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Democracy and Social Justice in Landscape

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Society
Wordcount: 3172 words Published: 29th Nov 2021

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Democracy and social justice are the significant symbols of civilization in present modern society. However, it is not realistic to reach absolute equality due to the various social factors. The landscape as a sort of carrier can show the unfairness of society. In this essay, the reflection of unequal wealth and power on the landscape and the possible methods for landscape democracy will be discussed. As a consequence, some suggestions to improve the landscape difference resulted from the economy and politics will be proposed.

Keywords: landscape, democracy, and justice, wealth and power, landscape democracy


It is widely acknowledged that democracy and justice are vital in the present society and are extended and applied to other areas, including landscape. However, the unfairness of landscape still exists on the uneven distribution of resources and environmental disruption for urbanization. Because it is quite difficult to consider all the social factors, the wealth (economy) and power (politics) are extracted to gain a simplified social model to discuss democratic and just landscape.

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Democracy and justice are common social awareness and social demands that were born with the modern social development and can be reflected in the question about the distribution of political power and the distribution of property, income and other benefits because of the separated modern social and political institutions (David Miller, 1978). Therefore, politics and economy as the framework and foundation of the society are easy to connect to the human requirements and human productions, which are the direct factors that could affect the landscape. The policy influences the landscape structure, for instance, agriculture, industry and business, and the landscape expression are decided by the economy, such as scale or content. Nevertheless, there are five stages of political institutions in the developing process, which are the primitive society, the slave society, the feudal society, the capitalist society, and the socialist society. But the concept of democracy and justice just appears in the capitalist society and the socialist society so society change could lead to the landscape transformation that can show the influence of wealth and power.

However, it is hard to define landscape democracy and justice in the present. Historically, a landscape was a prototypical democracy defined as a people and their place, as governed and shaped by customary law, and as forms by representative institutions that were concerned with things that matter, and hence not as defined by landscape planners and architects as things as matter (Shelley, 2018). In a word, it is natural that the landscape is a performance of social condition by residence, custom or products according to people's will. Therefore, it is a democratic and just landscape that people can be free to choose the landscape they want and can receive appropriate landscape service. It is discussed in this paper how the landscape represents the inequality of the economy and politics according to the standard.

Analysis and Opinions

In 2000, the 'landscape' was defined in two parts (Finn and Helena, 2015) that the one is physical that means all measured and described elements in a certain area while the other one is mental that represents a symbol of culture and aesthetic, which could offer a sense of belonging. They are shown on the unfairness of wealth and power.

1. Wealth

It is an entrenched social problem about wealth differences. Because the economy decides the material base, so the injustice would occur when the requirement of landscape recourse could not be satisfied by the wealth only for parts of people. Moreover, this inequity almost expresses in the choice of the physical landscape, which is shared with the individuals and organizations.

a. On the landscape scale

In a broad sense, the wealth gap in the landscape is similar to the difference in infrastructure. In developed cities, the space of infrastructure is more open to meet the functional demand of the larger population, such as wider roads, larger housing areas, and bigger green spaces, which are rare in the poor area. In a narrow sense, contrarily, the economic condition means natural resources.

In the mid-17th century, bourgeois revolutions extended widely to all Europe and various royal gardens and private gardens were open to the public to form the public park. Thus, more people could enjoy the landscape resources that are gathered by the rich people before as additional value of the houses. Take the royal garden belonging to the richest people in a country as an instance, the Summer Palace in China, the Versailles palace garden in France and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Britain are in 293 hectares, 100 hectares, and 121 hectares respectively. Compared to the private gardens, the area is large. The biggest existing private garden in China, the Humble Administrator Garden, is 5.2 hectares while the Villa D'Este in Italy is about 4.5 hectares. Therefore, the inequality of the economy can be reflected on the landscape scale directly.

