I have learned a few things while reading “Seeds of Empire”, by Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson, including the definitions of some terms that crop up a bit in environmental history literature (see also: How did the Korean War change the NZ landscape?). One example of this is in Robert Peden’s essay “Pastoralism and the transformation of open grasslands” (Chapter 5).

Using Mount Peel Station* in central Canterbury as a case study, Peden explains how pastoralism transformed much of the eastern hillcountry (or rangelands, as he refers to them) of the South Island, and seeks also to debunk a few myths about the impacts of pastoralism while he is at it (specifically, about the role of pastoralism in rabbit infestations and burning as a management tool). (more…)

An article in the New Zealand Listener by Rebecca Macfie is entitled “Nature ground zero” and describes an initiative in Canterbury to give “a new lease of life” to “the devastated native flora of the Canterbury Plains” [click here to read article]. The initiative is to identify and encourage the reintroduction of indigenous plant species which provide “ecosystem services” such as the provision of pollen and nectar to attract beneficial insects, improved soil health, weed suppression, the control of pest insects, and greater biodiversity. The project is focused on the Waipara Valley of Northern Canterbury, which is renowned for its vineyards, but has potential to be applied across Canterbury. (more…)

When we encounter the extensive tussocklands of the eastern South Island [see below right], it is hard to imagine any other landscape in that place – so much a part of the “natural” New Zealand landscape have they become. Yet, as explored in a previous post What is natural? The tussocklands of Lindis Pass, this is in fact a human-induced landscape; the tussocklands have replaced podocarp and beech forest [see left] that once covered the South Island. However, this occurred long before any written history was established, and this environmental history has had to be pieced together through painstaking paleoenvironmental research.

New ground-breaking research, undertaken by an team of both New Zealand and international scientists, has determined how, to what extent, and over what time-frame large tracts of South Island forest were destroyed. (more…)

Prefacing the Introduction of Geoff Park’s masterpiece of ecology and history “Nga Uruora – Ecology and History in a New Zealand Landscape” is a quote from Frank Gohlke, American landscape photographer and writer [click here to view website]:

Landscapes are collections of stories, only fragments of which are visible at any one time. In linking the fragments, unearthing the connections between them, we create the landsape anew. A landscape whose story is known is harder to dismiss… (more…)

Episode 4 of the envirohistory NZ podcast series is now out. This episode explores three environmental histories – which, while diverse in both their time-spans and their human protagonists, are all connected by a common theme. The first of these stories begins in the early 1800s, and features a Maori hapu and its relationship with its coastal Horowhenua environment [click here to read original post]. The next one, is of pioneering Scottish settlers in the 1840s, and their longsighted protection of a remnant of swamp forest in what was to become Christchurch [click here to read original post]. The third and final, more recent, story is of a dairy farmer and the indigenous forest remnant encompassed by his south Waikato farm [click here to read original post]. (more…)

I have just finished reading The Water Thieves by Sam Mahon. Sam Mahon is an artist who lives in renovated flour mill in Waikari, North Canterbury. He was recently in the news for his bust of Environment Minister Nick Smith, made entirely of cow dung. The bust was created as part of a campaign to stop the Hurunui River from being dammed for irrigation. (more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 521 other followers