Landscapes have their own expressive aesthetic, natural, cultural, and exploitable qualities – all of them perceived and valued in multiple ways. In the case of Bangladesh it seems the exploitable qualities continue to be predominant.
Landscapes are sensitive, ecologically and culturally, to changes on local and regional levels through global scales. Bangladesh is no exception. Yet, construction, destruction, and re-invention of the landscapes all repeat themselves without acknowledging that the most vulnerable people are also the most vulnerable landscapes; without acknowledging the risk of increasing CO2 emissions on the edge of a planetary carbon sink; without acknowledging that the energy production and consumption that affect landscapes are not the major contributor to the GDP.
If we are to understand place specific landscapes, we need to understand what these landscapes are, what they are about, what they tell us. In the specific place of the Sundarbans, UNESCO yields to that, “it is a landmark of ancient heritage of mythological and historical events”.
So, what can the Sundarbans, the riverine islands and its people tell us? What can the Brahmaputra floodplain and the hill tracts tell us? If we listen.
Landscape literacy is about understanding how landscapes emerge, by what means they are sustained, what we do and how we relate to them, emotionally, socially and economically. And how we communicate with and through these landscapes.
As Rebanks writes, the landscape is like a poem, and if we can read it, it will share with us complex truths that we need to understand and reconnect with in order to find a sustainable path forward. Are we prepared to hear the stories told and read through a language of landscape with its own elements, to speak with Spirn?
Are we prepared then, to give this country a voice?