26th Annual Colloquium of the Commission on the                    Sustainability of Rural Systems                    International Geographical Union

 Infinite Rural Systems in a Finite Planet: Bridging Gaps towards Sustainability



 SantiagoA VeigaA Ulloa (Galicia),

 16-21 July 2018


Over the last two decades, Rural Geography has internalised the issue of sustainability as a core concern of the discipline. However, the ongoing yearly discussions of the IGU CSRS underscore how inherent tensions and contradictions emerge in the challenging and intricate transition of rural systems towards sustainability. In this context, the 26th CSRS Colloquium is specifically intended to focus on bridging some of the gaps raised in the academic debates by offering a consistent set of questions around six selected broad themes.  The debates regarding sustainability acknowledge that the Earth is finite, but the existing gaps can be addressed, and examined, through infinite rural systems. We welcome discussion in this respect in Galicia in July 2018.

Despite “system” being a contested term in the social sciences, it frames a body of research that takes into account internal and external interrelationships, embracing social, cultural, political (including planning), environmental and economic issues. Reconciling these broad, but often contradictory themes, is part of the aim of bridging the gaps for the purposes of this CSRS Colloquium. Furthermore, identified gaps to be considered are related to geographical scales; for instance between the global arena (globalisation, world trade arrangements, global and climate change, etc.) and regional and local spaces of adaptation, or contestation. The regulatory spaces of nation-states (with or without devolved institutions) and supra-national structures such as the European Union (EU) interact at multiple scales, resulting in a complex web of inter-relationships. Local engagement appears to be a basic feature in rural societies; doubtless most of the presentations at the 26th CSRS Colloquium will be devoted to interrogating the local scale. This will not detract attention from the other interrelated scales in order to comply with the overall endeavour of bridging the gaps towards sustainability.

This Colloquium particularly welcomes contributions from and about Africa and Latin America, world regions underrepresented by ongoing activities of the IGU CSRS. We welcome presentations and papers in Portuguese and Spanish, which, together with the IGU official languages (English and French), should encourage researchers from across the planet to take part in the sessions to be held in July 2018. Parallel sessions will be designed taking into account the languages and the thematic orientations.

Galicia is a suitable laboratory for bridging the gaps regarding sustainability. Its countryside is highly-innovative and has technologically advanced farming systems, such as the horticultural and dairy industries. These industries have a considerable impact on the environment and must constantly be adapted to the EU’s variable Common Agricultural Policy framework. Emerging food alternative networks co-exist in the same areas as conventional farming, posing constant questions about compatibility and competition. In parallel, significant EU investments have been devoted to the growth of the rural tourism sector, but the economic   sustainability of this peak industry is constantly questioned.                 In spatial terms, many areas are pressured by a significant global touristic flux, such as the Way of Saint James, with hundreds of thousands pilgrims every year. These areas are near to remote and depressed areas where depopulation, ageing and an absence of significant economic activity challenges rural sustainability. The planned fieldwork component of the conference will encompass representative rural systems within Galicia, where ongoing discussions on sustainability will be facilitated.