In the launchpad of the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris, held alongside the UNFCCC COP 21, Seth Shames, Director of the Policy Program ofÂ EcoAgriculture Partners, and his colleaguesÂ released the Little Sustainable Landscapes book.
This book represents the fruit of collaboration between major organizationsâsuch as Global Canopy Programme, EcoAgriculture Partners, IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and WWFâworking on landscapes.
âWe decided to write this book because we thought there needed to be a clearer definition of what landscapes were,â said Seth Shames. Despite the growing popularity of the term âlandscapesâ, explained Shames, not everyone understands the same thing by it.
Intrigued by this book, I walked around the Palais des CongrĂšs to gain insights from the forum participants. What do they understand by âlandscapesâ? Do they think a standardized definition of landscapes is needed?
On one end, there are practitionersÂ like Lucia Madrid RamĂŹres, Project director at Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible, who believes that, as no definition can be perfect, having multiple definitions can be helpful. âI don’t think we need to have one single definition. Some definitions lack of some things, some have more,â said RamĂŹres.
There are also those who believe, given the variety of landscapes globally, that different definitions are unavoidable as people have different experiences, backgrounds, and local challenges.
âTake for example, an indigenous person from the Amazon, an Indonesian bureaucrat, and a researcher in Canada; landscapes will naturally mean something different to themâ says Denis Ruysschaert, a Specialist in Political Ecology with CERTOP Toulouse-Le-Mirail.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those like Shames who believe that one definition is needed to avoid confusions and ensure that we are talking about the same thing. âI think people abuse the word landscape to refer to anything that has to do with land, which is not a useful terminology,â he said.
Finally there are those who believe that, rather than defining what a landscape is, it is crucial is to agree on the aims of landscape management. âYou can always spend years and years and years discussing definitions, and it will never be perfect. It is much more important to agree on the state of the landscape we want to reach,â said Andreas Tveteraas, Deputy Director General at the Norwegian International Climate & Forest Initiative. âI am sometimes a bit nervous of spending too much time on definition rather than action,â Tveteraas said.
While the Global Landscapes Forum participants had a wide variety of views on the need for a definition of âlandscapesâ, they all seemed to agree that landscapes refer to a holistic view of managing resources.
What is your opinion? Do we need one, unifying definition of landscapes, or do we only need to define our aims for well-managed landscapes? Can we have one without the other?