I am just back from Evora, Portugal, for the first World Congress on Silvo-Pastoral Systems. On the basis of my spatial background and postdoc work on scattered tree grazing systems in Australia I co-convened with Argentinian Guillermo Martinez Pastur working group 1 on mapping and assessing large-scale trends. But I myself presented in working group 14 on integrative approaches, synthesizing bibliometric and rhetoric work with Carlisle Kent last year on my new grant on holistic grazing management to outline three reasons for polarization on HM and five ways to avoid it. The conference was diverse and extremely worthwhile, showing the value of problem- or landscape-focused conferences over disciplinary ones. I enjoyed connecting to young and established scholars of cultural ecosystem services, integrative research, and landscape analysis. Paired keynotes by Guy Beaufoy (about EU policy interactions) and Ika Darnhofer (on farmer adoption) were particularly rich in insight.
A surprise pleasure was a day spent visiting pastoral/Montado grazing properties, riding the bus alongside Lynn Huntsinger, co-author of the 2014 critical commentary on my post-doctoral work that inspired my new grant on HM. Interesting combinations of livestock (cattle, pigs, sheep) and trees (cork, pine nut) were explored on the farms we visited. Later I saw signs of the importance of cork for this culture: cork used as a symbol of earth itself (right).
The UNESCO-listed host community of Evora is a fascinating place, and while we had little time amidst the events to explore, I managed to take in the Capela dos Ossos (bone chapel) during a quick trip to the Pharmacy for something to ease my now-characteristic if tiresome conference cold symptoms. I very much regret not making it to the Fórum Eugénio de Almeida, which:
…is a space designed for the promotion of artistic and cultural actions guided by social responsibility and sustainable practices, committed to a multidisciplinary, instructive and inclusive programme…
I was intrigued by the museum’s exterior, which sported a huge vertical banner reading “What’s Past is Prologue”, as well as writing along the fence at the rear saying “Everything is a Story”. Both were poignant, sitting next to ruins of a first-century Roman temple, along with more recent (but still old) water tower, cathedral, convent, and palace. It feels like a place that has found a way to layer history without much sacrifice of past or future.
The 16th century University of Évora itself was a luxurious space to spend extended time, with marble arches and floors, half-tiled walls and many, many tiny cups of coffee. We were there during a period of extensive hazing of first years by upperclassmen and women, the latter wearing full black suits and capes (unthinkable in the heat). Their classrooms are a tourist attraction, as well as a conference location, which must be strange for them. I snuck into the 18th century Geografia room, which had an impressive raised pedestal for the professor and tiled murals representing the elements, the seasons and the continents (see America, below).