What do these three – seemly unrelated – photographs have in common? They all feature in an upcoming talk by Dr Catherine Knight exploring how environmental history research can shape the future, through policy and planning decisions which take account of the environmental past. This question has become increasingly topical both here and internationally, particularly in the wake of a series of natural disasters that have led to many questioning the wisdom of thinking that as humans we can control the forces of nature through engineering and technological solutions. (See for example: Is there such a thing as a natural disaster? The lessons of environmental history)

The presentation will first outline some of the thinking by leading scholars internationally, before presenting a number of case-studies, drawn from both New Zealand and overseas, which demonstrate how environmental history could be used to inform better decisions about how we interact with our natural environment.

The first talk will take place at Waikato University, Hamilton, on the 11th August. [Click here to view details]

The same talk will be held at Massey University, Palmerston North, on the 12th October (details to come).

This will also be the topic of a panel discussion at the New Zealand Historical Association Conference, to be held at Waikato University, Hamilton, between 16th and 18th November [click here to view details - programme to be released in mid-August]. On the panel, Professor Tom Brooking (Otago), Professor Eric Pawson (Canterbury), Associate Professor Katie Pickles (Canterbury), and Dr Catherine Knight will be presenting papers exploring various facets of this question.

Related posts: Christchurch: a city haunted by its environmental past?; Earthquake reveals the forgotten streams of ChristchurchNature strikes again – beautiful Tohoku’s coastal towns devastated by tsunami; Is there such a thing as a natural disaster? The lessons of environmental history

Photo top left: A centuries-old stone tablet in the Japanese coastal village of Aneyoshi, which warns of the danger of tsunami. Above right: The Pohangina Bridge in the Manawatu, destroyed after the 2004 floods in that region (source: Manawatu District Council). Above left: Christchurch, in May 1860. Looks south-east from the Provincial Buildings, towards Oxford Terrace and Gloucester Street. Avon River can be seen in the foreground. The deforested Port Hills can be seen in the background. Taken by Alfred Charles Barker. Not to be reproduced without permission from Alexander Turnbull Library ref. ID 1/2-022722-F.