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Natures of change : subtitle a transnational environmental history of Vancouver Island and the South Island of New Zealand Smith, Rebecca Ann

Abstract

The relationships between human beings and their natural environments are not static. They evolve over time as a result of changes within human society and within the environment itself. This thesis examines the development of human-environment relations on two Pacific islands, Vancouver Island, Canada and the South Island of New Zealand, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a comparative environmental history, this study focuses on how ideas about nature differ in distinct geographic locations. It also seeks to understand which factors determine the shape of these ideas, and the actions that result from them. Vancouver Island and the South Island were both colonized by British settlers during the mid nineteenth century. The relatively unaltered natural environments of these islands offered people an opportunity to create, or maintain, ideal surroundings for living and recreating. They also provided an opportunity to exploit previously untapped resources. Initially efforts to achieve these goals and discussions of their effects were dominated by a small group of people. However as the environmental impacts of human activities became manifest, and knowledge about these activities became easier to access, new participants entered these discussions. This democratization of involvement in environmental issues occurred earlier on the South Island, where the effects of human activities on long-isolated ecosystems were dramatic. On Vancouver Island where changes in the landscape were not so obvious, this trend was slower to develop. Yet in each location dominant perceptions of nature became less homogeneous as the range of environmental stakeholders widened. Simultaneously the issues surrounding environmental management also became more contentious and complex. This study is divided into three comparative chapters, each of which examines a particular environmental issue in a particular time period. The first considers the practice of introducing exotic species to these islands during the early settlement period. The second is concerned with conflicts over hydro-electric power schemes at Buttle Lake on Vancouver Island and Lake Manapouri on the South Island, during the mid twentieth century. The third chapter examines the implementation of sustainable forest management policies on each island during the 1980s and 90s.

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