The Baton Valley, at the top of the South Island, was named after a young runaway sailor, Batteyn Norton, and it remains a place where life is isolated, physical, self-sufficient, and largely dictated by the weather. It hasn’t been much of a destination since an anticlimactic gold rush in the late 1800s—but the opening of a new cycle trail passing through the valley has put it on the tourism map. Now, its residents are wondering how to retain the identity of their home in the face of change.
Science & Environment
Coal warms our hospitals and schools, ripens our tomatoes, makes roses bloom, turns ironsand into steel, dries milk powder for export, and generates electricity when hydro lakes are low and gas production sputters. Coal also releases close to double its weight in carbon dioxide emissions—and, in 2021, New Zealand imported record volumes of it. If we’re to meet our net zero emissions target in time, we’re going to need a game changer.
Since humans arrived in New Zealand, we’ve lost nearly half of our native terrestrial bird species. Some of those extinct icons are well known, while others are recalled only by myth and bones. We will probably never know the full polyphony of that primordial dawn chorus, but old bones and new science are giving us a richer picture of life in the land of birds, back when they still ruled the roost. For the first time, we’re able to answer questions about what they ate, where they came from, how they were related to each other, and how they got so much bigger, heavier, and weirder than their ancestors.