The operative landscape is as focused on behaviors as it is on objects. This behavioral focus is two fold: there is the behavior set we would normally call maintenance, i.e. is this a place that is mowed, burned, tilled, or abandoned? And then there is the behavior set induced in the typical person interacting with the site. Is that landscape participant awed, filled with reverence for the natural beauty, or delight in the resplendent abundance of their setting? Or is that person encouraged to ignore their surroundings, discard their litter wantonly, and turn a blind eye to the salt stricken spruces at the edge of the parking lot?
Common to both behavior sets is a capacity for cumulative impact. A hillside tilled every fall will be vulnerable to the eroding winds and melting snows. It is at risk of developing a till-pan, which is a layer of subsoil suddenly compact when everything above it has been fluffed and stirred and lost all structure. Such contrasting soil layers share neither water nor nutrients nor encourage root penetration by the plants above.
A landscape participant steeped in sites that demand to be ignored develops an ecological cataract, a blind spot in their interactions with the natural world. When you only see a cluster of trees from within your enclosed car, how can you know the scent of healthy leaf duff on a forest floor? And ignorant of the scents that signal vital new soil being created, how does a roadside ditch filled with standing, algal stuffed waters convey to you its distress?
A landscape that is not functional is not operative, which seems obvious, but more than that, a landscape which is not generative is not operative. If the maintenance procedure is a fundamentally destructive, either of that landscape or of the landscape participants, then that landscape is not operative either. We will not measure this in tiny little parcels. There is nothing inherently evil in a small organic lawn, nor vitally wrong with tilling your garden plot. Our concern here is the larger mosaic, the interlocking pieces that aggregate over space and time.