Problem region, region in decline, shrinking area, periphery – language describing regions with decreasing population is mostly negative. The terms predominantly come from an economy-oriented perspective. Using these terms in regional planning and also in every day contexts influences our perception and contributes to the downward spiral – because language creates reality.
Depopulation, the loss of jobs, the closing down of public services and overgrown agricultural land cause strong emotions like fear and sorrow. There is no place for and there are no instruments to deal with these emotions in regional planning and development procedures.
In addition, regional planning can hardly accept or even deal with contraction processes as long as everything is oriented towards growth … Instead of that, terms like “deconstruction” and “wilderness” are banished from official planning documents. Creating these kinds of taboos blocks opportunities for change and resources for promising new approaches and renewal.
How can we better use language and emotions to break up taboos, to open the doors to new living concepts and to unlock hidden potentials in rural areas?