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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

What does landscape mean to you? #FLsustain

A view of the Southern Alps of New Zealand from the top of Mount Sabestapol
Over the last few weeks I have been taking part in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the topic of; "Sustainability, Society and You" through Futurelearn and The University of Nottingham.  

One of the topics covered was what the landscape means to individuals and I thought I'd share some of my feelings and the reasons that I have a particularly strong desire to engage with the landscape and my natural environment. 

As I grew up I spent a lot of time outside, my parents were not the kind of people to encourage (or tolerate) lots of time spent playing on the computer and as such I never owned a games console or a game boy and spent my time outside instead. I will be forever grateful for that kind of upbringing and now really enjoy any chance I get to work out of doors with my family. My Dad is an avid bird watcher and so I learned from a young age not only how to identify the birds I saw but also to appreciate the wildlife around me. Later he taught me how to shoot, we learned to fly fish together and we have put our knowledge of  wildlife to great use over the years to put many a tasty meal on the table. 
Some people might call me a hypocrite when in one sentence I proclaim my admiration and appreciation of wildlife and the natural world and in the next talk about shooting and eating said wildlife. Well you are entitled to your opinion but I have always felt that being able to sustainably harvest my own food from the environment helps me appreciate it more. 

But landscapes and wildlife come in all shapes and sizes and I'm not more attached to one than another;

The view from Rödbergetsfort, Boden, Norrbotten, Sweden 
Lathkill Dale in the White Peak area of Derbyshire
Svartån, Västerås Sweden.
Storforsen, Sweden
Striding Edge and Helvellyn, Lake District.
Now I've had many opportunities to visit these places and each of them is uniquely attractive in it's own way. I find it quite easy to go down the route of analysing different habitats and landscapes and thinking about their 'value' in terms of the wildlife they support, the edible plant species that might be found there and a whole host of other things but sometimes it's nice to just to look at the beauty of an area and be grateful that it's there just to look at. 

That brings me on to sustainability: A lot of people, in the name of sustainability talk about reducing or removing human influence on the landscape/environment/nature but if that approach was adopted  many of the landscapes pictured above would simply not be there. They are not sustainable, but not because our pollution, waste or urban expansion is going to destroy them, although that is a risk for some places, but because constant human management and intervention has kept these places in the condition that they are in. The idea that nature makes these beautiful places on it's own is completely wrong, yes left to it's own devices nature does create beautiful landscapes but they do not stay the same for very long. 

Imagine for a moment that suddenly every person vanishes from the British Isles, along with every all our cars, domestic livestock and rubbish. Additionally imagine that all the species that have become extinct as a result of our impacts suddenly come back, wild boar, reindeer, elk; those beautiful views of the peak district and lake district and any other area of heath or moor would soon disappear, they are not a 'climax' community, that means that without our constant management they would naturally become something else, probably woodland.  Nature is not static, it constantly changes and moves according to it's own pattern. 

One of the things which connects me to the landscape so deeply is not the chance to look at theses views or visit them or take pictures of them but the part I have been lucky enough to play in shaping, maintaining and hopefully improving the landscapes that I have been lucky enough to work in. 

So think about that: Think of what you can do for the environment rather than just what you can stop doing for the environment. 

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