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JULY-SEPTEMBRE13

QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER OF THE LANDSCAPE OBSERVATORY - 38

THE OBSERVER

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Identity-shaping landscapes

Santi Vila i Vicente
Ministry for Territory and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia
The geographer and anarchist, Elisée Reclus, had a significant impact on Catalan libertarian ideals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1866 he wrote that landscape is, above all else, the common ground through which human beings as both individuals and collective subjects are capable of recognizing each other. A beautiful thought, corresponding to a moment in time in which human activity's effective transformational power over the territory had still not gone beyond the tenacity of work and direct physical force. The value of landscape in our country goes back a long time, but since 1928, when the publishing house, Barcino, published the book, El Paisatge de Catalunya ("Catalan Landscapes") by Marcel Chevalier and with an introduction by Pau Vila, no one has offered a global explanation of landscapes in Catalonia. For this reason, we have to appreciate the work carried out by the Landscape Observatory, for its persistence in making up for lost time, identifying and classifying Catalan landscapes and implementing all the instruments specified in the Law on Landscape. A lot of top quality work has already been done, but there is still much left to do, especially, putting into practice all that in which we have already become a reference in Europe at the theoretical level. Those looking exclusively for plains, large rivers or tall peaks should not seek them out in Catalonia. We're a land of mountains, a part of the most plentiful river in the Iberian Peninsula runs through our land and we have important plains in Empordà and along the coast. Catalonia has one of the most diverse landscapes in Europe, with 135 different types catalogued. This makes our landscapes a first-order environmental, natural and cultural asset. The challenge of quality landscapes is rooted in knowing how to incorporate transformation without the landscapes losing their historic and geographic sense, reinforcing their identity and personality. This also implies making commitments. A territory which sees its landscapes as an asset is incompatible with techniques such as fracking. A people who value their setting is incompatible with disorderly growth. Without doubt, a country like Catalonia can only base its future on sustainability by transforming towards a green economy. Further still, with a more in-depth look at all that's intangible, contemporary Catalan nationalism has to incorporate landscape into its construction project just as occurred at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Landscape has to be seen as collective heritage, an expression of our history and a reflection of our identity. Nature, the environment and landscapes are a symbol of identity and where the dialectic Catalonia-Barcelona is not one based on opposition but on integration. Santi Vila i Vicente Ministry for Territory and Sustainability, Government of Catalonia

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