Drone film for reality check of NZ environment

Source: Massey University

Dr Cadey Korson operating a drone in Michigan, USA (photo credit/Andrew Korson Photography)

Geography, sociology, philosophy students and staff will swap lecture theatres for the wilderness this summer to use aerial and underwater drones for a film revealing land use, environmental issues and human-environment relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand.

They are seeking help from public and private landowners for access to forest, grassland (including tussock and pasture), cropland and wetland areas throughout the country. The Spatial Awareness Project will also include underwater footage to create a comprehensive look at the breadth of natural and cultural landscapes at a time when our much-lauded landscape is under pressure, says project leader Dr Cadey Korson. She is teaming up with colleagues – sociologist Dr Alice Beban and philosopher Dr Krushil Watene – in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

A lecturer of human geography in the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey’s Auckland campus, Dr Korson says the project will involve collecting aerial (drone) footage of the 12 different land use types across New Zealand. “We’ve had a few private landowners and companies agree to let us film. However, we could still use a number of alternative locations to showcase the beauty of this amazing country and its unique landscapes.”

One of the key aims of the project is to encourage students’ curiosity “about the human impact on the environment and create a learning community where students are empowered to critically engage in debates about conservation and land use,” says Dr Korson. “Rapid urbanisation, intensifying natural hazards, climate change and exponential tourism growth are just a few of the catalysts that have an unassailable effect on natural and cultural landscapes.”

The team aims to create a three-minute short film and a series of complimentary podcasts that will include interviews with industry partners, kaitiaki, land owners, environmental managers and community members about corresponding natural resource management issues and different ways of understanding and valuing the natural world. She hopes the project will demonstrate to Bachelor of Arts students; “the exciting possibilities and enrichment these new GIS (Geographic Information System) technologies are bringing to the study of geography, and the potential job opportunities for students who are learning how to use it.”

The summer drone filming involves one to two hours of her team flying the Mavic 2 Pro about 75-100 metres over the plot of land. Landowners will receive a copy of the unedited aerial footage and be provided a link to the final video on YouTube. Filming begins mid-January in the South Island for a month, then the central and southern North Island in February and Northland in March.

Dr Korson wants to hear from anyone with access to sites across the country to be included in the project, including forest, grassland, cropland, wetland and settlements. “Within these are a number of sub-categories that we’re hoping to include examples of – tussock, pasture, annual crops, vineyards and orchards, vegetated wetland and open water, neighbourhoods, infrastructure, beaches and dune land, glaciers, scree, scrublands.” 

For further inquiries contact Dr Cadey Korson on E: C.Korson@massey.ac.nz

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‘Lonely in a crowd’ can reduce brain function

Source: Massey University

Being lonely in a crowd is worse for cognitive function than being lonely and alone, according to new research by clinical psychology graduate Dr Catherine Whitehouse.

And emotional loneliness is actually a bigger risk factor than depression, heart disease, diabetes and stroke for cognitive decline, she found.

Dr Whitehouse, who graduated with Doctor of Clinical Psychology from Massey University last month, investigated whether emotional loneliness, social loneliness and social isolation affected cognitive performance among older people. Her analyses showed that emotional loneliness had a detrimental impact on cognition. She also found that older adults who were emotionally lonely but not socially isolated had poorer cognition than those who were lonely and socially isolated. 

Her research explores the importance for mental and physical health of having strong, close emotional bonds, not just being in the same room with people, in later life. This resonates with evidence that “many key health outcomes associated with social isolation and loneliness such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression have also been reported as risk factors for cognitive decline,” she writes.

Social connections create behavioural and psychological benefits that can offset cognitive decline, such as encouraging healthier lifestyles, and the mood-enhancing, stress-reducing impact of socialising, her research found. But the discrepancy is that for some, group conviviality does not meet the need for one-on-one intimacy ­– instead it highlights the absence of a soulmate and intensifies loneliness.

Her research addresses concerns for the health of the growing proportion of older people in the population and the quest to better understand their needs. “Modern life in developed countries has increased the likelihood of older adults becoming socially isolated or lonely,” she says.

