I am fascinated by landscape values and environmental literacy, and how both of these things relate to attachment to place. The comments of a girl I used to know in Dunedin, a long time ago, who has for the past 7 years been an important spokesperson for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, drive this home pretty well:
“I moved to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park when I was almost 7 years old. We lived in a house tucked up against the mountains at the entrance to the Governor’s Bush walk, where my family would often wander.
I woke up every morning to that incredible and awe-inspiring view of Mt Sefton and Mt Tasman towering over us, and watched the sunset turn the peaks a dusky peach shade in the evening.
“I learned about the insects, the birds, the names of clouds and, while not paying much attention to it as a child, the park was indelibly inked on my heart and soul, so that when I grew up, my path was already decided.
“I then spent five years in Twizel, with the Mackenzie Basin as my playground. The land use change and the water issues in that special, amazing place are another thing I intend to be involved with.”
I would really like to do some research into this, I guess qualitative interviews, plus place attachment theory. It seems like a really promising (and fun) Masters topic. Possibly even PhD. And it takes me home to where I feel happiest, Geography. The applications are vast, too, I think. I need to think about them more, and try and map it out. But most conservationists have a place that is very special to them, that they feel connected to, that shapes their identity and their politics. Writers have the same. I think it explains a lot about how environmental attitudes form.
Really, though… I just love the idea of going home. And I love the idea of interviewing people about the places that are important to them, the terrains that are imprinted across and woven through their autobiography.
Do you have a place that is special to you, that has shaped how you feel about the non-human world around you, and our relationship to it? The place that is always there in the back of your mind, remembered with fondness, that you always hope will still be there? If so, I would love to hear about it!