Europe’s land use futures revealed

Contrasting visions of Europe in 30 years time - from a high-tech decentralised rural society to swelling urban ghettos - are shown through a new online tool designed to help EU citizens reflect on how their activities are transforming the continent.

Based on computer simulations of shifting land use patterns over the next 30 years, the Prelude tool presents five scenarios driven by changes in the economy, industry, agriculture, demographics and climate.

The five ‘futures,’ complete with animations, descriptions and in-depth ‘storylines,’ were created and assembled online by the European Environment Agency

A Europe of rich gated rural communities and expanding urban ghettos populated by immigrants is portrayed in the “Great Escape” scenario, which sees natural spaces engulfed by urban sprawl and increasing pollution from intensive agriculture. This is the scenario we are heading if globalisation combines with reduced policy intervention, the models predict.

A more optimistic image is offered by the “Evolved Society” future, where energy scarcity and extensive flooding compel the European community to embrace eco-friendly living. This scenario, which also requires more policy intervention, sees a rural revival as people move away from urban centres, especially in Eastern Europe.

Other ‘possible worlds’ include the “Lettuce Surprise” food scarcity future, or a scenario simply named “Big Crisis” where environmental pressures push Europe to develop extensive public transport networks and non-intensive agriculture.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, said at the launch of interactive site: “PRELUDE illustrates that the key trends facing Europe can change significantly.

“We need better integrated, long-term assessments to effectively support strategic decision-making. Our current governance structures are not well suited to this kind of long-term vision.

“The PRELUDE project was our attempt to go far beyond the perspective of two legislative cycles and explore Europe’s society and environment 30 years from now. We need a long-term view if we don’t want to undermine our commitment to sustainable development,” she said.

Goska Romanowicz

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