More indigenous anger from New Zealand about real science

Two academics from New Zealand called to my attention. One of them commented on a recent exchange about a paper about the burning of land in New Zealand which produced carbon deposits in the South Pole.

The most likely explanation for the high rates of carbon deposition found in the ice cores is soot being blown towards the ice.

Modelling shows that the climate in both regions was relatively stable for the past 700 years, and that the large-scale climate variations that droveBB prior to European colonization were largely due to. There is little historical or proxy evidence of large changes in anthropogenicBB before European settlement in the 19th century.
New Zealand was one of the last places on Earth to be colonized by humans and charcoal-based fire records show a very different history than that of Australia and Argentina. Before about 1300, wildfire was not widespread but it has been since 700 years ago, due to the Mori's use of fire for land clearing and management.

The paper angered those who accepted other ways of knowing, both for its assumed conclusions and the implication that their different points of view might have changed the paper's conclusions. His/her commentary is in the middle.

I think you might be interested in the piece I have on offer. The purpose of the website, Scoop, is mostly the dissemination of press releases. From time to time, they ask experts to comment on significant events and on scientific findings which might be of wider interest than just the particular field in which the research was conducted. The piece is in the latter category.

Click on the picture to read it.

More from my correspondent.

There was an article published in Nature that suggested elevated levels of black carbon in the ice cores of the South Pole might be related to fires in New Zealand.
The first response teeters on the verge of using the wrong ways of knowing. It suggests that the researchers should have asked the people of New Zealand if they wanted to be involved in the research.

The first response has excerpts in italics.

The Director of the Te Pnaha Matatini Centre of Research excellence in complex systems comments.
Fire patterns in New Zealand have been shown to be so clearly in an analysis of ice core samples. The topic is fascinating, but does it miss anything we know in our research community? The work made me think about diversity and inclusion in science. A lot of research shows that diverse teams create excellent science and there is gender variation in the author list. The research concluded that research from the global south is often missing from the work of our European and North American colleagues. Some New Zealand research is cited here, but other excellent research does not seem to have global purchase.
The authors are based in northern America, Europe and Australia, and they lack New Zealand collaboration despite the central topic of Mori burning and fire use. Helicopter science, where research is conducted by people who live and work far from the subject of their work, is under scrutiny in the research community. This approach is likely to miss important insights. The ethics of helicopter science have been debated over the last year or so, as concerns over the exclusion of different groups from research have increased. This issue was noted by the journal in which the study was published.
Local researchers often identify issues that have already been researched locally, such as dust transport to Antarctica, population estimates of Mori settlement, and so on. I'm going to return to this paper to find out how much better it could have been, if it had been more inclusive.

I don't think it would have been better if they had found a better scientist than the one who actually participated.

My correspondent is in New Zealand.

The second seems to be more reasoned than the first.

She points out that there could have been soot contributions from Australia and Argentina in the 16th and 17th century, but the carbon emissions from 700 years ago are not included.

Dr Holly Winton is a post-doc at the Victoria University of Wellington.
. A new study in Nature suggests that New Zealand has been the main source of black carbon in the area since the 13th century. Over the last 2000 years, an array of black carbon records from ice cores in the western part of East Antarctica and the Antarctica Peninsula were examined. Black carbon concentrations in the record increased in the 13th century well above previous levels, with the highest concentrations in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The arrival and land management practices of Mori in New Zealand are associated with this. The connection was made by comparing the ice core record to a charcoal record from a lake in New Zealand which is indicative of local burning. Black carbon change is visible in both records from the 13th century until today, but the trend is not. Black carbon peaks in the 16th and 17th century. The New Zealand charcoal record is declining. I wonder about additional black carbon sources from Australia and Argentina during this time, as well as changes in the hydrological cycle or changes in the transport processes that drive the variability in the ice core black carbon record. Black carbon from Australia and Argentina was ruled out due to increased charcoal records from these source regions.

My correspondent continues.

