Human Geography

Maria Christina Crouch
and
Jordan P. Lewis

Alaska Native (AN) peoples have resided in rural, collectivist systems for time immemorial. However, AN history has been punctuated by manifold and often generational changes to these systems. Family structures, expressions of culture, land-based identities, and AN cosmology and ontology have been directly impinged upon by colonisation. Evidence of this exists in outward migration, climate change, health disparities and Western systems of health, learning and knowledge. Resilience, successful ageing, and quality of life are evident in community resources, inward migration, and the cultural and contextual factors that compose tribal group identity. All are firmly grounded within place, community strengths, and cultural revitalisation, and are embedded in land and nature. A sample of adults within rural Alaska were recruited to share their collective and lived realities related to their quality of life. Focus groups consisted of interactive tasks and thematic analyses. Nine salient themes were revealed: family; subsistence; access to resources; health and happiness; traditional knowledge and values; acts of self; providing; sobriety; and healing. All emphasised the cyclical and grounded nature of collective resilience and reclamation of Indigenous ways. Further, research demonstrates how AN Elder knowledge, intergenerational connection and generativity, and indigenised tenets of successful ageing are how rural AN communities become well, stay well, and pass on healing and wellness to future generations. Indigenous ageing provides a lens to understand AN quality of life and the symbiosis of rurality. An analysis of the historical changes to the AN cultural system, successful ageing, and an Indigenous, holistic framework of AN quality of life will be provided.

in Rural quality of life
Open Access (free)
Heritage, tourism and the revitalisation of Longtan village
Meiqin Wang

This chapter investigates the potential of art in rural placemaking through a close study of ‘Everyone is an Artist’, an ongoing art education-led rural revitalisation project in Longtan village, a poor rural village in a remote mountainous region of Fujian province, China. Launched by art educator Lin Zhenglu in 2017 with the support of local government, the project aims to enhance the living environment and the overall life quality of local residents. The chapter discusses the physical, spatial and cultural transformation of Longtan since it kicked off the project by engaging residents in painting, reviving vernacular architecture, and participating in various cultural and leisure activities. Methodologically, it combines art historical research, media research, fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, participatory observations, digital ethnography, and a study of a variety of documents and reports as well as insights from critical heritage studies in order to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the physical and cultural interventions that are being implemented in the village to advance a desirable individual and collective rural living. Its working hypothesis is that a meaningful placemaking effort cannot be separated from the remaking of people (residents of a given neighbourhood, village or town) and their private and public living environment; and artistic activities can lend their force for personal development and thus aid in the remaking of people for empowering them to assume an active role in the remaking of their hometown. It also sheds light on how experts can exert significant influence in heritage-inspired placemaking projects in China.

in Rural quality of life
The contribution of sports and physical activity
Rochelle Eime
,
Jack Harvey
,
Melanie Charity
, and
Hans Westerbeek

"People can be physically active in many different ways, including general physical activity and organised sports. In addition to the physical health benefits of participation, there is increasing evidence of broader health benefits – health-related quality of life of participation in organised community-level sports, specifically social and mental health benefits.

The study utilised data from over 6,000 participants and investigated their sports and physical activity profiles and quality of life – social, physical and mental. In doing so, the propositions of the Health through Sport conceptual model regarding the different health benefits of different types of activity are investigated. Research questions: (1) What is the health-related quality of life of individuals in rural and regional areas (countryside) compared to metropolitan areas? (2) How does the health-related quality of life of individuals differ according to type of activity? (3) How do the activity profiles and health outcomes of individuals align to the Health through Sport conceptual model?The aim was to investigate the contribution of participation in sports and physical activity to the health-related quality of life of individuals before and during COVID-19.

This study demonstrates that indicators of health-related quality of life differ among those living in rural and regional areas compared to metropolitan areas, in conjunction with differences attributable to gender, age and activity setting and mode."

in Rural quality of life
Open Access (free)
What have we learned about rural quality of life and how do we proceed?
Pia Heike Johansen
,
Anne Tietjen
,
Evald Bundgård Iversen
,
Henrik Lolle
, and
Jens Kaae Fisker

The purpose of the concluding chapter is to summarise key findings from every chapter in the book, to draw conclusions and implications on the main themes, and to identify directions for future research. Two kinds of themes are covered in the chapter: the four organising themes that provided the structure for the book, and three cross-cutting themes that emerged in the relation between the parts. The latter included spatial justice, meeting places, and rural sociality. These are reflected upon in the opening of the chapter, before the following subsections go into the four organising themes and the individual chapters. We round off by reflecting on the learning points that have emerged and the implications that this should have for the field going forward. In this context, we also mention the topics that the book has, for various reasons, not covered, but which should nevertheless be key themes for future work.

in Rural quality of life
Nick Gallent

This chapter explores the contribution of affordable housing access to quality of life in rural England. Quality of life is unpacked into core components: stability in home-life (and its contribution to physical and mental well-being), the affordance of social life (ensuring connectivity to networks and opportunity), support for work life (providing the stability needed to settle down, find work, be secure and plan ahead), and access to community life (including opportunities for participation in political life). The dissection of these components leads to an examination of tenure and perceptions of the rights and restrictions associated with home ownership, as the ‘most rewarding form of house tenure’. More broadly, the chapter examines the significance of personal housing security and concludes that affordable housing, irrespective of tenure, is a net contributor to well-being – both for individuals and rural communities. Without it, those communities lose vitality, become exclusive, and lose much of their capacity to respond to the challenges that rural areas will face in the future.

