Book review: Guardians of Aotearoa

Guardians of Aotearoa LOWRES

Guardians of Aotearoa LOWRESEstella Hin Ling Lee, Chair and Founder of the Chinese Conservation Education Trust, is passionate about our natural environment but also about building bridges between the Chinese community and the mainstream. For one of her working bees she gathered 108 Chinese people (the youngest three, the oldest 73). They planted 4000 trees within two hours which was a DOC record.

Ann Graeme has retired now but through 21 years of leading Forest and Bird’s Childrens’ arm, the Kiwi Conservation Club, thousands of environmentally-minded millennials were raised on her stories.

Selwyn Cook is the National Employer Ambassador for Workbridge whose mission is to encourage more employers to consider hiring those with all types of disabilities and illness. This is not just about a boss deciding to hire people with disabilities but about building workplaces that are supportive and understanding and recognise their talents.

Tabby Besley is the gentle but determined young founder of InsideOUT, a national organisation supporting LGBTQIA+ high-school students. She first became active when she was a student at Nayland College which was a very supportive environment. Wanting students in all schools to feel safe she went on to found insideOUT.

These are some of the 50 New Zealanders Johanna Knox chose to interview for her book Guardians of Aotearoa, a very diverse group of New Zealanders. What connects them is that each cares deeply about environmental or social issues and is working tirelessly to make a difference.

Before Johanna Knox started this book she asked herself

‘What do I truly care about? How do I honour that? And who or what does that make me? Can it anchor me?’

These questions also formed the basis of her interviews. In a very perceptive way she explored with the Guardians what triggered their passion. For some it was their upbringing, for some a particular life experience, for some a gradually growing awareness that there was a job that needed to be done. Each then tells what kind of campaign or job this has led to, who helped them along the way, what kind of obstacles they had to overcome, and what they have been able to achieve.

The bad news we are so frequently bombarded with in the media about global warming and social problems can be so overwhelming and leave us feeling helpless and depressed. Their inspirational stories are a good antidote and give us hope for our future.

It is good to see both young and old included making it a book that has intergenerational appeal.  It is one I want to share with my teenage granddaughters. Like so many young people they already have a passion for saving the planet. This book will further open their eyes to many inspiring ways in which you can be a guardian and some new career pathways.

Guardians of Aotearoa has also given me a better appreciation of the Maori concept of Conservation –Kaitiakitanga , a love and respect for the Earth, its life, its cultures and its people) and different ways this  is being translated into action by Maori.

Scattered throughout the book are nuggets of wisdom from the Guardians. One which resonated especially with me was from Sir Rob Fenwick, business leader, philanthropist and environmentalist.

“Fulfilment, and sometime success come from falling in love with an idea- if it feels right get on and do it. Time is your enemy.

Guardians of Aotearoa is by Johanna Knox with photos by Jess Charlton. Published by Bateman Books. RRP $59.99

Reviews by Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook

Read more by Lyn here.