‘Successful ageing’, ‘positive ageing’ and ‘healthy ageing’ are buzzwords that reflect changing demographics globally and underpin increasing government and health sector interests in this area, Dr Whitehouse emphasises. Last year, Britain’s then-Prime Minister Theresa May launched her Government’s first loneliness strategy, following a survey of GPs who reported seeing between one and five people a day suffering from loneliness. 

Differences between social and emotional loneliness

Critical to her study is an understanding of the nuances of social and emotional loneliness and how they differ, as well as the role of social isolation and the impact on cognitive function, which includes memory, fluency, language and visuospatial ability.

Older adults facing major life changes, such as the death of a spouse, a decline in physical health and strength, less independence, or having to move away from established friends and support networks,  can access support and forge a social life. And while they may be not perceived as socially isolated or socially lonely by others, they may feel an acute absence of close, intimate and meaningful relationships, despite being surrounded by friends, family and social acquaintances.

“Older adults may not be aware they are lonely or do not want to admit to feelings of loneliness. It is an inexact science in terms of defining and measuring,” Dr Whitehouse says.

All by myself, or together alone?

Although there is no universally agreed-upon definition of the loneliness – it is subjective, a matter of perception – descriptions include subjective feelings of aloneness, separation, feeling distant from others, loss or abandonment. “Loneliness can be an outcome of social isolation, but it is not inevitable, as an individual may enjoy their own company and not feel separated from others or experience the pain and emptiness of feeling lonely. For others aloneness is a pathway to loneliness,” she says.

Individuals differ to the extent in which they experience loneliness, and this may reflect different levels of susceptibility to loneliness. “What is apparent, regardless of conflicting definitions of successful ageing, is that cognitive ability and social relationships for the older adults are key determinants of successful ageing,” she concludes.

Data from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2010 and 2012) – one of a range of studies led by the Health in Ageing Research Team (HART) based at Massey’s School of Psychology – was used for analysis for her thesis, titled: The Impact of Social Relationships on Cognitive Performance in the Older Adult: Emotional Loneliness is Detrimental to Cognitive Performance. 

Dr Whitehouse became interested in the issue after a career change from being a chartered accountant to working with older people as Director of Manchester House Social Services in Feilding. This interest led to her thesis and she continues as a therapist both privately and through Massey’s Psychology Clinic at the Manawatū campus, which receives self-referals, and referrals from local GPs and the MidCentral District Health Board. 

She says society needs to talk more openly and deeply about the value and importance of emotional connections across all age groups to combat the stigma of loneliness.

Face time innovates online language learning

Source: Massey University

Professor Cynthia White with linguistics PhD students Dai Chujie and Huan Huang.

Learning another language can take years of commitment and effort amid our busy lives. A new online learning innovation pairing students face-to-face with native speakers is helping to speed up progress because it is tailored to the learner’s needs, lifestyle and level.

Linguistics expert and international authority on distance language learning, Professor Cynthia White, recently presented findings on the Synchronous Chinese Online Language Teaching (SCOLT) pilot project she is leading. The project is a partnership between Massey’s School of Humanities and the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), and is part of a joint research centre in applied linguistics which launched two years ago. 

The concept is based on tutorials bringing together a trainee Chinese language teacher from BLCU and a Chinese language learner from Massey University in a series of one-to-one online language practice tutorials. Students and tutors reflect on the process after each of the tutorials. These reflections, as well as recordings of the sessions themselves, have become data for investigation in this under-researched area. 

The SCOLT method offers numerous advantages, says Professor White, who is also Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. It allows for personalised, recordable and flexible learning as sessions can be timed to suit the schedules of student and tutor. 

PhD student Huan Huang presenting her findings on the communication dynamics of one-to-one language tutoring.

Progress augmented by personalised approach

Other advantages of the one-on-one approach include increased confidence in language learners to speak and not be inhibited by others as they might in a classroom situation. They also receive targeted feedback to address specific areas they want to improve on, or are having difficulty with, and can replay recordings to review their progress, iron out mistakes and practice after the session. 

Professor White, who received Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Catalyst seeding funding to develop the project with BLCU, says students taking part in the trial particularly liked being able to speak with a native speaker of Chinese with the advantage being that; “the teacher can find the right level for the student.”

