Clean and Green. Yeah, right!

This entry has nothing to do with physics, unless you count the vague link between the subject and satellite imagery. Do forgive me this diversion, which I find interesting and shocking.

At Te Papa Tongarewa, there is a room that is empty, save for a huge (14 metre-long) image of New Zealand on the floor. This ‘map’ is made from a montage of satellite images of the country. You crawl around on it (literally) looking for where you were born, where you live, where you’d like to live, where you went on holiday etc. It’s a superb exhibit – no annotations, no instructions – brilliantly interactive.

There are many things that struck me about the map, but the biggest was how clearly it shows the utter dominance of agriculture. Cities, even Auckland, are relegated to small, grey-ish splodges, amongst a backdrop of light green rectangles. Most of the country, especially the North Island, is a coast-to-coast array of neat little paddocks, with just a few isolated, pitiful pockets of native forest and a sprinkling of mountains to make up the remainder.

Did we really do that to our country? Is the cow so superior to the tawa that we should replace the latter with the former? The kiwi and kokako have no chance. And here’s what really gets me angry – upon this backdrop New Zealand styles itself as 100% pure. About 10% would be closer to the mark, and that’s mostly the west of the South Island.

Rant over, I’ll return to the map later, next time with some real physics attached.

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