Kermadec, edited by Bronwyn Golder and Gregory O’Brien, (PEW Environment Group/Tauranga Art Gallery, 2011) , 176 pp., $79.99; River-Road: Journeys through Ecology, by David Cook, Wiremu Puke and Jony Valentine (Rim Books, 2011), 92 pp., $40; Old New World: Photographs by Mary Macpherson, (Lopdell House), 96 pp. $50; Ice Blink: An Antarctic Imaginary, by Anne Noble, with an essay by Ian Wedde, (Clouds, 2011), 104 pp., $69.95.
We live at the fag-end of the heroic, in fact we inhabit the ashtray of the heroic, where the notion of a sublime ‘Nature’ has been replaced by that of an anthropomorphised ‘environment’, a measureable resource increasingly degraded by human interaction: the Anthropocene Era. All four of the books under review dwell on ecology and survival, all are steeped in climate change wisdom, and all are aware of the pressures of the geopolitical and the industrial. Essentially picture travel books, they span a kind of archipelago of South pacific psychogeographies, leaping from ‘the island’ to ‘the river’ to ‘the road’, and finally to ‘the South Pole’. They traverse the contemporary eco-moment, where manufactured terms, such as ‘dream location’, ‘greenwash’ and ‘carbon sink’ set the terms of reference, and where only aesthetic detachment can triumph.