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Ideas like apple trees

Cristina Dalla Torre © Cristian Castelnuovo

Whenever Cristina Dalla Torre gets excited about an idea, she feels she has to tell the whole world about it. She knows how important it is for ideas to get out there and enthuse others. And yet, occasionally, she can be lost for words: ‘This is a good idea, a really good idea. It’s like, you know, …’

Her dark curls bounce around wildly as she speaks, as if underscoring her words. The 27-year-old Italian conducts research on social innovations at the European Academy in Bolzano (Eurac Research). And when she laughs her warm laughter, it’s almost as if she’s looking to apologise for the chaotic way she articulates her thoughts.

And yet, that’s the way she does things and how she achieves success. Her most recent idea came about as she was taking a long hard look at her home region, the Non Valley. She was appalled at the way its natural and cultural landscapes were evolving. The Non Valley is famous for its apple plantations, but most of the land is intensively farmed and, in recent decades, a great deal of building land has been made available to private individuals. Cristina Dalla Torre knows full well that agriculture is not synonymous with biodiversity.

Through her involvement in the CIPRA Youth Advisory Board and as a member of the Board of CIPRA Italy she knew that landscape and spatial planning processes need time and that nothing can be achieved in isolation. Successful sustainable changes need the involvement of other people, especially younger people like her. ‘Someone has to have the initial idea, and it will only be a good one if other people then get enthusiastic about it.’

And so Cristina Dalla Torre drummed up her network of friends and acquaintances. It led to a whole range of activities designed to promote the region’s biodiversity and make people aware of the links between biodiversity and landscape. The group revolving around the young scientist initiated school visits, a biodiversity festival, and a book. ‘A good idea always has a solid foundation and the potential to develop further,’ she explains. Just like the apple trees in the Non Valley. A strong trunk is able to support the branches for the fruit to grow. And you just never know what direction they’ll branch out into.