Arjen Buijs investigates human-nature interactions and their relationship with stewardship practices. He specifically focuses on how citizens self-organise for stewardship or political actions, how they aim for sustainable transitions and how these groups relate to local and national governments. In several European and Global project, Arjen investigates urban governance structures that foster collaborations between civil society and local governments. His PhD focused on the cultural diversity of images of nature among the Dutch public.
In recent publications, Arjen argues for the need to develop new narratives on human-nature relationships through direct interactions with nature. These narratives may contribute to a “Positive Ecology” as basis for individual stewardship practices as well as for increased legitimacy of nature conservation policies. To embed stewardship practices from active citizens and communities within larger governance schemes, he co-developed innovative governance concepts, such as Mosaic Governance and Nature-Based-Thinking. Both approaches contain normative ambitions for co-creating inclusive and effective conservation policies based on ambitions, visions and knowledge from local communities.
His research engages with topics such as nature experiences and cultural diversity, , visions and images of nature, self-governance, and biodiversity protection in urban and peri-urban green in the Global North and Latin America. Arjen has published on a diverse range of theoretical approaches, including framing theory, social representation theory, values of nature, and mosaic governance. He is associate editor for the scientific journals People & Nature from the British Ecological Society, on relational values of nature.
Current projects focus on the role of citizens in transformations towards sustainability ("Citizens for Biodiversity"), the importance of relational thinking for Nature Based Solutions (introducing the concept of "Nature Based Thinking"), "in-between-spaces" as boundary object for nature experiences for young people and underprivileged groups ("VIVA-PLAN" and "Planning with Youth"), The legitimacy on nature conservation practices (“Natuurbeleid Betwist”) and the effects of digitalisation on nature experiences ("Digital Conservation"). Arjen explicitly aims for social impact through collaborations with stakeholders in transdisciplinary research, policy evaluations, advice, workshops and presentations for e.g. EU, European cities, Natuurmonumenten, IVN and other NGOs, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Food security and local citizens and communities.
Arjen teaches "People in forest and nature conservation", on people's moral, relational and active engagements with nature (FNP-24806) within the Bachelor and Master Forest and Nature Conservation (BBN & MFN). In his home-town Utrecht, he has initiated several green initiatives to reconnect children and nature. Arjen is a member of the jury for Trouw Duurzame-100.