According To Farrer ... Embracing change through recognition of landscape

Noel Farrer sees a link between our treatment of landscape and our decision to vote Brexit.

Farrer: "It's our landscapes that define who or what we are".
Farrer: "It's our landscapes that define who or what we are".

The Brexit vote startled me. This was followed by the drama over the pond in the USA where I see Donald Trump as Republican candidate for president. The world seems to be going bonkers and backwards.

The film director Paul Greengrass reflected on this and made the point that the "take back control" strapline for both the Brexit and Trump campaigns strikes at the heart of the difference between his Jason Bourne character and James Bond. Bond is embedded in safe British institutional orthodoxy and imperialism, delivering clarity between right and wrong. You are always clear about who are the goodies and who are the baddies.

Greengrass's character Bourne is the opposite, with the movies being a search for his identity, who he can trust and what is right and wrong. Bourne is seeking a logic and comfort in the modern, complex, fast-moving world. He makes the point that the inexorable ever-faster change we are all witnessing breeds insecurity, discomfort and anxiety for many. The taking back of control preached by Brexiteers and Trump chimes with people such that they vote in their millions for the comfort of more familiar times. In effect, they are stepping backwards.

So what has all this to do with landscape? The landscape affects us whether we know it or not. Interestingly we all, when witnessing bucolic landscapes, release pheromones that deliver a sense of calm and respite. The effect is profound. Fewer drugs for pain relief and shorter occupancy times are achieved in hospital wards where a green landscape can be seen from the window.

This effect when witnessing the landscape applies to us all. It is an indicator of the landscape's often misunderstood and hidden role in our lives.

We can change political uncertainty by moving environment off the bottom of the list of political priorities. After all, most or all of the political changes we are talking about are realised through manipulations to the landscape, whether transport, infrastructure, agriculture or new housing. It is our landscapes, whether urban or rural, that define who and what we are.

Our relationship with nature can and should be where we seek constancy when addressing and appraising inexorable change. If we do not put the environment and natural systems first in our lives, we will continue to see misguided voters looking backwards in an ever-changing world.

Noel Farrer is a founding partner of Farrer Huxley Associates

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