A boy and his dog at the Pohangina River – a place of “bliss and wonder”. C. Knight
A few days ago I received the following email from Mark Gibson, who had recently finished reading Ravaged Beauty, and wanted to share with me how it had affected him personally. It was such an eloquent email that I thought it would be worth sharing with envirohistory NZ readers:
“My parents (in their late eighties) gave me the book for my birthday late last year. They live in Palmerston North. So does my brother who farms on the Tararua foothills behind Tokomaru. Continue reading
Mr Clark with trout. Ref: 1/1-005184-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
One of the great advantages of the Internet age is that not only is it possible now to find peoples’ PhD theses online, but graduate theses too. In my quest to better understand the acclimatisation of trout and salmon in New Zealand, I came across an honours dissertation by a Canterbury University history student, Jack Kós. Entitled “A most excellent thing”, it documents the introduction of trout to Canterbury in 1867 (the first successful introduction in New Zealand) and the subsequent dissemination of trout throughout New Zealand. Continue reading
Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River and Worcester Bridgein the middle ground. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F
I have been trawling historic newspapers in Papers Past in my efforts to research early European attitudes to New Zealand’s rivers. In the course (unintended pun) of doing so, I stumbled upon a report on the drainage of the city, submitted to the Christchurch City Council in 1864 by the City Surveyor. It is illuminating given the city’s struggle with flooding following the Canterbury earthquakes. Continue reading
In 1944, Kenneth Cumberland, a recently emigrated British geographer published Soil Erosion in New Zealand, a geographical survey of what was fast becoming known as the “erosion epidemic”. Refreshingly, Cumberland does not shrink from expressing strong opinions. In the introduction to his book, he writes:
[New Zealand’s] cultural youth has been characterised to a large extent by the pioneer destruction of the resources of a little known environment…
The people of New Zealand have been reared in the midst of unnecessary losses of soil and become so accustomed to their presence as to take little heed of them. They often come to consider soil erosion as a “normal”, unavoidable occurrence…
Living in Christchurch, I was always vaguely aware of a park in the north-east of the city called “The Groynes”. It seemed an odd, and rather un-illustrious name for a park (given its homonymity with that particular part of the body), but I never took the time to find out what its origin was.
Had I had the curiosity to investigate, I would have found out that “The Groynes” derives its name from large blocks, made from concrete filled woolsacks, which were placed in the Continue reading
I have been reading Kenneth B. Cumberland’s 1981 book Landmarks recently. The book, which was published in parallel with a television series of the same name,* is a colourful presentation (both in the literal and metaphorical sense) of Cumberland’s views on New Zealand’s environmental history, supplemented by many photographs and illustrations. Some of the archaeological and palaoecological information is now somewhat outdated (for instance, the dates that humans first settled New Zealand and other radio-carbon dates), but it is nevertheless a highly worthwhile read – Continue reading
Next week’s New Zealand Historical Association Conference features a special four-person panel dedicated to environmental history. The panel is entitled: “History shaping the future: how environmental history research can inform environmental policy and management”, and will feature papers by Professors Katie Pickles and Eric Pawson (both from Canterbury University), Professor Tom Brooking (Otago University) and Dr Catherine Knight (envirohistory NZ). Continue reading