Experiential vs. scientific ways of knowing urban nature for the purposes of planning / biodiversity offsetting (2/2)

The wellbeing, liveability and environmental benefits of urban nature are now widely acknowledged. City plans all over the world aspire to greener and healthier cities with a focus on increased social justice, climate resilience and enhanced wellbeing. Simultaneously policy developments like the biodiversity net gain requirement and the need to be mindful of climate change resilience in urban planning also spur a greening agenda and biodiversity offsets.

However, literature outlines many challenges for this: due to many factors, not least economic imperatives, urban greenspace continues to be compromised for development; where ‘greening’ is occurring, it is often associated with gentrification rendering neighbourhood with abundant greenspaces out of the reach of poorer households; and the social impacts of urban nature are complex and unevenly distributed even when access to greenspace is abundant. There is an emerging understanding that social and material context of urban neighbourhoods conditions the co- production of social impact from urban nature, and this is beginning to inform design principles and practice. Moreover, better metrics are emerging for biodiversity in cities in response to the need for biodiversity net-gain in- situ or through offsetting in alternative or replacement greenspaces.

This working group aims to bridge work on two research agendas: scientific and experiential ways to approach the urban nature and biodiversity. We’d welcome papers on, for example:

  • The challenges and possibilities of combining these two different strands of knowledge in planning for better urban nature for human and non-humans.
  • The practices of biodiversity offsetting in the urban context and the encountered challenges and examples of best practice.
  • The co-production of nature’s benefits (and dis-benefits) for people in the urban context and the integration of the social impact of urban nature into planning decisions.
  • The impacts of incremental encroachment and greening measures for the residents of cities.

We invite representatives of different research fields and disciplines to discuss about different ways to consider urban nature and the role of experiential knowledge in urban environment. We invite both theoretical, conceptual and empirical presentations. Presentations can be held in English and Finnish.


Meri Juntti
Middlesex University, UK

Juha Hiedanpää
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Finland

Misa Tuomala
City of Turku, Finland

Esitykset / Presentations

Infrastructures of Kindness

Ourania Papasozomenou
Arden University

In this paper I explore the transformative capacity of kindness as a driver, criterion and metric for the design, implementation, maintenance, and adaptation of urban infrastructures, of any kind. I argue that creating infrastructures designed to cater for the needs of an ever increasing and diverse population (human and nonhuman) is a moral imperative. If we do accept the premise that transformations should be not only innovative, but also just, then kindness is the way to go. Leaning of the work of Richard Rorty who reminded us that “moral progress is a matter of wider and wider sympathy” (Rorty, 1999, Philosophy and Social Hope, p. 82), I maintain that creating infrastructures based on kindness (and not cost-effectiveness) is precisely the moral progress we need to guide us while transforming our economies, societies, and cities into resilient and thriving ones. In this paper, I will make a case for kindness, presenting a theoretical framework and examples illustrating its dramatic and transformative capacity.

Just urban transition and the compensation of nature-based social values

Misa Tuomala
City of Turku

As urbanization is a current megatrend, new construction activity often targets to the green spaces of the cities. This infill development is problematic as those areas are essential not only for the biodiversity, but also for humans. We have examined what compensating nature-based social values, i.e. ecosocial compensation, could mean practically and conceptually in urban settings. To investigate that, we interviewed 21 urban planners, civil society organizations, politicians and researchers from Turku region, in Finland. According to our results, the current planning practices have limitations considering compensation of nature-based social values. Because of that, just compensation is hard to achieve since ecosocial approach sets spatial and temporal preconditions for implementing compensation. In addition, community engagement is essential to ensure the fairness of the compensation, and the capabilities and recognition of residents must be considered. We recommended ecosocial approach for compensation to achieve just outcomes in city development.

Ecosocial Compensation: the Democratic and Ethical Prerequisites

Juha Hiedanpää
Natural Resources Institute Finland

Concise urban construction and urban sprawl are both trends also in Finland. Although densification of cities has many climate benefits, it fragments green spaces which are important for humans and nonhumans, nature and culture. Ecosocial compensation could be one solution to the problem of the lost values of fragmenting urban nature. The idea of ecosocial compensation is to conjointly provide ecological values and nature-related human values to compensate the negative impacts of urban development at one place. In this presentation, I discuss on how the concept of ecosocial compensation builds on the conception of creative democracy, the transactional view of environmental ethics, and ecological compensation.

Factors influencing the realisation of the social impact of urban nature in inner-city environments: a systematic review of complex evidence

Dr Meri Juntti
Middlesex University

Dr Sevda Ozsezer-Kurnuc
London Development Trust

The beneficial health, wellbeing and liveability impacts of urban nature are broadly evidenced and increasingly engaged with in planning and policy. But anomalies in empirical evidence suggest that benefits do not flow equally to all. This review paper analyses the contribution of existing research on how the material and social context and subjective factors shape the social impact of urban nature. We review 46 international papers published between 2019 and 2021 that present findings from inner-city metropolitan contexts. The findings evidence variations in benefits and some dis- benefits derived from urban nature associated with features of the material context (e.g., urban and greenspace form, infrastructure and facilities), the social context (e.g., demographic diversity and socio-economic standing) and subjective factors such as gender and cultural identity. We recommend an inclusive research and planning approach that is attuned to the role of the human experience in the realisation of the social impact of urban nature to ensure that the prevalent urban greening agenda actually benefits all city dwellers and does not unintentionally contribute to further inequality. We recommend a shift of focus from ‘physical access to nature’ to ‘actually realised access to its benefits’ for more inclusive policy and planning.

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