Responding to Rural Change

Adaptation, Resilience and Community Action

Authored by: Nathan Young

Routledge International Handbook of Rural Studies

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138804371
eBook ISBN: 9781315753041
Adobe ISBN: 9781317619864


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Rural scholars have long paid close attention to the dynamics between stability and change, tradition and novelty, continuity and disruption. In recent years, however, discussions of rural change have taken on particular urgency. Rural regions and communities in highly developed nations are being seriously challenged by a range of forces, including economic globalisation, environmental change, new technological developments and a renewed post-financial crisis commitment to austere forms of neoliberalism. These are dynamic forces whose combined effects are multiple, variable and often unpredictable. Available evidence suggests that some communities and regions are having great difficulty responding to these changes, while others have been able to maintain and even improve local economies, community services and general quality of life (Shucksmith et al., 2012; Parkins & Reed, 2013). To address these discrepancies, rural scholars are increasingly using concepts first developed in ecology and ecosystem science – namely resilience, adaptation and adaptive capacity – to understand rural people’s and communities’ abilities to respond to both known and unforeseen changes and challenges. These concepts challenge the notion that rural residents and communities are powerless in the face of external forces, suggesting that local social, political and ecological processes and assets play a significant role in determining rural futures.

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