Another successful tool used in the trial was the use of photos to prompt natural conversation involving questions and the chance to learn new vocabulary. “It was clear from our focus groups that the photo prompt provides a lot of support for learning and leads to discussing other topics,” she says. The approach is both structured and natural, with the possibility of authentic conversation to flow as the rapport develops between tutor and learner. 

While there are many digital apps for language learning, the key issue is people’s willingness to learn and finding a way that suits their needs, says Professor White, who hopes the method will be adapted to other languages.

She was joined by doctoral students Dai Chujie and Huan Huang in a presentation to government and education sector professionals at the New Zealand China Friendship Society in Wellington last month. The students’ research is exploring aspects of the role of communication dynamics, such as verbal cues and responses, facial expressions and body language in online learning scenarios.

Professor Cynthia White with Ta’i Richard, from the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, at a fono (conference) in Auckland on language revitalisation.

Supporting languages of the Pacific

Professor White also recently presented at the the Lalanga Fou Languages and High Tech Fono in Auckland, hosted by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. She spoke to Pacific communities and government representatives on her research into technology for language maintenance and revitalisation for indigenous languages.

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Refugee to Kiwi – PhD explores life beyond the welcome

Source: Massey University

Dr Natalie Slade, who graduated with a PhD in Development Studies for her research on representations of refugees in the media

Heart-wrenching images of desperate refugees may evoke empathy and compassion in host nations where those displaced by war and disaster re-settle. But new research reveals how the “refugee” label can interfere with the wish for a new life.

Dr Natalie Slade, who graduated last week with a PhD in Development Studies, turned her photojournalism background into a lens for understanding the way refugees are represented in the media and in advocacy campaigns, and how this can affect a sense of identity and belonging for resettled refugees.

She says the typical media portrayal of refugees as victims who are impoverished, desperate and suffering is part of their story, and is what arouses concern, sympathy and a willingness to help on the part of nations that resettle refugees. 

But there is a paradox at play, because these kinds of images can create stereotypes about refugees while reinforcing a self-congratulatory altruism on the part of the host country. This can make it difficult for former refugees to carve out a new life and identity beyond the association with the traumatic circumstances that brought them here. 

“Although discourses of solidarity and welcome stem from humanitarian concern, they also risk encouraging a regime of compassion and charity that speaks more about ourselves and how we feel,” she says.

Former refugees she spoke to say stereotypes produced by advocacy based on being victims can be stigmatising. “People [in host nations] seem surprised to learn they [refugees] are educated, had a good job and could afford to live well.”

She says that people who flee war and terror may be vulnerable, but this doesn’t mean they have nothing, or came from nothing. “The normal image of a refugee is someone who is poor and destitute. Therefore, if refugees are pictured with a smart phone, and they dress nicely, then somehow people think they’re not ‘real’ refugees or don’t deserve to be a refugee.

Dr Slade, whose thesis is titled: (De)constructing ‘refugeeness’: Exploring mediated discourses of solidarity, welcome and refugee (self)representation in New Zealand, says that while advocacy campaigns rely on public support, they can also simplify who refugees are.

The refugee crisis in Europe in 2015, and the New Zealand response to it, was the catalyst for Dr Slade’s doctoral research.

When are you no longer a refugee?

When a refugee arrives in the resettlement programme in New Zealand they are technically and legally no longer a refugee, and become permanent residents.

Former refugees she spoke to saw themselves as being New Zealanders. Not all felt the refugee label was negative while others rejected it because they felt it diminished them as a person. “It’s not so much a problem in terms of how they saw themselves, but how they think the New Zealand public sees them. 

Dr Slade’s interest in the topic was sparked by a particular photo viewed globally in 2015 – that of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey after the boat he and his family were in capsized trying to reach Europe. “Although thousands of refugees had already lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of safety, Alan’s photo evoked feelings of outrage and sadness, becoming the defining image of the so-called European refugee crisis,” she writes in her thesis. “Unlike other photos of the crisis, Alan’s photo created a groundswell of public support around the world for those seeking refuge.”

