Category Archives: the planet

been | World Press Photo Exhibition 2018

The World Press Photo Exhibition is currently showing in Auckland’s CBD, and travelling curator Yi Wen Hsia has accompanied this very special collection of photography. The exhibit has a running theme encapsulating current political, social and socio-economic commentary, and is quite fearless in it’s mission. Simultaneously it feels like a very intimate collection, and all the works communicate together in unity and harmony, intensifying the effect.
A large portion of the work on display touches on some very real, confronting subject matter. Simultaneously, you’ll find yourself walking through the exhibit in awe, much of it captivating and beautiful in it’s simplicity.
I’d highly recommend taking up the opportunity to see this exhibition in person while it’s still here in Auckland – it’s a worthwhile event, which will likely leave the viewer a changed person.
Smith & Caughey’s Building
Level 6, 253-261 Queen Street
 30 June – 29 July 2018
 $15 Weekdays/ $20 Weekends; $10 students with valid ID
Mon – Wed     9.30am – 6.30pm
Thur – Fri        9.30am – 9.00pm
Sat                    10.00am – 6.00pm
Sun                   10.30am – 5.30pm
Rotary Club of Auckland are proudly bringing this fantastic exhibition to Auckland. All profits
going towards their supported charities. 

been | TEDxAuckland 2015

TED. Good old TED. Even if you’ve never been, seen or bothered finding out what TED really does, surely the term “TED Talks” should spark some form of curiosity. TEDxAuckland did more than just turning a few curious heads this year.

D-Day May 2nd: casual city strollers and the skater boys at Victoria Park must have wondered what was going on in that giant conference centre across the road. Little did they know, a two-thousand-odd group of people was sponging up every drop of inspiration from TedxAuckland’s sixteen speakers.  Heralded as a stellar line up with the likes of Sir Bob Harvey, the controversial Tama Iti, provocative Samoan artist Michel Tuffery, award-winning political cartoonist Tom Scott and the renowned etymologist Max Cryer; this year’s event duly achieved its mission of providing a cultural focus and impetus for conversation and debate. Not one to easily launch straight into a substantial conversation with strangers, by the end of the second session, I found myself itching to visit a good friend with whom I usually daydream about saving the world or ponder upon existentialism.

Must have been some pretty amazing talks – I hear you say. For me, only one or two speakers truly grabbed my lazy inner thinker by the shoulder and shook her wide awake, figuratively speaking of course.  Most noteworthy were Dr Hong Sheng Chiong’s admirable crusade against preventable blindness starting with his invention of the mobile eye-imaging adapters; and the simple yet utterly logical capitalization of spare capacity which Janette Searle adopted in her “Take My Hands” operation: distributing prosthetic equipments to those in needs via major freight providers’ unused cargo space. Other attendees of the events could argue differently, citing Sir Bob Harvey as the most impressive leader or Gavin Healy’s spiritual motivation as eye-opening material. That’s the true beauty of TED talks. One takes away what they can from the event. If the idea, stories or innovations themselves weren’t enough to spur the audience into action, the speakers through their own palpable passionate delivery would  have ignited certain appreciation or sense of awareness inside each of us. The act of discussing the talks afterwards alone is enough said.

The “x” in TEDxAuckland stands for “independently organized TED event” – in other words this was a TED-style event licensed by big brother TED. A commendable effort by the licensee’s organization, business partners and many wonderful volunteers. The venue choice however, may have hindered smooth sailing on the day. How did two thousand people queue for coffees at two stations (meters away from each other) inside a narrow hallway? They didn’t. I heard the small café around the corner hit jackpot that day. The food truck lunch service was delightful and it goes without saying, the organizers themselves must have been scratching their heads with portion numbers. I really hope food tickets or vouchers of some sorts will be employed at next year’s event.  There’s nothing sadder than seeing your fellow inspiration-seekers hungry.

Despite such minor technicality, TEDxAuckland still left my mind and body supercharged with a certain positive enthusiasm.  I did pay my above-mentioned friend a visit that night and boy, our usual “ponder-this” session was so much more engaging. Next year, I will drag this dear friend along!

interviewed | National Geographic Photojournalist Paul Nicklen

Intrepid photojournalist Paul Nicklen is bringing National Geographic Live to the Aotea Centre in Auckland for one night only to share some of his most thrilling adventures under the ice and his passion for polar conservation with his show Into the Icy Realms: On Assignment with Paul Nicklen.

At just 4 years of age, his family moved to Northern Baffin Island, Canada, where they lived within a tiny Inuit community of only 200 people. There, his love for the Arctic and Antarctica developed. He was able to see firsthand how interconnected ecosystems are and the evolution of climate change.

