The Danish Board of Technology Foundation is currently working on a project to discuss how the area of Denmark should be best exploited in the future; the project on land use in Denmark that extends from 2014 to 2017.
It is necessary to prioritize how the land area of Denmark must be used, since there will not be sufficient space in the future in proportion to existing plans and wishes. Cities are spreading in the landscape and require more roads and railways implemented. Nature and agriculture need more space and also forested and wild nature should be extended. All the while the sea eats the Danish area smaller. To comply with these plans, a 30% land area increase is needed – i.e. 130% of the current total Danish land area. The Danes and the Danish politicians are facing a huge challenge if wishes and dreams must converge with reality, and priorities are necessary if this odd arithmetic should move up.
What are the priorities and who should decide?
Dialogue is the way forward and the project aims to get politicians, experts and citizens speak together and find a common solution. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation has in cooperation with the Danish Parliament established a future panel with representatives from all parties. Besides the future panel a control group consisting of relevant stakeholders and experts in the field, are also included. A large citizen meeting, in which 250 lay people gathered (representative for the Danish population by age, gender, education and geography), will give citizens a voice on decisions about the area of Denmark in the future.
For the citizen meeting the citizens’ vote were distributed as follows
Should the total agricultural area in the future be:
The same 42%
Do not know 0%
Should the total forest area in the future be greater than it is today?
Do not know 3%
Should there be placed more wind mills on the coast?
Yes, but only in urban areas 29%
Yes, generally along the coast on land or water 43%
Do not know 4%
In which direction should Denmark evolve?
Here, the majority responded that they want to utilize the land area better so that more functions are combined on the same area. Furthermore, the protection of nature and environment are important for the citizens.
Citizens vote for the Denmark of tomorrow
Public opinion is important and the result of the citizens meeting made two significant calls on politicians:
1) More nature, environment and land that can be used for several functions.
2) There is a need for a better and more comprehensive planning than what is the case today.
The citizen meeting voting results, are processed to be launched at a parliamentary hearing where the aim is to communicate and discuss voting results to politicians. Representatives of all parties are part of a temporary committee that receives the results and take part in the subsequent public consultation debate.
Citizen's voice is thus consulted and should help steer Denmark in the right direction. A direction where nature and the environment should be a priority even if it means, that the Danes in the future must rethink food processing, urban environments, landscape, and recreational activities. It is time for some big changes in a little country. Citizens have given their voice and submitted their opinion - now it is up to the politicians to prioritise the area of Denmark in the future wisely.
The CASI projects’ example on citizen engagement
The method used for this Danish land area project is a great example of how to do citizen engagement and is similar to the method that was used in the CASI project in connection with the citizen panel meetings. The CASI project is making great efforts to dedicate the citizen in the work for a sustainable future, like in the subtask 3.4 citizen and experts meetings where citizens discussed and created suggestions on how to ensure a sustainable future. Both experts and professionals were involved in the process of formulating these proposals and priorities, but in the end, it was the citizen who had the final vote.
The CASI project makes it possible for citizens to be heard and involved in policy-making. In the same way as the Danish project on priorities for how to develop the land area of Denmark, the CASI project gives citizens an important voice - when it comes to a sustainable future in Europe.