It Once Was a Mountain

Ok Tedi: It Once Was a Mountain

In 1987, while backpacking through Papua New Guinea, I came face to face with a multinational mining company that knocked the top off a mountain in search of gold. I chronicled that debacle in In Search of Simplicity and you can read of it here. This brazen act of modern engineering resulted in masses of toxic waste silting the previously pristine Fly River and forever altering the serene lives of countless villagers living along this watercourse.


A couple of years ago I took our two teenage daughters to watch a screening of the documentary, China Blue. The award winning film maker, Micha Peled was on hand to answer questions afterwards.


China Blue is the true story of a 14-year-old country girl voluntarily leaving her sleepy village to work in virtual slavery in a jeans factory in China’s industrial southeast. The film makes it creepily clear how our consumption habits in the affluent West can have major detrimental impacts on the lives of people in faraway lands, just as those same consumption habits can have major detrimental effects on the environment in far away lands like Papua New Guinea.

Do we need to return to more locally-based economies and more local manufacturing? It can be safely said that New Zealand has been exporting jobs to Asia for many years now. Is this not the case in most Western lands? Wouldn’t it be satisfying to see ‘Made in New Zealand’ printed on more consumer items rather than the ubiquitous ‘Made in China’ we see today? Wouldn’t this result in more jobs for New Zealanders? Each of us can help this shift to occur by purchasing more food and other items that we know are produced in New Zealand. Even if you only shifted five dollars a week from imported goods to local goods it would make a huge difference. In today’s world we vote as much with our pocketbooks as we do on official ballets. In a consumer society, our purchasing habits are powerful.

I don’t begrudge the rights of emerging nations like China to progress, but don’t you think your neighbour’s challenged business deserves a chance? I personally would rather spend a few dollars more for a locally produced item of quality than for an imported piece of junk that simply won’t last. I finally had to replace my New Zealand-made MacPac daypack recently when one of its straps began to give out after almost 17 years of daily service. I could not find a new replacement pack with the quality and durability of that original bag. How can we get back to making quality, local goods? How can you contribute to this shift? I believe this step is possible. But it will take our collective will to make it happen.

John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives. In Search of Simplicity is a startlingly poignant real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life. John Haines hosts a popular weekly interview program, Voices from the North, from his place in paradise in New Zealand’s subtropical far north, and leads what he calls ‘playshops’ in voice, sound and communication.



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In Search of Simplicity is a unique and awe-inspiring way to re-visit and even answer some of the gnawing questions we all intrinsically have about the meaning of life and our true, individual purpose on the planet. I love this book.”

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In Search of Simplicity is one of those rare literary jewels with the ability to completely and simultaneously ingratiate itself into the mind, heart and soul of the reader.”

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