Xavier Roget is passionate about his profession, nature and interpersonal relationships. “I’m like one of those crazy people,” he says, and indeed he has been revolutionizing the management of natural parks since long ago with a model based on innovation, communication “bridges” and alliances that turn into friendships.
A Forestry Engineer, Tourism and Culture Advisor of the Network of Parks of the Diputació de Barcelona (Spain), he celebrates to keep on learning: “From this III Ibero-American Seminar that we coorganized with Alex (Gesse, trainer and mentor in FTHub), I expect the opportunity to share a lot of information, a lot of experience, both from the speakers and from those who have the opportunity to grow with new ideas and proposals of all this knowledge”.
Do you know Portbou?
“I am a Forestry Engineer and if you see my childhood and my professional education there is a clear link there. But from the beginning I was very interested in nature, not as an abstract entity, but its intimate relationship with human beings. It was one of my deepest thoughts, how to study the relationship between human beings and their environment.
“My first training was really my family and my environment. I was born in a small village on the border with France (Portbou) with mountains and sea. My family had the good habit of going to the mountains every Sunday, so since I was very young we put on our backpacks and went to the mountains to spend the whole day walking.
“I would leave school, leave my book bag on the beach and go to the sea to look for octopus and mussels to take home. I had a wonderful childhood and a deep contact with nature.”
The urban being and disconnection
“We have often heard that human beings are a problem for nature, and it doesn’t have to be that way. For a long time man knew how to relate quite well with it because in an innate way there is respect for nature.
“The more modern human being, more and more urban, distanced himself and lost that relationship. Now it is a very provisional relationship, very punctual, of ‘escape’. The urban man or woman, who lives a life full of stress, problems, when he or she can, escapes to nature, to take something from it. And that relationship is not usually very healthy, although understandable.
“I remember once, at a Congress in Manchester, where there was an interesting debate: what we had to do was not so much to bring man to nature, but nature to man: to try to reintroduce nature into cities, that had become unlivable.”
“When I was 28 years old, I had the good fortune to be the director of a natural park, a territory that had many problems, from forest fires to landfills, high-voltage power lines. How could I give some or small solutions to those big problems? By generating links. So I started building bridges. Before solving things, try to create bridges”.
“About 20 years ago, if someone proposed a Contemporary Art Center in a natural park, they would say ‘look at him, how funny, he’s crazy’. It involved creating astronomical observatories in the parks, programs of contemporary music, poetry and also the Parc a Taula, which today has more than 300 companies linked to this food project, of alliance with local producers and gastronomy, with whom we build many things together.
“The best strategy is to create alliances. The park was always seen as a protected territory, but on the defensive way, and any human being orbiting around it was a potential danger. But if you want to go far, you have to first of all generate relationships, friends. If you want to go too fast, you go alone but you don’t get very far. Someone will soon cut you off.”
“I am interested in the concepts of well-being and health for people. The material life that is so heavy, so consumerist that generates again this separation, this disconnection. It is not a coincidence: something must have to do with people being unwell and stressed, with the way we live and the way we relate to the environment.”
Lessons in strategies and bridging
“I began to understand that these bridges also had to be generated between programs and facilities. And for well-being we incorporated Forest Bathing, Forest Therapy, and also to be able to enjoy a poetry program in May at sunset. Well-being is also being able to listen to a nice music concert on a summer night, and so we also incorporate youth.
“It’s all very transversal, in the end it’s all a system. And there are no magic formulas. The best way to approach these issues from my point of view and from my experience is to have this holistic view, a wide angle. In the same way, people’s health is also closely linked to the health of the territory”.
“You don’t build overnight. You have to start small so you don’t get frustrated. Set a small and humble first goal. Find who can help you achieve it, that’s a partnership, and get it.
“Even if it’s very small and very humble, you got it. There are two of you, you did it. You are happy, you celebrate, and then you set a little bit bigger goal. And that’s how you grow. The important thing is where you would like to go. Along the way, you will discover ideas, new proposals, new actors that will take you somewhere else, and that’s how you move forward”.
The recognition of successes and the wisdom of failures
“This Seminar is very useful to me personally because I have the professional challenge of designing a Strategic well-being and health Plan for the entire network of parks in Barcelona. As I want to build it little by little and with a very transversal dimension, I am very interested in knowing the initiatives that are taking place in the world, the latest developments. I am very interested in knowing the difficulties, the problems.
“Sometimes in congresses and seminars we all tell about our great successes and do not comment on our great failures, because it doesn’t look pretty: but what we learn most from is the failures, so it is very interesting that we can exchange and comment on the difficulties. Where we think we went wrong, as a way of getting closer to a solution. That’s why the idea of sharing with so many people for 4 days a lot of information that otherwise would not be possible is so attractive.”
Ph: Xavier Roget