Understanding Nature: Toddlers, Trees, TPPA

Eco Design is about working with nature instead of against it. Nature, in this case however, can mean many different things. For example, it may refer to natural ecosystems and how they maintain a dynamic balance. But it can also refer to sun angles and hours of daylight that fluctuate seasonally. This can be referred to as a natural energy flow.

Nature, from an eco design perspective, can also refer to the behaiviour of animals such as chickens. In this case, we often speak in terms of “a chicken’s nature” to scratch up the mulch in a vege garden.

Believe it or not, even my two and a half year old daughter has a nature, and for the most part it is a nature to imitate and to help. As parents we can choose to work with her nature or work against it at our peril. As a father and designer, I constantly design experiences that channel my daughter’s nature for good instead of evil.

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Trees have a nature, and different trees have different natures. For example, it is in the nature of plane trees to block drains and crack pavement. To quote Wilson Street business owner Tony Swain from Monday’s Chronicle, “The council has just planted the wrong type of trees.”

Step one of eco design (also step one of common sense) is to plant the right tree in the right place. What a crack up it was to read the explanation from Wanganui District councillor Ray Stevens in Monday’s Chronicle that the trees were planted back when Wilson Street was residential. Is this to imply that the trees would not grow into the sewerage pipes of private residences or block storm drains in a residential street? This excuse for council’s mistake makes no sense, and appears to support the Wilson Street business owners’ feelings that “council was not listening.”

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Although trees have their nature, this is not to say that a tree’s nature cannot be channeled just like a toddler’s. For example, we have heard from a number of sources that the plane trees around the city used to pollarded regularly to control their growth.

Another example involves the training and pruning of fruit trees. The nature of most trees is to grow to the sky, which is a problem for the safe and easy harvesting of fruit. ‘Channeling’ branches to grow sideways instead of upward involves two steps. First we train the branches with twine and stakes (see photo), and then we prune to an outward-facing bud. The tree is still a tree, but by working within the confines of its nature we make it more ‘user-friendly.’

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Finally, it is in the nature of corporations to maximize profits. In fact, it is their one and only mandate. There is not social mandate. There is no environmental mandate. There is no cultural mandate. There is only the profit mandate.

Understanding this nature of corporations, does it make any sense to readers that we allow them to negotiate a major trade agreement in secret? As a democracy, does it make sense for citizens and voters to stand by and allow the current government to sign onto this secret trade deal – the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) – without expressing our justifiable caution?

Mr. Key has stated that the October election was a mandate from the voters for the beliefs and policies of the National Party. Is it in the nature of New Zealanders to accept this and wait another three years? Or is it in our collective nature to voice concerns through all the channels of democracy?


Peace, Estwing

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