Montescola is a new word combining the Galizan-Portuguese “monte” (mountain, forest) and “escola” (school). In Galiza, common land accounts for 1/3 of the territory (approximately 650.000 hectares) that are directly managed by traditional assembly democracy communities, significantly contributing to the livelihood of more than half a million people.

However, this peculiar survival of such an ancient institution of land stewardship is threaded by many of the pressing issues regarding sustainability in Galicia, including rural depopulation, loss of biodiversity, environmentally destructive projects, etc. These factors, together with the lack of understanding of Galician commons (or even general knowledge about their existence), hampers the potential of territorial commons.

Montescola uses educational tools to address this pressing issue, building public attention, interest and active engagement on common land management and sustainable usage “gifts” of nature, as traditionally considered. The circle seeks to develop long term connections between children/adolescents and their families with the lands. This is being done through a wide range of activities, including reforestation with autochthonous forest species, elimination of invasive species, multifunctional uses of the land, prevention of forest fires, etc.

Coordinator: Joám Evans Pim            Email: info@montescola.org

Projects:

  • Educational tools for awareness on the impacts of mining (https://www.saberes.eu/css/programmes/): “A mina contamina” (“the mine pollutes”) is a social sensitization initiative tackling the environmental and socio-economic impacts of mining extractivism. The need for sensitization and knowledge dissemination regarding mining from alternative points of view that are based on historical and scientific evidence has become crucial considering the intense activity of the mining lobby to create “a favourable state of opinion” that suppresses all the negative impacts caused by extractivism. This programme is the result of the active engagement of environmental educators, primary, secondary and university teachers, environmental activists and historians. The programme’s goal is to generate a critical and reactive attitude towards the vision of mining that both the mining lobby and the administration seek to generalize (“Galicia is a mine”). This attitude is to empower society in the defence of its land, health and future.

 

  • Participatory Protected Areas Programme: Natural spaces such as National Parks or Nature Reserves are a privileged setting for the development of educational experiences. However, usually these settings and the policies, regulations, conservation plans, inventories, surveillance, etc., that affect them are set up, managed and implemented by public bodies and officials and experts with little public participation, which is expected to be a relatively passive user, with no real say in direct interventions and governance. In our view, although this may be well meant and even functional, direct participation of the public, and particularly schools and other educational settings, in the design, planning and management of protected areas is a powerful tool for education in itself. Imagine a whole school community actively engaged in defining the habitats and perimeter of a future protected area, performing field work to identify the species present in the area and the protective measures to be implemented, contributing to the binding conservation plan that will govern the area and weigh in on the definition of sustainable uses by local communities and visitors. Montescola is working on it!

 

  • Center for the Understanding of the Commons (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRPtmqLJ44k): Montescola is working to restore two building from a mine that operated in the 1940s and 1950s within a 2 acres plot of common land of the Froxán Commons Community, surrounded by high environmental value forests of the same traditional land stewardship entity. The original buildings include a traditional foundry (23m2), a two story 30m2 building and an attached 120m2 larger space, of which 40m2 will be restored as an in‐doors seminar room and the remaining 80m2 will be prepared as an outdoor classroom and auditorium. The restoration process will be participatory and an educational experience of bio‐construction in itself showcasing traditional and modern bioclimatic construction technique, passive heating system, and almost exclusive usage of construction materials from the surrounding community forestlands (local clay, wood and stone). The building will be off‐grid using micro-hydro power.