Robustness in the relationship between humans and nature provides opportunities

Combating the loss of biodiversity requires commitment from society as a whole. In addition to protecting the nature of governments and nature conservation organizations, citizens also play an important role. The renewed EU biodiversity strategy therefore strives for a robust nature in interaction with a robust society. Researchers from Wageningen Environmental Research have explored the characteristics and mechanisms of resilience in the relationship between humans and nature.

Wageningen University & Research May 30, 2022

Socio-ecological resilience can absorb changes

Resilience has to do with overcoming and dealing with difficult circumstances. With great socio-ecological resilience, nature and society can better jointly cope with major changes such as climate change. We achieve this by working with nature instead of fighting against nature. To gain insight into what is already happening in society in the field, the researchers have looked for practical examples where people in addition to politics contribute to nature and biodiversity. In a recently published WOt thesis, the researchers presented the insights from these practical examples.

Beaver puts human resilience to the test

When the beaver was reintroduced, the idea was that it was a vulnerable species which, hidden deep in a nature reserve, would provide more variety and diversity in the landscape through its gnawing activities. But this turned out very differently. Beavers are now pretty much everywhere in the Netherlands, gnawing trees into gardens and parks and flooding areas. Because the beaver’s resilience has been underestimated, human resilience is put to the test. The beaver seems to succumb to its success. The relationship between humans and beavers therefore mainly shows a lack of resilience. Knowledge of the beaver is insufficient to contribute to that resilience.

Weeds from recognizing to appreciating

The revaluation of weeds appears, among other things, from the craze for ‘botanical chalk chalk’. The name is written next to sidewalk plants with sidewalk steps. Passers-by are pointed at the plants and also learn their name. It is expected that this will give the weeds the right to exist in the petrified environment. In addition, initiatives are made in which wild plants (weeds) play a role, to use themselves (eat) or give nature a hand. At the initiative of the radio program Vroege Vogels, garden owners were encouraged to turn their garden into a ‘garden reserve’ to make their garden more natural and animal-friendly. What these initiatives have in common is that people often look at weeds with a positive view of the prevailing opinion.

Green connections through collaboration

An example of where an entire neighborhood begins to make its own living environment greener and more sustainable is the ’50 Tints of Green Assendelft ‘in Zwolle. Here, houses are insulated, gable gardens and grass roofs are laid out and residential streets are arranged so that cars are kept out of the neighborhood. The striking thing here is that the residents often collaborate and exchange information to give nature a place in their daily living environment.

A robust government is a prerequisite for a robust society

Various examples are used to describe how resilience in society can play a role in increasing resilience in nature. This will only work if the government’s policy also becomes robust. Views in policy notes on what nature is, what nature should look like, and what procedures should be used to improve it, often do not promote resilience in society and nature. What helps is a government that is open to new knowledge, other goals and new forms of organization. In a brochure for policy makers, the insights are translated from two long-term and comprehensive practical examples into action perspectives for governments.

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