Hōhepa Waenga, an educator at Auckland Zoo (photo: supplied).

Mātauranga Māori and Western science: two worlds meet to save the one we have

In episode two of the Good Ancestors podcast, John Daniell and Noelle McCarthy look at the role of mātauranga Māori in conservation in New Zealand, and as an education tool at Auckland Zoo. 

The interconnectedness of everything is an essential concept in the Māori understanding of the world. Mātauranga Māori – the knowledge, and understanding of everything in our world – starts with Papatuanuku, the earth mother, and Ranginui, the sky father and that everything is related to them.  We are their uri, their children, their descendants. Everything in our world whakapapa back to Papa and Rangi. Humans are the pōtiki, the youngest, and the birds the plants the trees, they’re all our elders. This informs the concept of kaitiakitanga is that sense of long term guardianship, the sense of responsibility for the environment that stretches across generations.

The language of Western science and Matauranga Māori suggests two very different ways of thinking about the world and for much of our history, they’ve been talking past each other. In this episode of Good Ancestors, the way these two methods of thinking intersect, how each can learn from the other and what applying that looks like in the eyes of a family who walks between those two worlds.

“Where we are at the moment in the world, it’s all about us, us human beings – we don’t really care about everything else, we see us as above everything else. Whereas the Māori world view, those of us who believe in Papatuanuku and Ranginui as being our primal parents, we’re all connected in a big, fat whanau and that’s how we see the world,” says Hōhepa Waenga, an educator at Auckland Zoo.

Listen to episode two of Good Ancestors, a four-part podcast that examines the role of children in our planet’s future on the player below, subscribe on iTunes, or download this episode (right click and save).


Good Ancestors, a four-part podcast that examines the role of children in our planet’s future and how they’re coming to terms with climate change, is brought to you by the Auckland Zoo.


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