Special Issue Editorial: How can human-nature connectedness be a leverage point for sustainability transformation?

As is becoming abundantly clear, early climate-change warnings have not been effective, as the planet continues on its unsustainable pathway, crossing planetary boundaries and racing towards a sixth mass extinction. Despite the existence of many international agreements and goals being made, more diverse interventions are needed. Therefore, by approaching this sustainability problem through a systems perspective, more effective solutions might be found to adapt and transform whole systems. The current Special Issue: Human-Nature Connectedness as Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation is now out in the Journal Ecosystem & People. The Editorial of this special issue (Riechers et al. 2021) aims to present an overview of the inspiring articles published to show new ways of re-connecting humans to nature (see Fig. 1).

For example, Raatikainen et al. (2020) maintain that reconnecting to nature has the potential to reveal deep leverage points that could transform our current, unsustainable system. Bieling et al. (2020), Chakroun and Droz (2020) and Pérez-Ramírez et al. (2020) assess the potential for fostering values and meanings of nature that can incite sustainable actions within different cultural landscapes. Burgos-Ayala et al. (2020) reveal the importance of considering local contexts and indigenous knowledge, landscape management, agroecology to push systems onto a more sustainable trajectory. Further, Rosengren et al. (2020) argue that these considerations can also improve adaptations to climate change and create more resilient social-ecological systems.

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of study areas and exemplary case studies by the articles of this Special Issue. The globe icon signifies no specific study area, * and + show articles with multiple study areas across continents. (Riechers et al. 2021)

In order to transform sustainability, current paradigms that rule collective behaviours and dictate our relationship with the environment have to be shifted to align with sustainability values. In this special issue a range of approaches were discussed, such as the arts-based practices used by Muhr (2020), the envisioning exercises by Rana et al. (2020), participatory scenario workshops and direct engagement with nature. These can promote pro-environmental behaviours through reconnecting and re-signifying nature with people. Riechers et al. (2021) argue that engaging with nature can allow for holistic worldviews and relational thinking to be fostered, which are important factors in personal along with societal transformations. This argument is based on West et al. (2020), Richardson et al. (2020) and Mattijssen et al. (2020) who emphasise that human-nature connectedness is a significant and deep leverage point, which improves relational thinking and allows for better nature stewardship and governance.

Here is the link to read the full Special Issue: Human-Nature Connectedness as Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation and the editorial by Riechers et al. (2021).

Keep an eye out for our blog post on the joint synthesis by all first authors of this special issue on what they have learnt regarding the key advantages of the leverage points perspective next Monday!

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