The European continent is painted with thousands of centuries of industrialized, high density civilization. As compared with our North American continent which was gardened and nurtured by first nation peoples, Europe feels more conquered. The brazen castles guarding the hills of Catalonia for instance communicate a feeling of a land that has been well-surveyed through the ages. Few acres sit quietly untrodden.
The Camarque Natural Parc (Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue) offers both a taste of new, unconquered earth quilted into a landscape of active farming, ranching, and tourism. Massive, black bulls of the Camarque are a huge draw for their size, as well as their meat. Gentle white horses dot a seemingly endless landscape of grass. Plants sprinkled with salt grow in the drier haunts.
These 360 square-mile delta of the Rhone maybe not pristine like a national park, it is alive. Flooding regular occurs here, deposition of material from the Rhone continues to shape the terrestrial wetland interface, and people are a permanent fixture here. None of these forces are without controversy – and opposition, yet they continue to ebb and flow, much like the tides.
When Aigues Mortes (a town of the Camargue) was originally built in the 13th century, it was a port city – now it lies some 5 kilometers from open water. Not even water is permanent here.
This dynamic system continues to breathe and flourish even with a heavy human hand; row crops, ports, dikes, winding miles of barbed wire. The delta seems to renew both the people, and the soils. The local people dearly care for this landscape. Notably, both UNESCO and Ramsar have acknowledged the biological virtue of this unique landscape.
In some ways, the people of this countryside feel like first nation peoples to me – married to the land, its fertility and wonder. I highly recommend visiting. I celebrate this area with a desktop calendar, hoping to start a conversation about humans, culture and natural areas protection in a dynamic, nature-driven system.
There’s so much to learn… I am barely beginning to understand how these pieces come together. Please read more here.