Localism as Nationalism in the Eastern Pyrenees
In the Mediterranean regions of Europe, long-term occupation of most habitable sites is the norm, and humans have left their mark. Geomorphologic research, however, has shown that much of this apparent degradation is of rather old age and that drainage and erosion networks have not changed significantly over the last 4,000 years (Grove and Rackham 2001). In fact, visible signs of current degradation in the form of soil erosion may be linked more to a reverse population scenario, the depopulation of rural countryside in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a result of human migration to urban areas of the Mediterranean
(Blaikie and Brookfield 1987: 125; Lefebvre 1933; McNeill 1992). Specifically, labor-intensive agricultural terraces have collapsed, leading to massive slope failures in some regions and chronic soil erosion in other nearby areas. For small mountain villages, out-migration played a crucial role in maintaining a sustainable livelihood in communities for generations (Netting 1981). Despite this, the consequences of escalating out-migration, modernization, and rural abandonment are also quite clear: abandoned ruins of Pyrenean towns litter the agro-pastoral landscapes of the region (Lovell 1996). A growing but still regionally disparate amount of information exists on the consequences of depopulation for landscape degradation and erosion processes (refer to Butzer 1990; Puigdefábregas and Fillat 1986), yet little of this new literature is focused on how new forms of cultural landscapes are being created by northern European in-migration to the Pyrenees.