‘A vision to restore the environment’: how history helps us make sense of the present

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Minister for the Environment, David Parker, speaking about his passion – the environment – at last month’s launch of “Beyond Manapouri”

Earlier this month, the Minister for the Environment David Parker made an address to the Forest & Bird annual conference entitled “A vision to restore the environment”. I was delighted to see he made reference to my book Beyond Manapouri, and how history helps us put events today into context.  Here is an excerpt of his speech, which can be read in full on the Beehive website:

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the launch of Catherine Knight’s new book Beyond Manapouri – 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand. Continue reading

The front lawn – how has this New Zealand institution fared in the Big Dry?

Our "front lawn" today
Our “front lawn” today

In New Zealand, we have recently experienced one of the most prolonged periods of drought since records began, and a number of regions in New Zealand have now been declared as officially in drought. We live in Kapiti, a coastal area where there is less rain and more sun than many parts of New Zealand. On top of that, we have very sandy, porous soils, which makes growing some things quite challenging. Continue reading

Steps to nowhere

Steps to the backyard of an eroded property on a Kapiti Coast beach, with Kapiti Island in the background.

These concrete steps on a Kapiti beach once connected a seaside backyard with the beach, but now connect only with thin air. They are a poignant (and somewhat whimsical) reminder of the very real effects of coastal erosion.

This coastline, on the west of the North Island of New Zealand, is subject to ceaseless erosion; many properties are literally being “eaten away” by the effects of waves and weather. Continue reading

Peppercorne’s predictions on deforestation and climate change

“Unless immediate steps are taken towards the conservation of large tracts of existing forests, and towards the re-planting” of forests “the climate, which is naturally dry, will become, year by year, more dry, until at length pastoral and agricultural pursuits … will become profitless, if not impossible.”

This was not written in 2008. Or 1988. Or even 1948. Continue reading

Forest degradation and bears

In New Zealand, deforestation has led to chronic erosion, loss of soil fertility and serious floods. However, in other countries, deforestation – or afforestation with plantation species – can lead to a quite different set of problems. Such as bears!

A recent Japan Times article, “Bearing the Brunt”, outlines the problem of increasing human-bear conflict in Japan. The primary author of envirohistory NZ, Catherine Knight, examined the human relationship with bears in Japan through history for her doctoral thesis, and is quoted in this article. She believes that degradation of the bears’ forest habitat is the key factor in the bears’ increasing tendency to encroach into human realms for food. Extreme weather, as a possible result of climate change, is likely to have exacerbated this problem, providing a potential explanation for the recent spikes in bear incidents.