This paper summarises the progress of a research project that developed criteria to link well-being to landscape, heritage, and environmental issues, by experimenting a method that can bring operational extensions. The project was part of the economic evaluation of amenities that place well-being as one of the fundamental principles for assessing the quality of life in the context of enhancing ecosystem services, biodiversity, and urban resilience towards climate change. The research focused on the case study of the Loire Valley—UNESCO World Heritage, France—taking advantage of a ‘natural’ blue and green infrastructure supposedly comforting social well-being and not opposing biodiversity restoration. The methodology was based on (i) interviews with the different categories of actors—which helped identify conditions of well-being, prioritise them, and come up with a (non-exhaustive) list; validated during (ii) collective readings of the landscape and heritage; (iii) workshops were then used to validate these criteria and evaluate their importance in the perception of well-being. In the long term, the suggestions proposed should help influence economic dynamics, suggest spatial planning measures through urban planning documents, and improve performances of the environment and society through the enhancement of blue and green corridors, landscape, and heritage.
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“Perception is a primary relational process that proceeds (i) through the action of our senses, and thus in the presence of the phenomenon, and (ii) through a contiguous and immediate decoding related to a basic meaning by virtue of a denotative cognitive filter that allows us to translate and structure the sensory data in order to identify and name the said phenomenon. […] In more detail, perception is a half-objective and half-subjective mode of comprehension that is concerned with the sensory […]. To do this, perception is carried out in two concomitant stages of detection and then identification.” (Bédard 2016) [translation by author].
“Representation is a secondary relational process of evocation and interpretation that proceeds by the work of our mind alone, by virtue of a connotative operation that allows us to qualify the meaning we attribute to the phenomenon and to our previous relationship with it. […] In other words, since it takes place in the absence of the phenomenon, representation is an indirect and abstract mode of understanding by means of which the human being not only makes sensitive again […] a forgotten or distant phenomenon that he has already perceived by virtue of an image. […] By giving access to a more elaborate layer of meaning, the process of (re)construction and expression of the subject that representation brings about is fundamentally qualitative because it emanates from a specific interpretation” (Bédard 2016) [translation by author].
From an economic point of view, the landscape is generally regarded to as an amenity, since it can possibly positively influence the value of a location. For Faucheux and Noël (1995, p. 180), for example, the “aesthetic character of a river constitutes an amenity” [translation by author].
The involved municipalities are: Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, Germigny-des-Prés, Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, Saint-Père-sur-Loire on the right bank and Sully-sur-Loire, Sigloy, Guilly, and Ouvrouer-les-Champs on the left bank.
The dates were chosen on the basis of available data, on the date where in France the rural exodus slowed down, and on the idea of defining a time frame allowing to recall the evolutions in the memory of the inhabitants.