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random notes from our staff

Biodiversity and Local History

So many species inhabited our lands, rivers and seas in the past. Biodiversity can be “mainstreamed” into local history awareness actions and vice-versa, as indeed natural and historical heritage are both building blocks of local identity. Despite the disappearing of so much biodiversity, it remained until our days in the names of streets, squares, in local tales and so on. When we speak about biodiversity, we can go back a few years, some decades or even centuries, to explain its importance. For instances, the Portuguese oyster, which disappeared from the Tagus estuary in the 60s due to pollution, was in fact important not only for the economy during many decades, but was a major item found among the evidences of the neolithic diet, found locally at Moita Municipality.

Hence, the idea of using a real person from the past to tell us how things were those days.

A British crusader that lived in the XII century and was at Lisbon in 1147, wrote a lively description of the conquest of Lisbon by the first king of Portugal with the help of crusaders from several parts of Europe. In his letter he refers that the Tagus estuary was so rich, that two thirds were water and one third was fish (The original document is a unique Manuscript in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).

Departing from this, he “was asked” to come back and tell some real stories about Tagus and its biodiversity, since pre-history to the present times. The Sturgeon, the Portuguese Oyster and other missing or threatened species are some of the issues he talks about with the children. In the end, children are invited to do a “fishery” of colored paper fishes, where the smallest must be left behind so they can grow. Finally, if children really want to protect the Tagus, they may become knights.

I prepared this idea and a script for the crusader for the World Environment Day celebrations promoted by the Municipality of Moita. A total of aprox. 350 children participated.