settlements are actually the primary spatial patterns of man and nature interaction, reflecting the environmental effects on community behaviors. Inevitable evolution of these patterns temporally, also affecting from environmental factors as well of none environmental ones. One of the major structural evolutions of rural areas, beyond a demographic one, is extraordinary migration depopulating some villages, namely rural exodus, which can be considering as a geographical phenomenon related to the environmental contexts. Transformation of irregular extended rural-urban migrations to the escape of rurality and rural life style is one of the serious environmental, socioeconomic and structural dilemmas of third world under developed countries. Technological evolutions and especially the information and communication revolution in recent century have extended the broadness, impacts and importance of this phenomenon. The problem originates from the incompetent structures and foundations for encountering the contingences of the new era. These situations are unfortunately reproduced in all of the third world countries as Iran as an unavoidable reality that generates and expands a significant abnormalities and shortages against the indigenous development process of the societies, especially rural communities. In the other words and from a systemic point of view, rural-urban migrations and escapism of villagers toward the cities, is one of the chain-work mutual interactivities among the weakened communities to encounter the new world mechanisms and arisen institutions, which is occurring as a last resort. In such bi-polarized societies, the process of development has been imbalanced towards the urban areas. Centralization of investments in the forms of developmental infrastructures and import technologies often in the progressive urban areas has changed them to the destination of mass populations of undeveloped and under developed rural areas. This action is taking unavoidably place as a last resort against the new global contingences, which has weaken and disabled the old traditional societies and their orders for living now and here.
This study is aimed firstly at identifying of depopulated rural settlements over a quarter century since 1365 (1986) by 1390 (2011) in Isfahan province and secondly representing an environmental interpretation of the phenomena, using statistical methods and spatial analysis in the geographic information system environment. To do this, at first, layers of the spatial distribution of settled villages of 1365 and identified depopulated ones over the two and a half decades period of the study have based on the detailed reports of public censuses’ results of Iran statistical center identified and prepared in ArcGIS environment. Afterwards, the rural settlements exodus analyzed based on the prepared environmental layers of altitude, slope, aspect, temperature, land types and distance from wells and springs, spatially.
Spatial analysis of exoduses in relation to each of these environmental factors indicated that there is a significant relationship between exoduses and environmental factors of slope, land types, altitude and distance from wells respectively. While that wasn’t true for aspect parameter. Environment’s potential (or poverty, contrarily) emanates from mutual and especially none compensatory relationships between all environmental factors. Therefore, the land inhabitability necessitates the least liability of all none compromisable environmental functionalities and their simultaneity to guarantee the communal durability and livelihood. Taking this principle into consideration, the exodus of rural settlements also analyzed based on the overplayed raster layer of all studied environmental parameters, calculated as their weighted linear combination (WLC), using map algebra in ArcGIS. To do this, at the first the layers normalized linearly so that the negative (or cost) criteria such as slope and distances (the less, the better) and the piecewise linear or moderation criteria such as altitude and temperature, transformed both positively (the more, the better) and re-ranged from zero to one. The operation performed using the linear and fuzzy normalization procedures appropriately. Flowingly the different relative importance of the layers evaluated and obtained using the eigen vector method, based on the experts’ pairwise comparison judgements. Like the previous individual ones, two statistical indicators calculated and used for spatial and environmental analysis of rural settlements’ exodus; “the settled villages density at the beginning year of 1365” and “relative percent of depopulated villages over the study period with respect to the total beginning settled ones”. The indicators calculated separately for each of five environmental potency/poverty classes verified using the natural breaks method in GIS. The standardized scores of overall environmental potency/poverty for any of the classes calculated using the “zonal mean statistic” function from the spatial analyst tool of ArcGIS. Correlation analysis of environmental potency/poverty and previously mentioned indicators, revealed 80 percent positive relationship between the environmental potency and settling density, and contrarily 56 percent positive relationship between the environmental poverty and relative exodus percent.
Although the role of the environment is undeniable in both formation and the exodus of rural settlement, its role is more determinant in terms of formation and continuity of rural settlements compared to their exodus and depopulation. It is perceivable that the exodus and depopulation of rural settlement is affected by various none environmental parameters and mechanisms even more than environmental elements. In this regard, internationally it is mentionable that the predominant industrial development approach caused by the industrial revolution and the information and communication revolution of the contemporary era, have also deepened the gap and inequalities between the quasi-developed urban and undeveloped rural areas of the third world countries. The strategy of rural areas in facing of these undesirable national and international situations interacting with environmental disadvantages has commonly been expansion of the rural-urban migrations, in some instances as a geographical phenomenon of villages’ depopulation and rural exodus. Both of the rural origins and urban destinations have disadvantaged from such of unavoidable rural depopulation. In this regard, counter-ruralism is the attitudes and psychological situation of villagers, drives them to leave the village. It is so that the synergic trade-offs between the “poverty of environmental functionalities” and “socio-economic insufficiencies” reproduce and accelerate this inauspicious phenomenon, conducting subsequently to delay and deficiency of the whole society’s development process.