“Let’s live my village”, in search of the Wallonia countryside
Do you think you live in the country or in the town? This apparently simple question reveals a lot about the criteria used to establish which of the above describes the place where a person lives. The ruralist geographer Serge Schmitz focuses his research on redefining the countryside. Through the call for projects “Live my village”, he analyzes trends and fashions related to associative village life, village mentality and rurality.
Rural or urban environment?
In Belgium it is difficult to define rurality. Most definitions start with urban environment and then measure different levels of urbanization. “It would appear that in fact there are very few country area left”, explains Serge Schmitz. From a sociological point of view, there is no more countryside: our lifestyles are the same, we all watch the same television channels, and we consume the same goods… Some people draw the conclusion that there is no longer any point in studying the rural environment. When outside Belgium, we still find places that could easily be classed as being rural. In our country, it is becoming objectively very difficult to tell when one goes from the urban to the rural. The indicators change over the decades as well. According to the OECD, the density that defines a rural area is 150 inhabitants/km², which excludes most of the Flemish countryside. While compiling an Atlas of Belgian countryside (2), we had to adopt different criteria to define the countryside in the North of the country On the Flemish side; the indicator was 600 inhabitants /km² as opposed to 150 for Wallonia. These indicators are therefore relatively subjective and depend a lot on the context. In the Asian countryside where agriculture is intensive, the population density can be very high and the criteria are entirely different”.
(1) The Call for project proposals “Let’s live my village”: between free interpretations and compulsory readings regarding innovation and convivial village ambiance in Wallonia. In “The Countryside: spaces of innovation in an urban world”, Nantes, Spaces and Companies (ESO).