It’s hard for us to really appreciate the value of something until it rare or gone. Like me, I’m sure you can look back at a time or place in your life and think, “Dang, I shouldn’t have taken that for granted;” but such is the nature of hindsight. Even currency, with its “set” value can seem to disappear in an instant if you’re not careful. Maybe I should rephrase that to ESPECIALLY currency given the way study abroad and the dubious exchange rate work.
After experiencing how truly easy it was to get carried away by a new mystical land, it sort of made sense how settlers, in both California and New Zealand, could level entire forests and overharvest species to extinction. Hell, when the Native Americans discovered great plains full of charismatic megafauna, they ate them all just like settlers did with the Passenger Pigeon. In the case of New Zealand, the overharvest and subsequent extinction of the Moa is actually part of what defines the Classic Period of Maori history.
In the historical mythology of Aotearoa, Maori settled the land through seven genealogies, or the Seven Great Wakas between 1000 and 1200 A.D. From what I understand, life was good for a while, there was certainly conflict in establishing territories but land was plentiful and protein (read Moa) was abundant. Sometime around 1400, however, there was a shift and Maori ecology changed from resource extraction to resource management. Territories had been established between different Iwi and Pa, permanent, fortified settlements with crop gardens provided food and shelter for Maori. Within two hundred years of colonization, Maori were now the dominant ecosystem engineer and the Moa, the previous big-shot on the islands was no more. The Polynesian rats and dogs that Maori brought with them were now spread across much of the landscape, further changing the ecological web. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, for in this time, Maori art and culture flourished and claims to natural resources remained more or less sustainable.
The Maori, once thought of as a savage, bloodthirsty warrior culture, were actually fairly peaceful until western interference and the introduction of firearms spawned the Musket Wars. “Wars” were typically fought in single hand-to-hand combat style rather than the total warfare known to the post-WWI era and conflicts were usually single events in defense of honor or resources, not feuds of bloodlust. Maori had established a new ecological and social web across the land of the long white cloud, a web that was surrounded by and centered on water.