PART I: THE MAN WHO LOVED ISLANDS
‘Monoculture and the myth of security through homogeny’
Monoculture, the practice of growing one crop over a large expanse of land, is known to have devastating impacts on the environment. In Spain, incentives and grants for planting olive trees over decades has resulted in massive areas of parched desperate land in a familiar story of cultural and economic values triumphing over the needs of the environment. In Jaén, a province in Northern Andalusía which accounts for a staggering 50% of world’s olive oil production, the landscape is strangely impressive – as far as the eye can see sit nothing but olive trees. Striking, yet equally harrowing as, on closer inspection, an absence of wildlife, grasses and wildflowers is painfully apparent.
How much of the relentless planting of this quasi-mystical tree is a drive to keep alive a tradition that dominates in the global mythology of Mediterranean living and, fundamentally, much-needed lubrication for the creaking wheels of the Spanish economy? At what cost does a culture, or do we as individuals, strive to maintain a particular identity despite knowing that it long since expired and no longer serves us or wider interests? These questions are frighteningly close this week as demand for water from nearby plantations encroaches. If the companies get permission to bore into the ancient water system to irrigate these modern super-yield hybrids, Sunseed and the surrounding village will be high and dry within a couple of years.
The ruthless machine of monoculture presents an interesting metaphor for community living by questioning the value of the individual voice in a globalised and, some argue, over-populated world. Considering this village as a microcosm of the world – dozens of people from all parts of the globe with different habits, values and perceptions of the world - how is it that we find a way to work together? Simple - our differences collapse and reduce to a simple motivation to place the importance of the needs of the environment on the same level, if not higher, than our own. We are not separate clashing voices but a spectrum of fluid opinions and through willingness, education, understanding and necessity, we listen to each other, respond with consideration and we somehow arrive at a decision that fits all, dictated primarily by the ecology of the surrounds.
My motivation to be part of these kinds of projects, and the many others across the world whose work chugs as steadily as the controversial steam of corporation, is to accept that my life is entirely dependent on the environment and communities of like-minded people. The old notion that Man’s cleverness can still separate and somehow elevate him above the needs of the earth is today frightening rather than comforting. If we do strive for any kind of monoculture, let it be one of carefulness, intelligence and of a respect that fosters an evolution of longevity.
For further information on the plantations and to support the village, please visit: