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"Ravaged Beauty" wins prestigious Sherrard Award

Last week I learned that my first book, Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu, has won the major award (sole winner) of the J.M. Sherrard Award in New Zealand Regional and Local History. This is a biennial award inaugurated by W. J. Gardener in 1972 to commemorate the life and work of the late John Sherrard. The award is the only national award for local and regional history in New Zealand. The 2016 judging was made by a panel comprised of some of New Zealand's leading academic historians: Adjunct Professor Geoffrey Rice (University of Canterbury), Associate Professor Caroline Daley (University of Auckland) and Associate Professor Jim McAloon (Victoria University of Welli

Geomentality: seeing the world in different ways

Recently I attended a hui to discuss landscape assessment in New Zealand. The discussion turned to the view of "landscape" from a te ao Maori perspective (Maori world view). I got the sense that from the Maori practitioners that they were accustomed to having to justify the idea that Maori have a different way of viewing the world, perhaps in the face of cynicism from other New Zealanders that other ways of viewing the world have any validity in the 'modern world'. But for me, this is an absolute given - it is as self-evident as the fact that people speak different languages (and none is more "valid" than any other). In great part, this consciousness came from living in Japan for six years -

The narrowing 'margin for environmental miscalculation'

I feel compelled to share more gleanings from Lynton Caldwell - I am simply astounded by how strongly his ruminations still resonate today, more than 50 years after he wrote this paper. Professor Caldwell concludes his article by stating: "It can be demonstrated that many of the worst environmental errors are direct or indirect results of segmental [sic] public decision making, of failing to perceive specific environmental situations in comprehensive environmental terms... ... Environmental thinking has resulted both from an examination of past environmental errors and from a growing awareness of the probable consequences of present environmental decisions. It is doubtful whether circumstanc

'Public interest' = political power?

I have been reading an article by American professor of government, Lynton Caldwell. The article, published in 1963, is thought to be the the first place that "environmental policy" was discussed as a "thing". Well into the 1970s, what we would today call environmental policy was fragmented across a range of other spheres: urban planning, infrastructure development, wastewater management, national parks management, and so on. No one in government thought about the environment as a whole - in fact "environment" in the sense of the natural and built environment only took on this meaning in the 1970s. So a lot has changed since then. And, arguably, a lot hasn't. I was struck by this passage in

Is the world as it appears... or not really?

Keeping with the 'word of the day' theme, this one is a blinder. verisimilitude I encountered this one in Rebecca Solnit's A field guide to getting lost (2006), a small, but profound book. In the first chapter of the book, 'The blue of distance', Solnit explains how in the 15th century European painters become more concerned with rendering the world as it appeared to the human eye (who would have thought?!) For instance, it was around this time that artists began painting the blue of the distance (ie, the sky) in their works. Astoundingly, before this, the sky didn't tend to feature in paintings: 'Sometimes a solid wall of gold backed up the saints and patrons; sometimes the space curved aro

Salmon farm 'frippery'

Further to my 'very loose' word of the day series (see also The joy of words - an anodyne kitten and Fancy an inkle anyone?), I was struck by the use of 'frippery' in a recent interview about the aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds. The word was used by Te Tau Ihu customary fisheries forum chairman Richard Bradley in an interview with Kathryn Ryan, to describe the government's reference to new space earmarked for the relocation of King Salmon's existing farms as 'relocation' space, to get around the fact (as Te Tau Ihu sees it) that it had previously told the iwi that there was no new aquaculture space to give them as part of their Treaty settlement. Bradley referred to this as 'having an

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