Landscape, a social cohesion tool at threat
NGO leader : CIVILSCAPE
Gerhard ERMISCHER, Vice-president
Treibgasse 3 - 63739 Aschaffenburg (Germany)
Tel 0049 6021 584034-1 / 0049 6021 584034-9
Landscape is the place where people live, work and produce as well as relax and recover. Landscape has a high importance for our culture and identity as well as for our health and well being. The landscapes of Europe are highly diversified, mirroring the great geographical diversity, the richness of our history and culture. They are also the foundation for the great bio-diversity and an economic asset. But landscape is under stress – the great changes since the beginning of the industrialization have affected our modern landscapes with increasing momentum and have led to a development of unification and a loss of diversity – in culture as well as nature.
Two major fields of European policy have a tremendous effect on our landscapes: the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the new challenges for the European energy policies, both related also to the strategy of CO2-reduction and climate change. There are great opportunities in these processes, but especially the development of green energy (large scale bio-mass production, wind farms, solar parks, the necessary enlargement of the power grid) can also have a devastating effect on our landscapes and may lead to major conflicts within society, if landscape issues are not taken into consideration. We are concerned that landscape is not an issue in these processes nor an object of concern in the drafted policy lines.
A number of governments have already stated, that civil society involvement shall be cut down in the process of building a new high energy power grit and energy production in the landscape. The restructuring of the European agriculture away from food production towards energy production is seen as big economic chance – labeled as a green revolution to reduce CO2 production. But we already could see in the first round of the bio-energy campaign, how food prices were rising substantially, thanks to this process. What was unpleasant to many customers in Europe led to hunger revolts in many of the less developed parts of the world.
Protecting our landscape is therefore directly linked to fundamental questions of democracy, participation, social cohesion and even human rights – access to clean water, affordable food, or more abstract, to cultural identity. The changes in agriculture and land use are directly linked to the debate on climate change, CO2 reduction or the change in energy policies after Fukushima. These are major driving forces with a strong economic interest – they need to be moderated to avoid social conflicts, loss of identity, loss of bio-diversity and cultural diversity as well as to ensure a sustainable food production.
The Council of Europe has a number of conventions in place, which can help to moderate this process:. the European Landscape Convention, but also the conventions on cultural heritage, on civic participation, on democracy and on environmental issues. The working group shall work along these conventions of the Council of Europe and formulate specific and concrete measurements to implement these conventions along this major policy line. It shall come up with pro-active strategies which can be presented to the CoE, but also to national governments and parliaments or to bodies of the EU.
Concrete actions to implement the Council of Europe Conventions, e.g. the Landscape Convention, into national and EU policies, foremost agriculture and energy.
Participate in a European Civil Initiative to this goal, especially to urge the EU to become a party of the Council of Europe Convention on Landscape.
The Working Group met for its initial session in Strasbourg on January 24 in the framework of the Conference of iNGOs. We could make really good progress and have moved on and achieved some major decisions:
1. We will concentrate on one theme:
Energy policy / impacts of the change of our landscapes for renewable energy
2. In this theme, we will concentrate on one aspect:
The bypassing of the common democratic rules by emergency laws to ensure a quick implementation of the new energy policies
3. To address other bodies at the CoE which are also inflicted by these policies:
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
The Parliamentary Assembly
Human rights groups
If you want to learn more, if you want to engage and make a difference, please join the working group!