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Launch of New Zealand's Rivers a success

The launch of New Zealand's Rivers at Scorpio Books in Christchurch was a great success, and an immensely enjoyable evening. Canterbury University Press Publisher Catherine Montgomery's introduction placed the book in the context of the "Post-Truth" era. Award-winning journalist and writer Rebecca Macfie spoke about how the book connected with her childhood experiences of the river she grew up with, the Pomahaka, and, as an adult, her growing sense of angst over the degradation of many of the country's rivers - her talk was deeply reflective and relevant, and strongly resonated with many who were there. Thank you to all those who attended, and to Scorpio Books, Canterbury University Press an

Perhaps the most vital lesson from environmental history?

In my last post, I wrote about how environmental history can help us to progress discussions about fresh water today - one of the questions I have been asked in relation to New Zealand's Rivers. Why? Because in our environmental history, we encounter attitudes and behaviours that were unquestioned at one time, but which today we see as both unacceptable and incomprehensible. There is no reason to believe that that will not be the case with attitudes and behaviours that prevail today. This in itself should give us pause for thought when discussing fresh water issues - and indeed all environmental issues - today.

How environmental history can help shift debate beyond the 'blame game'

The next question I have been asked is "Why is it important to understand the history of our relationship with rivers?" There are many reasons, but one of the most important is that environmental history can help depoliticize the issues around our rivers (political with a little 'p' rather than a big 'p') - thereby placing the discussion on an even keel. Far too much of the discussion around environmental issues in New Zealand has revolved around assigning blame - it will be a sign of maturity when New Zealanders can discuss a major environmental issue such as freshwater degradation without first spending a decade or more arguing over the apportionment of responsibility, rather than getting

Why write about rivers?

Since New Zealand's Rivers has been released, I have had a number of opportunities to talk to journalists and others about the book and how I came to write it. So, I thought I would document these questions and my answers in a series of posts. One of the first questions that I have been asked is 'What led you to write a book about rivers?' To answer this properly, I have to go back to the motivations behind my first book, Ravaged Beauty: An Environmental History of the Manawatu. The genesis of this book stemmed from a desire to better understand the place in which I grew up, one of the most transformed landscapes in New Zealand. As such it was very much an endeavour of the heart – though thi

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