Topic: Lagging Regions, Smart Ruralities and Empty Peripheries: A Discussion on the Post-crisis Futures of Spanish Countryside
Keywords: accessibility, depopulation, hybridization, inequalities
The futures of rural areas in southern Europe seem to be determined, in the medium term, by their resilience to the protracted economic and financial crisis; the demographic transition towards ageing societies; and the developing of new accessibilities and forms of service provision. All these processes bring forth opportunities and uncertainties that are having a profound impact on the rural welfare. For example, t he rural hybridization with socio technical innovations and emerging paradigms of mobility, will configure some areas as smart ruralities , b ut these very processes also include the possibility of relegates some other territories to a kind of remotely managing and monitoring . This paper explores the pos sible rural futures and different socio territorial configurations shaped by these processes in Spain. The budgetary constraints and austerity policies have eroded th e futures of the lagging regions in a country where aging and poverty are often combined with the disadvantages of the habitat. Rural development policies aim to slow depopulation, organized the social agents in the territories and revitalize local economies. But after the crisis th e se territories have not managed to consolidate clear futures for the yo ung . Almost half of the Spanish municipalities are threatened by depopulation and even some inland regional t owns los t inhabitants and show a mass outward migration of the young people trained due to aging and the lack of investments in services and
infrastru ctures. They remain relegated to a condition of excluded peripheries under the effects of dynamics that reconfigures distances and disconnections . As illustrated by the investments in the railway network focused on high speed connections between some main cities while t he budget to maintain the rest of the network is progressively constrained. The Spanish case allows us also to analyse how the rural futures are represented symbolically in the debate about rural depopulation . A question that has become a kind of state issue, gene rating a public debate in the media and political
arenas and that is summarized by metaphors such as ” the empty Spain” or ” the Lapland
Mediterranean”. And t he research findings show that rural futures require policies that emphasize the symbolic rural urban difference, as in tourism, and simultaneously reduce the real disadvantages, such in accessibility. The conclusions suggest the need to anticipate these challenges, to rethink another governance beyond neoliberal recipes and to pay attention to the rhizomatic nature of the rural.