Environmental history in NZ: seven reasons why it’s important

This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. The background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs draws the eye of the environmental historian. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852

This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. It is the background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs that draws the eye of the environmental historian, rather than the mail cart or people in the foreground. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852

Why should we study New Zealand’s environmental history? and how is it different from “conventional” history?

These are the questions that Paul Star asks in his essay entitled Environmental history and New Zealand history, first written in 2008, but recently republished on Environment and Nature in New Zealand.

Star offers seven compelling reasons why it is important. And of course, the key difference between environmental history and history is that while people are the central players in conventional history, the relationship between people and the environment is the focus in environmental history. Continue reading

Views of Kapiti 9: clouds over bush-clad hills

Clouds over WaterstoneIn another instalment in the sporadic series “Views of Kapiti”, this was a shot I took from the housing estate I live in, while out walking my baby daughter (to sleep).

I found the vivid “tri-colour” effect of this shot pleasing: the green of the regenerating bush of the Paraparaumu Scenic Reserve [click here to view map]; the white of the cumulonimbus cloud against the blue of the sky. Continue reading

Landscape of juxtaposition: view from a graveyard

Graveyard and windmillsYesterday, we ventured out on a photography expedition for my near-complete book exploring the environmental history of the Manawatu. (See: A racy title is one thing, but what’s the book actually about?) Many adventures awaited us, including an amorous kunekune pig and his similarly friendly ostrich companion, residents of a historic farm at Karere.

At Ashhurst, I was unable to resist this landscape – a poignant juxtaposition between old and new. Continue reading

A little bit magic

rain dropsIt is incredible what you can find to do when you should be doing something else, like going for a run.

As I attempted to leave the house this morning for my daily bout of exercise, I paused to check the swan plants for further hatchlings (see previous monarch butterfly-related posts).

As I did so, I noticed these water droplets, remnants from an overnight shower, preserved in all their spherical perfection in a tiny web constructed by some unseen spider.

Though feeling slightly guilty about delaying my run, I couldn’t resist capturing this little bit of magic with a photo.

See also: Little wonders (of nature); Sofia and her red biro

The South Island from the North Island

Sunset South IslandThis is another example  of “it’s not really about environmental history“, but I couldn’t resist sharing this shot taken from Paraparaumu beach at sunset yesterday. In the foreground is Kapiti Island, and in the background is the top of the South Island – a reminder that a not insignificant amount of the South Island is in fact further north than the lower end of the North Island. This maybe highlights the perils of naming a place after a seemingly self-evident geographic characteristic – but then, “Mostly South Island” and “Mostly North Island” does seem a bit clumsy. Perhaps “Middle Island” was more accurate after all!

Views of Kapiti 7: Morning mist over Hemi Matenga

A view of the Hemi Matenga hills, which overlook the town of Waikanae, taken from Elizabeth Street, eastern Waikanae. Low morning cloud shrouds the hills, threatening rain, and creating a sense of drama and mystique. Continue reading