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Exploring Manawatu's past through photographs

Looking forward to this event this Thursday November 1, as part of Local History Week 2018. I will be taking the audience on a journey of discovery of the Manawatu’s past through the photographs of C.E. Wildbore and others. The event also marks the launch of Totara Press’s beautiful new (French-flapped) edition of Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history. Wildbore: A photographic legacy will also be for sale at the event. See event details here

Seasonal change: an opportunity to contemplate the little joys

I have mused before on seasonal change, especially as an opportunity to contemplate nature, beauty and life (see for example, The influence of seasons on culture and More about seasonal change). The Japanese are very good at this. Each season is marked by a traditional festival - in spring for instance, there is hanami (cherry blossom viewing), and in autumn there is momiji. In our newly-established garden in the country this spring, we do not have anything quite as spectacular as avenues of blossoming cherry trees (nor the crowds of sake-guzzling festival-goers, thankfully). But we did have a lovely crop of violet and yellow irises, which brought a little bit of joy and satisfaction each ti

Have you appreciated a cloud or chatted with a bird lately?

These are two of the many "nature prescriptions" that doctors in Shetland, Scotland can prescribe to their patients as of October. Below are sample prescriptions for April, from the prescription calendar produced by NHS Shetland. As this article notes, the evidence for the benefits of nature on mental and physical health are numerous. For instance, researchers have found that spending one and half hours in a forested area will make the part of our brains associated with depression less active. Spending time in nature not only reduces blood pressure, anxiety, and increases happiness, but it also reduces aggression and ADHD symptoms and improves pain control and the immune system. I really lik

When you go down to the woods today ...

... you might be pleased (at least, if you are an amateur like me) to take a half-decent photograph - one that goes some way to convey the pleasure of being in such a beautiful place. This is Totara Reserve, in the Pohangina Valley. The last reasonable-sized remnant of lowland forest in the Manawatu. I wanted to take a photograph of the reserve for my upcoming talk Exploring Manawatu's environmental past through photographs, which is part of Local History Week. The talk will draw on the new edition of Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu, and the newly released Wildbore: A photographic legacy, both published by Totara Press.

The connection between nature & wellbeing

I see that a focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week was ‘Letting nature in’, encouraging New Zealanders to get out and connect with nature, in light of its proven benefits for mental and spiritual wellbeing. (A survey undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation last year found that 95 per cent of New Zealanders reported a lift in mood after spending time in nature.) This must be serendipity at work: something has been pulling me towards this theme as the potential subject of a future book for some time now … you can see the trail that has led me here in recent posts (Subterranean adventures, Trees as sacred: What we can learn from tonari no totoro and Discovering our own sacred gro

Subterranean adventures

adjective Also sub·ter·ra·ne·ous. existing, situated, or operating below the surface of the earth; underground. existing or operating out of sight or secretly; hidden or secret. So, these adventures are not really 'subterranean' in the first sense - I am using a degree of poetic license – more in the second. They are adventures in our gully. Do other countries have 'gullies'? - I am not sure. The dictionary tells me they are also known as 'small valleys' and 'ravines'. 'Valley', even of the diminutive kind, seems a bit too bucoIic to me, while 'ravine' sounds way too treacherous (though in fairness, some gullies are pretty precipitous). In New Zealand, and especially the North Island where w

Is the 'expert' undervalued in the public sector?

Following on from my previous post about the dimunition of free and frank advice in the public sector performance (Are we well-served by the public sector?) This post explores another theme that came up in the recent panel discussion hosted by the Institute of Governance and Policy Studies - the value placed on expertise in the public sector. One attendee asked the salient question: 'Does something need to be done to retain expertise in the public sector?', making reference to the ongoing debacle over Wellington buses. I would reframe that question slightly, at least as it relates to the environmental policy, to the following: 'Does something need to be done to re-establish expertise in the

"Beyond Manapouri" short-listed for award

Forget about what Pixie thinks, Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand has been short-listed for the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards, alongside such intellectual heavyweights as Dame Ann Salmond.

Are we well-served by our public sector? The 'rat in the wheel' effect

Earlier this week, I was privileged to be invited to participate on a panel discussing proposed changes to the State Sector Act, hosted by the Institute of Goverance and Policy Studies ... "Yawn!" I hear you utter ... Yes, it true - this does sound very dry, but in fact the proper functioning of the public service is critical to a properly functioning democracy. I discuss the implications of a public service that is not functioning as well as it should for environmental outcomes in my book Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand. Justifiably, much of the discussion focused on free and frank advise, including my own presentation. (Also see Simon Chapple's thought-p

A further Sheep Diaries' revelation: Sheep appreciate the arts

In my last post, I shared the astounding revelation that sheep are good at maths. But we now have irrefutable evidence that they also appreciate the arts. The evidence is manifest in this photograph: it is of my daughter dancing and singing to the sheep one balmy evening (the moves were Michael Jackson-esque (with some flossing in there too, obviously), while the song was a catchy number, perhaps Imagine Dragons...?) Anyway, the performance lasted about 20 minutes, and there was no sign whatsoever of attention flagging. The sheep were entranced, the lambs diverting their attention only to bounce in an exuberant manner (we suspect their way of showing their appreciation for the performance).

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