Our District

Library pick of the month: 2017

By Rosemary McCarthy, Librarian


Before the flood (2016) DVD presented by National Geographic Society

Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the producers of the movie and UN Messenger of Peace, narrates his travels around the globe to investigate the science and impacts of climate change. From the ice melting on Baffin Island to the tropical rain forest fires on Sumatra DiCaprio talks with indigenous peoples, farmers, biologists, climate change researchers, economists, an astronaut, the pope, politicians and technology experts to discover the risks from continued greenhouse gas emissions and examples of how to mitigate climate change impacts and how to reduce emissions.

DiCaprio concluded from his travels that climate change is indeed a direct result of human activities and urged signatories to the Paris agreement on climate change to go beyond the agreement by leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

The movie is a lucid explanation of the main issues of climate change. DiCaprio’s call to urgent action in leadership, business and individuals is heartfelt and assertive. He shows many achievable examples to make way to a less risky future if we all take heed.

 The songs of trees: stories from nature’s great connectors (2017), by David George Haskell.

Acute observation, astute hearing, storytelling and science meld into arboreal biographies.

Haskell focuses on 12 trees chosen from various ecosystems in Ontario, Japan, Jerusalem, Ecuador, Denver, Manhatten, Georgia, Tennessee, Washington and Scotland (where the hazel tree is 10,369 years old charcoal). For 2 years he visited the trees multiple times to watch, smell and listen to them and their communities. He researched their microbial allies and threats, their geological histories and their cultural landscapes.

The book reveals how, from the microscopic to the grand scale, from the city to the tropical forest, every organism has a myriad of connections with other organisms, within and without its cells. Haskell, trained as a biologist, now sees the fundamental unit of biology as the network, not the “self”. The songs of the trees profoundly enrich our understanding of biology, ourselves and how to learn from our surroundings.


Tiny houses built with recycled materials: inspiration for constructing tiny homes using salvaged and reclaimed supplies (2016) by Ryan Mitchell

 The photographs alone are an inspiration. They vividly focus on  the creative juxtaposition of a diversity of reclaimed and found materials, warm natural wood finishes and space saving designs.  Mitchell, who has built his own tiny house, outlines the pros and cons of using reclaimed materials and showcases 20 examples of tiny houses, from USA, UK, Australia and Canada. Most of them are on wheels and use some solar energy. Some of the owner/builders had little previous experience of building so they enlisted help from builders or family or community. Design inspiration came from the found and recycled materials themselves, railcars and  campervan interiors. Simplified floor plans complement the photographs. The Australian example was purpose built out of 95% recycled materials to raise awareness of using them. Several builders went on to making a business of building tiny homes. 

The book is a fine testament to the ingenuity of the builders who have created beautiful homes and work places with a light footprint.


Te mahi māra hua parakore: a Māori food sovereignty handbook (2015) by Jessica Hutchings

Hutchings blends the philosophical with the practical to bring an encouraging holistic guide to food production that integrates biodynamic gardening principles and permaculture into a kaupapa Māori framework. The stories of gardeners (including at Te Wananga o Raukawa at Ōtaki) and farmers in Aotearoa showcase the success of hua parakore in a variety of settings. The urban marae setting brings opportunities for teaching, tourism and collective responsibility. Many of the other examples have an emphasis on improving the health of children and teaching them gardening skills and tikanga. A Raglan example teaches new skills to unemployed youth. 

The guide is completed with practical advice on how to care for soil, compost, worm farms, biodynamics, permaculture design, the main vegetable groups and seasonal considerations.

Recipe cards may whet your appetite or be the reward for your efforts.

The coastal garden: design inspiration from wild New Zealand (2015) by Isobel Gabites

Gabites deftly leads the gardener through the planning decision-making process before any plants go in the ground. To begin, the gardener needs to understand the physical environment and how indigenous plant communities naturally change over time and have been impacted by human activities. There is a wealth of information for Kāpiti Coast gardeners who are right by the shore, in dune country, by the estuaries, next to wetlands or lakes or in the nikau belt. For each type of habitat there is a description of suitable plants and their water and nutrient requirements. Advice on planting for aesthetic appeal shows how colours, shapes and textures can both accentuate individual species and bring harmony with the whole landscape. Detail on soil types and how to weed, mulch and irrigate effectively arm the gardener for success.