Beyond Bio Approach to Diversity Corridor

Cases

Dr Ulli Vilsmaier, Researcher, Leuphana University Lüneburg; Inna Winkler, Artist, artecology_network

A (Bio)Diversity Corridor is currently being discovered and established in the district of Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. A group of artists, academic researchers, and representatives from administration, civil society, education and economy have taken the concept as a starting point to explore the region with regard to its current status and its potential to foster diversity and connectedness. The collective aim is to transform, and to learn how to transform, this rural region characterized by long-term intensive, dominantly conventional and industrial agriculture. It currently typically relies on wind and biogas energy production, has a network of small-scale villages, and a growing number of commuters living in family houses and working in the surrounding cities. This region is facing challenges with regard to a loss of biodiversity, pesticide exposure, an alienation between communities and the physical environment, conflicts between human and non-human natives and neophytes, as well as agriculture, tourism, and nature conservation.

In this transformational endeavour, a transdisciplinary research space has been created that helps outline differences whilst sharing a common objective. Everyone involved has a different relationship with the region. They hold different societal roles, pursue different practices in their own professional and daily lives, and have different perspectives and ways of thinking. Through an initial phase of collaboration using meetings, excursions and workshops, a transdisciplinary team was developed, and agreement reached on the overall objective and the shared research focus. The next stages are composed of a multitude of different activities, ranging from artistic interventions, public debates and workshops, to empirical research. All activities have a common purpose: to explore diversity, create visibility, expose oneself and others to what is unfamiliar or even alien, induce dialogue and reflection, and contribute to building alliances and connectivity, in order to discover what exists and to establish possible pathways towards sustainability.

This has led to the concept of a (Bio)Diversity Corridor which will serve as an anchor in this exploration of the loss and values of diversity for the area’s sustainable future. The concept of the corridor comprises several dimensions. Firstly, the corridor has a tangible spatial dimension, describing an elongated, connecting space. The (Bio)Diversity Corridor should connect municipalities, as well as areas and places of outstanding ecological, historical, social, cultural and aesthetic value. However, it is not an entirely new space, but stems from what is already familiar – streets, villages, fields, pubs, trees, tourist sites, to name just a few – while discovering and establishing new pathways. The formation of such a corridor creates visibility and opportunities to experience and perceive diversity, providing a focus around which to consider diverse approaches to future viability. In this sense, the corridor also has a metaphorical meaning. It symbolizes a membrane, a transitional space, a sluice without a clear boundary. It opens up into various adjoining landscapes and cultural spheres connecting diverse ways of living, knowing and behaving.

The (Bio)Diversity Corridor as a vision for a sustainable future represents a living space with a large variety of possibilities that can be discovered and created in ways we have not yet experienced nor thought about. Focusing on the (Bio)Diversity Corridor concept provides useful hooks for reflecting each participant’s practices, prejudices and beliefs, and provides leverage for sustainability transformations. Often the way these investigations are performed seeks to concentrate on the areas of least comfort. What breaks the familiar, challenges us more. This gives a starting point to reflect on how we do things (eg, empirical research, agriculture, administration, ecological activism, artistic interventions) and how we think that certain tasks should be done (eg, following specific quality criteria, utilize fertilizer, administer inhabitants, fight for the protection of the biosphere, initiate participatory processes with artistic methods). However, this transformational endeavour does not aim at establishing a biosphere reserve nor a planning guide for future regional development. All this might happen in the future.

Its purpose is to change basic ways of thinking about issues and increase understanding about the way things work, and, above all, to recognise ourselves as powerful beings in a historical situation that is not per se given, but contingent, and thus empowers us to change towards more sustainable futures.

 

This blog was produced in partnership with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

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