Landscape and Heritage

All these developments mean that the physical landscape is now subject to an unprecedented level of human-induced change. To this pressure is now added the growing impact of global warming. The consequences of this are only partly foreseen, but it seems clear that sea-level rise may threaten some coastal areas, and that new conditions for vegetation growth will emerge.

With so many pressures intensifying, there is a need to be aware of what the physical landscape does for us, and also of what we can do - both positive and negative - to the physical landscape. The landscape - the ordinary landscape and not just a few special sites - is a visual amenity that deserves careful management and carries many messages about our heritage.

The need for a clearer understanding of our physical landscape has attracted attention inside and outside Ireland. Some of the issues have been highlighted by recurrent debates about the impact of infrastructure development on the countryside - the proposal to build a new motorway close to the historic Hill of Tara has demonstrated divergent views about the significance of landscape. Whereas some see conservation and preservation as being related to specific sites, others feel a broad view deserves consideration, and that whole landscapes represent important components of our heritage.

In 2002 the Heritage Council published proposals for integrated policies for Ireland's landscape. These continue to be discussed. At a wider level, Ireland has ratified the Council of Europe European Landscape Convention. This aims to promote policies of landscape protection, management and planning.

"The well-being of the landscape is entrusted to the Irish people and it is they who must value it if its qualities are to survive. To rely on one group or another to look after it will inevitably fail. The responsibility is that of society as a whole".

[Michael Starrett, Chief Executive, Heritage Council, 2004].

previousPrevious - Our changing physical landscape
Next - Further reading and websitesnext