Un/making the desert of Europe: dwelling in the face of chronic water scarcity
Arvid van Dam
(University of Leeds)
Paper short abstract:
How do people engage with landscape to cope with long-term environmental crisis, in this case chronic water scarcity? Within this context, this paper investigates the ways in which people creatively engage with and materially transform their environment through dwelling, design and imagination.
Paper long abstract:
This paper discusses how people engage with the landscape to deal with prolonged drought in Almería, in the south-east corner of Spain, which is considered the driest region in Europe. Despite arid conditions, intensive agriculture has been developing there since the 1960s and continues to grow today, which is highly significant in a province where aridity is inseparably tied to historically protracted poverty, a relative lack of development, and social crises of identity, rural abandonment, and inequality. Increasing pressure on water resources and rapid economic growth have profoundly changed conditions of prosperity and inequality in the region, and have had a significant impact, both positive and negative, on the ways in which the desert landscape is creatively imagined and materially transformed. This paper investigates the ways in which people creatively engage with and materially transform their environment through landscape design and imagination. It interrogates the physical making of landscape, for example through building, dwelling, and engineering, as well as the ascription of meaning to landscapes through individual or collective acts of representation and imagination. Finally, abandonment and ruination are addressed in terms of the deliberate 'unmaking' of landscape, offering a stark reminder that dwelling can be a destructive as well as a creative process.
Dwelling in an evanescent landscape: people's strategies to deal with chronical uncertainty