A PRELUDE to the future?

News Published 11 Sep 2005 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
3 min read
PRELUDE, a highly visual presentation from the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, explores five possible futures for a Europe that is experiencing major changes in the way we use our land.

PRELUDE, a highly visual presentation from the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, explores five possible futures for a Europe that is experiencing major changes in the way we use our land.

Day-to-day policy making usually addresses the immediate or short term needs of a society. Policy is often broken into segments such as: Transport, Energy, Agriculture, Environment and so on. PRELUDE suggests that future policy makers must take note of a complex mix of expected environmental changes, unexpected events and the societal responses to both.

With the PRELUDE project, the European Environment Agency hopes to encourage longer term planning based on integrated policy making. Irrespective of the storyline behind each of the five scenarios, the key message of PRELUDE is that policy decisions impact on each other in ways that were not always intended. By taking an integrated approach, we start to build policies in one area that compliment policies in another.

Based on input from key 'stakeholders' from across Europe, such as farmers, non-government organisations (NGO's), scientific researchers and policy makers, PRELUDE presents five future scenarios following the social knock-on effects of contrasting land use policy. However, while looking forward, we should also learn from the past.

Historic precedent tells us that our future will be moulded by a mixture of human decisions and actions as well as a series of often unrelated events and pressures. The latter could be 'creeping changes' such as the cooling of the Atlantic Ocean's gulf stream or more spectacular 'surprises' such as a major ecological disaster. These events are difficult to predict but the chance is that something unexpected will happen.

Because of PRELUDE's relatively short time span of 30 years, the basic assumptions on climate change are similar for all scenarios. In some, however, climate change causes major disasters, whereas in others it is more of a background phenomenon. Societal responses are consequently very different.

In each scenario, factors, including demographic trends, spatial planning patterns, agricultural policy, climate change and other key driving forces, lead to changes in land use and land cover. This results in a range of impacts on, biodiversity, water quality, flooding, greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and landscape identity.

'There is a severe energy crisis. Serious flooding is forcing people out of vulnerable areas and back into the rural landscape. Despite initial hardships, most people are learning to cope with the challenges. Community spirit is rediscovered as people struggle to rebuild their lives. Small scale farms, many of them organic, spring up. Government policy is changing to support this new lifestyle ...'

The above scenario does not immediately spring to mind when we think of a future affected by severe environmental change. People bonding together and rediscovering a 'back to basic's' life in the countryside doesn't sound too bad. Will it happen? We don't know.

Notes on PRELUDE

The acronym PRELUDE comes from the longer project title: PRospective Environmental analysis of Land Use Development in Europe.

More information on the methodology: PRELUDE uses the 'Story-and-Simulation' approach to develop 'qualitative' storylines that are underpinned by quantitative modelling techniques. Story lines were developed by key stake holders. Then the implications of the stories in terms of land use and the environment were analysed using state of the art simulation models.

For background information on the PRELUDE project please visit the 'Environmental Scenarios - Information Web Portal': http://scenarios.ewindows.eu.org/reports/fol077184

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100