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  • I don't think there's a better example of how humanity changed the landscape of New Zealand than right here, at this dividing line between wild forest and managed farmland.

  • It's a little bit difficult to see close up, though.

  • For the best view, you need to go a few kilometres that way.

  • In the center of that circle is Mount Taranaki, a stratovolcano on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.

  • And from six kilometers up, the landscape looks bizarre: there are very few large-scale circular features like that in the world.

  • Taranaki is also one of the most symmetrical volcanoes on the planet, which adds to the effect.

  • This mountain is one of the natural features of New Zealand that's been granted the legal rights of a person, in sort of the same way that corporations are considered people in a lot of countries.

  • Although the nuances of that, and the history of war and land confiscation that got us to this point, is something that this British tourist is entirely unqualified to talk about.

  • So I'll put some links at the end of the video and in the description.

  • Before humans arrived in New Zealand, about 700 years ago, most of the country looked something like this: dense forest.

  • Not that exact species of tree everywhere, but certainly that sort of haven for wildlife and birds.

  • ori settlers cleared some of it after they landed here, but the European settlers, a few centuries later, they cleared forest on an industrial scale.

  • Trees that were valuable for construction were cut down, and anything else was burned, making way for this sort of pastureland.

  • About half of New Zealand was eventually converted to grasslands for grazing for imported species of animals, on imported species of grass.

  • The national government reserved an area around that peak, to help defend against flash floods and erosion.

  • In 1900, that area became a National Park, defined as a circle six miles in radius from the summit of the mountain, plus a few other interesting parts on the edge.

  • Farmers, of course, cleared everything up to that circle, as far as they could legally go,

  • and the result was this mathematical line made real, this wonderful view out the window as you fly from Auckland to Wellington.

  • Although at some point, that flight's going to become a bit more difficult.

  • As is living around here.

  • Because Taranaki is not an extinct volcano.

  • Under that rock, there's still magma ready to go: Taranaki is active, just quiet right now, and it's overdue.

  • On average, there's at least a minor eruption every 90 years, and it's been more than 150 since the last one.

  • One study said there's an 80% chance of some sort of eruption in the next fifty years.

  • There will be warning signs and plenty of time to evacuate folks,

  • but, if it's the big one, the government's civil defense evacuation plans describe the entire National Park as an area where people "are unlikely to survive".

  • And it could shut down air traffic over most of the North Island: engine-shredding ash will probably blow east right into that flightpath.

  • And the cone of the mountain could collapse entirely, as it's done several times in the eons when humans weren't around to see it.

  • So if you are flying between Auckland and Wellington any time soon, and the skies are clear: do enjoy the view.

  • Because at some point, it's going to change.

I don't think there's a better example of how humanity changed the landscape of New Zealand than right here, at this dividing line between wild forest and managed farmland.

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