Inland West Coast: the realm of semi-tamed nature

Driving the route east of Lake Brunner, then back to the coast via State Highway 73 through Taramakau Valley [click here to view map], I was struck by the palpable human imprint even on the most (at first glance) wild and rugged looking landscapes. Through the Taramakau Valley, the hills and mountains on either side of the Taramakau River are so steep that landslips are frequent events, sometimes missing farmhouses perched precariously at the bottom of these slopes by a breathtakingly small margin. Continue reading

Christchurch: a city haunted by its environmental past?

It is with both horror and immeasurable sadness that I contemplate the tragic consequences of last Tuesday’s massive earthquake on the city that I lived in for 8 years, and which I still regard with immense affection. I cannot even begin to imagine how life must be like for its residents today, especially those who have friends or family who have perished. Continue reading

Tutira: desecration of God’s earth dubbed as improvement?

It seems both ironic, yet at the same time intensely appropriate to me that New Zealand’s first major environmental publication was written by a farmer – one of the many who helped to so dramatically transform the land into the landscape we take for granted today.

Tutira: the story of a New Zealand sheep station (1921) was written by William Herbert Guthrie-Smith about his sheep station in the Hawkes Bay [click here to view location]. In particular, he chronicled – with meticulous detail – the way he developed the land, and the implications that these “improvements” had for the ecological, hydrological and geological systems that had functioned within the landscape for thousands of years.

Tutira became an internationally acclaimed classic of ecological writing, and is generally seen as New Zealand’s first major environmentalist publication.  Continue reading

The Lorax: a timeless environmental parable

It is strange to me that, long before I associated myself with environmentalism – indeed, long before I even knew what “environmentalism” meant, I loved the story of the Lorax. This is even more strange considering that at six or seven years old, I had no inkling whatsoever of the allegorical brilliance of the story. But I remember vividly the brightly-coloured book cover on my childhood bedroom bookshelf as though it had always been there.

Selfishly however, when my two-year old son reached for the book at bedtime recently, my heart sank. I knew how wordy the Lorax was, compared to say, “The Dancing Tiger” or “Farmer Jim’s Truck” (the latter a remarkable 35 words!), and as it was the third story for the night, I was quite keen to slip away and have a little bit of “down-time” myself. I was also worried that my son might be a little too young to appreciate the story. Continue reading