“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

More on Rural New Zealand

Carl Douglas writes:

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.

Well said. I didn't realize that about the Maori clearing the land—I have a very sketchy picture of how they moved over New Zealand and had thought they had simply ignored this part. Carl's point underscores the slightly disturbing quality of the land there—England blown up to hyperbolic size.

There was quite a hilarious piece of graffiti on some rocks in the valley near to Wedderburn: “After Death” on one, “Judgment” on the next one. I wanted to put up two signs next to them: “After dinner” and “mints.”

1 comment:

Dugal said...

Bill Pearson, in an influential critique of Pakeha (European NZ) culture, put it as follows in 1952: "We haven’t made friends with the land. We use it as a convenience, an expedient: no farmer that I know draws breath with the change of light on the foothills, sieves the earth through friendly fingers." Perhaps it is the case that while European cultures have long since reduced the natural world to well-disciplined resource, in NZ this battle is still fresh, if not being still being fought... Thanks for stirring things up while you were here - sorry not to have been able to attend the talks!