For a few years a new concept, the empty Spain, has been installed in our lives. While the big cities do not stop gaining population due to the constant migration from the countryside to the city, thousands of towns languish due to the absence of inhabitants in a slow agony that we cannot stop. Catalonia is no stranger to this situation. At least 33 municipalities are on red alert due to disappearance and each year the situation becomes more critical.
Depopulation in Spain and Catalonia is synonymous with loss of biodiversity and water resources, erosion, fires and poor quality of life. But above all it is synonymous with inequality because it most strongly affects the groups most vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, such as children, youth and women. Children living in depopulated areas travel long distances to attend school and their access to cultural and technological resources is very limited. Little has been said about how children in rural areas have experienced confinement, taking into account that 60% of municipalities do not have access to broadband, something that makes it difficult not only for school activities, but also for teleworking and entrepreneurship of families.
Depopulation is also cruel to young people, who see limited job opportunities and technological resources to innovate, and makes women poorer, who endure lower glass ceilings and unemployment rates that rise to 42%. Women who live in rural areas are the most affected by the aging of the population because the care of dependent people generally falls on them, limiting their labor, political and social participation.
It is urgent to adopt measures and these can come from the hand of cooperative federalism, projects that consider the participation of all administrative levels and interested agents, integrating economically, culturally and demographically heterogeneous territories. Projects that not only have an impact on social and economic improvements but also reinforce collaboration and solidarity between territories.
The return to rural environments that the pandemic has caused has the danger of going in the direction of an even more individualistic capitalism, one that proposes an idyllic existence in an isolated house and with a good Internet connection but without the essential communication and collaboration that it implies. life in society. The fight against depopulation must go hand in hand with a model of community life, one that serves as a laboratory to develop projects and innovation around urgent issues such as climate change, energy generation, desertification or food production.
Louis Brandeis popularized the concept of Democracy Laboratories at the beginning of the 20th century to describe one of the advantages of federalism, which is to allow a territory to experiment with certain innovative policies that, if successful, can be extended to others. The arrival of European funds represents a great opportunity to turn empty Spain and Catalonia into laboratories where resources can be channeled to combat depopulation, generating a new production model that guarantees sustainable growth that leaves no one behind. It is essential to abandon the inaction of recent years and make this issue a political priority at last.