Offering shelter from the hot summer sun, the Palmeral de Elche-- a UNESCO World Heritage site, rises out of the semi-arid landscape of the Alicante Province like an oasis with its thousands of palm trees splashing green against the brown horizon. The continued existence of the sprawling acreage of these palms, in a city where economic prosperity is based on mass industrialised shoe production, situated within a global throwaway society, represents a small triumph over the cupidity of humanity. Despite losing their economic significance and waning in cultural value, the palms of Elche still stand tall, waving their branches against the Spanish sun while progress churns on around them, serving as silent witnesses to changing times and representing a bygone age.
The notion of heritage is permeated with the essence of all that this generation of man has inherited from their forefathers, including the good things of society, but also the bad—a list that includes those many social chains to which Rousseau refers. Heritage is often considered at micro levels—the genetic traits that stare at you in the mirror or in the museum objects that represent the history of a nation, but even this conception of heritage has roots in a greater narrative reaching beyond your nearest ancestors. The common heritage of mankind preserved through the designation of UNESCO World Heritage status, though located in a place outside of one’s familial or national borders, represents a site significant to the story of the entirety of the human race. As part of this common heritage, the Palmeral de Elche has survived the ravages of time as our once unique civilizations have expanded, merged and globalised into an integrated web of the international system.
Arriving in Elche just after a supercell dropped over five inches of rain in less than twenty minutes, the flashflood swirling around network of strategically planted palms made it a little easier to imagine the efficiency of this little oasis that once supported a vast agricultural zone. Likely introduced to Europe by the Carthaginians, the palms were eventually planted into a grid system by the Moors, along irrigation canals usually fed with water from the nearby Vinalopó River. Even with the orchards looking more like rice paddies after the deluge than part of a sophisticated desert agricultural zone, it was easy to see how the palms not only once provide nutrition and raw materials to the civilizations that they supported, but also offered a shaded garden where other foodstuffs such as pomegranates, grains and olives could grow.
The palmeral oasis retains its importance by representing the transfer of culture and knowledge from one society, and from one continent to another—the sort of knowledge that improved the condition of people living in Europe. However the site, and ultimately its demise, also represents the ills of society and the fears of otherness. The palmeral system fell into decline when the Moors were defeated by the united Iberian kingdoms of Ferdinand and Isabella, and were ultimately expelled from Europe in events which closely coincided with the discovery of the New World and the dawn of the Columbian exchange in another boost of resources and knowledge for the old world of Europe. Thus, the palms also serve as a final reminder that collaboration and cooperation lead to greater things for all of humanity, while actions to the contrary contribute to decline and deterioration. Imagine how much richer this corner of Spain would be if the palmeral were still a functioning system! Instead, we’re only left with mass produced shoes and palm fronds waving in the wind.
The Spanish countryside is dotted with a multitude of medieval castles, strategically situated on high vantage points overlooking the fruited valleys below. They stand silently portraying characteristics of Spain’s chequered and sometimes violent history with their time weathered resilience, meanwhile testifying to modern economic woes with their seemingly permanently locked portals. Inspired by the surroundings, it seems only a natural thing for four mature adults to return to the diversions of youth and to construct a sandcastle while in the coastal regions of the Spanish Med. But the rules of the game have changed: no longer can sandcastles be built with the carefree and reckless abandon of youth--they must now be carefully and meticulously constructed with all the training and professionalism that adulthood has infused into their membranes. Constructing sandcastles is no child’s play— it is serious business.
So how many consultants does it take to build a perfect seaside sandcastle? The answer, most decidedly, is four. Any more and one would face the ruinous combination of too many chiefs, and any less would leave potentially catastrophic holes in the project. Fortunately for this castle, the project management team had an experience portfolio in manufacturing engineering, heritage, international affairs, and change consultancy. What appeared to be an afternoon of playtime on a sun soaked Spanish beach was in actuality a real world team building activity. As the castle rose from the sand, it quickly became apparent that respective areas of individual expertise were being implemented in the building of Castillo Nova in the roles assumed by each consultant throughout the delivery of this very important project.
Stage 1: Planning
Having determined that a sandcastle should be built to benefit general well being of the beachside denizens, to improve the local scenery and to make a claim to sovereignty over this small plot of beach amongst the hoards of other sun seekers, the consultants set out to design their castle. Over a preliminary glass of wine, it was discussed between the playmates that this castle absolutely must have a moat, ramparts, a keep, high walls with rounded turrets and most importantly of all—a tunnel feature. Due to its seaside location, the site would also need a protective sea wall, an exterior ditch. Optional features included: sand drip evergreen trees, seaweed for the plastic dinosaur accessories, battlements, and an artillery battery.
Stage 2: Execution
With four autonomous consultants embarking on the realization of this diminutive project, one would predict that conflict would arise over the division of labour, but instead each person quickly found niche areas to implement their areas of expertise while packing sand into buckets. The manufacturing engineer determined the optimal position of the defensive sea wall relative to the encroaching Mediterranean waves while the heritage expert advised on the positioning of the relative castle features appurtenant to the range of historical periods which this castle represented. Meanwhile, the international affairs expert formed the strategic defensive features of the dig in preparation for the probable impending doom that all sovereign entities must expect sooner or later. However, keystone to the smooth exchanges between these sand kings, was the role played by change consultant, who ensured that each individual had the tools necessary to complete their present task and removed any obstacles (such as excess sand or water leaks) to the jobs being finished. This holder of the spade, who appeared to generally be employed in the digging of the exterior ditch, was critical to the ultimate success of the project by acting as conduit for information and process transitions between the other team members.
