IT STARTS WITH A RIVER BASIN

Asinaro River Basin Project. Noto. Sicily

The Asinaro River Basin project explores the potential of river basins as physical spaces for generating local responses to our most pressing sustainability challenges and for discovering opportunities.

The Asinaro river basin in south east Sicily covers 85 sq km around the city of Noto, its countryside and coastal zone. Its main river, the Asinaro, runs for 22 km from its source on the Iblei plateau near Testa dell’Acqua, past Noto Antica and the baroque city of Noto, a Unesco World Heritage site, to Calabernardo on the Ionian sea.
 
The Asinaro is the inspiration for a network of initiatives using the river basin as a 'living laboratory' for experimenting with practical, innovative approaches to rural and urban challenges, with the active participation of local communities. The project is an idea in progress and an ongoing conversation. 

"I don’t think you can love a whole planet … what’s driving the most powerful resistance movements is love of particular places"
Naomi Klein

IN A RIVER BASIN EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED

A river basin is the area of land drained by a river and its tributaries. It is one of nature's most complete, complex and dynamic ecosystems. Most of us live in a river basin and throughout history river basins have shaped landscapes, communities, cultures and civilisations. Today they have much to teach us. 
River basins are living systems with clear geographic boundaries within which everything is connected. They encourage holistic thinking and holistic responses. They are potent symbols of identity around which to create awareness and encourage participation and action.

SEEING THE BIGGER PICTURE

​When we start to look at local challenges around water, biodiversity, energy, food, waste, youth employment or demographic change within the 'container' of a river basin, we see them not as isolated challenges, but as connected parts of a bigger picture. With the system of the river basin in mind we can reframe complex issues, develop more integrated responses and discover opportunities.  
“A river basin comes closer than any other defined area of land, with the exception of an isolated island, to meeting the definition of an ecosystem in which all things, living and non-living, are connected and interdependent”
milwaukeeriverkeeper.org

A BASINFUL OF RESOURCES

Although one of Sicily's smaller river basins, the Asinaro contains a vast range of assets and resources - from fresh water to fertile soils, biodiversity and culture. The Iblei plateau has some of Europe's richest biodiversity and is being designated a National Park. The area is increasingly known for the archaeological remains of ancient Noto, the baroque city of Noto, and for the products of its territory - grapes, olives, lemons, oranges, almonds and carob - and much more.

THE FORGOTTEN RIVER?

For over 2000 years the waters of the Asinaro have been the life force for ancient Noto and the 18th century city that stands in the middle basin today. Abundant orchards were established along the Asinaro valley by the Arabs in the 9th to 11th centuries, creating an earthly paradise that became known as the giardini di Noto.

 

Until a few decades ago the Asinaro basin was still highly productive and supported thriving rural communities. Today much of the land and assets in the basin are neglected and the Asinaro river, a vital resource, has been forgotten by the people of Noto. Water quality and supply is just one of a number of critical social, ecological and economic challenges within the river basin that could benefit from innovative and regenerative ideas.

"The Asinaro is a rare example of a river basin that is small enough to manage and to engage communities around a sense of place, but large enough for projects or interventions to have significant impact"
“When nature is our teacher, we observe the patterns and processes that sustain ecosystems. We discover that the dynamics describing the behaviour of natural systems apply as well to human social systems, and can guide us in our efforts to promote change in those systems” Fritjof Capra
SYSTEMS THINKING CHANGES EVERYTHING
When we look at things in isolation rather than as part of a whole system, we fail to address the deeper roots of problems and shift them to another part of the system. Yesterday's 'solutions' become today's problems. When we step back and look at the bigger picture, we see things from a fresh perspective, patterns and connections become clearer and we can shift from 'solving problems' to identifying opportunities.

BUT WHERE DO YOU START?

'Systems thinking' can sound academic, abstract, daunting. Where do you start? How do you engage people? How do you not get lost in complexity? The river basin is a dynamic but intuitive map that helps us see systems more clearly, starting at any scale - 'from the creek to the watershed'. Working in a natural ecosystem we directly sense and experience what goes on within the system, the boundaries of the bigger picture, the inter-connected challenges and opportunities and new paths to collaboration ..
START WITH A RIVER BASIN
LEARN FROM NATURE'S ECOSYSTEMS
DISCOVER OPPORTUNITIES
AN IDEA. A NETWORK.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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