Landcare and regional aspects

What is the meaning of landcare today?

In the column "landcare" you will find information on the German landcare groups.The diagram "What is the meaning of landcare today?" is important.

In Germany, landcare means today

  • preservation and creation of habitats for native species - both fauna and flora - and protection of the natural ressources soil, water and air
  • non-interference in natural processes
  • securing the capability to use the natural ressources by ways of sustainable landuse. For this reason landcare supports regional economic circulation.

In the last few years many regional intiatives grow up all over germany. The Chairman of the German organisation for landscape conservation, Josef Göppel, describes in the following summary the situation:Regionalism und globalization

A summary about the discussion in Germany

Ambiguity is the key characteristic of globalization. On the one hand it has led to a worldwide dissemination of ideas and it has created contacts between people from very different cultures. In some countries this has brought forth additional prosperity. Yet on the other hand globalization has resulted in growing inequality and it has helped to undermine mechanisms of democratic control. International corporations have risen beyond the legal boundaries of individual nations and they have succeeded in playing various countries off against each other. Moreover, fully deregulated international trade has been found to disregard traditional structures and social cohesion as well as the environment.

There are three approaches that may contribute to make globalization more acceptable for people and for nature. Environmental protection and labor rights need to be included in trade agreements. In addition a new kind of regionalism is gradually evolving in many countries, aiming at ensuring the survival of regional cultures and traditions even in a world where globalization prevails. “What is there at the heart of the regional movement?” is the core question this essay is focusing on.

The concept of an independent regional economy was born in rural areas . No longer willing to be restricted to the roles of suppliers and complementary areas for a country’s economic hubs, these rural areas embarked upon autonomous regional development. Deficiencies in regional infrastructure no longer were to be alleviated by means of outside subsidies but by utilizing locally produced goods and services in an internal regional circulation. Determining and focusing on a region’s specific features were perceived to be an opportunity to strengthen local economies with their predominantly small and medium-sized businesses.

Small and medium-sized businesses in rural areas – whether in agriculture, tourism, trades and crafts, or the service sector, including even banks – increasingly regard themselves as a strategic alliance that will either jointly pull through or decline.

Primary production in agriculture and forestry is the starting point of regional economies. Typical regional specialties are to be marketed more aggressively both by producer-to-consumer direct marketing and by the supermarkets establishing shelves dedicated to locally produced goods. A higher proportion of a country’s energy demand is to be met with lumber and other renewable resources. People working in skilled trades want to emphasize the strengths their work has over standardized factory production: they can provide customized solutions, offer reliable repair service, and allow customers to return used goods. For local retailers the situation is clear: every single newly created job in a large superstore inevitably leads to the loss of three jobs in local retail. Even rural banks have by now realized that regional economies form the backbone of their business: once the economic structure of a town has been destroyed, investment will decrease and real estate values will slump. Even highly complicated integrated solutions with a large proportion of service elements have recently become applicable to more and more regionally determined markets, because they need proximity to and familiarity with the specific cultural features of a region to be successful.

The elaborately knit network of local and regional economic interdependence also provides the basis for a balanced distribution of a country’s population, as the polarization of urban sprawl in the vicinity of major conurbations and depopulated rural areas has created a host of problems.

Another major advantage of the concept of regional economies is the greater stability of overall economic activity it engenders. Thus a global economy bolstered by numerous regional economies will be altogether more stable, as disruptions in one place will not necessarily affect the entire system. This is perfectly illustrated by the frantic nervousness of globalised stock exchanges as well as by Spanish truckers whose going on strike can paralyze German automakers.

To sum things up, it can be said that the main part of globalised trade will keep being provided by industrial mass products. However, both basic goods and services and service-oriented integrated solutions will limit the scope of global trade. It is on both of those fringes that regional economies find their biggest opportunities.

Considering large-scale transcontinental mergers a serious threat to free competition, the proponents of the free market economy in its classic sense have started to speak out in favor of regional economies. They argue that globalization will lead to increased competition in the short term only, whereas the eventual outcome is bound to be an oligopoly with only a small number of behemoths predominating the market.

What is to be done? A strategy aiming at a balance between ‘regional’ and ‘global’ has to first of all focus on the consumer. It is the individual consumer’s purchase decision that can most strongly influence the further direction a globalised economy will take. The shop registers are the place where 21st century life-styles will be determined.

Arousing a regional awareness will be a first step. Only those consumers who have realized that their own geographical region has something unique to offer will act – and shop – accordingly. It is up to local politicians and regional media to make people aware of the intrinsic value of local supply. The next step is a global network of activists who forge strategic alliances and can stand up to the multi-national corporations. The association called “Alliance 21 – for a sustainable way of life” that is currently being established in Europe, could at one point become a contributing element. Another thing that needs to be dealt with is the non-taxation of aviation fuel, which represents a severe form of market distortion.

The basic character of the European continent is one of variety. The European cultural model depends upon a variety of languages, cultures and economic models. This variety of life-styles involves a considerable range of how to approach problems and a large number of different solutions. Yet the more centralized things become, the narrower the path on which evolution can tread.

Critics of the idea of regional economies have sometimes been accused of supporting a withdrawal into comfortable niches in utter disregard of reality. Some critics even go so far as to conjure up the danger of a rebirth of a “blood- and soil”-mentality. Indeed, such tendencies, if they emerge, need to be dealt with swiftly and determinedly. But despite such fears it remains clear that the earth as a whole is too big, too unfamiliar for the individual to be considered ‘home’. We need a limited, comprehensible area to live in, in order to be able to cope. Processes that take place on a regional scale remain controllable, whereas global decisions increasingly cause feelings of powerlessness. Regional strategies are the modern equivalent of love for one’s homeland – and they are by no means restricted to rural areas. Conservation of regional cultures embraces the maintenance of the typical flair of Munich or Hamburg as well as the revitalization of traditional elements of landscapes such as Rhön or Spreewald.

There is plenty of evidence of the fact that a combined regional economy will ease the burden we place on the environment: less traffic, less consumption of raw materials, a more balanced utilization of natural resources and thus a boost for sustainability and the preservation of healthy landscapes. The key elements, however, will be the social and cultural effects of regionalisation. To a certain degree competition can be replaced with cooperation, and it is in support strategies such as these that an essential characteristic of sustainability can be found.

The ideal of regional economies is a way of life in which man takes an active and alert interest in everything that in going on in the world and in which he reflectively employs the technological achievements of our time but at the same time remains firmly anchored in his distinctive region with all its atmosphere of closeness.