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Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 Subject-based ProjectGeography and Social Sciences pROJECT AUTHOR: Lucy Holehan

Human-Nature Divides: How do nature and culture interact within landscapes?


Project summary

Geographers have long been interested in both culture and nature, and how we (humans) interact with the environment that we live in

This project asks you to consider how geographers have viewed ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ over time, and how we might research the interactions between these within different landscapes?

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In the early twentieth century, geographers largely believed that the physical landscape and environment (‘nature’) strongly affected society and human behaviour (‘culture).

Geography, since its foundations as a discipline, has examined the interface between human culture and natural environments.

This was later widely criticised through the ‘cultural turn’ within geography, led by Carl Sauer (1925), providing more agency to humans. Sauer described the ‘cultural landscape’ as a result of culture and humans (seen as the agents) to alter the natural environment (seen as the medium), creating the equation:

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Figure 2A

Figure sheet

Figure 3

Figure 2C

Figure 2B

Figure 1

Culture (agent) + Nature (medium) = Cultural Landscape:

Landscapes have become a key focus of geographical research over decades to explore culture-nature relations – for example, how do culture and nature interact differently within urban and rural landscapes? Do landscapes typically divide culture and nature into different, or similar, spaces? Recent debates within cultural geography have largely viewed culture and nature as co-produced and therefore cannot be fully divided or separated. Below are some questions and sources for you to work through, with two research extension questions focused on a qualitative and quantitative approach.

Think of a landscape which is very familiar to you...

Perhaps your hometown, village, or high street. How do nature and culture interact here within a familiar space? Who typically uses these portions of the landscape? Is ‘nature’ here separated from human-use, or are they interconnected? How have nature and culture interactions changed over time in this area?

Figure 3

South Wales Industrial Landscape, Penry Willliams, C.1825. The scene depicted here would have been familiar to most of South Wales’ industrial workers (image retrieved from http://thomasgenweb.com/industrial_art.html).

Figure 2A

Three photographs of search results for ‘British Landscapes’: this one features Stonehenge

Figure 2C

Three photographs of search results for ‘British Landscapes’: this one features a lake surrounded by gentle green hills

4. Qualitative Task

Analyse the painting in Figure 3 of a South Wales Industrial Landscape from the early nineteenth century. What is visible in the painting and what might be missing? How did the industrial revolution transform human-nature relations in the UK (clue: think about food production, energy, labour, industry, housing, health), and did this happen equally across all regions and populations? How did these landscape changes cause social, economic, political or environmental impacts? Why is it useful for geographers to look at historical sources, like this painting? What does this tell us about nature-culture interactions within UK landscapes today and contemporary issues? Is a painting a useful way to represent an historical landscape, or how else could they be represented? You could search for your own sources of industrial landscapes around this time and try to compare these to each other.

5. Quantitative Task

Look at the Green Space Index 2022 through the link below and click on the map tool which uses GIS to visually display measures to quantify the access to green space across the UK. The data used provides an overall index score, whether a population is within a 10-minute walk to green space, and provision of green area per person. Using the map tool, compare your local area to a contrasting area in the UK – how do nature and culture interact here within different landscapes, and how are they quantifiably represented on the map? What are the limitations and benefits of this approach? How might access to green space have social, economic, or health impacts for a local population? https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/5301c55a8189410b9428a90f05596af4/page/GSI-Score/

Figure 1

A photograph of a zoo, featuring giraffes in the foreground and rhinos in the background, with a protruding wooden viewing platform filled with people looking over the edge.

2. How is nature and culture represented in the photograph of Figure I?

How are these divided and demarcated within the space of the zoo? How is this similar or different to the landscape you considered for Q1?

First consider these questions...

What comes to mind when you think of culture? How can we define it, and who does culture belong to? Similarly, what comes to mind when you think of nature? How can we define it and who does nature belong to? Do culture and nature become dichotomies or opposites, or are they always interconnected?

Figure 2B

Three photographs of search results for ‘British Landscapes’: this one features a costal rock formation

3. How can landscapes be represented?

Figure 2 shows three images from search results of ‘British landscapes’ – are the rolling green hills of the countryside similar or different to what you think of as a ‘British’ landscape, and how might this relate to identity? How do nature and culture interact within these landscape photographs? What view and scale are these landscapes represented from? Does this represent an everyday experience from the ground?