“In the next hundred years, scientists project that we’re going to lose half the species on the planet. That’s devastating. If we can’t save these species, can we save ourselves?”

Originally a biologist, although it was rewarding to bring back valuable scientific data from the field, Nicklen found himself dissatisfied at the way the story from the data was being communicated. “And I thought, if I can just become a photojournalist and get a job with National Geographic magazine, I can bridge the gap between the important scientific work that’s being done and the public.” People weren’t reacting to the science, but they would react to a visual portrayal of the science–the data brought to life with vivid images.

“Not just identification images but they have to be close, personal, powerful, intimate–very intimate–images shot at super wide-angle lenses. You’re not just looking at a leopard seal, you’re in the mouth of a leopard seal.” Indeed, his tale of an encounter with a female leopard seal that tried for days to feed him penguins has become the story he is most famous for since his well-received appearance as a guest speaker for TED2011.

Photo by Paul Nicklen: A curious leopard seal

Because of his background as a biologist, Nicklen found himself doing more scientific articles for National Geographic, until one day when he asked his editors to let him do an emotional plea to the readers. He admits they “were all a little bit nervous” about doing a piece that strayed from the unbiased middle line of hardcore journalism. However, they were pleasantly surprised when a survey revealed that the article had received the highest readership score in 14 years at National Geographic. “At that point it validated what I needed to do as a journalist. It was okay to do these sort of emotionally driven pieces if I’m going to get people to care.”

Nicklen is certainly doing just that, having received over 20 international awards for his photography. These include awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award from his alma mater the University of Victoria and the first Biogems Visionary Award from the National Resources Defence Council.

After receiving first prize for nature stories in 2010 from World Press Photo, Nicklen felt he needed to go even further. “So, what I’ve done now is I’ve launched an organisation called, and it’s very simple. It’s using the power of photography and visual storytelling to connect people back to the oceans.” SeaLegacy is now aligned with The Humpty Dumpty Institute, a charity whose mission is to put the pieces back together by fostering dialogue between the United Nations, US Congress, universities, the financial community and the artistic community. This also involves participation in their Global Creative Forum, a star-studded event aimed at advancing US foreign policies by building bridges between the United Nations and the Hollywood entertainment industry.

95% of the big pelagic fish are gone already. Only 1% of the ocean is protected…after a while, the numbers all blur together and lose whatever effect they had. Nicklen aims to overcome this by creating “an emotional connection to the things that we’re losing in the ocean.” He goes to extreme lengths to do so, frequently pushing his body to hypothermia and putting himself within mere feet of large marine creatures. Although he would never claim to be fearless, it’s just a normal day in the icy office for Paul Nicklen. “Everyone always likes to talk about the risks that I take, but I don’t see it as risk. I see it as my job,” he states with conviction.

Photo by Paul Nicklen: a polar bear from Svalbard investigates his cabin

Perhaps the best representation of the disconnect between what people think they know and the actual state of the environment is what Nicklen terms “the Thin Blue Line”. The oceans may appear pristine on the surface, however, “all you have to do is lower your mask about 3 inches…all of a sudden you’re looking at coral bleaching, you’re looking at ocean acidification, you’re looking at the loss of species. You’re seeing the effects that we’re having on the oceans.” In many areas of the world the human footprint is just becoming too big to hide. He vividly recalls walking on the beaches of Mexico just last week where giant sea turtles were digging their nests. “They were creating huge piles of plastic on either side of their nests that they were moving because the beaches were so full of plastic. You couldn’t walk without stepping on plastic.”

In contrast, Nicklen is full of praise for New Zealand, calling it “an example of what’s being done right in the world of conservation.” Although, the past 2 years have seen New Zealand’s government deal heavy blows to our carefully cultivated “clean, green” image. This includes New Zealand being the only country to vote against extending protection to our critically endangered Maui’s dolphin at the world’s largest conservation summit in September 2012, the government’s reluctance to re-commit to the Kyoto Protocol and a highly controversial law passed under urgency earlier this year banning protestors deemed to be interfering with oil exploration vessels. However, he remains steadfastly optimistic about the ability of the few to do a great amount of good. “You have a right to have a voice in Antarctica…Just a small country can have a huge voice, and I think New Zealanders need to step up and say this is in our backyard.”

Nicklen admits he is conscious of sounding too much like a radical environmentalist and turning people off, but his burning passion for marine conservation is all too apparent. One event in particular is currently stoking the flames. “Why does Russia get to have the one voice that can shut down a marine protected area, you know? It should be a democracy.” He is referring to the failed meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to implement proposals for marine protected areas in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean because, out of 24 countries, a single nation said no. The proposals were meant for the Ross Sea, often called “the last ocean” because it is one of the only untouched marine ecosystems left on the planet.