She was interested in the impact of this photo, from the citizens across Europe who mobilised into action under the banner of ‘Refugees Welcome’, to New Zealand where the 2015 refugee crisis sparked a media/public campaign urging the National government to raise the quota and welcome more refugees into New Zealand. Over 1000 refugees come to New Zealand annually through the United Nations Refugee Agency resettlement programme. In the past five years most have come from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Burma/Myanmar, Colombia, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

Dr Slade suggests advocacy and humanitarian organisations work with refugees and former refugees to include diverse voices and experiences in campaigns and promotional material. And media can play a role by telling more diverse resettlement stories – not just the exceptional, high-achieving cases, she says. 

“We need to move beyond the benevolence of opening up our country and how good we are, towards this being about human rights and justice. We’re a relatively wealthy country and we have a part to play. We have responsibilities under international laws, we’ve signed up to treaties. We actually have a certain moral obligation to resettle some people where we can. It’s not about making us look good or feel good. It’s about justice.” 

Development studies detour

Dr Slade first enrolled in undergraduate papers in development studies by distance while she was working as a news photographer at the Dominion Post in Wellington. She became interested in social justice issues after a trip to Cambodia to photograph the work of a New Zealand-based education project, the Cambodia Charitable Trust, founded by Massey development studies graduate Denise Arnold. 

She loved the papers and went on to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Studies, then into her doctoral research. She now works as a research analyst for the Ministry of Social Development on poverty and inequality issues, evaluating support services for people in vulnerable and marginalised communities.

She says that while development studies tends to focus on overseas issues, Treasury’s introduction of the Living Standards Framework shows that “development happens in New Zealand as well”. 

Pioneering ex-mayor awarded honorary doctorate

Source: Massey University

Former Palmerston North mayor Jill White was awarded a Doctor of Literature for her advocacy on environmental, social and local history issues.

Former Palmerston North mayor and Manawatū MP Jill White has been awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of her advocacy for environmental issues and local heritage, and making a difference through local body politics.

Dr White, who has Bachelor of Arts (honours) and Master of Arts degrees from Massey, was awarded a Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences ceremony on Friday.

Massey historian Dr Geoff Watson says it is “highly appropriate that in 2019, which marks 100 years since women were granted the right to stand for Parliament, that Jill White be awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of her pioneering political achievements and her advocacy on environmental, social and heritage issues.” 

Dr White made history as the first woman elected as MP for Manawatū, representing the Manawatū electorate between 1993 and 1996 and serving as a list MP between 1996 and 1998. In 1998, she successfully stood for Mayor of Palmerston North, becoming the city’s first female mayor and serving between 1998 and 2001. She also served as a city councillor for Palmerston North between 1983 and 1992; the Manawatū-Wanganui Regional Council between 1989 and 1994 and Horizons Regional Council between 2007 and 2013. 

Dr White’s deep interest in the environment was informed in part by her studies at Massey, where her master’s thesis focused on the relationship between Palmerston North and the Manawatū River. 

She has worked with many social organisations, including the Palmerston North Methodist Social Services, Age Concern and the Multi Ethnic Council. She has also made a significant contribution to local history and heritage – she is a longstanding member of the Palmerston North Heritage Trust, and has made a significant contribution to local history as a regular contributor to the Manawatū Journal of History and the preserving records and artefacts of St Paul’s Church on Broadway. 

“Jill’s career epitomises Massey University’s philosophy of lifelong learning and her contribution as a political pioneer for women and her extensive community service make her an eminently worthy candidate for an honorary doctorate,” Dr Watson says in his nomination.

Historian, Associate Professor Margaret Tennant, says in her supporting testimony that; “Jill has a more extensive experience of politics in its various forms, electoral and associational, than any other Manawatū woman I am aware of, and she remains a source of sound advice and a model of ethical behaviour to others with similar aspirations.

“During her term as Mayor, Jill placed considerable emphasis on strengthening the relationship between Massey University and the city. She also initiated a modernising of Palmerston North’s image and the redevelopment of the Square in its present form.”

