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Biodiversity and Genius Loci

Biodiversity and Genius Loci Biodiversity is a characteristics of every place and is therefore intimately related with the spirit of the place, or Genius Loci as it was called by Latins. According to Servius, “Nullus Locus Sine Genio”: there is no place without its own spirit (Commentary on the Aeneid, 5, 95). Places are like people: they feature a physical, tangible, material side and a spiritual, intimate side. We recognize a place by how it appears to our sight and we love it for the feelings that it gives us, for its Genius. The Genius Loci is not found in books or in classrooms, in conferences, in web sites or via social media, but everyone identifies it and establish with it a personal emotional relationship - the unique kind of connection that can relate us with a Spirit - by getting close to the place, trying to be discreet while making room inside us, opening ourselves up for listening, to perceive its personality and character. We are not put in communication with the Spirit of the place by reading or by listing a catalog of the elements identifying it, but by perceiving the Spirit that harmonizes them and that renders the place unique. Only by opening ourselves up to glimpses, shapes, colors, geometries, by smelling scents, by savoring flavors, by listening to musical compositions or to the idiom of an ethnic minority, by discovering an old tree, a vine climbing on an elm tree, a view, a village, a villa, a steeple, by delving deeply in the environment, we will be able to be amazed and touched, to create a bond with the place, with its Spirit, to grasp its role, its utilization, the purpose of its existence in space and in the community and the manner in which it has been lived by human beings, vegetables and animals. When people feels intimately connected to the place they live and work in, where they entertain themselves and draw nourishment, they will dedicate themselves to that place and will spontaneously protect it. They will feel responsible for its future life and will be able to think to plan, with love and affection, changes that would not offend, or worse thwart the Genius Loci, therefore losing the possibiliy of the link with that place. The connection between people and the place they live in, considered as nature, artworks and culture passed on by our ancestors, is a sort of social capital, perhaps the most substantial and important so that a community may continue to live in a place. If somebody is paid to oversee a place but is not being offered the possibility to love that place it will be like sowing in a barren place, but if someone falls in love with a place, we know that, for love, we do what we wouldn’t do for any compensation and we overcome difficulties that would otherwise appear insuperable. The Genius Loci is considered, by UNESCO, the Council of Europe and European institutions, very much important in the matter of protecting the territory. In October 2008 the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, organized an international scientific symposium entitled “Finding the Spirit of Place – Between the Tangible and the Intangible” and adopted the Declaration of Quebec, known as “the Preservation of the Spirit of Place”. One of the subject matter suggested in the 8th WEEC (World Environmental Education Congress), held in June-July 2015 in Gothemburg, was Reclaiming the spirit of the place in a digital age. The spirit of the place is a very precious gift descending to us from the past, filtered by the time and the life of many generations of human beings, animals and vegetables and that is necessary for the life of local communities. The vegetable and animal biodiversity of a place, intimately related to our well-being, quite often depends on the type of agriculture, from Latin: ager “field” and coltura “taking care of”, that is practiced. All most virtuous agricultural practices: both organic agriculture, the cultivation of fields respectful of life principles, from Greek bios “life”, and agro-ecology, the cultivation of fields according to eco-friendly principles that, from the Greek oikos “house”, takes care of our own house, that is to the dearest thing we have and, let me add, agro-ethics, that is a new form of field cultivation respectful of ethical principles that, going back to the Greek root ethos and Sanskrit svadha both meaning “custom, morality” relates to the network of relationships and behaviors in which human beings live within since they are born, and for this reason is indissolubly linked to our existence and our morals, if they do not originate from a deep, intimate emotional bond arising from falling in love with the Genius Loci that we experience after feeling it, will remain something that we accomplish as a duty, compelled by the mind, not as a need to preserve and protect something vital and emotionally fundamental for us and for which we would try the impossible in order not to lose it. It is necessary to promote and make available to people and particularly to youngs, who represent our future, opportunities for emotional gatherings with the Genius Loci, unique means of establishing deep bonds with the territory we live in and suggesting changes leading to environment preservation improvements.

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