Nature Routines of Children as Leverage Point for Sustainable Social-Ecological Urbanism: Connecting childhood and biosphere to design sustainable civilizations in the human habitat
2016 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Strong sustainability requires enhanced knowledge and understanding of complex social-ecological interactions, but it also implies a ‘novel’ conceptualization of the relationship between humans and nature, one in which individuals perceive themselves as embedded members of the Biosphere. The aim of this Licentiate thesis is to investigate the validity of a strategy that is centered on designing the urban green infrastructure to nurture such human-nature relationship in children’s attitudes. The potential impact of this strategy for future sustainable civilizations lies in modifying the everyday background in which most people live, i.e. cities, and by including influential factors known to stimulate long-term commitment to environmental protection, i.e. childhood experiences of nature. The research is framed by the theories of spatial cognition, conservation psychology, and social-ecological sustainability. These disciplines are used in the Licentiate to analyze how reoccurring experiences of nature that are situated in the everyday habitat (i.e. nature routines) affect personal human-nature attitudes and how these can be implemented as leverage points for sustainable social-ecological systems. Paper 1 tests the assumed link between the nature routines in Stockholm and preschool children’s development of cognitive and emotional affinity to nature. The results show that having nature-rich routines over a period of four years is significantly correlated with the strength of preschooler’s affinity with nature. Paper 2 uses a mixed methods approach to evaluate changes in Connection To Nature (CTN) in 10 year olds who partake in a project of nature conservation. The results of Paper 2 show that there is an ‘evaluative gap’ between theory and practice in connecting children with nature that impedes the evaluation of how children’s CTN changes over short periods of time and consequently inhibits the creation of a valid evaluative framework for nature experiences. Paper 3 considers these empirical results in theorizing an approach to sustainable urban design that includes CTN. The theoretical analysis results in a list of contrasting points in the existing framework of sustainable urban design: (i) that urban space is not yet understood and organized as a system, (ii) there is an imbalance between top-down and bottom-up approaches in the creation of sustainable urban spaces, and (iii) the instrumental human-space interaction central to the current model of sustainable urbanism is insufficient to nurture CTN and hence long-term sustainability commitments. In order to overcome these limitations Paper 3 presents the concept of cognitive affordances as a theoretical tool to embed cognitive and emotional attitudes towards nature into the design of urban spaces. All combined these papers provide valid evidence that nature routines in cities, especially for children, can be a significant leverage point to bring into being future sustainable civilizations.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2016.
Nature routines, strong sustainability, sustainable social-ecological urbanism, connection to nature, children
Research subject Sustainability Science
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129743OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-129743DiVA: diva2:924142
2016-05-18, 312, Kräftriket 2B, Stockholm, 22:55 (English)
Raymond, Chris, PhD
PhD, Stephan, BarthelProfessor in Urban Design, Lars, Marcus
List of papers