IBERIAN ISTHMUS HAS A GREAT BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY LINKED TO ITS PEOPLES SINCE CELTIBERIAN. HOSTING MORE THAN HALF OF EU ANIMAL SPECIES AND MAJOR REPRESENTATIVE MEDITERRANEAN FORESTS
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Although classical sources do not always agree on the precise geographical boundaries or enumeration of specific peoples, it seems that language is the fundamental criterion that identifies the Iberian. By a contemporary archaeological view, the concept of Iberian culture is not a repeating on each people's uniform patterns, but the sum of the individual cultures that often has similar features and some other times are clearly different and occasionally shared with peoples not identified as Iberian. Although these folks has shared certain common characteristics they were not an homogeneous ethnic group, diverging in many ways. The origin of the Iberian peoples is not knowing in depth, although there are several theories that attempt to establish it: One hypothesis suggests that they came to the Peninsula, in the Neolithic period, from the further east Mediterranean regions. Other studies has suggested that they may have originated in North Africa (disputest hypothesis), so they has initially settled along the east coast of Spain and later spread thruoghout the Peninsula. Another hypothesis states that Iberian were part of the original inhabitants of Western Europe, heirs megalithic culture that emerged in this whole area (supported by genetic studies), so the Iberian would be similar to the Celtic populations. Celts would cross the Pyrenees into two great migrations, settling mostly at north of Douro and Ebro rivers, where they were mixed with the Iberian to shape the group so-called Celtíberian. So, ultimately, the Iberian were evolved different peoples by different cultures prior to proto-state structures, influenced in their development by Phoenician, Greeks and Carthaginians.
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Iberian mainland is one of the richest in natural diversity (flora, fauna and biospheres) throughout Europe, it has a 1,500 endemic species and owns more than half of the animal species existing in the EU. In some areas there are up 50 endemic species (flora and fauna) per 1,000 square kilometers; this is due by geographic isolation at various times, since Oligocene until now. This isthmus is a biogeographic island, which has allowed the development of multiple unique species; several deposits of bivalves, gastropods, and trilobites were found. In the Peninsula has inhabited many species of reptiles along time; there was an endemic species of notosaurio -Lariosaurus- in the Middle Triassic and also Cretaceous and Jurassic species (here lived the oldest bird -Eoalulavis). In the Middle Miocene, with Africa united by land, it allowed the exchange of species between continents. So here cames pangolins, rhinoceroses, horses, elephants, lions ... developing a rich variety of endemic fauna (felines, canines, ursids, hyaenids, insectivores, herbivores, equines, rhinocerotidaes, deers, giraffids, bovines, proboscídeos, rodents and lagomorphs). But since historical period several animal species has become extinct under human action; as the -uro- at ancient times, the -zebro- at late Middle Age, and currently two subspecies of Iberian ibex.
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Iberian customs are strongly rooted with the wild and animals. The oldest ones find origin in pre-Romanesque and Celtic tribes, where the collective idiosyncrasy was closely linked to the natural conditions of the environment, animals and plants. The magical ceremonies were based on the power of the elements and the force of nature’s mistery. There is not too much documented evidence about the origin of these ancient rituals and traditions; Possibly because they were linked to peasant communities, which did not leave a written record of their experiences, but were transmitted from parents to children along generations. However, throughout the Middle Ages there was a process of reconversion of Europe with the intention of substituting pagan rites for new Christian practices. So the new Christianized rites maintain previous symbols that have gradually changed their meaning, these are the evolution of ancestral rites contextualized by successive communities under the process of Christianization and social policies.
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Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) was present throughout the territory for centuries until 20th, being on the verge of extinction in last decades. Only few herds has survived in reduced and specific areas, mainly in Zamora Province (thanks to the labour of naturalist Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente). Today, Iberian wolf is shyly expanding in specific areas. It is estimated a current population around 2,500 individuals (Portugal included). This animal is protected and listed as a vulnerable species in the 'Red Book'. Even so its hunting is permitted in northern Spain (cinegetic farms).
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Purebred Spanish Horse is the official name given historically (1912). No one knows for sure the true origin of this kind of horse, however we have evidence that existed in the pre-Romanesque Era. Authors as Plutarch or Seneca wrote about Hispania horses and the King Felipe II laid the final groundwork to preserve the Pure Spanish Breed. Today, the world population up to thousands individuals raised in more than fifty countries.
