A European Union-funded project seeks to promote the use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) to encourage citizens to become more involved in the protection of the landscape. Among other things, a number of competitions have been launched.

New ICTs Helping to Involve Citizens in Landscape Protection

How can ICTs be put to good use in order to help protect the landscape across Europe? This is the question which the E-CLIC (E Challenge, Learning, Innovation, Cooperation) project is focusing on. Recognising the impact the Internet has nowadays on the general public, the E-CLIC project members have set out to exploit this resource to change the way ordinary citizens – who up to now have not been very involved – relate to European environmental policies. Six partner countries – Estonia, Germany, Greece, Slovenia, Spain and the UK – are backing the project, with a view to increasing awareness among citizens of the impact of environmental and spatial planning policies on their lives and their day-to-day reality and encouraging them to think more deeply about these issues. One of the specific aims of the project is to make people more aware of the role of the European Landscape Convention (ELC), also known as the Florence Convention, drawn up under the aegis of the Council of Europe, which is the first international convention focusing specifically on landscape.

A best practice database

During the first phase of the project, the partners set out to create a community to discuss and debate environmental issues, making particular use of social media tools to bring decision-makers into closer contact with the general public. Ordinary people are encouraged to discuss their concerns and become better informed about the issues.  Thus the virtual community enables not only interaction and sharing of ideas, but also specific learning.  Members can add examples to E-CLIC’s best practice database and project progress can be tracked on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. In addition, in order to foster wider understanding of the aims of the European Landscape Convention, schools and universities are encouraged to get involved in the process of raising awareness. The E-CLIC organisers are building a database of interactive learning tools designed to illustrate and demonstrate the various issues around European landscape and planning policy.

Direct citizen participation

The European Landscape Convention covers “natural, rural, urban and peri-urban areas (…) It concerns landscapes that might be considered outstanding as well as everyday or degraded landscapes,” says the ELC preamble. The Convention promotes landscape protection and management and town and country planning, and also seeks to raise awareness of the value and importance of living landscapes. In line with the specific objective of the Convention to highlight the intrinsic value of European landscapes, the E-CLIC partners have launched a number of competitions for citizens. The basic principle is that individuals or organisations submit an idea for a project which will draw on ICTs to help solve a landscape-related issue in one of several designated categories: urban sprawl/inner urban shrinkage; post-industrial landscapes; and ‘extensification’ / intensification of farmland and rural landscapes. The resources made available to competition entrants include a library of ICT tools, plus an online help facility. The competition, which is open to the general public and also aimed at secondary school and university students, encourages people to put forward ideas based on ICT-use, for a given landscape, which will help to solve one or more environmental issues. This might be for instance a project to foster better understanding of environmental policies, or a way of promoting best practice. The competition also places strong emphasis on community spirit. The finalists will be invited to present their projects during the E-CLIC International Conference to be held in Estonia in 2015.