Current Issues, Joanna Gould

The Greening of New Zealand
Scott McVarish,
Random Century, 1992, $24.95

Science and the New Zealand Environment
M J Taylor, J E Hay, S J de Mora (eds),
Dunmore Press, 1992, $32.95

In The Greening of New Zealand, Scott McVarish has interviewed twenty key people who have brought the green movement in Aotearoa to its present popularity. These are people who are involved in a wide range of activities and who have a wide range of beliefs and philosophies. Yet despite their differences, Scott McVarish has pulled their voices together to show a common vision of a better world.

The book is split into three sections. Firstly, all twenty individual ‘greens’ talk about their feelings on modern society, their personal philosophy and motivation, and how green they think New Zealand is. The next section focuses on people who are actively involved with a particular group or project. The diversity of activities which constitute ‘green’ is most apparent in this section: from conservation, green politics and resource management, to alternative business and trading practices, bio-harmonic architecture and alternative health care. Lastly the book looks at the future. Each person talks about the challenges and impediments of the green movement, its future directions, and their personal hopes for the future.

On first impression the structure of The Greening of New Zealand appears disjointed because chapters consist of part‑interviews from several people. But in fact the style proves an effective way of giving cohesion to a potentially disparate mass of views and opinions.

This book would interest a wide readership. For people involved and interested in environmental issues it gives an insight into the beliefs. motivation and personalities of people who are familiar names to many. For others concerned with social change and employment issues, Greening New Zealand offers a wider perspective on the ‘green’ movement and its interdependence.

We all know there is a hole in the ozone above Antarctica and that it threatens New Zealanders with an increased risk of skin cancer, but what exactly is ozone and how does the hole form? In his chapter on climate change in Science and the New Zealand Environment, Tom Clarkson explains the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon and equips the reader with a much better understanding of the urgency of the problem, and, for example, why CFCs should be banned.

And were you aware that the city of Auckland is built on top of 50 volcanoes, any one of which could still erupt? Geophysics lecturer John Cassidy says that although the most recent eruption in Auckland (Rangitoto Island) was a few hundred years ago, Auckland’s volcanic field is still regarded as active and there is every reason to expect another moderate or large eruption in the future. As soon as initial warnings of an eruption in Auckland are sounded they should be heeded, he warns, because magma can rise to the earth’s surface from a depth of 100 kilometres in only a few days.

Seven scientists have contributed to Science and the New Zealand Environment, and each chapter looks at the role of scientific study in relation to a topical environmental issue. As well as climate change and the hazards of earthquakes and volcanoes, chapters focus on saving endangered species, the hazard of lead in our environment, developing indigenous energy resources, and the Antarctic environment.

Science and the New Zealand Environment would be useful as a teaching resource, thanks to the list of review questions at the end of each chapter. Despite having a text-book look and containing lot of information, it is well laid out with photographs, graphs and clear, informative diagrams. The subheadings within each chapter make the book easy to browse through and digest.

We are reminded that the Antarctic environment, dear to many New Zealander’s hearts, is extremely fragile and that the popular environmental slogan, ‘Take only photographs – leave only footprints’, is potentially disastrous there. Study into environmental management in Antarctica, Steve de Mora points out, is essential, particularly when as many as 7,000 tourists can visit during the summer, outnumbering professionals by two to one.

The editors of Science and the New Zealand Environment acknowledge that the misapplication of science is a factor in many of the world’s ills. However, their focus in this book is that science is important in solving the many environmental problems facing humanity, in that it contributes to the solutions, even though it may not provide all the answers.


Joanna Gould works for the Maruia Society in Nelson and is editor of its magazine, MARUIA.



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