Reminiscing With Reason: Protecting our water, to preserve our future memories

Guest author Larissa Toelupe examines the taonga in our environment that can trigger our memories, and why we must endeavour to preserve the environment around these objects so that future generations can enjoy them.

Every object, by its own mere existence, reminds us of something.

A frangipani reminds me of the only plumeria tree still standing in between our Samoan fale, the depressing task of having to pick dead leaves, and the smell of chicken poo on the branches.

I was raised in a Samoan village on a predominantly seafood diet, where going to the beach was the coolest fun, so it is only natural that when away from home I want to feel the sand between my toes, smell the salty sea breeze, and gaze dreamily beyond the horizon.  

‘Tapa‘au’ (2nd of 3) by Fatu Feu’u . In ‘Tapa‘au’, which is the Samoan word for a woven coconut mat, the white frangipani blossom and frigate birds are symbols of birth and life.

Although the sandy beach of Titahi Bay reminds me of my home country, the desire to swim is very far from my mind as I consider the cold water, even on a hot summer’s day in the capital.

But some things are worth trying, worth considering, and worth noticing. Like Jane Poata’s story about the pollution of Owhiro Stream. To Poata, the stench from the stream awakens childhood memories of holidaying in one of the most contaminated sites in New Zealand. The metallic smell arising from the stream is believed to be a mix of ammonia, magnesium, and iron in the water, but testing from the council is awaited to confirm this. Discharge from a nearby landfill within the Owhiro catchment is suspected to be the main cause of the pollution. At extreme ammonia levels, fish will die.

Jane Poata’s story awakened my own childhood recollections and experiences of water and stream challenges in Samoa, and in the place I now call home, Te Awarua o Porirua.

Sea glass

As I was walking along the beach after reading Poata’s story, I came across broken glass. The sharp edges were gone from years exposed to waves and sand. The object had been refined and lay almost identical to the sea rocks. While no longer threatening to human feet, I wondered what becomes of the water life in this vast habitat.

I wondered if fishes and invertebrates consider humans as an awakening mechanism to a memory, as much as they do to me.

I will never know the answer, but what I do know is every effort is needed to mitigate toxic discharge in our water resources.

After all, I can still build healthy memories for my children to recall as they walk along the same waters in the future.

If you’re concerned about the water quality in your area, contact your local council:

 

Image credits:

  • Feature image: Sea glass – from Findseaglass.net.
  • ‘Tapa‘au’ (2nd of 3) by Fatu Feu’u. In ‘Tapa‘au’, which is the Samoan word for a woven coconut mat, the white frangipani blossom and frigate birds are symbols of birth and life. retrieved and caption excerpt from Te Ara, the New Zealand Encyclopedia. Art courtesy of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

 

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