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





Stolen Landscape!

Terry O'Regan
Founder and Coordinator, Landscape Alliance Ireland

One night, five years ago, my old Opel Ascona was stolen from the street right in front of my house. The following morning, when I stepped out to go to work, I was left bewildered by the empty space where my car had been, not understanding what could have happened to it since the previous afternoon. The image of the car in my mind could almost fill the space, but the car was no longer there. It had disappeared! That is what is happening with our landscape; they can steal it one day to the next. At times this implies big heists, moving mountains, tearing down buildings or cutting down forests. But they are generally insidious and accumulative and consist of small actions. If they had stolen my car piece by piece, I would have noticed after a couple of days - assuming they left the tyres and motor. The police recovered my car that day, but who will recover our stolen landscapes? We don't give landscape any importance - whether good or bad! And this is dangerous. Aware that we are an organic part of our landscape, the past, present and future of our lives are linked to it. We are often the beating heart and soul that dreams of our landscape. Tomorrow morning, in your neighbourhood, town, city or street, a man may go out with a chainsaw to cut down a tree. Similarly, a woman can go out with a shovel to plant some saplings. Both will change the landscape. The man's actions will provoke an immediate and perhaps traumatic change while the woman's actions may take years or even entire generations for its impact to be felt. In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote that we continuously cross through little moments in other people's lives. Whether we like it or not, we share those lives and landscapes - between us, with the spirits of past and future generations and with the rest of nature, from eels to elephants. We should take care of one another while, at the same time, take care of ourselves and of our shared landscape. The European Landscape Convention was conceived within the uterus of this holistic vision, where the sperm of a great concept united to the ovule of planet Earth. It calls out for us to manage, protect and plan our landscape. It seeks a landscape which everyone can enjoy, a landscape rich in terms of the glories of nature and the creations of human effort. It is an imposing challenge, but, in life, nothing worthwhile is easy to achieve. We have experts who advise and help us, but we also have to help ourselves. We know our landscape from top to bottom, and our landscape knows us better than we think. I have worked with experts and with communities. At times we speak different languages and we all dream of different landscapes. Perhaps our leaders don't understand the language of landscapes or don't understand our dreams. We have to communicate our visions, dreams and memories of landscape to these experts and leaders. To do so, we need tools other than chainsaws and shovels. The Catalan Landscape Observatory (Observatori del Paisatge de Catalunya) is preparing a set of specific tools for this. I have created a tool for Irish and European landscapes which might also adapt to this set of tools. It is The Landscape Circle Study Guide, a short manual that helps us rediscover the landscape itself. It is designed so that, whoever wishes to do so, can become a leader in their landscape. At a minimum, it will allow these individuals to feel how the heart beats in the centre of their landscape and even see its soul. Terry O'Regan Founder and Coordinator, Landscape Alliance Ireland

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