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“Let’s do away with the rural”: Is the “rural” still a useful concept in environmental spatial planning?

Thanasis Kizos
Wednesday, March 20, 2024, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

“Let’s do away with the rural”: Is the “rural” still a useful concept in environmental spatial planning?

by Thanasis Kizos
Professor of Rural Geography
Department of Geography, University of the Aegean (Greece)

Introduction: Dr. László Pintér, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and Senior Fellow, International Institute for Sustainable Development

34 years after the publication of Keith Hogarth’s seminal paper (Hoggart, K. (1990) Let's do away with rural, Journal of Rural Studies, Vol.6(3), pp. 245-257, the “rural” is still a very popular concept and being used in spatial planning. But what is the “rural” today? Almost seven decades after the monothematical definitions of the rural as “non urban” and three decades from the meta-geographical approaches of the many different “ruralities” embedded in space, we are no closer to understanding how urban populations, industrial activities, transportation networks, but also values, ideas, convictions and lifestyles shape space and determine they way it is perceived and treated. A few years ago, UNEP declared that for the first time in human history, the population in cities was more than 50% of the total population of the planet and is still growing. At the same time, in many areas there is a “rural idyll” that makes rural areas - whatever they are - and rural spaces (at least some of them) desirable for habitation and (leisure) activities. In other (rural?) areas the narrative is different: depopulation, ageing and rewilding are some of the words used to characterize them. The narrative changes again when agriculture and food production comes in the discussion: are rural areas merely for agriculture? Should we prioritize agricultural production over services? What about environmental protection?

Is the “rural” still a useful concept? And if yes, how should we define it, conceptualize it and treat it? Are all rural areas equally rural? In this presentation we will explore some of these issues. We will start from different definitions of the rural, both spatial and symbolic and explore scale, space and relative position on it and environmental protection. In the end, we will answer together if we should “do away with the rural”.

Thanasis Kizos is Professor in “Rural Geography” in the Department of Geography, University of the Aegean since 2005 and the Head of the Department since 2019. He holds a bachelor in Agronomy and a Ph.D. in Environmental Management and Policy. He is the Director of “PrecFarm: Laboratory of Rural Geography and Precision Agricultural Systems” and does research in Rural Development, Land Management and Precision Framing Systems.
He has published in agricultural landscape change, land use planning, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity impacts of agricultural systems among other topics. Recently he published the book “Rural Development: Concepts, Practices and Policies” (2018) Tziola publications, Athens. The full list of his publications is available at:;