Cultural landscape construction and governance

1.3 Spirit of age and place

Culture has become the main factor to determine the evolutionary dynamic of the ecological-territorial systems of our age, and consequently the construction and resulting cultural landscapes of the stakeholders. The spirit of age was first developed in Germany in the year 1769 by the poet and philosopher John Gottfried von Herder, giving it the name of Zeitgeist which means: spirit (Geist) and age (Zeit). The Zietgeist concept is mainly known in relation with the German historical philosophy of the philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Zeitgeist refers to the predominant cultural tendency at a certain time in the history of mankind. There is a certain vision and behavior during each particular period of sociocultural evolution which is expressed in the ecological-territorial systems and resulting cultural landscapes. This vision and style corresponds to the profile of the age and the conception of the world [55], which would be equivalent to the concept of paradigm in the world of science. Zeitgeist defines in the Hegel approach a certain state of the dialectic evolution of a person, a group of people, society or the whole world. Also important, and complementary with the spirit of age concept, is the spirit of place (Volkgeist), which mainly refers to the cultural tendencies of groups or societies in different places. This is related with the Nature’s conditions in each place.

A common characteristic of the beliefs from eras preceding the industrial revolution was that human acts were limited to our basic needs and that technology only developed according to them [56]. During the industrial age, development was understood as a rebellion in contradiction to the need governing all societies until the XVIII century, and that progress is the success of said rebellion [56]. This has happened in association with technocracy and economic rationality predominance and with the neoliberal economic model [57]. This world notion and, the related growth model have generated great impact on the ecosystems, natural resources and, have been associated with the unsustainability tendencies of the ecological-territorial systems.

During the last decades of the XX century there have been territorial tendencies damaging sustainability and life quality, motivated by the stakeholders. The predominant sociocultural, economic and territorial tendencies in our time make it necessary to integrate new regulatory and management parameters, as well as new methodological tools to explicit and integrate the ecologic and social approach, methodological frameworks and design tools in addition to ecological-territorial planning [51].

Such unsustainable territorial tendencies have been and are presently generated by issues, such as: the economic strategies and targets that seek principally short term maximization of financial profit; predominance of private short term interest above long term public interest; a sectorial organization and design incapable of integrating the various dimensions of human society development; the non-inclusion of the social and environmental services in the regional o national accounting [58].

The predominant green agricultural industrial revolution known as conventional agriculture is associated with institution, policies and technologies administered form urban centers and markets, which interact with the present-day development model. The green agriculture revolution is based on a great use of capital and exhaustive transformation technology, as well as, laborer reduction, high energy, water and mechanization input, applied in high potential productive ecosystems. Industrial agriculture can be defined as a way of artificializing nature and natural resource management, in pose of agriculture productivity, giving great importance to the economic profit through marketing, and occasional technological processing of highly homogenous products, by means of exogenous inputs into the agro ecosystem, by its artificialization, simplification and destruction of the natural recycling energy and material process [59].

This kind of context and agriculture has generated an important territorial-ecological impact and footprint in rural areas. The main footprints have been: carbon, energy, water and information, which put together, can be considered the agricultural footprint of our era. The agricultural frontier expansion and domestication of nature, both associated to the rural and cultural landscape construction, have developed several ecosystem diseases and affected life quality; such as: soil erosion, desertification, biodiversity reduction, cultural landscape homogenization, loss of niches and habitat diversity, in other words eco-diversity, unstable ecosystems, loss of resilience and stability, etc.

Several studies show the consequences of the great economic importance given to the ecological-territorial management, generating ecosystem dysfunction in maintenance, use and regeneration of resources, as well as, degradation of the ecosystem services [60]. These authors indicate the importance of keeping the pressure on the landscape within the required limits for a stable ecosystem function, key for a sustainable management. Unfortunately these limits are frequently trespassed. This is the case of the Australian grazing system management. The innovation and production goals motivated by the wish for great short term profit in the ranching activities have produced many ways of degradation of the cultural landscape: Diminished natural grange and crop productivity; lower tolerance to drought, salinization, acidification, soil structure and erosion, water salinization, eutrophication of streams and lakes; loss of trees considering the cultural landscape scale; loss of important local and regional plant and animal species; invasion of native and exotic grasses; loss of future potential use of the land (tourism, research, etc.); besides the lower rural life quality [57, 60].

In Latin America there are also many cases. One is the Chilean forestry crop industry, broadly studied in academic and scientific literature and fully examined by Erlwein et al., [61]. The tremendous growth of this industry, explained mainly by the forest plantation territorial expansion starting the mid 60’s till the end of the 90’s, and due to the increase of plants and production of cellulose, has triggered effects, such as: the unsustainable rurality; increase of the surface intended for intensive production; extreme production which excludes other uses and activities; reduction of native forest patches and of bio and eco­diversity; separation from land multiple use; resource degradation and production potential; capital concentration and socioeconomic inequity; inconsideration to cultural diversity contrary to social ethics; and cultural landscape uniformity, among many others. In conclusion it has been a sectorial growth which hasn’t incorporated any aspect other than the economic growth (such as the historic, social, ecologic, etc.) nor objectives different from the personal and private ones of the social actors, who have administered the process, and consequently have not stimulated and integral and sustainable territorial development [57].

This has all happened jointly with the emergence and development of the "industrial empires" pertaining to our industrial era. By the end of the XVIII century, with the industrial revolution there is a modification of products, transportation, technology and the demand for elements from nature which start becoming scarce or limited, generating the term natural resources in 1875. Modern industrial empires, such as: USA, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Germany, France, and others. Their natural resource requirement is so high that the commodities are extracted from the rest of the planet, generating the ecological footprint [62] of our industrial age. Said ecological footprint is grater in the countries producing the commodity to fulfill the demand of industrialized countries [53].

According to the ecophilosofer Sigmund Kvaloy two basics kinds of society can be distinguishes as a result of the industrial cultural tendencies and cultural landscape construction style: the Industrial Growth Society (IGS) and Life Necessity Society (LNS). The IGS are orientated towards industrial growth, whereas the LNS to fulfilling vital necessities.

IGS are developed through the interaction of four main dynamic factors [41]: oriented towards the linear or accelerated expansion to the production of industrial goods and services using industrial methods, as massive standardized production, the concentration of a few urban centers, and the specialization; the main force is the individual competition in every field of human effort, including leisure and art; the main resource for expansion and to eliminate competitors is not the mineral, energy, etc. resource control but the applied science control. The leading method to manage everything and perform diagnosis and prognosis is quantification. There is only one historic case of this kind of society: The present one which is becoming global. Most human societies have been of the LNS type. Among them there is a subvariety: the "Life Growth Societies" (LGS). These societies are focused on life improvement and promoting ecological complexity, cultural development and human creativity. This kind of society only can surface as a subspecies of the LNS type [41].

At present, progress is focused on the full understanding of territorial development. In which the territory is not a circumstantial factor of the economic analysis, but a descriptive element of the development processes. For a society to approach sustainability there must be cultural and paradigmatic changes to favor and direct, the integral construction of sustainable cultural landscapes, suitable for a good quality of life. For such paradigmatic changes to take place, there must be a considerable reorientation in the approximations that study these issues. Within the following paragraphs we present the theoretic and conceptual basis for the integral construction of the cultural landscape in the context of our era.

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 8:03 am