Paradise almost lost

Reading about the deforestation of The land in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa inspired me to find out more:

“Around 1000 AD, before humans arrived in New Zealand, forest covered more than 80% of the land. The only areas without tall forests were the upper slopes of high mountains and the driest regions of Central Otago. When Māori arrived, about 1250–1300 AD, they burnt large tracts of forest, mainly on the coasts and eastern sides of the two main islands. By the time European settlement began, around 1840, some 6.7 million hectares of forest had been destroyed and was replaced by short grassland, shrubland and fern land. Between 1840 and 2000, another 8 million hectares were cleared, mostly lowland or easily accessible conifer–broadleaf forest.” (1)

“One of the largest and longest-living trees in the world, New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) belongs to the ancient conifer family, Araucariaceae. Kauri’s final size depends on site and conditions, but heights average 30–40 metres and trunks can reach several metres in diameter. By 600–700 years of age, kauri reaches an average diameter of over 1 metre. Kauri can survive for 1,000 years or more (with an average diameter of 2 metres), but trees older than 1,700 years (average diameters over 3 metres) are now rare.

In just over 100 years, logging and burning transformed the northern landscape from forest to farmland. By the early 1900s, most kauri forest had been logged. Although there was growing concern for the survival of remaining native forest, the high value of kauri timber meant that the forest was still exploited. A final push to extract the last of the kauri swept through the north in the 1920s and 1930s, reducing the forest to the few patches that survive today.” (2)

The image of Queen Elizabeth II on the face of these coins link the currency of New Zealand to the UK, my place of birth. For me these metal shapes represent the destructive power of humanity over nature and their fellow human beings in seeking material wealth. They exist because man mined metal from the Earth. Gold and silver are symbolic of the Sun and the Moon all three are essential for life as we know it; what a paradox.

(1) John Dawson. ‘Conifer–broadleaf forests – Loss of conifer–broadleaf forests’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Jul-13
(2) Joanna Orwin. ‘Kauri forest’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 11-Jun-13

Resolute Spirit of the Tree


Green moss adorned onlooker of the World,
Home to insects, animals, birds and snakes,
Lashed by rain, lightening scarred, while the sun bakes;
Stalwart sentinel, twisting branches, knurled,
Reaching to clouds on high with leaves unfurled,
Seasons run their course; sudden peace breaks
As man cuts down life for the wood he takes
Screeching saw, “Timber!” strip, chop, trim and hurled.

Fearsome visage masks gentle inner force,
Resolute guardian, woodland watcher stands,
Spirit strong among the trees’ earth bound roots;
The forest needs to stand free from man’s hands,
The cycle of life, a natural resource,
Relieve harm to Gaia as man pollutes.

(c) Robert Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved

I was inspired to write this poem when I saw what appeared to be a face, spine and pelvis in the mirrored image of moss growing on a tree trunk in Sydney Park.