It is just over ten years since the first issue of ENNZ: Environment and Nature appeared. In that time it has provided a forum for more than 40 research or review articles and more than 20 book reviews, together with a variety of other contributions ranging from poems to website reviews and even garden reviews. As New Zealand comes to terms with a raft of looming environmental challenges, including water allocation, the health of its rivers, metropolitan growth, and climate change, being able to provide a historical context to our understanding of these problems and to the debate about potential solutions will become ever more important.
This issue continues the strong tradition of ENNZ: Environment and Nature, and indeed New Zealand history in general, in examining colonised landscapes and economic botany, but with a modern twist. In the first article of this issue, Linda Tyler explores the thinking and technology behind the botanical illustrations in John Buchanan’s nineteenth century works on New Zealand grasses, which served as valuable proxies for the specimens themselves when it came to practical identification and the initial formulation of ideas about their taxonomy and physiology. Such research is in keeping with an emerging trend in environmental history scholarship, that is, of critical examining the forms in which information is presented to audiences as much as the information itself – the environmental historian’s metadata, so to speak. Julia Wells also breaks new ground with her examination of the writings of Dennis McCarthy, a physician with the Colonial Service in East Africa in the early twentieth century. Considering how New Zealand experiences impacted on observations and understandings in another landscape setting, albeit one that was also recently colonised, offers an interesting contrast to studies of the impacts of foreign perceptions and experience on the environmental behaviour of immigrants to New Zealand. Vaughan Wood then complements existing regional studies with his examination of the largely overlooked phormium flax industry in Canterbury. This is partly an exercise in recovery history, but it also explores the question of why the industry faded so quickly after such a promising start. Lastly, Paul Star reviews Standing My Ground by Otago botanist and conservationist Alan Mark. In a detailed appreciation of Mark’s memoir, he observes how it provides a valuable insight into some of New Zealand’s key conservation organisations from an insider’s perspective.