A holistic vision of sustainability and intergenerational solidarity for cultural landscapes

We have conducted an interview with our intern, Catherine Dezio. Originally from the historic city of Verona, she is currently working on a PhD in “Design and Management of Environment and Landscape”, and joined us in July to assist the Science Unit in its preparation for Expo 2015. Catherine aspires to work in the field of landscape studies, and we hope her 4-month internship within the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), will translate into a concrete place for her passions to converge and her future profession to take shape.

What is your background?

Throughout my life, my personal interests and my work have intersected constantly. I am a firm believer in green economy, sustainable mobility and organic food; I am a great lover of all animals, and I believe deeply in a vision of a world in which man, animals and environment live together in an equal, harmonious and sustainable way. This may sound utopian, but it makes my work a real passion in which I strongly believe.

After attending a secondary school specializing in scientific subjects in Verona, I completed a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture and a Master's Degree in Sustainable Architecture Design, both from the Politecnico di Milano. Having passed the Architectural licensure examination in 2013, I am now enrolled in the Architects Order Board. I also obtained an Energy Expert Diploma at the KlimaHouse Agency of Bolzano, which allows me to continue to pursue my studies on environmental sustainability from every possible angle.

Currently, I am entering the final year of a PhD in "Design and management of environment and landscape" at ‘La Sapienza’ University in Rome, Interfaculty of Architecture, Agriculture and Forest Sciences, where I have had the chance to attend courses, workshops and research activities. I was also on the organizing committee of international conferences in Rome and a speaker at many national and international conferences. My PhD thesis focuses on agrarian cultural landscapes and their resilience. I have won two scholarships to carry out this research at CURSA, the University Consortium for Socio-economic and Environmental Research of Rome.

Why did you want to intern at UNESCO? What do think you are gaining from your internship so far?

I have had 8 years of work experience, from high school throughout my university career, in Architecture and Urban Design offices in Verona and Milan. I also undertook an internship on territory at the Planning Department of the Polytechnic and attended a number of international workshops about landscape. In my spare time, I try to carry forward my work for the environment and for sustainability at the Lions International charity

My interest in the current internship is closely linked to its relevance to my PhD thesis on UNESCO agrarian cultural landscapes, and to my research training in the environmental field. It provides a unique opportunity to gain international experience, which feeds into my current research. The work I am conducting is a constant source of new ideas and information. The team keeps me involved with great professionalism and kindness and makes me feel that I am an important part of their activities – as well as of a wider global responsibility network – and I am grateful to them for making this an extremely meaningful experience for me.  

As part of the internship, I am working to define the intrinsic meaning of best practices in agricultural and cultural landscapes of traditional production, which will form the main backbone of UNESCO's contribution to Expo 2015 in Milan and Venice. The idea is to identify selection criteria that link production of food, care of land and water resources to sustainability and intergenerational development. In this context, local communities play an important role, and taking this into account means developing an awareness of the practices, traditional knowledge and culture of each place – everything, in short, that we define as “intangible heritage”.

In the course of this work, one of the most important observations for me has been how the concept of “time” features daily in our work here at UNESCO: it is an ongoing relationship between the historical heritage that is passed down from generation to generation, the landscapes, production and populations today, and the ability to adapt to change, the continuity of this heritage and of development towards a sustainable future for everyone.

How will your internship influence your choices? What are your goals for the future? What will happen after the internship?

My internship is already affecting my choices daily by making me focus more on the international sphere, which I find stimulating and inspiring, and giving me a greater sense of direction in my current studies. It has showed me how to disseminate best practices to ensure the continuity of heritage and the safe management of territories – key to global sustainable development.

After the internship, which will take me to the end of 2014, I will finish my doctorate and explore job opportunities in the field of landscape studies. I sincerely hope to remain in the international arena, and to continue to work on landscape and territories, based on a holistic view of sustainable development, and I would relish the opportunity to continue to explore this project in an international organization such as UNESCO.