Before I launch into this, I’ll insert a word for one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen on how the world’s going, and the impact we’ve had on it.
Less than a week before his death in May 2001, Douglas Adams gave a brilliant talk at the University of California titled “Parrots, the Universe and Everything“. He conveys many of his experiences and insights on extinction, mostly derived from his time producing the BBC’s Last Chance to See radio series in 1989. Adams’ 2001 talk is helpfully preserved online by Ted (link above) and I highly recommend it. He’s an excellent and humorous speaker yet his points are serious and well made. If you’ve limited time, jump to 26 minutes for his amusing experiences with the Kakapo, which he declares as a favourite of all the animals he saw.
Now, onto this largely unrelated book…
The full title of the book is Protecting Paradise: 1080 And The Fight To Save New Zealand’s Wildlife. It’s authored by Dave Hansford, published by Potton & Burton, and was released in October 2016. The publisher’s website seems to claim 250 pages, but the main text of the printed edition actually finishes on page 265. This is followed by 2 pages of acknowledgments, 6 pages of appendix, 31 pages of references and a 14 page index. That’s around 318 pages total. The 265 pages of regular text is divided into 22 chapters, averaging around 11 to 12 pages each. The book retails for $34.95, but it’s often possible to get discounts if you shop around, or check if the local library has it.
265 pages might sound daunting at first, but it well written. Chapters are well structured without being too long. Editing is of high quality. It’s easy to read. It’s not necessary to have a scientific background.
Protecting Paradise has been touted as a book about use of the 1080 toxin in New Zealand. 1080 is primarily used by the Department of Conservation for controlling rats, possums and stoats on the conservation estate, and by OSPRI (formerly the Animal Health Board) for controlling bovine tuberculosis, which largely spreads through possums. Right from the front cover it’s clearly framed as a 1080 book, yet it’d be a disservice to the author’s efforts to suggest it’s only about 1080, because the book is not a just raw explanation of 1080 and what it does. Rather, Dave Hansford has produced a comprehensive guide to the history, present and future of pest impact and pest control in New Zealand, including its social impacts.
It’s mildly ironic that a large component of conservation in New Zealand is about killing things. Explaining 1080’s role and workings in pest control is well covered, but it’s appropriate that the Protecting Paradise narrative goes well beyond this. The author’s spent large parts of the book examining what is increasingly becoming a social and ethical issue in New Zealand. Alongside the objective analysis, he’s spoken to a wide range of people to draw a picture of how pests, pest control and 1080 affects them, and what it means to them.
Lane read my mind, fixed me with a level stare: ‘Would you drink that water, knowing it had 1080 in it?’ I said that I wouldn’t, and I meant it. I don’t share his blanket antagonism to 1080, but most of us might empathise with his experience. We all carry the caution gene. What’s more, we like to think that we carry a sense of natural justice: there’s something understandably disturbing about a Government dropping poison from the air—against the express wishes of some—around our homes and across our treasured spaces. That’s powerful, almost Orwellian, imagery, and it’s a potent anathema.