Her background in science and interest in the environment came to the fore in her parliamentary career, in which she was Labour Spokesperson for Research Science and Technology; Environment and Biosecurity and Crown Institutes. Her expertise in this field was further recognised in 2000 she was appointed Chair of the Environmental Management Risk Authority 

Building on her background as a public health nurse and teacher, she has served on a wide range of community organisations including the Palmerston North Community Services Council; the District Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse and National Council of Women. 

Gay men’s health and discrimination researcher awarded

Source: Massey University

Professor Michael Ross was awarded a Doctor of Science in recognition of his international career researching issues relating to gay men’s health and wellbeing.

Massey University alumnus and health psychologist Professor Michael Ross has been awarded a Doctor of Science for his lifetime of research into sexual risk behaviour and mental health in gay and bisexual men across cultures and continents.

Professor Ross, who is currently based in the Human Sexuality, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health programme at the University of Minnesota, enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in psychology at Massey nearly 50 years ago. He gained his BA (Hons) in 1974, dedicating his academic career from then to understanding the links between internalised homophobia, stigma, mental health and sexual risk-taking in sexual minorities – from the Americas to Africa, as well as Europe and Australia.

He’s published more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and 12 books, with his initial work focused on stigma and adjustment in gay men, and subsequently on sexual risk behaviors for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. 

Professor Ross, back in New Zealand to receive his degree based on a theses of recently published works, says his choice to work in this area early on was “certainly risky in terms of a future career.”

“I saw it as not a mental issue, but one of human rights and science previously based on poor research with only hospital samples. If we were describing heterosexuals based only on samples from mental hospitals, we’d get a pretty inaccurate idea of them too.”

As an undergraduate, he says there was “already a recognition that the earlier data were deeply flawed – 1973 marked the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its list of disorders.” 

“I knew at that point that I wanted to go on into academia – and psychology excited me. There were few areas where one could break new ground, and be part of a new direction in the study of human sexuality and human rights.

He graduated from Massey 12 years before the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was passed here in 1986 to decriminalize homosexuality. In 1973, he and two other men became the first to speak openly in the news media. They were interviewed for Radio New Zealand by host Lindsay Perigo. “We talked about being gay, about the issues of having to be hidden and stigma, and about law reform. It led to the slightly later 1973 Listener article, another first.”

Social stigma and mental health link in gay men

Professor Ross completed his PhD at University of Melbourne in 1979, and during the HIV epidemic of the 1980s, he explored the epidemiology of HIV and STIs in Australia, Sweden and Finland and the relationship of social stigma to mental health in gay men. 

His work included the development of methods for Internet studies of sexual minority populations, culminating in his work on internalized homophobia in a study of 180,000 gay and bisexual men in 35 countries and in 25 languages in Europe. This was extended to the epidemiology of HIV-related risk in injecting drug users in Australia, which paved the way into understanding the delivery of health services in prisons in the United States, and how the measurement of the prison social climate could predict health-related behaviors in inmates, staff health and safety in correctional environments. 

Over the past two decades, he published some of the first papers on gay and bisexual men and HIV and sexually-transmitted infections in East Africa, and the impact of stigma on health care and risk behavior in networks of gay and bisexual men. He is currently studying and evaluating the teaching of sexual history-taking and counseling in student nurses and midwives in Tanzania.

“Until the last decade, it was not recognized that there are significant gay and bisexual populations in large African cities, and that HIV risk in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the second wave of the epidemic, closely involves some key populations,” he says.

Light years and dark ages

Professor Ross, who has worked in medical schools or public health schools in universities since 1978, says that over the 50 years since he began his studies, attitudes towards homosexuality are “light years ahead in terms of social acceptance and knowledge, in most Western countries including New Zealand. But there are major parts of the world which are still in the dark ages in their conceptualization of, and discrimination against, sexual diversity.”

Despite being told by a senior psychologist back in 1974 that homosexuality was “not an appropriate topic”, for his psychology honours thesis, he says staff at Massey “strongly supported me and I did the thesis – which I believe was the first in New Zealand on the subject, and was published. I owe Massey for that support and academic freedom, which launched my career.”