The benefit of marine protected areas to all species, including humans, is something he puts significant emphasis on. Nicklen has just worked on a small one of 10 square kilometers in Cabo Pulmo, which the fishermen themselves fought for. “There’s so much breeding going on that the spill out over the barriers of this breeding area is where the fishermen now just fish and patrol, and they’re getting more catch than they’ve ever had because it’s producing so much life. When you dive in there, it’s just like diving in an aquarium where it’s just so full of life you can’t believe that a place like that still exists. I mean, nature is very resilient, but you have to protect it. You have to create little pockets of marine protected areas.”

Photo by Paul Nicklen: penguins under the ice

As for the climate change skeptics, Nicklen says he does not get upset anymore. “The people with the biggest opinions [refuting climate change] are the people with no education,” he says dismissively. “The best scientists in the world will say that of course climate change is real…I can take solace in knowing that what I’m doing is the right path. And everywhere I go and everywhere I talk about it, people are becoming more and more receptive. Obama started to talk about it at his inauguration speech. He’s now saying, ‘Screw you, Republicans. It’s real and we’re now taking action for the environment’. It gives me little glimmers of hope that we’re headed in the right direction.”

In fact, a recent bipartisan poll shows that three-quarters of young voters in the United States find views that reject the science behind climate change “ignorant, out of touch or crazy”, which may pose an obstacle for Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, over half of whom deny climate change exists.

Despite the knowledge of climate change, the level of global apathy exhibited towards taking any action to combat it never ceases to amaze Nicklen, although he can understand it on a certain level. “In some ways, I don’t want to have to deal with this. We have all these problems in life…Also, now I’m supposed to worry about polar bears? And even though people know this, they’re not altering their behaviour. It’s like we’re sort of quietly turning a blind eye to what’s disappearing around us. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to motivate politicians. I’m trying to motivate lawmakers. I’m trying to use my visuals to sway the public. I’m trying to get people to care…When I meet a climate change naysayer, I say ‘give me your data’, because I don’t want to have to care about this. If it’s a natural cycle and it’s going to start cooling tomorrow and polar bears are going to be fine, then, great! I’ll go do something else for a job…Even National Geographic, I’m embarrassed to say, even though we’ve lost 95% of the bluefin tuna in the ocean, National Geographic has a TV show called Wicked Tuna: the last of the big bluefin tuna hunters. I find that extremely discouraging.”

If Paul Nicklen is ever discouraged, one could never tell. An emotive, intelligent speaker and a talented wildlife photographer, he advocates tirelessly in the name of environmental conservation.

“We are going to lose a lot of species, but, for myself, on my deathbed, I need to know that I did everything that I could.”


Into the Icy Realms: On Assignment with Paul Nicklen is showing at the Aotea Centre on 29 July, 6.30pm.

Watch Paul Nicklen speak at TED2011

Visit his website

Check out SeaLegacy

Keep up with him on twitter

heard | Flick the Switch for Earth Hour

WWF Earth Hour, the planet’s largest environmental movement, is upon us once more. On Saturday 23 March from 8.30pm-9.30pm, wherever you are, join millions of citizens around the globe by turning off your lights in recognition of the beautiful world we live in.

Times Square in New York City, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Table Mountain in Cape Town and Niagara Falls are just some of the most recognizable landmarks and icons across the globe that will be extinguishing their own lights in support of the continued existence of the earth’s.

What began in Sydney 2007 as a small initiative with 2.2 million Sydney-siders and only 2,100 businesses participating has exploded into more than 6,950 cities and towns, across 152 countries and territories, taking part this year.

Earth Hour’s “I Will If You Will” 4 million strong Youtube campaign, launched in 2009, asks people around the globe what they would be willing to do to save the planet, and what they would expect to be done in return.

The campaign embodies the concept at the very heart of Earth Hour: the power of the collective.

Feats of conservation are being achieved all over the world through the Earth Hour movement:

  • Romania held a competition to see which city could collect the most plastic, accumulating more than 9 tonnes of bottles for recycling.
  • Vancouver, Canada, has been named the very first Earth Hour Capital for this year because of its leadership in developing a climate-smart urban environment and a 100% renewable future.
  • The former president of Botswana has pledged to plant 1 million indigenous trees over 4 years to fight deforestation.
  • Nearly 35,000 US girl scouts installed 132,141 energy efficient light bulbs into homes and community centres, eliminating 77,553,119 pounds of CO2 emissions.
  • In Argentina, thousands are being mobilised to urge the passing of a Senate Bill to make Banco Burwood the biggest Marine Protected Area in the country.
  • Just months after the end of the Libyan uprising, two teenagers in Tripoli organised the very first Earth Hour in Libya.

