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Environmental Ethics

Volume 21, Issue 3, Fall 1999

John Patterson
Pages 267-276

Environmental Mana

In Maori tradition, all creatures are naturally sacred or tapu, and cannot be used without ritual removal of the tapu, a symbolic acknowledgment of the mana of the gods concerned. Although there is a religious dimension to tapu, it is also the natural state of all creatures, reflecting the idea that they have intrinsic worth. The theist aspect of tapu can be bypassed: tapu is the mana of the atua or gods, who can be seen as personifications of or indeed identical with areas of the natural world. In this way, the mana of the gods is seen as the mana of nature itself, and respect for the tapu of a creature turns out quite like the familiar idea of respect for its intrinsic value or its ecological value. We might conclude that the environmental mana of the human species is currently negative, and this conclusion in turn might persuade us to change our ways.