b. On the landscape content

For individuals, people are willing to choosing the landscape where the traffic is fast and convenient, the residence is tidy and safe and the environment is clear and clean, which are benefits to themselves. However, the more positive factors the landscape has, the more money the landscape costs. So, the freedom of landscape choice can be restricted to economic conditions. For organizations or countries, the more investment to landscape resources results from higher wealth. For instance, most countries keep a similar concept on the solutions to climate change problems, investing in renewable energy as a part of them according to the data from a report (2010). The amount of investment is partly caused by economic conditions. Besides, the utilization of renewable energy is beneficial to achieve sustainable development, which can reduce the exploitation of traditional energy and the destruction of the natural landscape. Consequently, the landscape resources could be conserved and increased.

Origins: G20 clean energy factbook, 2010

2. Power

Compared to the wealth, the landscape difference caused by power is about mental. People rarely have the right to accept or not when a policy is come out because the power is controlled in a minority. Moreover, the process of transition to democracy is regarded as an institutional arrangement where a person gains the right of the decision through a competition to get people's votes for achieving the political purpose (Patrik, Fredrik, and Mikael, 2011). Therefore, the People's Congress in China and the parliament in Britain are checked and balance concerning the leaders. Even so, injustice cannot be avoided because democracy just represents the major population.

a. On the landscape of living and producing

It is the first position that the overall interest is considered by the government as a leader of a country so the benefits of a portion of people would be damaged in social development. Urbanization is a pretty appropriate example. Although urbanization, that not only offers the modern landscape but also changes the landscape pattern, which has a great influence on biodiversity and production (Reimets, 2013), is a natural process of urban development, the significance of policy cannot be ignored as well. People are forced to leave their familiar mode of living and become confused and lost in a new environment. Additionally, due to the different speed of urban expansion, plenty of landscape turns into fragmentation that is seen frequently in China.

It is rapid that the industrial structure has changed too much in China since the reform and opening up in 1978, companying with the transform of landscape structure. From the agricultural landscape to the industrial landscape and the commercial landscape, it spent around 40 years which is far shorter than the time that people accept the new lifestyle and environment. It is difficult for the residents who have lived in a rural area for several decade years to change, consequently, there is a strange landscape appeared on the border of urban and rural area. The various vegetables are planted in the residential area instead of trees and flowers. They try to keep their original mode of living and producing though they live in an urban environment. Therefore, the relation and environment of production are destroyed by the policy and the new social demand cannot be met, people create a familiar landscape in a strange environment as a compensation for the uneven landscape recourse.

b. On the landscape of culture and religion

If it is said that the former unfair landscape is owing to the political decision, this one is linked to a political transition, including the change of ruler, dynasty and social institution. The transform of the power subject brings the various political concept that could be contrary to the traditional culture idea with destroying. As the policy of government intervention to deal with the financial crisis beginning in late 2008, Opponents transferred the problem about economic policy to that of national cultural heritage by associated with the founding father to criticize this policy (Sid, 2015). If the contradiction goes more widely and the authority is more powerful, the change would be expressed in the landscape.

Commonly, this change happened in the history that Moscow experiencing the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 could be an obvious example (Karl,2015). On the one hand, the change of landscape function is rapid that the former political architectures were replaced by commercial buildings, the narrow old city center became the most expensive area of the city, people were forced to remove into modern flats and the urban skyline was changing by the skyscrapers. On the other hand, the sudden stress from the capital, which means the transition of the real estate market, changed the social and cultural environment essentially. Too many prominent architectures were demolished or restructured keeping a façade. The positive meaning of some historical buildings and squares became negative. International commercial culture appeared but more original residents moved out because of the loss for cultural identification.

Moreover, the loss could happen in the religious landscape caused by the unjust power arrangement especially in Israel where huge religious conflict exists. It is said that the close relationship between landscape formation and politics and power makes the landscaping become the weapon of religious struggles (Luz, 2013). The establishment of the state of Israel resulted in the most Arab-Palestinian population were driven out and become the minority. Consequently, the Jew as the dominant of the culture and religion, plenty of Islamic buildings, landscape and artwork were damaged and Arabs were banned to get into Jewish open space. It is quite clear that the injustice of power is represented in the landscape.