New Zealand’s “clean, green” image sustained heavy blows in 2012, including New Zealand being the only country to vote against extending protection to our critically endangered Maui’s dolphins at the world’s largest conservation summit and the government’s reluctance to re-commit to the Kyoto Protocol.

Let’s make our environmental reputation shine again on the international stage by turning off our lights. What are you doing in support of Earth Hour? I will if you will.

seen | The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The long awaited journey has finally begun and just in time for Christmas. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a three part installment is Sir Peter Jackson’s fourth film adaptation from the J R R Tolkien collection of fantasy novels set in the realm of Middle Earth.

If you’re a fan of the book, I’d advise not getting too caught up on the details as the movie doesn’t exactly follow it word for word. However if you’ve never read the book and or never seen or read Lord of the Rings this movie quite capably holds its own.

This prequel to Lord of the Rings starts off slow as it attempts to establish tie backs and set the scene. The film soon enough finds a steady pace as Bilbo Baggins sets off on his first ever journey, with a company of dwarves led by Gandalf the grey.

The film tends to follow a predictable formula of vista, climax build, fight scene, but is enjoyable enough. Many great scenery shouts showcasing Aotearoa New Zealand’s vast untouched lanscapes, as well as truly imppecable special effects artistry in the various creature creations and realistic animated scenery and creatures.

The Hobbit was truly breath-taking, both from a cinematic and artistic viewpoint and worth seeing on the big screen and seeing it in 3D drew me in to the story that much more. Definitely a must-see for all New Zealanders if only to see this glorious country showcased in such a magical way. Jackson has once again captured the magical world of J R R Tolkien and has left me pining for the next part of Bilbo’s journey!

Out in cinemas now. Rated M.

Live Below the Line

From 24th – 28th September
Be awesome and take the Live Below the Line Challenge by joining up and living on $2.25 a day for 5 days to change the way people in the New Zealand think about extreme poverty – and make a huge difference!

Sign up here and check out their Facebook page here

Could you live on $2.25 a day for five days?

We headed to the NZ launch of the Live Below the Line campaign last night, held at the gorgeous viaduct bar Snapdragon. Head Chef Ross Birch was given the challenge to create a sumptuous meal for guests for $2.25 per head. He well and truly did that with a wonderfully aromatic and spicy tagine dish, our meal was evocative of Morocco and all things exotic and we felt very spoilt.

Live Below the Line is a campaign that’s changing the way people think about poverty—and making a huge difference—by challenging everyday people to live on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for 5 days. The campaign enables participants to have a glimpse into the lives of 1.4 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day – and who have to make $2.25 cover a lot more than food.

Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an education and campaigning organisation who’s mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty. Launched last year for the first time in NZ, the campaign raised $120,000 and this year Director Will Waterson is confident that one million dollars will be raised this year in New Zealand alone.

They’ve teamed up with some of the best charities in New Zealand that fight extreme poverty around the world to provide you with the opportunity to support their work through personal sponsorship as you undertake Live Below the Line.

In 2012, Live Below the Line is running in New Zealand, the UK, Australia and the USA, with more than 20,000 people spending 5 days living below the line.

Their website will give you great encouragement and support and says that even though they know your awesome, if you’re struggling with encouraging your friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues to join you living below the poverty line for 5 days, they can help you inspire and engage those around you.

Taking the Live Below the Line challenge is not easy but it is possible. To help you, they’ve created a range of materials – recipe books, videos from 2011 participants, engagement packs for your local school or church and much more

Across three continents people will join the movement to tackle extreme poverty – join them today!!

Check out The Story of Live Below the Line NZ.




Windows to Another World : VSA exhibition

Looking for something to do in Auckland this weekend? Then make your way to The Australis Room located on 36 Custom street and check out the current show entitled Windows to Another World (Volunteer Service Abroad exhibition). On till this Sunday, the show features an exhibition of documentation taken by mostly VSA members. From working life and education to food and play, these photographs takes us into the often over-shadowed, forgotten lifestyles and living conditions that the majority of the population experiences daily. With photographs taken as early as the 1960’s, one can understand the love, kindness and dedication of these volunteers, it is evident through their photographs that their nurturing does not go to waste. As you walk through photo-bearing columns all you will see are pictures of normal people working with nature, their hard work and productivity, their stories and smiles.

So come check out the show this weekend before it all ends, remember to give your self at least 40mins to go through everything, though it is a small show it isn’t a light read. Each featured photograph has a description and a story, although a photograph may say a thousand words a story behind an image can open up hidden meanings.


Windows to Another World
Monday 18 June-Sunday 24 June 2012

The Australis Room, Australis House
36 Customs Street East, Britomart

Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday-Sunday 10am-4.30pm

Entry is free with a gold coin donation