Matthew Jackson is serial entrepreneur from Aotearoa New Zealand (LinkedIn, Twitter, Personal Website). He is currently Founder and Commercial Director of Alimentary Systems, “a circular way to treat multiple & seasonal organic waste streams, that creates renewable energy. With an positive economic payback in 8 years.”
Matthew and I are both Edmund Hillary Fellows (‘EHF’), a network for incubating solutions to global problems from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Matthew starts with his Pepeha, “a way of introducing yourself in Māori. It tells people who you are by sharing your connections with the people and places that are important to you.” Matthew gives his at 1:23 and explains a little more at 1:37.
There’s a deep background on why a non-Māori (or ‘Pākehā’) Kiwi like Matthew wants to give a Māori introduction. The short version is that many in Aotearoa New Zealand are trying to engage with the history of how the British entered the country. Key in this is a founding agreement, the Treaty of Waitangi, which has Māori and Pākehā in partnership. While for a longtime the Treaty was ignored, there has been a shift in recent times back towards partnership, or ‘biculturalism‘. Speaking your Pepeha at the start of a conversation is a way of supporting a bicultural nation, and addressing the colonial past.
Themes of our conversation:
-Respectfully having a relationship with indigenous knowledge, and using that wisely for a better world.
-We are in a profound crisis because of how we have treated the natural world, which is deeply interrelated to how we treat each other, especially colonialism.
-Accessing our common humanity through being vulnerable with each other is part of the way forward.
We spoke at the end of March 2022. I had just had a period of illness, where I had lost 3kg in 3 days. This gets a small reference at 9:10. (Don’t worry, it was a passing food poisoning and I soon put that weight back on!)
Kaitiakitanga — ‘guardianship’ here.
Transactionalism – Wikipedia entry here.
Te Awa Tupua — mentioned at 14:30, it recognises “the special relationship between the Whanganui River and Whanganui iwi. It also provided for the river’s long-term protection and restoration by making it a person in the eyes of the law.”
0:50 – Q1 What are you doing now? And how did you get there?
15:38 – Q2. What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
Q3. What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
34:29 – Q4. If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
41:24 – Q5. If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
Q6. Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
42:50 – Q7. Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?
Key quotes, ideas and themes
-Having a respectful relationship with indigenous knowledge, in order to then engage and aply it.
-The need to be good guardians and stewards of this world.
-Historically, “we’ve created the built environment to serve humans. We haven’t treated the environment with respect. We haven’t we haven’t looked after our Mother Earth. So what we’re saying about Alimentary Systems is we can create living systems that can create renewable energy systems and infinite carbon loops.”
-“If we look at waste, its value rather than something need to minimise. It’s something that we can create value from. So an alimentary system is basically a living system that will take any organic waste source and convert it into energy and fossil-free fertiliser. [Because it forms a perpetual loop] the aim is basically zero waste, zero carbon emissions, and in clean energy and restore biodiversity.”
-Bringing the pilot technology to a jurisdiction (Aotearoa New Zealand) with the friendly conditions to try it out.
-Historically, Aotearoa New Zealand has imported Western technology, which is from the industrial revolution and energy intensive — and cannot be aligned with local living systems.
-If we followed the policy of putting the health of the water first, then that would serve the health of the people, we would cost in externalities and we would restore equity.
-The future Matthew is trying to create is for tamariki, the children.
-Left the projects he was involved with when he realised these did not align with that positive future he wanted to create.
-The most important work at the moment is preventing global heating and restoring biodiversity, because of the critical impacts those have on every single life system, and the impacts on every single condition of life.
-The cognitive dissonance between the alert raised by scientists (‘climate emergency’) and the response of supposedly competent institutions that are supposed to look after our future.
-The outcomes are similar to a technocratic UN document but the the method is by connecting with the heritage of indigenous knowledge.
-There’s too much policy and not enough action.
-I’ve grown up in a system that has inherently benefited me. Yeah. And at the point in time that I realised that I would, Okay, it’s time to change that system, because that’s just not fair.
-“So you look at that from a governance perspective [with indigenous people from the start]. They’re not looking at “we need to create a circular economy”. They’re just going well, no, and our belief system, water is a living thing. Right? And so we have to treat it as such.”
-There is no non-radical way forward that is viable.
-The thing that is missing at the moment is humanity. The more that you can give the space and time to others just to be themselves or to give them the opportunity to let go of what’s going on or just to share your own vulnerable experience, the more we can bring humanity back into daily lives.