The passion and commitment of individuals will create radical changes in the natural environment by 2050, said Merrick Denton-Thompson CMLI in a Natural Connections Conference speech

Multi-functional landscapes: a vision of 2050

In an impassioned address, landscape architect Denton-Thompson set out to dispel the powerlessness we often feel in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.

He acknowledged that current innovation and research concentrates on finding ways to sustain our current levels of consumption, mobility and destructiveness rather than achieving the necessary shift in our behaviour. But, he said, “as an optimist I think Great Britain will play a crucial part in transforming humanity back to having a symbiotic relationship with the natural world, indeed I think it is already doing it.”

The key change will be a move away from single-use landscapes to multi-functional landscapes. In 2050, “all landscapes are the sources of food, of clean water, of clean air; they are powerful sequestrators of carbon and manipulators of climate, they are vibrant ecosystems and generators of energy.”

Designations like SSSI, NNRs, SACs, SPAs, RAMSAR, Local Nature Reserves, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will have become redundant; instead, the National Character Area map, today largely ignored, will have formed the framework for delivery and collaboration between the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Industrial-scale agriculture and intensive animal rearing will have disappeared and consequently diet will have changed. All arable systems will depend on integrated crop management alongside sophisticated development of perennial seed-bearing crops. Vertical farming will exist, in built farm estates within our urban places, in a totally controlled environment using hydroponics and aeroponic nutrition systems. Meanwhile multi-functional forests will be major source of food such as nuts and also, through cyclical cropping, provide wood for construction and biomass fuel for energy.

Perhaps the most dramatic transformation will be the level of human contact with food production and land management, gone from 2% in 2010 to a gross 40% in 2050. “The farmed rural landscapes are much more populated, where human effort plays a much more important role,” said Denton-Thompson. “As a result the sterility of our past urban and urban fringe landscapes are now rich, productive, exciting places, teeming with wildlife and food growing.”

Denton-Thompson said he was not naïve and that his positive vision of 2050 would become a reality if the growing imperative for Localism continued, and if children received the right kind of education. “The connection forged between children and natural systems by parents, teachers and voluntary organisations will achieve the cultural shift that we as adults know is necessary but we just cannot see the route to achieving it.”


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