In Earth Whisperers, 10 visionaries pay homage to New Zealand’s diverse landscapes. Every place on Earth has a soul and is restorable, you’ll be reminded. Kathleen Gallagher directs.
Natural treasures preserved
One-third of New Zealand’s forests, wetlands, coasts and mountains are protected in perpetuity thanks to decades of citizen activism. It’s a stunning achievement.
Cinematographers Alun Bollinger and Mike Single give you a direct experience of simply being with these trees, plants, lands and waters. Some areas have never felt a human footprint. Occasionally a brilliant bird appears.
Be an earth whisperer
The earth whisperers are plain-spoken and direct, living simply and in tune with Nature. They love the land. Ordinary and sometimes quirky, they share their wisdom gained by living mindfully. Often, there are no words as native music sets a mood of honoring.
Their message is that you too can be an earth whisperer, wherever you are right now.
Activism saves forest, lake
Craig Potton, environmentalist and photographer, recalls 20 years of political activism to save the forest now called Paparoa National Park, Westland. “Almost all social change occurs with very few key individuals,” he notes.
There are areas of nature and within our own lives that we cannot and should not control, Potton believes. Thoreau said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Nature, the great restorer
Nature, if given the chance, will restore itself, says Hugh Wilson, bird and tree farmer and botanist. He cares for the Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury. Formerly a rundown farm, it’s being reclaimed by the bush (wild forest).
“Even the rarest of the rare are coming back,” says Wilson, pointing out cabbage trees that are now spreading. He feels tremendous peace and satisfaction living here.
Wilson walks and rides a bike to neighboring towns. Motor cars are bad for the environment and promote lack of exercise, he says. He refuses to own one. “We’re addicted to cars like drunks,” he declares.
Birds bring forest back to life
Bird caller and forest gardener Gerry Findlay shows a forest regenerating just seven years after a fire. Birds carrying seeds played an important role in bringing the area back to life, he says.
As he walks through the Franz Josef, South Westland World Heritage Area, his bird calls are melodious and haunting. Although some areas have been milled, Findlay marvels at how well the forest is carrying on.
Reclaiming a farm
“There’s absolutely no reason for anyone in the world to be hungry,” says Jim O’Gorman, organic farmer and founder of Dirt Doctor. In Kakanui, North Otago, he bought a farm that had been treated with chemicals.
Using woody waste and hedge clippings from neighbors, he turned the stone-hard land into rich, fertile soil. As he plants five crops a year, his soil grows healthier. He uses only hand tools.
“The intent was to create a garden from nothing with nothing,” he says, because so many world citizens have few resources.
Building food security
If we want to survive, “we have to look at what we’re eating and how it’s growing” says Kay Baxter, a seed saver and permaculture teacher in Whitianga Bay, East Cape. When we eat food from shops instead of from our own gardens, it limits us as human beings, she believes. She shows off a handful of New Zealand heritage radishes.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a wakeup call for Baxter. She learned that most of New Zealand’s seeds came from Holland, which at the time was covered by a radioactive cloud.
Baxter and others marched across New Zealand in a seed hikoi, speaking with communities and building support along the way. Government officials were compelled to listen.
Conserving ancient and wild plants
Baxter saves the best seeds each year and replants them. Living on old seed fruits and vegetables for 25 years nourishes her physically and spiritually. She discovered “parts of me I didn’t even know existed.”
Trust your intuition, says Baxter. Indigenous cultures say there is no separation between our bodies and Papatuanuku. “When you grow your own food, you start to feel the connection between your body and your food plants and the Earth.”
Isla Burgess, an herbalist and wild plant conservationist, uses the plants of Wainui, East Cape for healing. “All of us have a plant that’s especially for us,” Burgess reveals. Stinging nettle surrounds her home. She began drinking its tea every day.
Stinging nettle nourishes the blood, according to the herbalist. It contains minerals and vitamins A and C. She also enjoys dandelion leaves and roots, which are believed to assist digestion.
Natives connect with Gaia
Rita Tupe is a Tuhoe Healer in the bush of Waiohau, Urewera Mountains. Gathering rongoa (medicinal plants), she takes only what she needs and gives thanks. Tupe prays, honoring all humans, trees and animals. How we conduct ourselves is important, she says.
Charles Royal, a Maori chef and food gatherer, walks through the forest near Lake Rotoehu, Rotorua. He forages for ferns and mushrooms. He prays and makes tea from heart-shaped kawakawa leaves. They are said to help thin the blood.
A way of peace and love
At the sacred Wharariki Mountains, Whitecliff, Canterbury, the female elder of the Kurawaka people of Waitaha speaks. Holding back tears, Makere Ruka Te Korako, Kuia, envisions a haven of peace here.
“Let it be a place for teaching and healing and being that would be self-sustainable,” she says. As a heartbeat for the world, it will provide “a place of safety and beauty and celebration for grandchildren.”
If you like Earth Whisperers, you might enjoy: Water Whisperers; Dirt! The Movie.
Earth Whisperers / 2009 / NR / 1 hour, 13 min
Cast Overview: Rita Tupe, Craig Potton, Isla Burgess, Alan Mark, Gerry Findlay, Hugh Wilson, Jim O’Gorman, Charles Royal, Kay Baxter, Makere Ruka Te Korako
Director: Kathleen Gallagher
Genres: Documentary, Earth, Nature