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Landscape values, rewilding, and contested discourses of rural change in West Wales.

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Rogelio Luque-Lora.

Across Europe, rural landscapes and communities are changing, following local, national and global pressures. The future physical makeup of these landscapes, the species, landforms and land uses that are present, and the relationship between these landscapes and local communities, are uncertain. As different visions for the physical makeup of landscapes are being proposed and negotiated, it is worth understanding how they fit into broader rural politics, and the values that underpin them. This study looks at competing visions for the future of landscapes in west Wales, an area which may see rapid change, particularly from proposed rewilding projects. We use image based Q methodology to analyse different visions, and to explore the values that underpin them. We find three distinct visions which we name socio-ecological transformation, maintaining heritage farming landscapes, and animals and aesthetics. We find that relational and eudemonic values underpin the first two in particular. Despite claims by participants and stakeholders to speak for rural communities, we find important differences within rural communities. We find that disagreements on the environmental and social futures of the landscape are based on shared facts but divergent values. We find that iconic species in farming and rewilding (e.g. sheep, beaver) generate highly bimodal viewpoints. Rewilding is a well-discussed and love-it-or-hate-it topic. These findings have important implications for the future of contested projects aimed at transforming the landscape of this region, and relevance for wider European landscape change. Our conceptual approach, which combines a focus on the politics of the rural with relational values, and our methodological approach, of image based Q methodology, have great potential for understanding debates over the future of rural landscapes and the future of rewilding.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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