Transition and the memory of landscapes

A man walks on the beach in the sunset

Renewable energy is crucial in the adjustment society must undergo to counteract the climate crisis. In parallel with a steady increase in electricity use in our Nordic societies, the transition will also lead to the creation of new landscapes in order to secure the supply. Energy production will become more local and visible in people’s everyday lives – and thus affect more people.

The transition does not only means that we have access to more fossil-free energy, it also raises questions about what landscape is or should be, and who has the interpretive precedence and thus the right to define what a landscape is and exists for. These is a wicked situation since we all have a relationship to the Nordic landscapes and yet we hardly grasp the visual transformation ahead. It’s time for us to acknowledge that the energy transition is also a question of culture and communication.

The landscapes are places for memories and history. An extension of what we claim to be. In other words, this continuous interaction with the landscapes is a prerequisite for culture, at the same time as culture has also become a prerequisite for the cultural landscape we recreate through personal stories, ceremonies and landscape care.

In the constant negotiation between nature and culture, the “image” has come to play a decisive role in our common and emotional notions of these places. An example of this is the famous picture of Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog) from 1818 which was painted by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich. This is an image that has constantly been in negotiation between the imagined landscape of the painter and the viewer’s gaze, consisting of experiences, emotions and of course its social context. But despite an ongoing negotiation, it still takes place within institutionalized frameworks that contribute to limit the horizon of interpretations. The image – the landscape, the mountains, the sea of fog – remains a place of admiration, nostalgia, spiritual search and belonging.

It is within this historical, emotional and collective record that landscapes touch upon us! The registered historical images in our societies are and remain communicative matters, therefore they should strategically be included in our conversations and assessments of the energy transition. Landscapes has always been transforming, but now they stand in front of drastically transformations due to climate change and due to our social transitions to combat the very same climate change.

Daniel Urey
is Head of LABLAB and member of the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme’s Expert Group for Network Funding