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Forests has played an important role in the history of mankind. Climate, culture, technology and trade has a great influence on the deforestation rythm. Over time, the interaction between humans and forests (including deforestation) has varied according to socioeconomic changes. The authorities are facing the paradox that forest products and ecosystem services are critical; the land occupied is sometimes subject to other unnatural pressing demands. The historical perspective highlights the importance and difficulties of sustaining forests through sustainable management, to find a balance between conservation and use, to ensure the full range of the contribution of forests in the economic, social and environmental planning. The Iberian Peninsula has the largest forest biodiversity across EU, with trees of all kinds. It is the third European country in forested area, more than half of its land is retained by forests [The State of Forests. FAO].
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Rangelands occupies a considerable area, these nude forests, usually with Quercus species, are derivative of Mediterranean forest where human activity is intense (since neolitic communities) for the maintenance of tenable system by hunting activity and use of forest products (firewood, cork, animal breeding, mushrooms, etc.). It is a system that integrates trees, grasses and forage, aimed to improving the performance of land within human sustainability.
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Sources of renewable energy are taking a leading role in the Peninsula (sometimes contained with strong tax policies and restrictions). These energies are those that are obtained from natural sources inexhaustible on a human scale. We found two main causes for exploitation; because the resource has an unlimited amount of energy (sun or wind), or because the resource has the nature to regenerate by itself (tides, rivers or forestry). Spain is in the top ten countries leading sustainable energy and in the top five investing on it. Its market was the highest growth in the world in 2007.
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Bioenergy is a type of energy by the use of organic matter (plants and animals). Depending on the source of bioenergy there are several types, such as biogas by the treatment of animals organic waste, or biomass obtained by processing agricultural or forestry organic matter. The biodiesel (biofuels) is obtained after processing vegetable oils or animal fats.
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With the establishment of «Model Forests» it is intended to follow a development model focused on the availability of each site as to the socioeconomic situation. Today, the creation of these places are trying to help and revitalize the regions where «Model Forests» is applied, since being mostly rural areas may be more prone to decline areas. Linking forest-man in the «Model Forest» is very direct, because most forests are owned by the residents of the townships and are also the main source of income. This justify this model of sustainable forest management that has been maintaining over the time, which economic diversification makes follow and still maintaining the character of the wood products and furniture. This society is dependent on natural resources, it is very vulnerable to any kind of negative or positive trend that directly affects the resources of wood and furniture, influencing directly on the company that is part of the «Model Forest». [The Model Forest of Urbión, Carlos Martin Benedit].
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Dolmens are megalithic constructions built between Neolithic and Chalcolithic Age. There are thousands in Western Europe; Its function is usually attributed to the collective grave but also it's believed that could be a way to claim a territory and strengthen the group identity (posibly previous to the cities of the Bronze Age). In the Iberian Peninsula there are several sets of these ancient constructions (Alentejo, Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia, Minho, Asturias, Basque Country, Aragon, Catalonia, Castilla-Leon and Castile-La Mancha).
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IBERIA HOSTS A RICH RURAL HERITAGE IN A COUNTRY WITH OVER-EXPLOITED CITIES. ACTUALLY SOME PEOPLE ARE RELOCATING IN VILLAGES, THEY ARE SO-CALLED «NEO-RURALS»
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Contemporary matters are leading some people to relocate and rethink their environment and lifestyle, becoming newcomers of forgotten spaces degraded by time [Iberian Peninsula hosts the area hardest hit by depopulation in EU]. The new settlers are living with the natives, with diferent initiatives to recover the towns and history, reviving customs and bringing new ideas and projects for the development of the habitat. The relationship with the medium and small human communities are common denominators among the newcomers, aspects as recycling or sustainability are vital, restoring the link with nature and animals, showing our most basic needs and what we have added to our progress.
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In last decades many areas classified as marginal for the European Community are experiencing demographic changes. This can be explained in part by the arrival in these areas of population from urban centers, in many cases foreigners, who, following alternative lifestyles freely choose to live in rural areas. This migration phenomenon is defined as «Neo-ruralism». The origins of this phenomenon date back by itself to the birth of the Industrial Revolution, although it has evolved over time. Its development, at first, is associated with the utopia of a return to rural areas and community life; another second phase marked by the flowering of environmental awareness and arrives in recent years, new migration flows from the city to the country as the «single lifestyle movement» or «slow movement», which share a search for quality quieter life in the countryside. In almost all «neo-rurals» prevailing ecological ideals, love for nature and the desire to reach an inner calm that can only be found in a rural area, far from the frenetic rhythms of the city.
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Living in a rural area also provides an opportunity to step up social relationships promoting exchanges with the local population. The «neo-rural» need to find activities to live and to satisfy their creativity and feel useful. The new villager is usually aware of the role they can have in the community where they lives, in many occasions, they expressed the desire to contribute to the socio-political development of the area. The level of integration is strongly related to the level of satisfaction with the environment and lifestyle.
