The Natural Resource Turn: Challenges for Rural Research and Policy


  • Cecilia Waldenström Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Erik Westholm Institute for Futures Studies


rural development, natural resource turn, rural policy


Forecasts for demographic change and long-term economic growth in the world indicate a probable critical growth in demand for biological resources such as food, bioenergy, and forest products over the next few decades. In Sweden, as in other western economies where the rural economy and the rural population have been declining since the Second World War, such an expected natural resource turn may have major implications for social and economic change in rural areas. In this paper we explore the research needs that follow from the perspective of a natural resource turn, which we define as a long-term economic upgrading of natural resources following on critical growth in demand. Based on the situation in Sweden, we elaborate on four themes, considered as central to understanding natural resource turnâ€"related rural change from a future perspective: (a) the production and management of biological resources and landscapes; (b) demographic change; (c) the location of economic activity to rural areas; and (d) social transformations in rural communities. Finally, some policy implications of these changes are outlined.

Author Biographies

Cecilia Waldenström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Assistent Professor in Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Expert in Parliamentary Committee ‘A Strategy for Policies for Sustainable Rural Development’ 2005-2006

Erik Westholm, Institute for Futures Studies

Research Leader, Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm Professor in Human Geography, Högskolan Dalarna