Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trans-Scalar Land Use Planning

Not sure how many of you are readers of Land Use Policy, but it is one of my favorite journals. I just finished reading one of its early-released pieces (i.e., it has an official print publication date of 2014, but is available online now) that I am quite taken with.

Researchers Thomas Rudel and Patrick Meyfroidt, examine how rural land use planning in developing countries is coping with the combined crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and food security. Worldwide it is tricky grappling with out to address these issues individually and it gets even harder to come up with policies tackling all three. They identify two interesting trends: (1) emergence of trans-scalar land use planning and (2) growing discussions about "tradeoffs" in land use planning. While we see the second one here in the US a bit (heck I even talk about it my work), the trans-scalar land use planning approach seems to be at odds with US approaches.

Trans-scalar is well thinking about land use needs and desires at multiple scales. Such land use planning is not just based on local community needs and desires but also considers broader scales/levels such as neighboring communities, on a national level, or even on a global level. Rudel & Meyfroidt present a helpful background summaries of how different regions view land use planning (this article is useful for these summaries alone even if you aren't interested in the rest of it). Their description of the localism/indivudalism we see in North America contrasts with the global pushes we see in developing countries emphasizing outsider interests in land use planning. Fascinating, eh? We can even see how this fits into the neoliberal paradigm as we globalize land use planning to compensate for losses to biodiversity and to mitigate climate change impacts. I also just enjoy their description of land use planning as pretty much anarchy.

Check it out --

Thomas K. Rudel & Patrick Meyfroidt, Organizing Anarchy: The Food Security–Biodiversity–Climate Crisis and the Genesis of Rural Land Use Planning in the Developing World, 26 Land Use Pol’y 239 (2014).

ABSTRACT: Shortfalls in global food production, coupled with the growing visibility of climate change's disruptive effects, have underlined for many observers the importance of devoting rural lands to their ‘optimal’ use, where they can make maximal contributions to the global imperatives of feeding the human population and maintaining vital environmental services. In this context observers have endorsed rural land use planning as a way to insure that, at least in theory, lands get devoted to their best uses. In practice, land use planning in the developing world has resembled ‘organized anarchy’. Small landholders with insecure land tenure, overseas investors seeking large land deals, NGOs representing indigenous peoples, government officials, and staff from international environmental NGOs and multilateral organizations have come together in strategic action fields to struggle over and sometimes negotiate land use plans for contested landscapes. These plans represent a strategic, spatially explicit response to the climate change–biodiversity–food security crisis.

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