The aim of this Societal Challenge is to analyze the combined effects of climate and other drivers of global environmental change on the sustainability of rural landscapes and livelihoods.
Rural landscapes and livelihoods have changed considerably in the last half century. In the global North, rural landscapes have witnessed depopulation, land concentration, agricultural intensification, and water and biodiversity degradation. In the global South, they have become heavily threatened by deforestation, intensifying extractive industries (i.e., mining and fossil fuel extraction), and the marginalization of Indigenous Peoples and local communities who have traditionally inhabited and managed them. Both in the North and South, environmental change, including climate variability and climatic extremes, interacts with these other processes generating diversified and most often negative impacts on rural systems. The diversity of potential interactions between drivers and social- ecological systems makes particularly salient the need of locally tailored but still comparable diagnostics. Moreover, impacts on rural landscapes and livelihoods have occurred in parallel to a paradigm change in the way rural landscapes and livelihoods are generally viewed and valued. Previously considered essential hubs for food and raw material production, rural landscapes and livelihoods are now mostly understood as the source of a variety of public environmental amenities and services, differently valued by different stakeholder groups. Changes in the way rural landscapes and livelihoods are configured or imagined often entail negative environmental and social impacts, especially so for vulnerable groups such as native, indigenous, minorities, immigrant, and female residents. Differentiated impacts across regions and social groups deserve scrutiny in the quest to identify leverage points for sustainability transitions.
In Societal Challenge 2, we will use knowledge from different geographical regions to improve our understanding of the impacts of different drivers of global environmental change on the sustainability of rural landscapes and livelihoods and how these impacts are perceived and managed.