The methods wherein New Zealand remembers European colonisation have modified markedly lately. Critics have been chipping away at the public picture of Captain James Cook, the New Zealand Wars have been included in the new obligatory historical past curriculum, and streets honouring colonial figures have been renamed.
However, whereas New Zealand is slowly recognising the historic injustices suffered by Māori, the identical reappraisal hasn’t prolonged to the pure surroundings. The dramatic transformation of “wild untamed nature” into “productive land” by European settlers in the 1800s continues to be broadly celebrated as a testomony to Kiwi ingenuity and laborious work.
My soon-to-be revealed analysis, primarily based on a survey of 1,100 individuals, suggests this narrative could possibly be partly chargeable for New Zealanders’ obvious complacency on local weather change in contrast to different international locations.
Essentially, it seems those that refuse the “taming of nature” narrative—and as a substitute recognise the Nineteenth century as a interval of environmental destruction—are extra seemingly to have what psychologists name an “environmental self-identity”.
The findings additional counsel that altering particular person behaviour as a technique to sort out environmental threats (as advisable in the Climate Commission’s 2021 report) may imply addressing how we talk the historical past of environmental change in faculties, museums and at public heritage websites.
In explicit, this may imply framing what occurred in the 1800s as extra about loss than achievement.
A narrative of progress or decline?
Prior to human settlement, Aotearoa New Zealand had been remoted from different landmasses for round 60 million years. The end result was the evolution of a novel ecosystem that was extremely weak to disturbances.
Māori arrived round 1300 and introduced with them invasive mammals: the Polynesian canine (kurī) and the Pacific rat (kiore). Through widespread burning, Māori—both deliberately or unintentionally—destroyed massive areas of forest in drier jap components of Te Wai Pounamu (South Island) and Te Ika a Māui (North Island).
Moreover, archaeological analysis suggests a quantity of chicken species have been hunted to extinction, together with moa and adzebill.
European settlers started arriving in massive numbers after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. On the again of (usually doubtful) buy offers, the introduction of personal property legal guidelines and forceful confiscation, huge areas of Māori land ended up in European arms.
What adopted was a traditional instance of what’s been known as “ecological imperialism”. Much of the remaining forest was remodeled into grassland for sheep and cattle. Acclimatisation societies launched different acquainted animals and vegetation from Europe.
Purposefully and unintentionally launched species—comparable to stoats and ship rats—wreaked havoc on the native wildlife. Within a couple of a long time of European colonisation, a number of birds went extinct, together with the huia, the piopio and the laughing owl. European capitalism additionally had a devastating affect on seal and whale populations.
A “usable past”
Despite the lengthy historical past of environmental change, it’s the transformation of the panorama in the 1800s that occupies the most distinguished place in New Zealand’s collective reminiscence, relative to different durations. The motive is pretty easy: the period offers what reminiscence students name a “usable past”—usable as a result of it helps to assemble a particular New Zealand identification in the current.
Similar to historic occasions comparable to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Gallipoli marketing campaign, the “taming of nature” in the 1800s is remembered as an expertise that solid the nation. European settlers—specifically the bushmen who cleared the forest to make manner for farms and pastures—are portrayed as the prototypical New Zealander.
Their laborious work and “quantity eight wire” ingenuity nonetheless outline in style variations of the nationwide character at the moment. And media proceed to painting the countryside as the “actual” New Zealand, together with in ads and tv reveals.
It must be burdened that is largely a story of the European settler majority. For Māori communities, the transformation of the panorama underneath European colonialism is extra a narrative of decline than progress. Māori reminiscences of environmental change in the 1800s are intertwined with reminiscences of colonial violence and dispossession.
Memory shapes environmental attitudes
My survey sought to discover whether or not completely different interpretations of New Zealand’s environmental historical past form individuals’s attitudes in the direction of nature, and whether or not these interpretations make it extra or much less seemingly that folks see themselves as somebody who acts in an “environmentally pleasant” manner—the environmental self-identity talked about earlier.
A key discovering is that these respondents who pinpointed the 1800s—relatively than Māori settlement or the second half of the twentieth century—as the most damaging interval of environmental change have been almost definitely to describe themselves as environmentally pleasant.
For Māori respondents, that is maybe not completely stunning. An consciousness of injustices suffered in the 1800s tends to go hand in hand with a powerful non secular reference to the land and a way of accountability in the direction of nature.
More important is that European New Zealanders who recognise the environmentally damaging function of Nineteenth-century settlers have been extra seemingly to establish themselves as environmentally pleasant than those that level to different durations in historical past.
It seems these European New Zealanders who acknowledge the environmental destruction brought on by their ancestors really feel a better accountability to repair these errors in the current.
How we keep in mind the past issues
To encourage extra pro-environmental behaviours, the survey outcomes counsel New Zealand wants to transfer away from narratives that glorify environmental change of the early colonial period as an expression of nationwide character.
Such interpretations of historical past reinforce concepts that get in the manner of attaining a sustainable future. They promote a strongly utilitarian perspective on our relationship with the surroundings. Nature is lowered to a commodity to be exploited in the pursuit of human pursuits.
New Zealand has taken the first steps to work by its violent political past, however this course of additionally wants to embrace colonialism’s devastating results on the surroundings.
Rather than remembering the transformation of the panorama by European settlers as a nation-defining second, public historical past ought to encourage an examination of human complicity in the destruction of nature. Hopefully, this might help rework such understanding into present-day environmental motion.
Māori connections to Antarctica might go way back to seventh century
This article is republished from The Conversation underneath a Creative Commons license. Read the unique article.
Nation-building or nature-destroying? Why it’s time NZ faced up to the environmental damage of its colonial past (2022, July 6)
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