Speaking from The Heart?

Why is there an issue for anyone around speaking out about what is ethical and fair for people and the planet? Why by speaking out do you pick up a brand of being somehow a greenie loopy? That by speaking out, or writing about these issues you are being unrealistic, that you are a luddite, or worse. Mind you, a bit of research about luddites shows they were not quite what they are generally portrayed to be.

Let’s be clear, all business, whether farming, tourism, fishing, manufacturing, construction, IT, apparel or other, should be driving programs and a consciousness about what is healthy for all and healthy for the planet.

Marketer Seth Godin in a recent post says that we all have a choice. We can write, film or produce what the public want to see, read or hear, or we can communicate from the heart, and in so doing accept that the masses will not cheer you on.

I write under River Valley’s brand. We are an adventure tourism company, so I suppose that most of what I write about should be adventure type stories, happenings and information. And yet, the deeper I go in my understanding of how precious and fragile our natural world is, if you like the picture-perfect version of the adventure playground in the pristine outdoors, the more concerned and yes, outraged, I become.

The normal adventure type stories might cheer the masses and even get more people on our rafts or horses, and that of course for our business is a good thing, but what they don’t do is speak to the heart.

The heart being we are partners in this natural world. In times past, we might have used the word custodian, but now I think that is inappropriate. Custodian almost implies our ownership of this natural world, where in fact, that natural world owns us. We can be no more separate from it than we can be from the air we breathe. The Maori concept of kaitiakitanga is to my mind more appropriate.

The New Zealand Freshwater Science Society held its annual conference in Nelson during a week in mid-December 2018. Freshwater scientist, Doctor Russell Death gave a keynote address after he received the society’s top award for a fresh water scientist.

His address also did not attempt to get the masses to cheer him on. In fact, he challenged scientists in general to be braver, bolder and have strength in the truth of their findings.

“There are very strong disincentives for speaking out,” Death said.

“For those of us who do speak out, our funding is clearly impacted, and we don’t get as much funding as we would get [if we didn’t] speak out about various industry bodies in New Zealand.

“We do have to speak out, and we are allowed to speak out, but we speak out at our peril and our cost.”

What he speaks of is the continued lack of improvement in our rivers and lakes, and yet the signs were there, and the data has been known for several decades. The various industry bodies he speaks of are powerful entities representing major industries. They are also akin to Dodo birds, or Moa to use a New Zealand analogy. Not yet realising that unless they change, their industries are on the road to extinction.

I do believe that this situation is slowly changing. I believe there is a growing consciousness amongst greater and greater numbers of people that things must change. An expression of this is the increasing numbers of retail outlets and supermarkets here in New Zealand that are doing away with single use plastic bags at check out. This is a direct response to public pressure. A small, but important step on a long road.

Lastly, all River Valley posts are not written from outrage or despair. These blogs also speak from our soul, the soul of our company, from what makes us tick.

To see contented horses, unshod, connecting with their riders, grazing tall pasture, and the land responding from this management is a wonderful thing.

To see the look of wonder on people’s faces as they look at the scenic grandeur, we so take for granted, is a wonderful thing.

To hear people gush about the fun they had after rafting on the river is a wonderful thing.

To eat and share fresh, healthy, organically grown food is a wonderful thing.

To work in an extended family like environment is also, a wonderful thing.

This is proof that we do not have to write, produce or film just to cheer on the masses. Instead, what we do have to do is be brave enough to speak from the heart.

A final New Year’s thought and thank you. I have wondered whether these sorts of posts are appropriate for our company, River Valley. It has in a quirk of time been really heartening the number of people who have unbidden, spoken to me of late and said, “Please keep writing and saying what you see.”

Thanks. We all need encouragement.

Brian Megaw

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