Topics of the day: strike, eco-sinners, mayor, technology and culture, Berkeley research, traditional architecture, medicine, volunteers, concrete
At 6:15 Robert and Eric picked us up and we drove to the port where Raphael’s apprehension proved to be true – the ferries to Mo’orea weren’t running because Temaru, the president wants to bring in a new large ferry which would obviously represent tough if not outrivaling competition, so they were on strike the whole day, which meant that we “had to” overcome our environmental inhibition threshold, drive to the airport and hop onto a steely bird that only took 7 minutes to fly across from Tahiti to Mo’orea. We showed up at the city hall (a modest one story building) an hour late.
After patiently listening to Eric’s elaborate explanation of Equilibrism and the Tahiti Projekt, the mayor made a modest but assertive statement: “it’s already being done”. We couldn’t hide our astonishment – the forward-looking institution he mentioned clearly represented a severe gap in our research. Why did we not know about this and why hadn’t even Roti and Rudolf heard about this?
The mayor was so kind to forewarn the researchers at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station, which was established in Mo’orea in 1985 by the University of California, Berkeley, that we were about to “intrude”. The research which is being conducted there seems to be quite holistic. They have launched a Biocode Project to genetically sequence every species on the island and set up a database which will be accessible to all researchers worldwide. Now the thing that sets it apart from other academic research projects: in the process of identifying and digitally cataloguing the various species, the researchers consult the elderly (locals) to find out what the species is called in Tahitian, what it used to be used for and everything else they know about it. And then there is the Atitia Center which consists of an ethnobotanic garden, a fare pote’e (traditional Tahitian meeting house), and the waterfront of a marine reserve and is devoted to community outreach and educational activities.
Hinano (not Roti’s friend – it seems to be quite a common female name here), who coordinates the Atitia Center showed us the site and explained how knowledge (about medicine, building houses, agriculture, art,…) will be passed on from the elderly to the younger generation in the fare pote’e. We met a bunch of volunteers who were just having uru for lunch and told us that they work here all day, every day – sometimes even on weekends. Robert eagerly filmed Hinano and her husband Frances who also coordinates a project at the research station.
Then we met Pierre (who wrote a book about agriculture in Mo’orea) and his son Alain, an organic farmer who also cultivates mahogany trees (to be used as a local building material) and brings in children to teach them about sustainable agriculture
After a really late lunch we drove (! lack of time…) up to the Belvedere where Robert captured the South Seas flair on film (which could be a very effective way to sell the documentary) while Eric, Raphael and I enjoyed the stunning view over the island. We rushed to our next appointment but had to realise that there was no point in shaking hands and then leaving again after two minutes. I am quite disappointed that we ran out of time – I’m sure Alex du Prel who brings out the monthly magazine “Tahiti-Pacifique” (which is independent – unlike Les Nouvelles and La Depeche) would have been very interesting to talk to.
After returning the rental car we had to wait ages for our flight back – the airport was crammed and the staff probably wasn’t prepared to deal with all the passengers that would have normally taken the ferry. We ended up getting back to Pape’ete around 21:00 instead of 18:00 – if we had only know this earlier we could have also met up with Mahé who is working on a study about environmental economics at the CRIOBE (Centre de recherches insulaires et observatoire de l’environnement)…
Back in Pape’ete Eric, Robert and Raphael went to have something to eat at a roulotte. I went “home” to do an online-test about concrete (for Civil Engineering Materials and the Environment) – my university is every… wonder if the internet is a blessing or a curse and if my professors really believe that ecofriendly concrete exists!
Final thoughts of the day: I think the end did justify the means (today)…
Our visit there was highly informative and gave us new hope.
I wish we could have spent some more time in Mo’orea…
Mixing traditions and cultural heritage with modern technology is a balancing act..