Enabling Relationships with Nature in Cities


Limited exposure to direct nature experiences is a worrying sign of urbanization, particularly for children. Experiencing nature during childhood shapes aspects of a personal relationship with nature, crucial for sustainable decision-making processes in adulthood. Scholars often stress the need to ‘reconnect’ urban dwellers with nature; however, few elaborate on how this can be achieved.

Here, we argue that nature reconnection requires urban ecosystems, with a capacity to enable environmental learning in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains, i.e., learning that occurs in the head, heart and hands of individuals. Drawing on environmental psychology, urban ecology, institutional analysis and urban planning, we present a theoretical framework for Human–Nature Connection (HNC), discuss the importance of nurturing HNC for children, elaborate on the role of property-rights and the importance of creating collective action arenas in cities for the promotion of urban resilience building. As values and environmental preconceptions underly environmental behavior, there are limits to achieving HNC in cities, as presumptive sentiments toward nature not always are positive.

We end by discussing the role of new digital technologies in relation to HNC, and conclude by summarizing the major points brought forward herein, offering policy recommendations for HNC as a resilience strategy that can be adopted in cities throughout the world.


Link to centre authors: Barthel, Stephan, Colding, Johan
Full reference: Colding, J., Giusti, M., Haga, A., Wallhagen, M. and Barthel, S., 2020. Enabling Relationships with Nature in Cities. Sustainability, 12(11), p.4394.