The Europe 2020 strategy has introduced a new set of concepts for the development of the countryside. The goal of this development is sustainable,...
Regardless of where they live, Finns want a countryside that provides a good life. They also want the green economy to answer global challenges. There is demand for the countryside.
How can the countryside respond to the demand stemming from climate change, a mobile lifestyle and the accelerating rhythm of life?
Sustaining natural resources means local solutions - organic and local food, local energy and bioeconomy, and well-being activities within the natural environment.
The countryside will not be preserved though conservation alone; instead it will be renewed and will succeed by answering future needs. Our thinking about the countryside needs a major shift.
Consumers have become interested in the countryside in a completely new way. Consumer visionaries are looking for balance in their lives. The countryside’s strongest suits, the nature and peace, appeal to them. They increase Finns' interest in living in multiple locations.
A good life can be found in the countryside. The more rural the area in which Finns live, the more they feel that the building blocks of good life - such as health and security, freedom and justice and a good everyday life - are realised in their lives.
The countryside’s opportunities to respond to new consumer demand must be studied with an open mind. We must predict Finnish consumer demand and meet it without prejudice. For example, what do the future carbon neutralists, organic urbanites, ethno provincials, people engaging in hobbies at the countryside or agro-pensioners want from the countryside?
Local solutions help to build a people-oriented economy. Local solutions are people-oriented operations, products and services, which help to bring meaningful matters close to the people, either physically or virtually.
Natural resources enable new sustainable business activities based on local solutions. The improved availability of organic and local food is among the things Finns most wish for from the countryside. Ecological living and renewable energy produced locally are especially interesting for young people.
Energy, fertilisers and other products utilising biomass, can be produced in the countryside in small inter-related units, which improve the efficiency of the local material cycle as well as improve energy and nutrient self-sufficiency.
There is great demand for local green economy solutions tackling global problems. Finland is sparsely populated, but with a high level of expertise and it has excellent opportunities to develop successful business concepts. Half of the Finnish population would like to see new kinds of green economy business activities in the countryside. However, the legislation, administration and financing structures are still geared towards the centralised industrial era.
The countryside will not be preserved through conservation alone; instead it will be renewed and will succeed by answering future needs. This means that the countryside of the future will take shape according to how Finland can identify and establish a new demand for the countryside as well as by meeting this demand.
Our thinking about the countryside needs a major shift away from regional thinking towards increasingly people-oriented and global thinking.
The aims of the current rural policy are more based on the the needs of the countryside rather than what we want and need from it.
Rural policy requires demand-based thinking to respond to the individual needs of mobile and multi-local Finns. It must also react to global climate challenges, energy and natural resources policies.
Moreover, there is a need to develop local rural policy using EU instruments and to implement a joint strategy better than before. The on-going reform of the rural financing programmes provides an excellent window for reforming our thinking about the countryside.
Sitra identifies new ways for the countryside to respond to the challenges related to the climate change, mobile lifestyle and accelerating rhythm of life.
There is new demand for the countryside that may change our ideas about well-being and sustainability. Regardless of their place of residence, Finns want the countryside to provide them with resources for a good individual life as well as for the green economy to answer global challenges.
New demand creates belief in the future. Even now, there are twice as many rural optimists believing in the future growth of the countryside’s significance than there are rural pessimists. The countryside offers well-being and natural resources. First and foremost, the countryside is seen as a resource and a place of recreation, and better availability of especially organic and local food is at the top of the wish list for the future.