The Voice of Land

During my research I let myself imagine what I can only describe as ‘the voice of

Land’. It came in many different forms – landscape art, poetry, community input to the policy debate, indigenous spirituality, personal experience, and many government inquiries and reports. What I heard was confronting, but I began to recognise it as the voice of Land. I responded through poetry, as documented in my book, as I needed to go beyond scientific fact, reason, economic analysis and political compromise to articulate what was engaging my mind but vexing my soul.

I realised then that I had travelled this path before. Some years ago I visited Easter Island, and wrote Reflections of an Easter Island Moai:

Here I rest, frozen in eternity,

on a lonely, windswept hillside …


No trees to offer me shade.

no animals to nestle against me for protection from the wind,

no children’s voices to brighten my day,

no one needs me now.

I stare across this barren island

and wonder why.

Didn’t they see it coming?

Just one day’s walk across the island

was all it needed to see

the loss of trees, the failure of crops,

the hunger and starvation, the seeds of conflict.

Instead they wanted more …

more Moais, bigger Moais, Moais everywhere.

But how can we provide

canoes for fishing,

fish for food,

wood fuel for fires,

or leaves for clothes?

Didn’t they see it coming?

And so today I watch the skies

and satellites circling the earth,

that see the destruction of the rainforest,

the plundering of the sea,

the salination of the land,

the pollution of the earth,

all in the interests of more,

of economic growth

Can’t you see it coming?

I found this visit to Easter Island very sobering. Here the voice of Land is not only that of a forsaken but beloved part of God’s creation; it is also one that pleads for a longer-term view that goes beyond the needs of today. Maybe, in all our research, economic projections, consultations, scientific assessments, and cost/benefit analyses, we also need to find a way hear the voice of Land. A start could be to monitor developments in New Zealand with regard to the Whanganui River.

When I listen to Land now, I hear a voice that is full of joy, sorrow, beauty, pain, pride, and spirituality. Just like humanity. We are, indeed, beloved travelling companions on the restless journey of the cosmos.

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