in Rural quality of life
A South-African reflection
Elizelle Juanee Cilliers
and
Menini Gibbens

Tackling poverty and inequality in the rural areas of South Africa requires a broad range of approaches, of which the development of child-friendly places should be considered an essential component. Due to resource constraints, central government’s approach towards rural development is generally only considered in terms of economic initiatives, which often result in short-term, unsustainable projects. However, placing children at the centre of sustainable community development through investment in early childhood development (ECD) centres as child-friendly spaces, as well as places where sustainable development initiatives in the community could emerge, provides a viable approach towards economic, demographic, social and environmental development. This chapter endeavours to advocate sustainable planning interventions that specifically incorporate a focus on children’s needs. In doing so, a community-integrated approach where the development of child-friendly spaces is considered a priority is evidenced to be an effective approach in sustainable rural development. The specific case study of the development of an ECD centre in Griekwastad, located in a rural area of the Northern Cape province of South Africa, provides a practical example of this approach. The research highlights the unique challenges, opportunities, and perceptions of creating child-friendly spaces in African rural spaces where communities do not necessarily have the support of state, but strive to improve the development of natural, safe spaces where education, cognitive development and independent mobility of children can be enhanced.

in Rural quality of life
Pia Heike Johansen
and
Jens Kaae Fisker

Revisiting the work of Henri Lefebvre, this chapter reconnects his early rural sociology with his late rhythmanalysis by applying his ‘method of residues’ to a study into the quality of everyday life in the Danish countryside. According to Lefebvre, the rural becomes an object of study when it poses practical problems to the urban elite, which is precisely what has happened with the rural–urban happiness paradox. Having heralded the coming of a new gilded age of the city, urban triumphalism is hard pressed to explain why the numbers do not add up; why do rural dwellers insist that they are doing fine? What qualitative difference does the rural make?

The chapter seeks answers by analysing 289 photos and 78 photo collages submitted by rural dwellers in response to the simple question: what is quality of life in the countryside? This question was subsequently discussed in interviews conducted in the homes of informants. Three key findings emerged: by growing their own food rural dwellers hold on to, or reinvent, a peasant lifestyle; rural dwellers ‘let go’ of control by only concerning themselves with what is within reach; and communal rural life is filled with unavoidable encounters that are cherished rather than wished away. Moreover, a thread that runs throughout these themes is that natural and social phenomena alike are accentuated; rural life is more alive. These findings lead to a discussion about Rosa’s conceptualisation of resonance as an alternative to social acceleration and the rhythm of the rural quality of life.

in Rural quality of life
Henrik Lauridsen Lolle

The chapter investigates differences in subjective well-being between urban and rural areas in Denmark. The analyses are undertaken on survey data from thirty-eight municipalities merged with individual-level panel register data. The main hypothesis is that in a small universal welfare state such as Denmark, there will be only minor differences in subjective well-being between urban and rural areas. If any overall significant difference exists, the expectation is that, in line with other results from empirical analyses in Western countries, subjective well-being will be higher in rural areas. This hypothesis is supported by the data. Multilevel regression analyses show only minor differences. However, for nearly all aspects of subjective well-being, the differences are statistically significant and with rural areas in the lead. Much of the higher overall level of subjective well-being in rural areas was explained by a lower level of experienced stress and a higher level of feeling meaning in life in these areas on average.

in Rural quality of life
Ruut Veenhoven
,
Nivré Claire Wagner
, and
Jan Ott

There is much demand for the greening of urban areas and one of the drivers of this demand is the biophilia theory which holds that we feel better in green environments. The question is, therefore, does urban greenery really add to happiness? If so, how much? If so, does the effect differ across people and situations? In this chapter we summarise the available research findings on the relation between happiness and urban green, considering both outdoor and indoor green. We draw on the Word Database of Happiness, in which we found thirty-eight research findings on the relationship between happiness and urban green, reported in thirteen publications. These findings are presented in two tabular schemes with links to online detail. Urban green – both outdoor and indoor – tends to go together with greater happiness. The size of the effect is small. Fear of crime reduces the effect of outdoor green on happiness.

in Rural quality of life
Beyond the idyll in life within the gentrified countryside
Martin Phillips
,
Darren Smith
,
Hannah Brooking
, and
Mara Duer

Gentrification and well-being have emerged as major research foci, although have rarely been examined in relation to each other. Furthermore, in the few studies exploring gentrification and well-being, there has generally been little theoretical discussion of the latter, despite there being a growing range of conceptualisations of well-being. This chapter seeks to address these omissions, exploring how six different conceptual perspectives on well-being might connect to studies of gentrification in both urban and, more particularly, rural contexts. Economic, social, epidemiological/health, psychological, cultural and more-than-representational perspectives are discussed, with attention drawn to their intersection with gentrification studies making use of concepts of displacement, neighbourhood, psychological and health effects, social networks, therapeutic and scary places, affect and intra-action, as well as indices of well-being. The paper then explores well-being and rural gentrification through a study of three 'string-figures' drawn from a study of nine English villages. The first of these focuses on the claims of idyllic rural living, with attention being paid to more-than-representational arguments concerning instabilities in feelings of well-being. The second makes connections between changing feelings of well-being associated with conceptions of living within a village and changing participation of networks of neighbourhood sociability. A third explores accounts of the formation, improvement and loss of atmospheres that contribute to senses of well-being.

in Rural quality of life