This episode of the ‘Future making in the Anthropocene’-podcast focuses on actionable science and how to raise awareness among different stakeholders about changes in their landscapes. This type of science starts from the bottom up and addresses dilemmas that communities are faced with. By consulting them in the development of scenarios of possible and desirable futures, this research method helps to empower citizens in complex decision-making processes and prevents that they feel left out. As a result, stakeholders from totally different backgrounds are introduced to each other’s perspectives and might, ultimately, become involved in policies that affect their environment.
Developing scenarios helps to envisage possible futures and understand the effects of choices we make now. Scenarios also help to break down wicked problems into smaller parts. By providing a better understanding and a framework, science can help to bridge differences between people from different backgrounds. Scenarios are discussed with as many stakeholders as possible. In that way, local knowledge is accumulated and can be put to use by policymakers, who are supported by this process in the difficult decisions that need to be made.
In a recent study, Terranova researcher Roberta Rigo verified how scenarios could actually contribute to land management. By zooming in on two regions in Brittany (France), she questions how effective scenarios are in producing outcomes for local stakeholders. She interviewed and brought together a multitude of current stakeholders in workshops that dealt with several issues that are of importance to those living and working in the region. These dealt primarily with the management and availability of water, for all types of use, including farming. Due to recent droughts, this proved to be an overarching subject that concerned everyone involved, from citizens to professionals such as water managers. The setup urged all of them to think about water management from a broad perspective.
This method seems to counteract a current trend of narrowing of perspectives, or so-called ‘siloization’, in the management of landscapes. This concerns regions throughout Europe. In the Netherlands, for instance, farmers have long been pressured to produce as much as possible, often at the expense of the farmland’s soil and water quality. This has led to a sharp decline in biodiversity that Sarah Westenburg, a Dutch expert on agricultural policy, is hoping will be turned around by supporting farmers’ collectives in their transition towards more nature-inclusive agriculture. BoerenNatuur, the organisation representing 40 agricultural collectives in the Netherlands, facilitates these collectives in executing more ecologically sustainable agricultural practices by providing so-called ‘green blue services’. These green-blue services can support the necessary transition, but they do not yet, however, yield enough revenues to provide farmers with the necessary support and incentive to change their current business model of farming.