It is the third response that I thought would interest you, though it might be a better way of expressing it. This so-called expert has a background in adult education and not in any recognised scientific discipline, so she exposes the reader to Matauranga Maori's "glorious" mythology. I think you will agree that it reinforces the points you have been making.
It also highlights a growing problem for scientific research in New Zealand, one which might not be immediately apparent to anyone unfamiliar with our state bureaucracy. You will see the following in the third paragraph.
The MBIE Vision Matauranga policy demands involvement, participation and leadership from the people of Matauranga, and these authors have not caught on to that. The basic premise of this involvement is that we will tell our own stories and control our own knowledge.
The third person thinks that science is what a New Zealand government department defines it to be. She thinks that scientists, wherever they might be in the world, are not paying enough attention to this and changing their practice accordingly.
One could smile at the ignorant individual and ignore the fact that they are promoting and funding scientific research, but that would be ignoring a rather disturbing fact, since one of MBIE's prime functions is to promote and fund scientific research. If the official MBIE view is that Matauranga Maori is equal to what you and I and most rational people would consider Science to be, what does that mean for the future of scientific research in New Zealand?

Here is the third response.

Sandy Morrison is the acting dean of the Faculty of Mori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato.
The association of Mori with fire has been going on for a long time. The goddess of fire gave her fingernails of fire to allow us to have fire for warmth, fire for sustenance, and fire to provide food and water for the earth. We honor and attribute Mahuika. She is a part of our tribe. Her mokopuna Mui tried to reduce her power by tricking her into giving up all of her fingernails, but she was able to outwit him and plant her flame into the trees so that fire would be freely available. The boundaries of authority were defined by the fire in this whakatauk 'ka wera hoki i te ahi, e mana ana an' meaning 'while the fire burns, the mana is effective.' The principle of ahi kaa is that we kept our home fires burning.
Our relationship with fire was interdependent, beneficial and practical because of the embedded practises and rituals we developed through our tua, gods and goddesses. We relied on the aruhe or fern root as part of our staple diet. The moa and other birds were the main source of food. Burning allowed plants to grow and some of the minerals in the ash gave the land rich minerals. Hunting and access to hunting grounds can be made easier by regular burning. It would be typical for newcomers to create homes on unfamiliar lands to allow time to get to know the area and find the best places to plant their plantations. Some burning would not have been controlled as planned, but this can be understood. It's not different to other people adjusting to new lands and conditions.
The paper by scientists who examined the ice core records of the South Pole to find that carbon emissions increased after Mori arrived in New Zealand is another example of what western science has become. The paper claims that Mori are naughty offenders and relies on measurement, modelling and silo thinking. It's scientific arrogance that it assumes that Mori have a lot to account for in terms of contributing to carbon emissions and destroying the pristine environment of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Goodness knows why Mori are emphasized, and what purpose this article was written for. The MBIE Vision Mtauranga policy demands Mori involvement, Mori participation and Mori leadership and these authors have not caught up with that. The basic premise is that we as Mori will tell our own stories and control our own knowledge. Mtauranga Mori is a living knowledge system that is based on our environmental encounters. Mahuika is the spiritual goddess of fire and we are connected in kinship. Our stories of voyaging and navigation and food gathering have relationships with the Southern Ocean and theAntarctica. Through our intergenerational continuum, our relationships with marine life, bird life and the oceans are recorded. These are places where we have long-term relationships and will not embark on destructive practises. The mantel of responsibility for us and one we share willingly to improve the wellbeing of our oceans and planet is the principle of kaitikaitanga. Please do not make Mori the problem by hiding behind scientific modelling. I am sure that you can do better.

Dr. Morrison appears to have made some points.

A. It is not clear what she believes, but she tacitly accepts New Zealand's "ways of knowing".

There is a b. The land was burned because it was embedded in their mythology. The Nature paper doesn't point a finger of blame at the Maori for the fires that got out of control. It is only an investigation of where carbon spikes came from.

A. The third paragraph is devoid of understanding of the Nature paper. Morrison doesn't see the purpose of the paper as obvious, but he does see it as to account for a carbon spike. Does she know that scientists are curious? The last paragraph is about impugning modern science compared to the way of knowing of the people of the land. The paper was denigrated because it was intended to see if New Zealand could account for the carbon spikes. The answer was yes.

My correspondent, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, notes that there is a very real possibility that Mtauranga Mori will at least impede real science.

I shouldn't have to point out that scientists who defend their discipline and the knowledge they produce should not be put in danger of their jobs, careers, or reputations simply for defending the toolkit of science as the best way to understand nature.

New Zealand is a wonderful place, and I love it, but many of its residents have got to stop pretending that there are multiple ways of knowing that can be taken as science! There is nothing special about Maori science.