The purpose of this study was to examine the goals, possibilities and rationales that could be found in the discussions concerning the digging of ditches by governmental subsidiaries in order to drain the peat bogs of late nineteenth century Sweden. A further aim was to look at the effect on the landscape on a local level i.e. Släthults moss in Bäckaby parish, Småland in the south eastern part of Sweden.
In order to be able to explain the connections between politics and landscape changes in a local population and its deciding bodies, influenced by ideas, science and production, a quadruple helix model developed from a triple helix model by Björn-Ola Linér was used. As a model of environmental history, three step thought was used, borrowed from Donald Worster.
The three steps are firstly nature itself, working without human intervention, in this study, the bog; secondly, the socioeconomic level, here the village and landowners and thirdly, human ideas, culture etc., in this case the parliament.
Primary sources were used and critically evaluated. Statements and arguments expressed by the members of the parliament were collected and divided into five main groups. Other materials were relatively scarce even though the planning itself was in force and acted as a starting point.
The study has shown how ideas, utility and scientific results affected a local landscape through the landowners themselves, supported by governmental subsidiaries administrated by a regional bureaucracy. The digging of ditches in the peat bogs was not a way to gain agricultural land; it was supposed to be a way to make the local climate better. In fact, projects where not even entitled to subsidies if the digging of the ditches positively affected agricultural land because of a difficulty in identifying the actual eneficiaries.
The study context suggests that subsidiaries rather were a way to help the people and strengthen the state by bypassing a local democracy. During this period, the Swedish state transformed from pro free trade to prorotectionism which implied, among other things a conflict between the old conglomerate of parts that constituted the whole and the new thought of a responsible central governing body. There are similarities between the reasoning around the ditch digging in Sweden and that of Linth Valley, Switzerland. The landowner in this case appeared to have wished to make the area better and invest in the land, something that might have been a way to get a better price for it. The area was sold as a farm thirteen years later. There seem to have been two other people directly interested in the project, the head of Bäckaby municipality and the responsible bureaucrat. The first had areas of land which benefited directly from the ditch digging and was said to have been the inspiration. The second was still in his learning period and seems, according to the material, to be eager to finish his education. The focal point of this study was the changing of a landscape for what seems to be political rather than absolutely practical reasons, such as obtaining agricultural land. This change has, in some sense, been reversed but the landscape has now turned into forest, from what was probably a rather flat open space. To get a glimpse of the situation today from a relevant point of view, the environmental programme of the social democrats is presented in one chapter, something meant to point ahead.
Tema vatten i natur och samhälle , 2004.
Interdisciplinary studies, Rationales, politics, society, landscape changes