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Totara Reserve: from exploitation to conservation

My adventure into the world of environmental history began in earnest with my exploration of the history of a forest reserve in the Manawatu. I had visited this seemingly magic place as a child, but apart from a hazy memory, knew nothing about it (including its name or location). I 'rediscovered' the place as an adult, when I returned to the Manawatu to live with my partner. The reason that this place was so 'other worldly' to my childhood self was because it had become so rare - it was one of the last vestiges of a long-vanished forest that had covered the entire region. Almost all of the Manawatu's lowland forest was burnt and milled when the region was settled by Europeans in the late 19

Finding your shrine in the landscape

I have just been re-reading Eleanor Catton's short essay 'The Land of the Long White Cloud', in Tell you what: Great New Zealand nonfiction 2015 (Auckland University Press). I have not read The Luminaries (I suspect I would not have the requisite intellectual stamina), but this essay is very engaging, funny and insightful. She describes growing up in Christchurch with her brothers, and parents that eschewed the normal appendages of modern life such as a car or a TV. The family made regular trips (in a rental car) to Arthur's Pass to go hiking in the area, which Catton describes as her father's 'spiritual touchstone, his chapel and cathedral in the wild'. Of one such trip she recounts: "When

Can environmental history bring hope?

I first posted this in November 2015. It is so relevant to the book I have been writing about rivers, so am reposting. I was fortunate to be invited to be a keynote speaker at the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand conference last week in Perth. I spoke about how environmental history can – and should – inform our decision-making about the environment. I spoke of the numerous benefits of environmental history; how it allows us to: Put environmental change and degradation in the context of change over a longer timescale Identify patterns and cycles in environmental history – and very often we discover the issues we face today are not as novel as we thought Reflect all human-en

Language as a window to different worlds

Recently my son and I went to a talk by Tina Makereti, a local author who has earned international acclaim for her writing. I have to confess, I was not familiar with her fiction writing, but I had a read an essay of hers in 'Tell you what: Great New Zealand nonfiction 2015', published by Auckland University Press. Her essay discussed how the inclusion of te reo Maori enriches her writing because words, such as 'whare', 'aroha' and countless others, offer insights into the way that Maori see the world. While my knowledge of reo is extremely limited (I went through school at a time when the extent of te reo we were exposed to was the Maori translation of 'Run rabbit run' - not very useful in

History is made! (in our garden)

Today, while sitting in my office at home, I had the pleasure of hearing (and seeing) not one but two bellbirds. They were clearly having some kind of discussion because although their song was of the usual melodious standard we expect of bellbirds, it was also quite insistent (and loud), as though they were trying to communicate something quite important. In the past, we have enjoyed the occasional visit from a bellbird (korimako) [click here for one such story on envirohistory NZ and a picture and song of a bellbird], but two at one time is a historical first. Obviously, the bellbirds chose to visit our garden entirely of their own volition, but I take some quite satisfaction in the likeli

What is environmental history?

This post was first published on envirohistory NZ Recently I read J. Donald Hughes’ “What is Environmental History?” This is an excellent little introductory book, aimed primarily at those relatively new to environmental history – whether it be students, those specialising in other disciplines, or non-scholars who have an interest in environmental history. Having never studied environmental history in a formal setting myself, the book provided useful context. The book is very accessible and unthreatening to even the non-academically inclined in its content as well as its slimness – “models”, “paradigms” or “axioms” are rarely mentioned, and “post-modernism” is only mentioned once, as I reca

Hello! ... anyone out there?

So this is my first blog post on my freshly minted Catherine Knight NZ website. Though I am a seasoned blogger (well, at least since 2009), my blogging activities to date have been under the aegis of my envirohistory NZ blogsite. Apart from the occasional poetic(?) outburst, precipitated by the death of a much-loved pet, envirohistory NZ was dedicated entirely to discussion and reflections on environmental history. This blog is a bit different. It is about me and what I do. So it is a bit more daunting... but bear with me, I am sure I will think of interesting things to say!

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