One aspect of effective and empowering citizen engagement in pursuit of sustainable development involves taking account of people's views. This exploratory study, carried out on the Mediterranean island of Gozo, considered people's perceptions relating to landscape. 480 individuals were questioned on their understanding of the term 'landscape', as well as on their opinion concerning characteristic aspects of the landscape of Gozo. Respondents were also asked about aspects revealing change in the landscape of Gozo, and about their personal desired future vision of the landscape. Whilst consideration of perception is fundamental to landscape planning (particularly given that a landscape is defined in the European Landscape Convention as ?an area of land, as perceived by people?), several ethical issues emerge from the study. The idea of landscape appears to be understood very differently by different respondents; likewise people differ in the way they would like to see their local landscape evolve. Although one may talk of community-derived plans, there is evidently much diversity of opinion within a single community, which may present difficulties for those who need to make broad-level decisions, which affect all members of a community (such as decisions concerning areas of high landscape value which should be protected from development). The study also indicates that the views of specialists, as reflected in planning policies and documents presently in force, may not necessarily match up with those of the population at large. Thus, the question emerges of whose perception planning decisions should reflect. Results indicate, however, that elements of consensus are also present. The study was used as the basis for a landscape character mapping exercise, based exclusively on people's responses, and demonstrating that there is potential for more effective incorporation of perceptual aspects into planning and management, despite the various ethical and methodological challenges, which remain.
|Title of host publication
|Environmental Ethics: Sustainability and Education
|Estelle L. Weber
|Published - 31 Dec 2009