“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fields and Rainforest

On one side, the Western one, New Zealand is rainforest. On the other, it's rolling hills. I almost believed I was in the UK, possibly southern Scotland or northern England, as we drove towards Wedderburn across impossibly extended farmland, like a stretched version of what you see in the sheep farming areas of Britain.

Then Sophie and Trudy drove me to the beach near Auckland where The Piano was shot. Totally different scene. Strange lifeforms on the beach and strange plants, ferns and palms, not unlike rural Taiwan. Black sand.

It struck me forcefully that agriculture has an aesthetic that is somewhat hostile to contemporary ecological concerns. The farmer we hung out with for instance, was one of the principal resistors of wind farms—why? Because the turbines would spoil the horizon line.


Rawad Madanat @ ucdavis said...

I'm so excited to see your photos from New Zealand-- I've heard farmers around those parts are fond of shooting the very dangerous snakes that inhabit that area. a

Anonymous said...

The rolling hills of NZ are an industrial landscape, of course: the biodiversity of native bush has been removed and replaced with an ultra-simplified ecology centring on grass and cows or sheep. The deforestation process was begun by Maori clearing land for agriculture, and continued apace by European settlers. The industrial waste runoff (mostly cow excrement and fertilisers) entering the streams unfiltered has a highly destructive effect on the health of those waterways. A major challenge in addressing ecological problems like this is the presumption that grass+animals=nature, and the consequent blindness to the industrial nature of agriculture.