el Hombre del Sur

words for the wilderness


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Art in the Anthropocene: The Sustainable Iceberg Project

The following was published on UNESCO’s International Year of Light 2015 – blog, without pay (expected) or a writer credit (sigh). Thanks to Kristin Peren for involving me with the project.

When the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation we recognize as light enters the eye, it activates a set of cells known as photoreceptors, causing them to fire and sending electrical signals down the optic nerve and into the brain. This raw information is then processed and interpreted by a number of complex processes, the exact workings of which still remain unclear. Yet there is little doubt: it is literally how we see the world.

It is this role of light – that of genesis, discovery, unveiling the new – that informs the practice of New Zealand multimedia artist, Kristin O’Sullivan Peren. As Peren herself notes, “you cannot see light unless there is darkness.” Continue reading


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Beyond the Greenwash: Defining Sustainability

The following is an article I wrote ages ago, but just never managed to find a home for. It was too long (1300 words…), too academic (I did my best…), and no doubt too confrontational too: for all it implies about the shortcomings of much of what we have been sold as solutions. However the difference between weak and strong sustainability remains foundational – so in the interests of completeness, here it is.

Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

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The Aotearoa Sustainability Charter: Eco-constitutionalism in a New Zealand Context

Approximately a year ago I was invited to present the outcome of my honours dissertation at a conference down in Wellington. For whatever reason (shyness?) I managed to write a number of posts summarising the conference but never published my own talk. It feels like a lot has changed since then – National crushed a divided left and John charges on, ponytail pulling and apology wine aside – but the need for a point of unity remains as strong as ever. It’s my own position that a new flag won’t cut it, so here’s another suggestion: The Aotearoa Sustainability Charter – I’d love to hear your feedback.

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The Rain is Soft: Enchantment in the Age of Excess

Cape Palliser, 2014

Cape Palliser, 2014

“The brushwood we gather – stack it together, it makes a hut; pull it apart, a field once more. Such is our way of thinking – we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the pattern of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates…”

  • Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows.

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Blog Action Day: Fridges, Inequality and Government Policy

October 16th is Blog Action Day, an annual event designed to stimulate dialogue around a set issue. This year’s topic is inequality – which is now as high as it was in the Gilded Age. Food for thought? Here’s my go:

Imagine you are buying a fridge. It’s a tough decision: you don’t have much money, and there are lots of other things you’d like to spend it on… buut you do need a fridge. Food is important, right, and no-one wants to schlep to the shop every time they want cereal. So – which one to get?

fridge Continue reading


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Humans for the Future

International sensation Humans of New York has spawned a number of imitators, including Humans of K Road here in Auckland. Chris, who runs the blog in NZ, has recently started a similar project called Humans for the Future, trying to capture some of the positivity around change on the ground. He asked a number of people: what’s your vision for the future? 

Here’s my answer.

Tokomaru Bay, East Cape

Tokomaru Bay, East Cape

“Our world is changing rapidly. I think we’ve collectively hit the point where we feel like something with the existing system isn’t working, and people are now actively looking for solutions. There is a push away from the homogenisation of centralised society: people want to be empowered to have a say in their future, and want to do so in a way that expresses them and their values, their culture. You can’t be sure exactly what the future will look like, but you get a sense of its flavour: more collaborative, more equal, and more local – with the reduced impact and increased time for leisure and relationship building that this provides. It’s an exciting time.”