IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.

Environmental competitiveness

[ Summary ]


Chapter 2:
Evaluating the environmental competitiveness of an area


2.1 Human resources


Analysing the human resources is the starting point for evaluating the player/environment relationship and an area’s environmental competitiveness. How many people live in the area and, more importantly, what are their activities and what rights and values do they share? All of these elements must be taken into account when gauging the “human burden” placed on the area’s natural and physical resources.

a) Existing situation and its limitations: the demographic burden

    General population statistics make it possible to assess the global “burden” on the area and pressure on the environment. However, such global assessments are not particularly significant because the key factors are the type of activity, consumer profiles and social behaviour. Such information can be refined by taking into account:

    • the socio-professional distribution, in particular occupations directly concerned with the environment (farmers, shepherds, forestry workers, tourist operators, entrepreneurs exploiting natural resources, etc.);

    • the geographic distribution, highlighting the disparities (e.g. densely populated micro-regions alongside depopulated micro- regions);

    • seasonal variations (e.g. the number of tourists present in the area during the summer period).

    Analysing the demographic burden makes it possible to ask pertinent questions about:

    • the upkeep of resources, especially the landscape (Are there enough farmers, forestry workers, etc. to maintain the area? Have contracts for maintaining the area been concluded with farmers or other professionals?);

    • the ability to absorb growth in tourism (How is waste processing organised during the tourist season?).

    The issue then leads beyond considerations about the demographic burden to the relationship between the communities living in an area and their environment. This relationship is expressed in three different ways, each corresponding to the levels mentioned earlier (utilisation practices, rules and values):

    • Relationship of exploitation: this varies from one person and one occupation to another.

    • Relationship of ownership: this concerns any person, family, business or public organisation that owns a plot of land or buildings, in other words a portion of the landscape and of the area’s environmental capital;

    • Relationship of identity: any inhabitant who comes into daily contact with the physical elements around him ends up by identifying with the environment in which he lives, especially with the landscape, and by developing an emotional tie with it.

    These three relationships have intrinsically different characteristics that are interrelated, superimposed and sometimes even conflictual.

b) Utilisation practices: relationship of exploitation

    The farmer, gardener, forestry worker, architect, etc. each act on the environment in their own way, as do the public authorities when they intervene in response to public needs (opening a dump, granting a forestry concession to private firms that will create jobs in the area, etc.).

    The relationship of exploitation is one that is:

    • compartmentalised, with each player, family or firm acting on the environment within the confines of the area of which they have usufruct and responsibility (under whatever legal status), in most cases without taking into account the overall framework. The result of such compartmentalisation is a landscape with a wide diversity of forms (patchwork landscape);

    • different and potentially conflictual, interests and approaches may coexist in a single area or certain types of exploitation may harm neighbouring areas.

    Consultation mechanisms should therefore be examined when disputes arise over modes of exploitation (pollution caused by intensive agriculture or livestock production and tourism development, disputes about the use of buildings, etc.): who takes the decisions in such cases?

    However, it is also necessary to take into account “codes of good conduct” established either implicitly or explicitly by the players themselves in order to secure a better market position or, more generally, to preserve the environment.

    In the past there have been a great many different forms of social organisation and cooperation for managing common assets (cooperatives of peasant farmers for exploiting mountain pastures, for irrigation, for exploiting forests, etc.). Several of these forms of collective management have disappeared along with the system of exploitation that gave rise to them. However, modern forms of cooperation are now being established: nature conservation contracts (compensatory payments), contracts for maintaining the landscape, etc.

c) Rules: the relationship of ownership

    The relationship of ownership is a formal individual, collective or institutional relationship, the nature of which depends on the legal framework, in the case of private individuals, and on procedures for assigning powers in the case of public organisations.

    It is the nature of such ownership that will determine the limitations of the territorial development initiative or, at least, that will determine the type of cooperation required to overcome legal obstacles. The number of absentee owners, the amount of abandoned or under-exploited private and public resources and the trend towards the concentration and reallocation of resources (land and buildings) should therefore be taken into account. It may also be useful to consider what risk there is of resources being abandoned, by seeking to find out how many owners over the age of 55 have no heirs, for example.

    If resources that are key features of the landscape’s character or classed as part of the historic heritage are falling into neglect or have been abandoned, it is necessary to find out who the owners are, what type of cooperation would be required to restore such resources, whether the public heritage is maintained, and finally if a reassignment of functions can be envisaged in order to create new opportunities.

    Parks and protected areas raise questions about the institutional management system, regarding decisions that have influenced their development. What changes have taken place over recent years? Who took the decision? Did this create conflict between public services and private individuals or between administrations? More generally the relationship between public property and private property should be examined, as well as ways of exploiting resources in and around protected areas. One frequently asked question about the sort of relationship between public and private spaces concerns respect for biodiversity in the reforestation of non-protected areas.

d) Values: the relationship of identity

    Above and beyond relationships of ownership, the values shared by local players play a decisive role in their relationship with the environment and in their behaviour. These values lie in great measure in the local players’ relationship of identity with the environment.

    The relationship of identity is a profound and often unconscious relationship that is nevertheless strong. It is also collective in nature (generally it is shared by all of the area’s inhabitants, including those who have moved away from the area). It is at times when a threat hangs over the environment (e.g. the construction of a road that is liable to destroy the harmony of a valley) that the relationship of identity is manifested. It can then become a development lever, especially when it arouses a collective awareness or compels people to work in consultation.

    However, it is rare for the inhabitants of rural areas to also attribute a socio-economic value to the landscape that can support a long-term strategy or foster new opportunities.

    Analysing the area’s capital therefore involves ascertaining the nature of the ties that bind the population to its area. It means answering the following questions: Are people sufficiently aware of the historical value of monuments? Have the changes undergone by the environment over the years - colours of the landscape, extent of river pollution, development in biodiversity - been properly identified? Does the population exert pressure to ensure that monuments, landscapes, roads, trees and the lesser heritage are maintained? How does the population feel about neglected resources (disused farming and industrial areas, railway lines, houses, terraces, former cultivated land, etc.)? Has there been any intervention from historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, restorers, etc.? What impact has this had on the local population’s knowledge about their area?

European Flag