Acting as a national inter- and transdisciplinary network, the forum promotes knowledge and discourse about landscape and landscape-changing processes. It advocates sustainable design, development and safety concepts. The forum focuses on the Alps as well as parks and protected areas.more

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Lifestyle and Landscape

Kernthema FoLAP Lebensstil und Landschaft
Image: Hansjakob Fehr, 1kilo

How do lifestyles and social trends change consumer habits, thus influencing the development of the landscape in Switzerland and globally? This issue relates, for example, to change processes and their influence on the landscape in terms of diet, clothing or travel behaviour; but it also raises the question as to whether sustainable lifestyles offer economic opportunities.

Different lifestyles influence consumption patterns and living habits. For instance: digitalisation encourages lifestyles involving decentralised living and working. Instead of choosing to reside near their place of work, working people can therefore opt for a home in a more distant area where building land is comparatively cheap and rents are low. In this way, digitalisation promotes decentralised living. But factors such as what we eat, which means of transport we choose, and how we take our holidays, relax and generally organise our everyday lives all leave their mark on the landscape too.

Conversely, the way we experience and perceive landscapes can also influence our lifestyles and thus have repercussions for them. Lifestyles and prevailing trends therefore entail social demands on the landscape, which actually changes as a result. This may be reflected in the availability of new types of local recreation and changes in agriculture or settlement structures, but also in the large-scale use of holiday destinations by tourists.

Climate change is also unlikely to remain without consequences and is set to influence several of our daily routines as well as our leisure behaviour – and this, again, will indirectly shape the development of the landscape.

Well-founded speculations may of course be made about the relationships between lifestyle and landscape. However, little scientifically justified specialist knowledge is available as yet. This is why FoLAP places this core topic at the very top of its list of priorities so as to set research in motion.

Together with actors from practice, FoLAP aims to identify possible ways to incorporate the population's requirements and wishes into future landscape planning and usage. Negotiations of this sort with directly involved parties are important. In their absence, there is a risk that people will become increasingly alienated from their everyday landscape. Landscapes would then lose their relationship to lifestyles over time, or they would take too little account of public and higher-level interests, ultimately running counter to the principle that landscape is a common good.

Given the many – sometimes contradictory – trends that are emerging at present, a compilation and characterisation of socially relevant lifestyles would be of great benefit. A further step would then be to clarify how the trends impact landscapes in Switzerland (and other parts of the world), and how the experience of landscape – in turn – has repercussions for lifestyle.

It would be equally important to explore the economic opportunities and risks that the identified trends are likely to entail. Another objective is to discover the traits that characterise sustainable landscape development. Lifestyles that support sustainable landscape development should also be identified.

Finally, instruments should be designed and tested that could lead to a shared understanding in cases where divergent lifestyles and thus different demands on the landscape coincide.

How lifestyles and landscape influence each other is important not only for planning, but also for market and residential research, which gives this question high priority. Various think tanks and university institutes also focus on this issue, although none of them can claim a leading position in this field of research.

Various political initiatives underline the importance of addressing lifestyles and how they influence landscape. Mention could be made, for example, of the revision of the Federal Act on Spatial Planning

(Spatial Planning Act, SPA 2), the 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy, and others.

FoLAP supports the research community in taking a transdisciplinary approach to investigating how lifestyles influence landscape and its sustainable development – i.e. together with actors from business, politics and practice. Ways should also be found to involve the general public in the debate. The Federal government's Landscape Concept 2020 can serve as a prime example of this.

Authors: Felix Kienast (WSL), Martina Brennecke (Amt für Raum und Verkehr, Kanton Zug), Norman Backhaus (UZH)


Notes: In its five core topics (Landscape and Health, Landscape Culture, Lifestyles and Landscape, Climate Protection and Landscape, and Spatial Relationships), FoLAP has identified aspects where action is most needed in terms of sustainable landscape development. To promote political discourse and the social transformation process, there is a need not only to pool existing knowledge but also to invest more extensive effort in additional research and to step up the dialogue between research and practice. FoLAP understands the core topics as its own mission, and a mission for its community: they therefore appear on FoLAP's agenda as an invitation to institutions and players to become actively involved in these topic areas

Current political issues and questions regarding sustainable development that are relevant to the question of lifestyles:

- Glacier Initiative / energy transition / CO2 Act

- SPA 2 (Spatial Planning Act 2)

- AP2022+ (2022+ Agricultural Policy)

- Swiss Transportation Sectoral Plan (Mobility and Space subsection)

- 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy

- Fridays for Future / Climate Neutrality 2050 / EU Green Deal

This topic is economically relevant because lifestyle and consumption patterns have a major impact on local and international economic linkages and companies. Moreover, if sustainable lifestyles become mainstream, they can lead to the generation of products with a positive impact on value creation. Switzerland's 'think tank' in particular should not miss out on opportunities such as these.

  • What are the trends [1] currently relevant to Switzerland's landscape in respect of lifestyle developments and social transformations? (Inventory of trends)
  • How do the identified trends (and related lifestyles) influence landscapes in Switzerland (and other parts of the world)? What types of influence are there?
  • Conversely, and closely linked to the topic of Landscape Culture: How does the experience of nature and landscape shape lifestyle?
  • What are the distinguishing characteristics of sustainable landscape development, and which current trends and lifestyles are particularly able to support and promote such development?
  • Which economic opportunities and risks arise from lifestyle developments and social transformations?
  • How can an understanding or agreement on sustainable landscape development be reached when there is a clash of different lifestyles? Which instruments (for awareness-raising, action knowledge and implementation) are required for this purpose?

[1] We are aware that the Swiss landscape is influenced by lifestyles and trends developing at regional, national and international level, and of course that lifestyles in this country also influence landscapes worldwide (keyword: telecoupling).

On request, we will send you the complete core topic papers including references to sources. (The core topic papers are expanded and edited from time to time.)
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