Paisatg-e / Paisaj-e / Landscap-e / Paysag-e

JULY-AUGUST 09

QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER OF THE LANDSCAPE OBSERVATORY - 18

THE OBSERVER

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Reflections on Landscape and Nature Conservation

Miquel Rafa
Territory and Landscape Division, Caixa Catalunya's Social Work

The volume I now have in my hands is the latest addition to the "Plecs de Paisatge" ("Landscape Specifications") collection, Indicadors de paisatge. Reptes i perspectives (Landscape Indicators: Challenges and Perspectives), published by the Landscape Observatory with the backing of the Territory and Landscape Division of the Caixa Catalunya's Social Work. Perusing the texts of the papers given at the international seminar held in Barcelona in 2007 - something I recommend to all Landscap-e readers -, a number of thoughts come to mind on landscape's role in nature conservation and territorial policies at this time. The main thrust of these musings is the need to understand and make better use of the virtues from the angle of the world of landscape, understood as a discipline and as an active territorial planning and management policy. If we take into account the different active examples of territorial conflicts (say, irrigation lands vs. the network Xarxa Natura2000, very high-voltage electric lines, aeolic energy plants and, generally speaking, the country's major infrastructures), we'll see that, among those who defend what we could generically call ecological positions, a clearly conservationist view of the current territory prevails. It's an approach to the territory, which is just as well argued and documented as it is unchanging. Spaces understood as a group of valuable ecosystems, endangered species habitats, ecological corridors, etc., and also the presence of landscapes with an undeniable aesthetic quality, even though these may not always be perceptible to all citizens to the same degree, as is the case of dry lands. In any event, these are values that must be saved from the dangers posed by the infrastructure projects encroaching on the territory, sometimes in linear fashion (highways, electricity networks and the like) and other times extensively (irrigated lands and industrial estates). These are defensive and reactionary positionings, which prompt confrontation with other sectors, which, in principle, need not always be adversaries. New situations, yet confrontations and dialectics similar to those of 20 or 30 years ago. Ecology, flora and fauna (now biodiversity) vs. development. What is the chief value of landscape in view of these conflicts? Of the many that might occur to us, I'd point out those that for me are basic: landscape's virtue as a discipline and a more holistic focus and the large-scale vision. On a primary level, this can certainly be translated into the discipline of landscape ecology itself, which provides a scale-up method and facilitates the visualisation and implementation of projects involving ecological connectivity, large corridors and so on which are some of the major current (and pending) issues for conservation policies. Yet there is another, which is far more vital when speaking about topics for social debate and this is landscape's facility to include a socio-ecological perspective. Aspects not only ecological, naturalistic or physical, but also those that are more people-oriented: the history of a given place, popular culture expressed in small edifications or infrastructures made of dry stone, the collective imagination of the territory and so on. Seen from this viewpoint, reassessment of the territory takes place almost spontaneously and without deliberation. Landscape makes for swifter, more productive dialogue and reconciliation between confronted sectors. Miquel Rafa Director, Territory and Landscape Division, Caixa Catalunya's Social Work

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