Landscape Shapes Culture, And Topography Informs Society

The influence of topography reverberates through the tectonic plates of the world, inspiring culture, customs, and connections. As I reflect on my second week in Bogotá, I’m drawn to the intricacies and parallels between the topography of this area and my mother landscape, the Colorado Plateau.

Colombia is one of the most geologically diverse nations in the world, replete with Amazonian jungles and rivers, tropical lowlands, gasping mountains, two coastlines, and more. The biogeochemistry here is striking, providing a foundation for mega biotic diversity: the second most in the world after Brazil, which is seven times larger.

Conversely, the American West vibrates on a frequency noticeable removed from the rest of the world. Within these pulses, the Colorado Plateau resounds with canyon whispers, desert croakings, craggy strainings, and rivers drowning. The perceived harshness drives many off, while others of us rejoice in its vastness.

I want to do more than just compare these two places. They are vitally different, and rightfully so.

In her book Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams wrote, “Landscape shapes culture.” During our first week here, my Fulbright cohort and I listened to numerous fascinating speakers share about Colombian politics, relations with the US, educational systems, and culture. These talks were laced with the premise that geography has been paramount to Colombia’s development. Variances in regions drive education, economics, and health. Regionalism is important and distinct here, because for so many years the country was separated by geographic barriers, and still is.

Bogotá is on a high plateau, ensconced by the Andes. As home to nearly 9 million out of 48 million people in the country, it is the hub of uneven population development driven by geomorphology. Connections between areas, whether within the same department, country, or continent, create a mosaic of land neurons: firing at the brilliant pace of life.

Even as I stand in awe of the mountains surrounding us, the framework in my mind reverts back to the canyons and rivers of home. The land I grew up on, my own tierra santa, taught me reverence, utility, gratitude, and conservation. As I have said before, thriving in the resource is the key to conservation education.

So where will these landscapes take me now? I step in, uncertain of coming movements.

Landscape shapes culture, and topography informs society.



View from Montserrate (photo mine)



Topographical map of Colombia (Servicio Geológico Colombiano)


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