He credits his New Zealand education as standing him in good stead for later scholarly success. “When I was at Cambridge University in the UK [where he earned a masters in Criminology and a Diploma in Applied Criminology in the early 2000s], I got to my first class and thought OMG, I am in here with the brightest people in the world! How am I going to make it? I later realised that I had the advantage of a superb education in New Zealand, from primary school to university, all in Palmerston North – Terrace End Primary, Ross Intermediate, Freyberg, then Massey. I was top or top-equal in my course at Cambridge. What better place [than Massey] to mark the “bookends” on my career of 50 years and nearly 600 publications?”

Professor Ross will be joined at graduation by friends and family including his cousin, Dr Kirsty Ross, a Senior Lecturer in psychology at the Manawatū campus. The degree of Doctor of Science is awarded for original contribution(s) of special excellence to knowledge in science. His thesis is titled: Health and Health Promotion and Applied Health Psychology in Stigmatized Sexual Minority Populations.

Massey student wins UK scholarship to seek taonga

Source: Massey University

Tapunga Nepe’s scholarship will enable him to go to the UK to identify and study Māori taonga in British institutions (photo by Ali Maynard).

A Massey student has been awarded a He Whai Mātauranga (In Pursuit of Knowledge) Scholarship established by the British High Commission to help reconnect Māori taonga within UK institutions to Aotearoa New Zealand.

The scholarship will enable Museum Studies master’s student, Tapunga Nepe, Rongowhataata, to spend up to six weeks in the UK where he aims to locate, identify, study and honour Rongowhakaata taonga. This includes carvings possibly originating from the country’s oldest whare whakairo (carved house), Te Hau ki Tūranga.  The whare, built under the direction of master carver Raharuhi Rukupō in the early 1840s at Manutuke on the East Coast, was confiscated in 1867 and is currently housed at Te Papa. 

In 2016, Rongowhakaata from the Gisborne region initiated a journey to gather together the iwi taonga in a series of marae-based exhibitions, continuing to the current exhibition at Te Papa National Museum, Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow.

This series of exhibitions will become the platform of Mr Nepe’s master’s thesis and he says the He Whai Mātauranga scholarship provides the opportunity to continue this journey of resurgence, reconnecting with Rongowhakaata taonga held in UK collections. Mr Nepe is currently the Kaitieki Māori at Tairāwhiti Museum in Gisborne.  The scholarship was one of three announced in London recently during the visit of a delegation of New Zealand academics and Māori leaders hosted by the British High Commission.  

Massey’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, Distinguished Professor Hingangaroa Smith, who was on the delegation, praised British High Commissioner Laura Clarke for the initiative which was part of the Tuia 250 Encounters commemorations marking the first meeting between Māori and Europeans in 1769. 

He says it was “an incredible opportunity” to visit taonga held at the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the British Library, the National Maritime Museum as well as the Museum of Archelogy and Anthropology in Cambridge.  Professor Smith says the opportunity to build stronger relationships between iwi and cultural institutions in the UK will support greater research collaborations. 

“There is such mātauranga (knowledge) to be unlocked from taonga that has been out of our view for so long and the opportunity for one of our students to undertake such mahi (work) is very significant.” 

It is also significant for Massey’s Museum Studies programme in the School of Humanities, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and was the first programme of its kind in the country. 

Museum Studies programme co-ordinator Dr Susan Abasa says He Whai Mātauranga is an exciting joint venture, the first to bring all the museum studies programmes in Aotearoa together.  

“He Whai Mātauranga offers an opportunity to strengthen relationships here and with our museum colleagues in the UK.  In the spirit of sharing knowledge, we also renew our collective responsibility to preserve, maintain and value taonga Māori. Reconnecting taonga with whānau, hapū and iwi is a powerful and beautiful kaupapa.”


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The meaning of philosophy in perplexing times

Source: Massey University

Dr Krushil Watene, whose work explores how Māori concepts can be used to address issues of sustainability and social justice.

To mark World Philosophy Day (November 21) Māori philosopher Dr Krushil Watene is keen to highlight the work of her colleagues and students, who she says are demonstrating the value of philosophical thought in solving some of society’s most complex and urgent problems.

Dr Watene, from the School of Humanities, says Massey’s commitment to including Māori and other indigenous philosophical traditions is leading the way in this part of the world and contributes to solving problems that are particularly pressing for our region.