According to the unfairness of society shown on the landscape, how to create or construct a democratic and just landscape? Significantly, ELC (European Landscape Convention) is mentioned in many papers as an institution that focuses on the development of landscape democracy. There are three essential aims of ELC (Finn and Helena, 2015) that are stimulating public awareness, encouraging institutions on different levels to take the policy to improve landscape quality and making a democratic decision. To achieve these purposes, the views from stakeholders are necessary to be integrated and to be communicated efficiently (Brian J, 2017). Two methods will be discussed in this essay, that one is top-down that the governors ask the public to offer their opinions towards the landscape and collect them, which could be preference survey, economic valuation, and focus groups and citizens panels (Finn, 2015), and that the other one is bottom-up that the citizens describe their requirement with planners and designer through discussing and experiencing by connoisseur method (Finn and Helena, 2015) and self-mobilization (Marte Lange, 2017).

1. the top-down method

The way to landscape democracy is passive public participation controlled by governors and experts through surveying, assessing and discussing, by what several sample data and public opinions can be gathered, which affects the landscape design and plan directly. Additionally, procedural participation mode makes the process of design go smoothly led by professional teams and institutions. It is widely used in most landscape design and planning to gain feedback. The method is tractable and practicable to reach landscape democracy, however, there are still some flaws in this system. Firstly, the guidance by the governors and experts leads to the lack of subjective expression from the public who are pushed to participate without deep consideration, even with selfish and uneven proposals and opinions. Secondly, the sample data is too large and too illogical to regulate, which offers little useful information for the designers. Thirdly, it is waste that too much time would cost in rigid and mechanical procedures that ideas cannot be communicated effectively. Therefore, a bottom-up method is proposed to deal with these problems.

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2. the bottom-up method

The motivation of this method comes from the self-awareness of the public who are willing to take part in landscape creation. The stakeholders as the main body of the system get a deeper understanding of the landscape requirement by repeated communication and debate. And the designers and planners grasp the core of public demand easily through experiencing the landscape. Nevertheless, it is essential to choose the characteristics of the participants who are linked to the landscape closely. Primarily, they must be typical and can represent the majority. Next, they are good at observing and can find problems in the existing environment. Finally, they have the logical ability and presentation skills and can express themselves and consider combined other's ideas.

By carrying out landscape democracy, the degree of public participation is increasingly higher by setting various approaches. For example, a spa park project in Ronneby Brunn, the government was aimed to transform it into a cultural protection zone by increasing the dialogue between the users and park managers and enhancing the relationship between users and the park. Moreover, this way is also used in most autonomous regions of the minority in China, such as Inner- Mongolia, Guangxi, Yunnan and so on. Residents have large freedom and autonomy to design and decorate their landscape or living environment so that the historical and cultural landscape can be preserved and kept in harmony.


Therefore, the democratic and just landscape is possible in the present, however, entire landscape democracy is hard to be reached because the unfairness of economy and politics still exists over all the society. Combined with the opinions and discussion before, the landscape difference caused by unequal wealth and power could be improved by the methods of landscape democracy. On the economic aspect, experts can set a standard of value to avoid that citizens cannot afford the landscape or are not willing to paying for the landscape by survey and assessment. Moreover, the stakeholders can enjoy a high-quality landscape that is designed by using materials at an appropriate price based on their hope and requirement. In terms of politics, the various demand for cultural landscape is not complicated to distinguish and integrate. On the base of the unity of landscape structure, it is practicable that the symbols of the different historical-cultural landscapes are added supported by policy. Besides, the stakeholders should be given the power to reform the landscape in detail because the details about the history, culture, even religion could increase the sense of belonging and satisfaction of the landscape for stakeholders. Consequently, it is a distant way to achieve landscape democracy companying with social justice, but the democratic and just landscape can be imagined.


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