Ravaged Beauty receives award

coverOn Wednesday night, I received an award from the Palmerston North Heritage Trust for my book Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu.

From the Heritage Trust’s media release:

“Environmental historian Catherine Knight has won the Palmerston North Heritage Trust’s inaugural award for the best work of history relating to the Manawatu. Ravaged Beauty: An Environmental History of the Manawatu was described by co-judge Jill White as an outstanding winner from the 2013-14 publications considered. Continue reading

How does environmental history bring hope?

Brunner coalmining town

One of the historical images I used in my talk. The remarkable thing about this photograph – of the coalmining town of Brunner on the West Coast (date unknown) – was that it was taken by the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department to promote our country to overseas investors and visitors. Ref: PA1-o-498-36. Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand.

I was fortunate to be invited to be a keynote speaker at the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand conference last week in Perth. I spoke about how environmental history can – and should – inform our decision-making about the environment. Continue reading

Environmental history and social justice – is there a link? The case of Nauru

nauru islandHuman rights abuses in Nauru are currently under scrutiny by the United Nations and other organisations. We in New Zealand have also expressed our concerns – and with good reason.

But it makes me wonder, how much responsibility does New Zealand have to share in what is, without question, an unacceptable situation? We were responsible for systematically abusing Nauru’s environment for decades, leaving it in ruins. Indeed, without Nauru’s phosphate resources, it is questionable that the ‘pastoral revolution’ in New Zealand, on which our economy depends, would have even been possible. Continue reading

Scandinavian axemen, Maori gardening and forgotten streams of Christchurch

Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers.

Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa, near Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers. Alexander Turnbull Library ref. 1/2-004619-F.

In anticipation of my talk on Friday, I thought I would gain some insights into envirohistory NZ’s most popular posts. Fittingly, given that my talk is in the Manawatu, the most popular post (by far) has been The Scandinavian settlers of the Manawatu.

The next most popular posts have been Maori gardening in pre-European NZ and Earthquake reveals the forgotten streams of Christchurch.

Perhaps you might want to check them out.

Bringing history alive – talk on 16th October

Crossing the Manawatu River by punt, Ashhurst

Crossing the Manawatu River by punt, Ashhurst, 1884. Photograph by G W Shailer. Palmerston North City Library.

I will be presenting a lunchtime talk on Friday 16th October at the Palmerston North City Library called Bringing history alive. I will be talking of my experience blogging about New Zealand’s environmental history – how I came to do it (this is quite an interesting story, and has to do with a certain expressway), and what I have gained from it. Continue reading

Brunner coal mine – holiday destination?

Brunner coalmining town

View of the coalmining town of Brunner, showing the bridge and the mine. Ref: PA1-o-498-36. Alexander Turnbull Library.

This is a photo of the mining settlement of Brunner, perched on the side of the Grey River, on the West Coast of the South Island. The photo is interesting in itself. The mine can be seen in the middle ground, with houses on the deforested flanks of the hills behind the mine. Coal ready for transport by rail can be seen in the foreground. Tailings can also be seen spilling into the river. Continue reading