“Many of the challenges we face have a severe impact on the lives that we and future people will be able to live. People the world over are searching for new and stronger approaches to wellbeing, sustainability, and justice to take us into the future” she says.  “What we find within indigenous philosophies are concepts and ideas that can provide us with a change in perspective at a time when fresh eyes are so urgently required.”

The United Nations’ 2019 World Philosophy Day aims to highlight the importance of philosophy in different regional contexts. The goal is to obtain regional contributions to global debates on contemporary challenges that support social transformations, its website says.

Head of the School of Humanities Associate Professor Kerry Taylor says he is delighted to see that the research is so central to solving significant issues at the nexus of justice and sustainability.

Antarctica and indigenous connections

Dr Watene says postdoctoral philosophy researcher Vincent van Uitregt, of Ngā Rauru, Tuhoe and the Netherlands, is part of a team bringing science and Māori philosophy together to adresss some of the urgent challenges we face. 

Dr van Uitregt says Antarctica is one of the most important places on Earth. “It tells us a great deal about our impact on this planet and its wellbeing,” he says. “But in our current situation, with the advent of radical climate change, Antarctica is also a place that can shine much needed light on our processes of decision-making, our governance structures, and our willingness to work together toward a common future.”

He says “Māori philosophy can provide us with perspectives and tools to shape effective collective responses to global climate change.” It also brings to the fore a much-needed environmental and inter-generational lens. “We need to act together in ways that ensure the future of this planet and the well-being of future generations.”

Marco Grix, who explores issues of consumerism, ethics and wellbeing through philosophical questioning.

Consumerism threat to planet and people

Philosopher Marco Grix completed his doctoral thesis on the ethics and politics of consumption this year. Having grown up in East Germany and experienced the dramatic influx of consumer goods after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr Grix discovered philosophy when he moved to New Zealand. Through philosophy, he questions the meaning of western consumerism and its impact, and how it relates to the quest for a good life.

“The social and environmental costs of present-day consumerism are painfully obvious”, he says. “Worldwide, the lives of people and other life forms are affected by our consumption practices every day. For instance, we drink from disposable plastic bottles that take 450 years to biodegrade, use paper originating from rain forests that retreat at dramatic rates and drive fuel-guzzlers running on oil bought from repressive regimes. We consume this way because often we merely repeat what those around us do, unthinkingly and uncritically.” 

He says we rarely consider the actual aim of our consumption, and how unequally the ability to consume is distributed. “Philosophy helps us answer questions that should guide all our consumption choices and actions. What does ‘good human life’ mean? What consumption is necessary for such a life, and what do we merely desire? Which basic goods and services is everyone entitled to, both in New Zealand and across the globe?” 

Justice and energy transition

The work of Ushana Jayasuriya, a tutor and doctoral philosophy student working with Dr Watene, explores practical ways of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  

“Such a transition reduces emissions to meet global goals to combat climate change, and is driven by local communities,” Ms Jayasuriya says. “Philosophy offers the conceptual tools we need to design transition policies that take account of people’s lives and lead to just outcomes.”

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Brazil collaboration opens doors for geographers

Source: Massey University

Professor Glenn Banks (centre) and Dr John Lowry (first left) with colleagues from the State University of São Paulo visiting a successful ‘self-built’ rural school at the heart of a community close to Presidente Prudente, established 15 years ago by the landless peasant movement.

Professor Banks and Dr Lowry at the school.

Massey University geographers have been inspired by innovations in agriculture and opportunities for collaborative research with counterparts in Brazil.

Professor Glenn Banks, head of the the School of People, Environment and Planning, travelled to Brazil with fellow geographer Dr John Lowry to work through the details of a four-year research and exchange collaboration with the Presidente Prudente campus of the State University of São Paulo (UNESP). Their trip included a visit to a small-scale farmer who has successfully developed an organic agro-ecological farm on land formerly used for beef production.

Professor Banks says the organic farm – on land secured as part of a widespread landless peasant movement in Brazil a decade ago – is “something of a model for more sustainable farming systems in an environment currently dominated by cattle farming and intensive sugar cultivation”.  

