Society Research Theme
Encompassing the governance and socio-cultural dimensions of nature recovery.
This theme examines how ‘nature recovery’ is defined and governed at multiple scales across diverse landscapes, how its costs and benefits are distributed, and what lessons this holds for promoting equitable and restorative human-nature relations. The initial focus will be on case study landscapes in the UK and Ghana supporting a range of land uses, including conservation, recreation and the production of food and fibre for commercial and subsistence use.
One research strand examines the political ecology of nature recovery at multiple scales, with a strong emphasis on the design and implementation of participatory approaches to co-creating and managing nature recovery. This includes analysis of existing and proposed public and private policies, laws and standards for public participation in nature restoration and land use decision-making and how they intersect with grassroots and business recovery initiatives and local landowner engagements.
As part of this work, we will explore complementarities and tensions between scientific knowledge, including that generated by this project, and local knowledge of nature and place, and how different knowledge claims are used, accepted or rejected, and by whom. We will also examine how nature recovery efforts shape equality of access to land, nature and finance across diverse social groups.
Our second strand examines different cultural understandings of nature and how these configure the possibilities for nature recovery. We anticipate that successful strategies for nature recovery will require broad cultural support from landowners, farmers, citizens, and their representatives. But we know that these groups often disagree about what nature is and how it ought to be managed. We will investigate how culture and group identity shape different patterns of behaviour that impact nature recovery. We are especially interested what digital media tell us about popular understandings of nature and in the potential of digital technologies to enable new forms of environmental citizenship.
Collecting reliable and consistent data about people’s relationship with the natural environment is likely to be crucial to effective policy delivery by governments. Social surveys are a prominent tool in delivering this insight. In the UK, surveys on people’s rela/onship with nature are run by government bodies, nongovernmental organisa/ons, academic researchers, and others. This scoping assessment identifies the range of such surveys that are taking place within the UK (as of August 2023) and considers why survey data is being collected and by whom. It finds that existing surveys ask questions to both representa/ve and nonrepresentative samples of the UK public to provide information on measures including: frequency of visits to natural spaces; activities undertaken when in natural spaces; barriers to these visits; attitudes to the natural environment; awareness of perceived threats to nature; any pro-environmental behaviours that might be undertaken; and the kinds of well-being benefits that individuals may obtain from engaging with the natural world.
However, the report notes that collecting reliable and consistent data within the UK presents particular challenges. The environment is a devolved issue and therefore data is collected differently in the four UK nations by distinct technical and advisory bodies. Furthermore, there is currently limited coordination and consistency between non-governmental organisations in the kinds of data
collected and how that data is shared. In going forward, there is great potential for enhanced collaboration and coordination between organisations. There is also a need for greater awareness amongst the potential users of survey data about what is available and how they can best request, resource, and utilise the best available evidence on people and nature to support their strategy and decision-making.
McDermott, Constance L., Jasper Montana, Aoife Bennett, Carolina Gueiros, Rachel Hamilton, Mark Hirons, Victoria A. Maguire-Rajpaul, Emilie Parry, and Laura Picot (2022). Transforming land use governance: Global targets without equity miss the mark. Environmental Policy and Governance.
Chambers, J. M., Wyborn, C., Klenk, N. L., et al. (2022). Co-productive agility and four collaborative pathways to sustainability transformations. Global Environmental Change, 72, 102422.
News & events
Starting from the bottom: Exploring nature recovery in the cocoa-forest landscape of Ghana10 October 2023
Nestled in Southern Ghana, the Kakum landscape has long captivated the imagination of scientists, conservationists, and nature lovers alike. The exploratory studies are to understand the perceptions, practices and interactions behind this complex landscape of old-growth forests, cocoa agroforests and food crop farms, as well as how to monitor better the contributions and impacts of […]news Blog