The shared landscape: what does aesthetics have to do with ecology?
- 5.9k Downloads
This collaborative essay grows out of a debate about the relationship between aesthetics and ecology and the possibility of an “ecological aesthetic” that affects landscape planning, design, and management. We describe our common understandings and unresolved questions about this relationship, including the importance of aesthetics in understanding and affecting landscape change and the ways in which aesthetics and ecology may have either complementary or contradictory implications for a landscape. To help understand these issues, we first outline a conceptual model of the aesthetics–ecology relationship. We posit that:
1. While human and environmental phenomena occur at widely varying scales, humans engage with environmental phenomena at a particular scale: that of human experience of our landscape surroundings. That is the human “perceptible realm.”
2. Interactions within this realm give rise to aesthetic experiences, which can lead to changes affecting humans and the landscape, and thus ecosystems.
3. Context affects aesthetic experience of landscapes. Context includes both effects of different landscape types (wild, agricultural, cultural, and metropolitan landscapes) and effects of different personal–social situational activities or concerns. We argue that some contexts elicit aesthetic experiences that have traditionally been called “scenic beauty,” while other contexts elicit different aesthetic experiences, such as perceived care, attachment, and identity.
Last, we discuss how interventions through landscape planning, design, and management; or through enhanced knowledge might establish desirable relationships between aesthetics and ecology, and we examine the controversial characteristics of such ecological aesthetics. While these interventions may help sustain beneficial landscape patterns and practices, they are inherently normative, and we consider their ethical implications.
KeywordsLandscape perception Scenic beauty Ecological aesthetics Landscape change Context
We thank Eckart Lange and David Miller for providing a forum for us to first debate these issues at the Our Shared Landscape Conference they organized, Bärbel and Gunther Tress for encouraging us to publish our work, and Rob Ribe and Jim Palmer for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.
Selected references for further reading
- 2.Daniel TC (2001b) Aesthetic preferences and ecological sustainability. In: Sheppard SRJ, Harshaw HW (eds) Forests and landscapes: linking ecology, sustainability and aesthetics. CABI Publishing, Oxon, pp 15–30Google Scholar
- 4.Gobster PH (1995) Aldo Leopold’s ecological esthetic: integrating esthetic and biodiversity values. J For 93:6–10Google Scholar
- 5.Gobster PH (1999) An ecological aesthetic for forest landscape management. Landsc J 18:54–64Google Scholar
- 6.Gobster PH (2001a) Foreword. In: Sheppard SRJ, Harshaw HW (eds) Forests and landscapes: linking ecology, sustainability and aesthetics. CABI Publishing, Oxon, pp 21–28Google Scholar
- 8.Gobster PH, Nassauer JI, Daniel TC (2005) Landscape aesthetics: what’s ecology got to do with it? In: Lange E, Miller D (eds) Proceedings of our shared landscape: integrating ecological, socio-economic and aesthetic aspects in landscape planning and management. Ascona, Switzerland, May 2–May 6, 2005. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, pp 42–44Google Scholar
- 9.Hill, D., Daniel, TC (in press) Foundations for an ecological aesthetic: can information alter landscape preferences? Soc Nat ResGoogle Scholar
- 11.Nassauer JI (1993) Ecological function and the perception of suburban residential landscapes. In: Gobster PH (ed) Managing urban and high use recreation settings, Gen Tech Rep NC-163, USDA Forest Service North Central For Exp Stn, St. Paul, pp 55–60Google Scholar
- 12.Nassauer JI (1995a) Messy ecosystems, orderly frames. Landsc J 14:161–170Google Scholar
- 14.Nassauer JI (1997) Cultural sustainability: aligning aesthetics and ecology. In: Nassauer JI (ed) Placing nature: culture and landscape ecology. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 65–83Google Scholar
- 16.Palang H, Fry G (eds) (2003) Landscape interfaces: cultural heritage in changing landscapes. Landscape Series, vol 1. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar