De-growing, participating and taking care: Generating future visions for the transition towards sustainability in Galicia.


If someone would ask you to imagine how Galicia will be in 2040, where would you start? Would it be easy for you to answer? If you think about it for a moment you may take into account some of the future projections with greater diffusion made by the INE (National Statistics Institute) or the IGE (Galician Statistics Institute) and some ideas like population loss, rural abandonment, aging or concentration in the Atlantic Axis (as you know this imaginary line which links the main cities in Galicia and that nowadays concentrates more than the 50% of the total Galician population) may come to your mind easily. Data show that the demographic crises is one of the biggest problems we will have to face to  as a society before we wake up in 2040 let the next generation take the wheel.

The  question that would be logical to wonder about next would be: and how we deal with this catastrophe foretold that is coming down the line? What are the available means we have to deal with this and who should be responsible to find solutions? Is it the Spanish central government, the regional government, civil society, the European Union?

Based on this rationale of prospective exploration the first  back-casting workshop took place on Saturday, 12th of December at the Luis Seoane Foundation in Coruna as part of the European GLAMURS European Project, which addresses sustainable lifestyles escalation and how green economy models could be fostered across the European Union. The project involves 11 European research centers, under the coordination of the People-Environment Research Group from the University of Coruna.

The purpose of this event was to build a desired future vision about how the region of Galicia could be more sustainable in year 2040. The results will be used to support sustainability policies in the regional, national and European level and the results will be compared with those obtained in other six European countries, where other research teams that are part of the GLAMURS Research Consortium will carry out seminars like the one organised in Coruna in the coming weeks.

In our case, about twenty people attended and were actively involved in our workshop. Our guests were selected among key people who had worked prominently for sustainability within Galicia from different domains and institutions like Environmental Education Centers; the Galician regional government; local governments; Galician universities, environmental organization, Local Action Groups for Rural Development; responsible Consumption Groups, foundations or companies.

In the workshop on the 12th last a participatory methodology that belongs to the so-called Transition Management Studies,”back-casting” or retrospection, was applied. The goal of this methodology is to build collaborative visions of the future Galicia, located in 2040, and then looking back to define the roadmap and steps needed to reach the first.

Through the use of this technique, which has been used from the 70s in the development of strategies for the use of clean energy in Canada, the definition of research agendas in the UK or by several local governments in Sweden, what is intended to achieve is to identify which are the necessary changes in technology, lifestyles, at the behavioral and institutional level in order to make feasible this sustainable and desired Galicia in 2040 can come to reality.

Among the main features of this 2040 sustainable Galicia outlined last Saturday the main features described by our participants were:  the citizen participation and civil empowerment facilitated by  autonomous political institutions fully transparent and open; completely different uses of time and labor nature by which there would be more choice and flexibility; and the working hours would be adapted to the needs of the people; the relocation of production and consumption, where each territory would increase its self-sufficiency degree and the consumption of proximity products will be promoted and generalized. To ensure this future sustainability, our guests noted the necessity of de-growth strategies and the need of promoting cooperative formulas, like car or means of production sharing. Finally, care and respect for the environment was  remarked as key in that desirable 2040.All these changes would go through a change in the education model, which will become a community and lifelong responsibility, with the aim of  promote the critical thinking and reflective activity in society.

The workshop developed on December 12, will have a second part on February ,13, 2016, in which the focus would be on designing specific measures, changes and identifying key stakeholders needed to ensure this sustainable future that has now began to emerge, can be viable.

From February on we will disseminate the results of the two sessions with the aim of contributing to open the debate on sustainability in future Galicia. Hopefully then, once you have read the conclusions, if someone would ask how you imagine our region in the future, answering will be easier. Until then, we encourage you to do the mental exercise of thinking about it by yourselves  and to follow the progress of the project on our website.

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