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Agricultural policy of the last century found that the model centered on production ignores rural, by the need for rural development through agricultural multifunctionality, diversification of activities, social deagrarianisation of rural municipalities with sustainability as a goal. And required the existence of a local frame populated and quality, with good social services and entertainment that can keep enterprising and creative people or attract them.
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In some rural areas it is developing a kind of childhood education closely linked to the environment. The «Schools-Forest» are initiatives that develop their activities in the countryside (most of the classroom time is at the wild). According to studies, children who attend these schools has fewer illnesses; they have stronger immune system and fewer cases of asthma and obesity (national average). They show better develop of motor skills, they are more creative and independent, and learn to love nature and respect it, improving their observation skills. Peter Hafner (Heidelberg University) says that these children has better follow classes, they're more independent and peaceful, and resolves conflicts better with more imagination and creativity. Spain was a pioneer linking nature and education. In the early twentieth century several initiatives in Granada, Barcelona or Madrid beeing carried out. Now, «Schools-Forest Project», supported by Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente Foundation, is promoting the creation of these schools throughout the country.
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Rural world is very heterogeneous and thus has expanded the number of profiles, there is a wide range of possibilities. Unemployed people looking for a second chance, also critical of globalization ones who see the idyllic countryside, but as well people with a higher education, seeking contact with nature, participating in the social life but do not losing contact with the city. Adaptation is not always satisfactory, the first shock is the gap that exists between the bucolic image and reality [MªJesús Rivera, Basque Country University].
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During the settlement period the «neo-rurals» lives different stages in which manage to increase their welfare is the key to permanence. This implies a symbiosis with the environment entails enjoy the medium and achieve satisfaction in the activities performed, as well as in social relations.
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The newcomers contributes to the recovery of historical ancient, conservation of cultural heritage and employment generation. And ultimately, economic, environmental, social and cultural enrichment and a sustainable development.
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The creation of genuine agrarian enterprises, subject to the constraints of the constitution of a physical, financial and human capital, risk taking, competitiveness in the market, the consolidation of a draft economic and social future, is the only sustainable alternative for agricultural activity and, by extension, for the rural environment.
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«Rurban Action» (Partnership for sustainable urban-rural development), aimed to bridge across regional policies and rural development policies, it was agreed by the European Parliament and managed by the European Commission. The EU is working together with countries, regions and other partners to promote urban-rural linkages. A truly integrated approach to development must go beyond intra-city policy coordination and traditional rural issues. The integration with surrounding areas, both urban and rural, needs also to be considered. The benefits of stronger urban-rural cooperation include more efficient land use and planning, better provision of services (education, transport, health) and better management of natural resources.
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A report on rural economy shows that rural society are ready to acknowledge the reality and the benefits of world trade. But they also legitimate the existence of local and sub-regional economies, small and medium-sized enterprises, which do not all need to compete on the global market but which form the lifeblood of communities, particularly in the rural regions of Europe. The Iberian Peninsula has the largest forest biodiversity across EU, with forests of all kinds. It is the third European country in forested areas, more than half of its surface is retained by forests environments.
"Undoubtedly, we face a decisive time to move forward or backward. If we are to transcend this impasse, we ought to become more involved with the elements, where our emotions awaken spontaneously and where we can get to really feel like ourselves"
LOCATION: IBERIAN PENINSULA
TIMEFRAME: 2015 - ongoing
Long-term documentary project on the Iberian Peninsula and its ecosystems, observed from an anthropological perspective that primarily explores social, cultural and environmental issues. The project enquires into us as a species, into our roles with nature as social beings, and into the culture and folklore derived from primary bonds. We are living a crisis as a species, our economic and social systems have reached their limits. Exodus and migrations alert us that there are places where we cannot live anymore. However, nature escapes our whims and will not be expecting us.
"THE RURAL ENVIRONMENT IS STILL HOME TO 20% OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION AND OCCUPIES 80% OF THE TERRITORY"
The project is divided in two main chapters; WILD IBERIA explores the ancient Celtiberian heritage (linked to animals and environment), and sustainable development. THE NEWCOMERS enquires on new inhabitants -neorurals- of villages and contemporary lifestyle in the countryside.
(2017) The Building Center - UK
(2017) VICE News - Spain
(2017) Sarnago Magazine - Spain
(2016) Environmental Photographer Of The Year - UK
(2016) International Photographer Of The Year - UK