Written by Tania Wilson, Chief Executive, Avalon
We gathered at Butterfly Creek on a cold winter’s morning for Retreat Five of The NZ Leadership Programme to attend a panel discussion on our environmental crisis. A very weighty topic for a Thursday morning, but one we were all so very interested to explore.
The scene was set with an opening quote from Jacinda Ardern’s 2017 campaign launch speech, “There will always be those who say it's too difficult. There will be those who say we are too small, and that pollution and climate change are the price of progress. They are wrong." "This is my generation's nuclear-free moment.”
Environmental and planetary crises - our nuclear-free moment! Many of us were feeling somewhat overwhelmed by what is one of the most significant world issues of our time. I know I most certainly was.
Then came the challenge from the panel: “What are you going to do? “And how brave to you want to be?”
In this year of Daring Leadership being braver is something I have realised that I am going to have to muster.
What became clear to me is we are participating in a system that makes it easy to pursue our relentless desire to acquire more, to be more, with little conscious evaluation on if we need it and what the impacts are. At the same time knowing, on an intellectual level, that we must do something different and better, but feeling like it is just a bit too hard. Individual behaviour change is important, however we need to start thinking about how we change and redesign the systems.
From the panel we also saw passion and hope. There is a growing conscience, particularly from our youth, which is beginning to result in action. Our language is becoming more aspirational - moving from sustainability to regeneration. Business that was once solely concerned about the bottom line is now considering people and the planet – in addition to profit.
As a group we continued to ponder and discuss as we journeyed south, down the scenic coast until we reached Solscape at Whāingaroa (Raglan), our home for the next two days. Breathtaking scenery, beautiful sounds of nature, a place for mind and soul to be nourished - the perfect destination to explore our own connection to the environment.
We were introduced to the amazing Mike O’Donnell the “Waterman” who began our lesson on holistic leadership with asking us to remove our shoes and touch the cold, bare earth. I stood there reflecting with some sadness that I could not remember the last time I had walked barefoot on the grass.
Sprinkled with water and placing our mark with clay, Mike led us through a mindful practice connecting us with Papatuanuku and Ranginui, naming us as Kākano (seed) and calling on us to grow in our relationship with our land, ourselves, each other and as leaders.
“Ki te mea ka taka te kākano ki te wāhi e tika ana ka tinaku, ā, ka pihi ake he tipu hou.” (If a seed falls in the right place it will germinate and a new seedling will sprout).
Then the reflection challenge came: “What is your connection to the land, to water, to your breath and to yourself?”
This was a beautiful, surreal and uncomfortable process. When in my fast-paced and consumer-filled world have I taken the time reflect on these very important questions?
The answer of course for me was NEVER, so it was such privilege over the next two days to be provided space to do just that. The chance to be alone, still, enveloped by nature to contemplate and connect was such a gift for which I am so very grateful.
If it is our disconnection from the land has led us to this place of abuse and destruction of our earth, then surely a solution must lay in reconnection to nature? The challenge I am contemplating is how I keep myself connected to nature and our land as I live an increasingly urbanised life that removes me from that very thing.
So, my future (as it is for us all) is being determined by the decisions that I make today. In this year of daring leadership the call is becoming clearer and louder, to act, to change the status quo and to create a better future for those that follow us.
Did Tania’s story resonate with you? This is one of many purposeful and profound experiences on The NZ Leadership Programme. Are you a mid-career, senior executive or community leader in New Zealand who cares for the future of our nation? Do you know someone who does? We invite you to apply for our 2020 Programme - we’re accepting applications now!