There is an old parlour game; what would be the best professional to be marooned on a desert island with? A clear favourite would be a multi skilled self-employed landscaper. A knowledge of soil management helping to grow food, the ingenuity to fashion purpose built tools, the skills of building a comfortable place to sleep in - all done with much more finesse and a longing for a finer lifestyle than an ex SAS survival specialist and they would be sitting pretty watching the sunset from their beach frontage garden with a coconut aperitif long before a banker or similar professional gives up the will to live because they have no mobile signal.
The years of having to hone their skills in order match a clients evasion to reaching into their wallet, years of having to quickly find a long term solution for a never seen before problem. A landscaper is much more than an external handyman. Sustainable Development is what many landscapers would call common sense.
After all look at many of the issues being discussed by all the governments of the world at the Rio + 20 conference: Land which is capable of food production, Soils and tree planting storing carbon, planting which helps boost biodiversity both below & above ground and good durable design matching the cultural heritage of a diversity of regional landscapes – the perfect microcosm case study of which is a good garden. Multiply the coverage of gardens capable of such good practice and we are looking at a significant contribution to sustainable development at a national level.
There are problems, but not insurmountable ones, for the landscaping profession to take its rightful place at the front of mainstream sustainable development. Not least the need to decrease usage of non renewable material supply and chemicals (fertiliser, herbicide & pesticides) that have become far too easy to use and are easily sold to the clients to justify their desire to spend for less labour time and materials by other forces (not least by a general media all too happy to continue a disenfranchisement of the landscaping industry for their own gain).
But with a sharing of knowledge of the traditional and innovative landscaping techniques, made easy by the internet (something relatively new to this band of small often one person businesses), sustainable good practice can become the standard practice.
It is now widely known that for true sustainable development to work we must start ‘bottom up’. Both in terms of starting with a specific location, which changes in its elements so rapidly as you move across the landscape and starting with the people who live in that specific location, the people who know what is needed and where it can go. The landscaper is often already in that location, they have this information to hand and they know the people personally.
And as legislation and guidelines increasingly demand sustainable development there is also the fact that the landscaping industry has to adopt sustainable practice (by just a bit of tweaking compared to other industries), to ensure its survival. And the same is true of many practitioners from across the spectrum of land management.
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