Stage 3: Evaluation
Clearly, the best place to evaluate the completion of a seaside sandcastle is by swimming a distance into the briny deep. From this vantage point, the build can not only be admired as it towers above the foam, but it allows for a certain smugness to incubate while the swarms of beachcombers pause to look at its magnificence (and to perhaps wonder why a tyrannosaurus rex guards the keep and whether seaweed is an adequate diet for a stegosaurus). It was decided, that while the design itself was inherently sound, the integrity of the final project was undoubtedly subjected to some errors in calculations-- a possible side effect of the local wine-- including the inland reach of the waves and the lack of reinforcing materials for the tunnel feature, ultimately leading to its partial collapse when the defensive moat was filled. Yet deeming to have adequately conquered the amateur sandcastle scene, the team of consultants began to dream of competition sandcastles and not without the talismanic dinosaurs. In the meanwhile, they can be satisfied with their well-planned, culturally sensitive addition of the ruins of yet another castle to the motley Spanish landscape.
#Spain #consulting #playtime
While travelling through the coastal roads of the Spanish Costa Blanca, I reflected that these streets lined with seemingly abandoned and shuttered buildings might be the perfect training ground for the zombie apocalypse. Despite initial impressions deeming the entirety of the region as wasteland, there are three different distinct layers of civilization and thus three different opportunities for preparation training of the dread day when life essentials no longer include wifi and are instead framed by the lower layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As any good wilderness adventurer knows, understanding the terrain and an intimate knowledge of the resources and layout of your environment is key to survival by ensuring those physiological and safety needs.
Although the pretty pictures on the tourism brochures tell you differently, Zone 1--the first layer of the Costa Brava in actuality contains the harsh realities of the urban wilderness. It is in essence a saturated microcosm of the pestilence of a consumerist society, full of the gullible humanoids that bought into those glossy falsehoods of contrived paradise to escape the macabre reality of modern life. Hardly a credit to biodiversity, the stereotypical alcohol saturated, sun-damaged tourists abroad who are supported by an ecosystem of trinket shops and eateries with imitation global cuisine have a destiny for when the apocalypse arrives. Despite the initial repugnance and an overwhelming desire to flee this urban zone for the wild expanses of the backcountry, a quick visual survey soon reveals that the coastal strip of horrors can be utilised as a zombie containment zone in a reverse siege.
There will be unfortunate casualties in the initial abandonment of this zone—including the small pockets of well-hidden cobbled streets housing cafes serving seafood paella made with locally grown rice and the shaded bars offering olives, tapas and regional wines as a post siesta respite from the heat of the Spanish sun. However, these traditional features are also found deeper in the interior, and so the entirety of Spanish culture and civilisation will not be lost by the defense in depth use of the coastal zone. Perhaps when the zombies have been eliminated, the resources of the sea and the beautiful white sands can again be enjoyed sans the scourge of red herring touristy morsels that will thankfully sustain the invading zombies while one makes a timely exit to the next security sector.
Zone 2, or the buffer zone, is the next layer of this regional gradation and it demonstrates a melancholy hybrid of the serene sun-soaked landscapes of the Spanish countryside and the horrors of careless and unbridled economic development. Delineated by a toll road, government protected lowland nature reserves and mountains, this zone is populated by expats dwelling in cookie cutter urbanizations-- enclaves of resistance to Spanish cultural influence-- and the last of the local farmers struggling to secure a livelihood through the cash crop production of olives, citrus fruits and wine for markets abroad. This environment is dotted with villages forced to face the realities of an economy that relies on these expats with their foreign cash infusions, resulting in a high ratio of Chinese takeaways, grocery shelves stocked with foreign imports and airwaves filled with English-language radio stations. While an important sector in terms of the availability of foodstuffs, during the zombie apocalypse, this zone otherwise provides benefit only in its use as an escape corridor and some higher altitude vantage points from which to safely observe the desolation below.
However, the real gem of the Spanish Costa Blanca is found in Zone 3, an area displaying the natural and cultural heritage of this region and making it an ideal place to survive the zombie apocalypse in both its resource supply and defensive positioning. The strategic eye will see the old military turrets still positioned on mountain chokepoints and a network of well-worn trails lead to trusty watering holes, including the many freshwater fonts hosting large contingents of frogs. The dry, arid landscapes are an excellent representation of the biodiversity of the Mediterranean coast; the Hermes oaks typical of the region, wild herbs and asphodels are all ultimately edible and the narrow valleys are lined with figs, brambles and nut trees watered by natural springs, locations signalled by reeds and other water plants. The natural abundance of this zone, despite the hostility of the summer sun, certainly makes it an attractive position for ensuring survival.
Additionally, the zone is sparsely populated by small villages, often drained of former inhabitants who have left for work in the big cities. The houses in these sweet pueblos are built around beautifully tiled courtyards with small kitchen gardens which can be seen through waving lace curtains and street doors left ajar. The village square still displays cross sections of traditional Spanish culture: old women gambling with coins in one corner and clucking at the children playing with balls while the old men occupy another shady corner with their smokes and cañas. When the marauding zombies deem fit to leave the morbid fleshiness of the coast for this interior destination, they might find themselves wishing to evolve from their undead human form, mesmerised by the winsome nature of the Costa Blanca before the onslaught of modern progress and touristic contamination.
#zombieapocalypse #survival #wilderness #spain
Corine loves a good adventure. She's partial to wilderness, UNESCO World Heritage sites and wine. Based in the United Kingdom, she has roamed the trails and streets of six continents. This is a chronicle of her experiences, seasoned liberally with philosophical musings.