The Stockholm+50 international meeting convened by the United Nations General Assembly took place earlier in June. It was attended by heads of state and government ministers from over one hundred nations, as well as many other representatives. The meeting saw the launch of Stockholm+50: Unlocking a Better Future – An independent scientific report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) produced to provide a scientific basis for the meeting.
Guided by an advisory panel of experts in sustainable development science and policy, researchers at SEI, CEEW and collaborating institutions have synthesised the scientific evidence and prepared recommendations for action. The report notes how scientific research provides evidence and guidance on how to make progress on critical challenges and lays out many of the ideas that can help transform our world.
It was great to see that a key message highlighted in the report was on the human-nature relationship:
- “Our relationship with nature needs redefining, from one of extraction to one of care. Human-nature connectedness should be strengthened in our social norms and value systems, and in how we live our everyday lives.”
The wider report noted the science of nature connectedness with the summary for policymakers noting the need to repair and redefine our relationship with nature. This also included calls to action around that:
- “Integrate nature in cities and urban areas – Local governments can promote human-nature connectedness through green architecture, infrastructure and access to nature in the towns and cities where most people live and work, as a way of both seeding transformative change through shaping values and providing immediate climate, biodiversity and health benefits. “
- “Expand and invest in nature-based education – Through education policy and school curricula that connect children with nature, education authorities and teachers could contribute to a long-term, catalytic effect on repairing our relationship with nature. Inspiration can be taken from Indigenous communities’ nature-based education.”
The summary for policymakers is based on a more detailed consideration of redefining the relationship between humans and nature. It recognises that society’s disconnection from nature is a root cause of ecological decline. This section of the report covers the need to address the core imbalance in how societies value nature, including the need for more relational values.
This would require profound changes across economies, societies and communities and the report notes that measuring human-nature connectedness is a pathway to repairing our failing relationship with nature. Coincidentally, our paper on nature connectedness being a key metric for a sustainable future was published a few days before the report.
The report includes our pathways research which suggests that nature connectedness can be increased through carefully designed interventions and that there is an opportunity to combine with leverage points for transformative change. The report notes how this approach can be adopted in areas such as education and urban design “to encourage a cultural reset on how we see nature – and how we then ‘use’ or interact with nature”.
The areas for action to redefine the human-nature relationship include drawing on the pathways to nature connectedness to repair the broken relationship between humans and nature. This leads to specific areas for action to help reconnect people, communities and societies to the nature around them. The actions address how we live, produce food and learn and include integrating nature within cities and urban areas and expansion of nature-based education. Recommending, for example, education policy and curricula that are explicitly informed by pathways to nature connectedness thinking. The breadth of opportunities and change needed is reflected in the action on housing policy which suggests that all new developments include opportunities for an active relationship with nature. For example, urban planning providing everyday opportunities to care for and connect with nature.
The report is a significant step in the growing global recognition that the human-nature relationship is a core issue and that the science of nature connectedness can be applied to make a difference. We don’t have all the answers, but there is sufficient evidence to progress another key message in the report – that “bold and science-based decision-making is needed to accelerate the pace of change”. The message is clear, the human-nature relationship itself, not just the symptoms of that failing relationship, is a tangible target for change – and bold, creative, evidence based thinking can help fix that failing relationship.
SEI & CEEW (2022). Stockholm+50: Unlocking a Better Future. Stockholm Environment Institute. DOI: 10.51414/sei2022.011
(2020). Applying the pathways to nature connectedness at a societal scale: a leverage points perspective, Ecosystems and People, 16:1, 387-401,