Europe is facing multiple processes of change that affect the rural in many ways: demographic evolutions, migration flows, renewed urban-rural relations, the rise and fall of alternative food networks vis-à-vis the seeming omnipresence of powerful food consortia, the changing power of constituencies of the rural, changing patterns of land use and valorizations of natural resources, rapid technological developments, etc. These change processes do not occur in isolation, but are embedded in a package of often interrelated external meta-trends (such as climate change, geo-politics, global markets) that position rural spaces in broader dynamics and result in uneven processes of change. The European Society for Rural Sociology has explored many of these processes in former conferences.
These uneven processes of rural change are interconnected and multi-level, involving multiple actors and governance approaches. They re-confirm the inadequacy of outdated concepts and dichotomies such as the urban-rural divide, the globalization-localization dichotomy or the disciplinary/academic segmentation of a complex reality. They are no longer able to capture the complex and systemic nature of today’s Europe, its countryside and the ongoing processes of change. We can question how we (in our multiple roles as scientists, citizens, policy makers, members of the business community or NGO representatives) can deal with this.