by Roisin Gowen
Humans have historically placed themselves superior to nature. Although it is common knowledge that we rely heavily on natural capital and resources, we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance, but also by our mere existence on this earth. As climate change becomes more integrated into our everyday vocabulary, more and more new terms have emerged to help scientists, sociologists, and politicians alike to grasp ways to solve our current environmental issues.
‘Nature-based solutions’ is amongst these new concepts that aim to integrate nature into the ways in which we tackle these environmental challenges by mimicking processes that occur in the natural world. This concept follows the path of other newly popularized terms such as ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural capital’ that are leading a movement towards greater emphasis on the relationships between society and the environment and the ways in which humans perceive and use nature. Rather than looking purely scientifically for solutions to environmental problems, nature-based solutions aim to bring humans more in line with nature by searching for answers within nature itself. Environmental action is being more realised as a multidisciplinary discourse. Therefore, environmental issues and initiatives are becoming more considered on multiple planes, such as environmental, ecological, social, cultural, economic and political.
we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance
“Connecting Nature” is a framework being funded through Trinity that is inspired by nature-based solutions and aims to help small-scale organisations and cities adopt this concept. I was fortunate to be able to speak to Marcus Collier, Professor of Botany in Trinity, about his involvement in this project and why nature based-solutions is a very promising avenue for future environmental action.
“Connecting Nature” is based on innovative action instead of research action, as it looks to the surrounding environments to help guide environmental action that is beneficial on an environmental, ecological, political and social scale. Moreover, this framework was designed to be available as a tool to guide the implementation of nature-based solutions. Prof. Collier noted that there is a lot of “untapped knowledge” in urban spaces and that we can source information from our cities and surroundings to be able to scale them up to effective large-scale environmental action. For many organisations and cities, motivations for making positive environmental changes must often come with a supplementary case for growth within their cities or businesses. By implementing more nature-based solutions, particularly in urban areas and cities where we are often more disconnected from nature, we will become more integrated with natural capital and resources, and have a more circular approach to the way in which we rely on nature.
“Connecting Nature” aims to put a value on resources so that we pay for them rather than depleting them. The framework has three main phases; Planning, Delivery, and Stewardship, of which each phase has seven different elements that must be considered at each phase. An important aspect of this process is the ‘co-production of planning’, where shared knowledge and multidisciplinary opinions are valued for creating an interrelation between all the parties involved. Collier emphasized how nature can be a powerful tool to bring people together and can be used to build cohesion in communities. This cohesion goes beyond relations between individuals in society but also extends to the relations between individuals and their surrounding natural environments.