Watching a recent French documentary on the work in understanding how those that built the great French cathedrals did so in order to preserve these monuments of ancient architecture for the future highlighted the loss of so much knowledge and the fact it would be impossible to build such architecture nowadays. The knowledge of our ancestors with regards land management is also largely lost, knowledge which would have provided methods needed in order to progress sustainably, but there are enough examples to ensure it is still possible to achieve on a much greater scale if need be.
With my work I see daily that our ancestors knew how to manipulate tree roots in order to increase the longevity of structures built to facilitate sustainable long term. The construction of dry stone features in our landscapes show common European wide traits in using composted material, careful placement of stones to anchor trees and to direct the spread of roots to ensure they help maintain and increase the integrity of the structure. Such discovery falls into the realm of ‘cultural heritage.’
Being British it is now time to accept the hard truth that any chance for sustainable land management and climate resilience is now dead in policy making and heavily threatened in the small pockets holding out against the influence of the multinational malfeasant industries such as the pesticide companies. The UK government has without that much dissent, (yet again where is the NGO voice? probably sitting patiently for their funding from Biodiversity Offsetting to arrive in the post), given up any attempt at proper science being included into land management policy as the lobbyists from both sides of a falsely polarised situation shout at each other, (a position that the likes of Bayer and others have played upon to ensure victory by injecting cash into the pockets of assumed neutral voices such as ‘The Amenity Forum’). I struggle with the resulting doomsday predictions coming in from ‘green’ commentators, which are predictable given what has happened in the UK – but wrong when you take into account the optimism that can be found elsewhere in Europe, a Europe our forebears did not regard as so separate as the now entrenched, and frankly ludicrous, mindset of many British, particularly the media and politicians today. John Donnes’ ‘No man is an island’ is probably more relevant today than when it was written’.
I am optimistic with the burgeoning recognition of ‘Cultural Heritage’. Heritage is a twisted word in England, with the likes of the ‘Quango?’ English Heritage continuing to damage it for all. English Heritage have made the very worst of our heritage standard, making our historic monuments strimmed, floodlit and expensive lumps of the past with little relevance to the landscape they now sit in. It is no surprise, but still appalling, that English Heritage are members of the aforementioned Bayer sponsored ‘Amenity Forum’, one has to ask why? It is not too cynical to assume that there exists a compatible mentality with regards controlling and manipulating landscapes for profit.
Cultural heritage is thankfully at odds with such a mentality, but very much in tune with proper scientific discovery and ‘on the ground’ work of many practitioners. It is very apparent that our ancestors guessed at things only recently discovered as fact. The ‘mother tree’ and fungi communication being an example. Given the ignoring of our forebears intelligence by policy makers of the past – particularly the church, it is not much of an assumption to make that they knew a heck of lot more, which can be found within their land management techniques some of which are still in use by the practitioners of today.
Cultural heritage is progression as it includes all of us and what our ancestors were also. It has been thus, so far, a disgracefully and deliberately disregarded element of land management – tossed aside in favour of the innovative and of ‘exciting’ archaeology. The latter is understandable, the former unforgivable.
Our landscapes are all so complex, so diverse, that we cannot allow the disgraceful and damaging polarisation to continue and cultural heritage which includes by default the knowledge of past and present land practitioners helps to halt this stalemate in favour of the richest lobbyist as well as embracing the fact so mislaid and abused that we are all Europeans, geographically and culturally – a fact our ancestors used to their advantage in laying out food, culture and heritage that we take for granted and yet are so close to losing.