental ethic. This ethic reflects deep connections of both cultures to nature and is expressed in such national symbols as the kiwi and silver fern. More significantly, the environmental ethic has given rise to a strong national conservation movement and ultimately to a consensus anti-nuclear policy. Polynesian peoples (now called Māori) migrated to New Zealand about 1000ybp and hold a genealogical view of their relationship to the unique indigenous animals, many of whom are held sacred (tapu) as ancestors. This understanding parallels the Darwinian evolutionary view that underpins the contemporary New Zealand conservation movement, arising from European science. The relatively recent settlement of New Zealand also makes apparent the ecological damage that both cultures have inflicted on the indigenous biota, leading both cultures to commit to ecological restoration programmes. Young New Zealanders develop this environmental ethic in many ways: subliminally, through identification with national symbols such as the kiwi; economically, as New Zealand’s primary sources of national wealth arise from healthy nature (farming, forestry, fishing, tourism); and formally, through a primary and secondary education system that includes strong components of environmental education which we will discuss. New Zealanders are proud of their emerging national identity as a ‘clean green’ country and of the unique natural history of their country.