LMoeraki bouldersast week I attended the New Zealand Geographical Society Conference, where I presented on bush burning in the Manawatu. It was an excellent opportunity for those interested in environmental history/historical geographies, with a whole day of panels dedicated to these themes, including a panel focused on the life and works of Kenneth Cumberland (who although a geographer, explored historical geography through much of his work). (more…)

This landscape was taken from Mangaone South Road, Reikorangi [click here to view map]. Mangaone South Road largely follows the Waikanae River as it makes its way from the western foothills of the Tararua Ranges out to sea. In this shot, pasture-covered hills can be seen in the foreground, while regenerating bush-clad hills can be seen in the background. (more…)

I am not going to pretend this post is about environmental history – it is more about gratuitous self-indulgence (one of the many benefits of having a blog!), and pure enjoyment of the landscape (not a bad thing in itself, after all).

This morning, Carter and I set out on a Wednesday “environmental history” adventure (about which there will be a later post) and, driving down Mazengarb Road, I noticed some interesting cloud formations over Kapiti Island. (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…)

In 1962, A.G.S. Bradfield published “The Precious Years”, a sequel to his earlier book “Forgotten Days”; both books recounting stories of the “pioneering days of Palmerston North and Districts in the Manawatu”. These are charming little books, in which Bradfield draws on first-hand memories of older Manawatu residents, giving it an authenticity and poignancy that would not be achievable today, nearly half a century on. (more…)

Of all the beautiful landscape photos that highly accomplished photographer and friend Rainer Kant took while he lived in New Zealand, this must be one of my favourites. What is particularly striking about this landscape is that (more…)

So, what exactly do we mean by environmental history, and why is it so important?

As part of a newly established MSc in Landscape, Environment and History at the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Chris Smout, emeritus professor of history at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, is interviewed about what environmental history is and why it is important.* He argues that the subject area is like a stage on which various subjects come together. The difference with conventional history is that environmental history is not only concerned with people but also with nature, the landscape and the environment as a whole. However, it is not just the history of nature but more the history of human interaction with the environment.

Click here to watch this interview with Prof. T.C. Smout introducing environmental history (7 mins approx). (more…)

Through time, not only has our environment been transformed, but also the way we perceive it and the words we use to describe it. No example illustrates this better than the “swamp” to “wetland” transformation. When European settlement of New Zealand began in earnest about 150 years ago, about 670,000 hectares of freshwater wetlands existed. By the 20th century, this had been reduced to 100,000 hectares. (more…)

When we travel through New Zealand’s countryside, very few of us recognise that much – if not most – of the “nature” we see around us is not “natural” to this land. The grass pastures of our farms, the ubiquitous stands of macracarpa or poplars, the willows along our river banks, and the vast expanses of radiata pine forest – all of these landscapes have been created by our forebears using introduced exotic species. But, irrespective of whether the trees and plants that make up the landscape are indigenous or exotic, many people find our rural landscapes attractive and a source of pleasure – so why should it matter? (more…)

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