The geography department at UNESP secured a grant to fund the collaboration specifically to work with Massey’s School of People, Environment and Planning academics under the Brazilian CAPES scheme. CAPES, Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel, is a Brazilian federal government agency under the Ministry of Education.

A broad set of topics was identified and will be developed over the next few months, including during a visit to Massey next April by Dr Raul Guimaraes, the lead UNESP academic driving the project. 

“Social movements, community participation and links to sustainability frame the project,” Professor Banks says. “More specific comparative work is planned on agricultural, economic and rural landscape change, community participation and activism in urban and rural settings, water, waste and recycling initiatives, and rural change in decolonizing contexts.” 

The use of geospatial technologies (such as GIS and Remote Sensing) for understanding and managing urban and rural transformations, water pollution and natural resource management, and the effects of agricultural change and ecological fragmentation for human and environmental health are other areas of interest. Postgraduate student exchanges will be a central to research collaborations. 

“The energy, confidence and scholarship of the postgraduate geography students we met in Brazil was infectious, and they were keen to incorporate comparative aspects of New Zealand into their respective studies, be it post-colonial feminist geographies, social movements, ecological fragmentation and health, or adaptation of river systems to climate change.” 

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Diversity in neighbourhoods and online spaces

Source: Massey University

Topics at the conference include how to create a more inclusive society (Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash)

Diversity in neighbourhoods and workplaces – and online debates about free speech – are themes addressed by Massey University sociologists in this week’s Arahia He Ara Pathways conference on immigration and diversity.

The overarching theme of this year’s conference at Massey’s Auckland campus on Tuesday, 19 November, is Diversities of Migration: racism, difference and inequalities. The Pathways conference was established in the 1990s as an annual event for research and policy communities to discuss current issues relating to immigration and diversity. 

Senior lecturer and conference co-organiser Dr Jessica Terruhn says this year’s conference builds on and extends this legacy by highlighting the variety of ways that migration is shaping contemporary Aotearoa, while also seeking pathways to address the challenges of racism, settler colonialism and inequalities.

“Our aspiration is that together we can work as pathfinders, charting new directions for more inclusive societal futures,” Dr Terruhn says.

In his presentation ‘Performing rage’: undermining diversity recognition in Aotearoa by defending free speech, hate speech and bigotry, Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley addresses what he describes as “a populist rage at diversity” – or “performing rage” – enabled by online platforms and forums. This has resulted in “the internationalisation of populism and extremism and the possibilities provided by online platforms, at the cost of diversity recognition,” Professor Spoonley says.

In their presentation, Dialogues with diversity: working in organisations to understand constraints and opportunities, Associate Professor Robin Peace, from Massey, and independent researcher Geoff Stone, will share their findings on how three organisations are responding to diversity and building their capability and capacity in relation to more diverse clients and stakeholders. 

Dr Trudie Cain will discuss her work on how senior adults in Auckland negotiate superdiversity and how they “live with difference” in densely-populated neighbourhoods.

Dr Terruhn will present her work on how notions of equality and diversity play out in the visions of current urban development projects, with a focus on the Auckland suburb of Northcote.

Topics covered by keynote speakers, presenters and panelists include; the rise and fall of the discriminatory “family link” refugee policy, the importance of listening to communities in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, citizenship, cultural identity and Indigenous political participation, and migrant exploitation in New Zealand.

Dr Terruhn, who is coordinating the conference alongside colleagues and partners at the Auckland Council and the Human Rights Commission, says the richness and scope of the presentations will provide fresh insights, nuanced understandings and varied perspectives on the lived experiences of diverse communities in this country.  

“Informing policy makers and the wider public on issues relating to immigration in a way that promotes understanding and pathways to inclusion is a central aim of the conference,” she says.

Keynote speakers include: Anjum Rahman, a chartered accountant and the acting head of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand); Dr Emily Beausoleil, a lecturer of politics at Victoria University of Wellington; Melinda Webber, an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland; Rachel Simon-Kumar, an Associate Professor, School of Population Health, at the University of Auckland; and Shanthi Robertson, a sociologist and senior research fellow in migration studies and globalization at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. 

The opening address will be given by Auckland-based list MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan, a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network and the National Council of Women. 

For more information on the speakers and programme, click here.