Earlier this week, Jesse Mulligan put a call out to listeners to share stories or descriptions of their favourite tree on his Afternoons show on RNZ. Most anecdotes or descriptions that flowed in were about actual trees, but one listener identified as his or her favourite tree the one in the Japanese anime “Tonari no Totoro” (My neighbour Totoro). Jesse Mulligan was a little bemused by this, but as a Japanophile – and more specifically – a Biophilia-Japanophile (just made that one up) – I could completely understand this person’s sentiment. Continue reading
A new edition of the New Zealand environmental history classic, Environmental Histories of New Zealand, is out this month. Entitled Making a New Land, it has six new chapters with the existing ones revised. (You can read more about the book here.) I have put my order in for my copy already (and for my local library too).
This book (well, not this exact one – I haven’t got it yet!) is close to my heart. I discovered it when I was writing my Masters thesis about the Japanese treatment of nature through history (see publications page – it’s near the bottom). Continue reading
When I lived in Japan, I took great pleasure from visiting Shinto shrines. Though I am not a religious person, there was something very spiritual and calming about these places. They were a place of solace and quietude. Shrines were sometimes only very small and simple affairs – often hidden in an unexpected corner of a bustling urban landscape. Continue reading
Today I watched a recently released documentary film Shugendo Now, which aims to provide the viewer with “an experiential journey into the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism.” While identified as a documentary, the film is more like watching a moving work of art – with minimal narrative, the documentary-makers take the role of observing rather than judging or interpreting, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions or to simply “experience” the film.
While environmental history tends to be a predominantly intellectual exploration of the human relationship with the environment, this film reminded me of the myriad other ways human beings can experience the environment. Continue reading
Episode 5 of the envirohistory NZ podcast series is now out. This episode explores the critical link between environmental history and the decisions we make about how we shape and live within the environment. To illustrate the importance of environmental history in helping to inform environmental policy and planning decisions, this episode reflects on two recent natural disasters – the February 22nd Canterbury earthquake and the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan. Continue reading
Once again, I find myself writing about a place that I hold great affection for, after it has been devastated by a natural disaster [see also: Christchurch – a city haunted by its environmental past]. This time the north-east of Japan, where a tsunami (tidal wave) of up to 10 metres high struck the eastern coast, following the magnitude 8.9 earthquake of 11 March. Continue reading
An article in the New Zealand Listener by Rebecca Macfie is entitled “Nature ground zero” and describes an initiative in Canterbury to give “a new lease of life” to “the devastated native flora of the Canterbury Plains” [click here to read article]. The initiative is to identify and encourage the reintroduction of indigenous plant species which provide “ecosystem services” such as the provision of pollen and nectar to attract beneficial insects, improved soil health, weed suppression, the control of pest insects, and greater biodiversity. The project is focused on the Waipara Valley of Northern Canterbury, which is renowned for its vineyards, but has potential to be applied across Canterbury. Continue reading
Hot off the press today is Catherine’s article on satoyama, the semi-managed nature in rural Japan, which has been published in the latest issue of Asian Studies Review. The article is highly topical, because satoyama was a prominent theme in this year’s Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was just held in Nagoya, Japan last month. Continue reading
The United Nation’s 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity is due to be held in Japan in October, and the pictorial Kyoto Journal has issued a special biodiversity issue.*
In this special issue, Dr Catherine Knight, the convener of this website, explores the validity of the model of sustainable management, or satoyama, touted by Japanese officials and conference organisers in the lead-up to the conference.
As Bee Dawson relates in “A history of gardening in New Zealand”, when Europeans began to settle in earnest in New Zealand in the early to mid-19th century, they not only brought with them “productive” plants, but many other plants, which soon became invasive “weeds”. Continue reading