New Book Explores Complexities of Rural Canada

November 23, 2009 - News Release

Red barns and grazing cattle may make for bucolic photos of the countryside. But they're only part of a diverse, complicated picture explored in a new book on rural Canada edited and co-authored by a retired University of Guelph professor.

Published by Nelson, Rural Planning and Development in Canada is the first book of its kind, said Prof. David Douglas, a retired faculty member in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. Other volumes have looked at such topics as community development, local government, planning or environment, he said, but “there has not been one book that brings all the pieces together.”

It’s an important topic, despite or even because of our increasingly urban culture and economy, he said. Beyond our major cities and towns, there’s a vast web of nearly 5,000 communities that contribute to Canadian culture, economy, food, resources and environmental health.

“If we care about our country, our community and our slice of the Earth we get to live on, we should care about this.”

The book’s chapters were written by 14 contributors from eight Canadian universities and from government. Topics covered in the 400-page book include public policy, government and governance, rural livelihoods, landscape, land-use issues, food security, organizational and institutional development, social justice and equity, and community development. Its concluding chapter written by Douglas outlines challenges and prospects for policy-makers, planners and other practitioners. Other U of G writers were professors John FitzGibbon, Karen Landman and Wayne Caldwell, and sessional lecturer Jennifer Sumner.

Douglas said the book’s character — broad, complex, questioning and multi-faceted — reflects the subject itself. Social justice, rural landscape design, planning, local government, community development, environmental choices: “That’s what we teach here.”

He added that the book addresses perceptions and misperceptions, including helping to dispel views of the rural landscape as merely pastoral or “urban in waiting.” He hopes readers will better appreciate the diversity of rural Canada and the challenges and opportunities for policy, practice and research.

Douglas is president of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, a member of a governance and development forum of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and an adviser on many research and community outreach projects. He teaches courses in rural planning and development.

There will be a public launch of Rural Planning and Development in Canada Friday at 1 pm in the foyer of the Landscape Architecture building. The event is open to the University community and general public.

For more information, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982, or

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