A KC team recently travelled in the south of the North Island, blissfully ignorant like the NZ government, of the quick pandemic uptake to come. We took a circular route from Wellington along Hawke’s Bay, up the isolated coast past East Cape, around to the expansive Bay of Plenty, and then south from Whakatane through the centre to Tongariro National Park with its majestic volcanic mountains, and the Kapiti coast back to WLG.
I’m a long-time fan of Enzed (except rugby, of course) and have travelled over the years to different parts of both islands. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the landscapes, but this time I saw it differently, becoming slightly uneasy as we drove, and finally depressed.
The land is geologically young and volcanic in origin, so steep mountains, hills and narrow valleys run down to a spectacular coastline of hidden bays and beaches. But apart from remnant pockets of coastal rainforest, the hinterland is given over to forestry on a very industrial scale and livestock farming (sheep and cows). Yeah, there are generous national parks down the rugged mountainous centre.
Elsewhere natural forests have long disappeared and been replaced by geometric pine plantations and pasturage. Denuded hills with tops of punk-like plantation forest copses and cleared pastures, start to look weird after days of driving. Earth is naked – groomed and tamed into submission.
European settlement and land use has been as rapacious and destructive as in Australia. The ‘clean, green’ image of Enzed is a furphy really, notwithstanding their laudable preference for renewable energy. Climate change has also brought previously unknown drought conditions to country we passed through.
My observations are not Kiwi-bashing, but serve as an example and segue way to a broader restatement of why the whole planet is in pandemic mode at present.
Rather than another rant from me about ecology, Gaia and man’s destructive impulses, here’s a short, eloquent summary from academic ‘planetary health’ experts, which starts with: “The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world is a crisis of our own making”.