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Have we become a more wasteful culture?

Earlier this year it was revealed that New Zealand has become one of the worst in the world for the generation of waste. This is according to World Bank data, which ranks NZ has tenth worst of all countries surveyed for the generation of urban waster per capita (see map above). Each of us create about 734kg of waste each per year - that is 2 kilograms exactly every day. And mystifyingly, the amount of waste New Zealanders generate has increased by around 20 percent over the past three years. Until now, the panacea was seen as recycling. It was ok to consume lots of stuff and not really think deeply about our consumption because we can just ship it all to China to be turned into car seats and

The latest freshwater policy "bombshell" – like a rendition of "Hamlet"

The latest "shock" announcement by Environment Minister David Parker, that limits need to be set at a national level to curb further freshwater degradation (and this may mean less cows in some places!) has triggered all the predictable responses: “Does David Parker hate farmers?” “Most farmers are already putting a lot of effort into reducing pollution – regulation is unnecessary.” “Regulation will be unfair because it will affect some regions and farmers more than others.” “Farming is the backbone of the New Zealand economy. Without a healthy farming sector New Zealand will suffer.” "But what about urban pollution? Why is it the farmers that always get picked on?" Well-worn lines deployed w

Undoing environmental history (with a spade)

This blog was originally published in 2011 on envirohistory NZ. Though my implement of choice for environmental history is the pen (or more accurately, the keyboard), I am known to pick up a spade from time to time. Specifically, to plant native trees on land in the Pohangina Valley, about 40 kilometres north-east of the Manawatu provincial “capital” of Palmerston North. When I do so, I am deeply conscious of the fact that I am undoing the toil of hardworking men who “broke the land in” only a century ago, transforming the Manawatu – at the time described in a government advertisement as “the waste land of the Colony” – into productive farmland. Sadly, as we know, this transformation was ach

Pohangina River

A bend in Pohangina River, near Totara Reserve. Catherine Knight.

Ever seen a fairy egg?

Our hens surprise us with one of these every so often. On the left is a fairy egg (also known as a 'witch egg'), on the right is a normal-sized chicken egg. They are white inside and have no yolk. Apparently they happen when something disturbs the hen's reproductive cycle - though we prefer to think that a fairy is involved somehow.

Autumn is ... apples, red leaves, walnuts

Most of the trees we have planted at our 'permanent retreat' in Pohangina Valley (see Life changes) are New Zealand natives - and to the greatest extent possible, trees native to this area (see Undoing environmental history (with a spade)). However, I was willing to bend this rule for two kinds of trees - ones that provide autumn colour and ones that provide things to eat. For the autumn colour, I invested in six liquidambar trees to line the driveway. There are a dazzling array of liquidambars (also known as American Sweetgum) and unable to make up my mind, I chose two kinds - the 'original' Liquidambar styraciflua with leaves that turn yellow, orange, red and purple, and the Worpleston, wi

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