Fiona Reynolds–former Director-General of the National Trust, a conservation organization which protects and makes public historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and mills in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland–examines the cultural heritage of beauty and why its important to cultivate and care for.

By Fiona Reynolds at The Guardian:

Beauty was a word and an idea that people in previous centuries used freely and confidently, including in legislation and public policy. And because people celebrated beauty it was something they sought to create, in town and country, and enacted laws to protect the things and places people loved.

Over the last century we have lost a vast richness of nature and much of the diversity of our landscape; we have degraded our soils and natural resources. In spite of huge efforts, nature and the beauty of the wider countryside are in a worse state than when the conservation movement set out to protect them. Add to this the looming pressures of climate change and it is clear we need to do things differently.

And here beauty can help us. Beauty is not just about aesthetics: it is a way of looking at the world that values the things we can’t put a material price on, as well as the things that we can measure. We seek prosperity, but we need a different kind of progress. We live in an era where fewer of us are driven by religious imperatives, but we are not lacking in spirituality, nor in the capacity to be moved to strive for better things. Beauty can give shape to that yearning.

This story was originally published on June 2nd, 2016.