Publicaties

Urban realities of engaging with nature in Europe : Increasing diversity and consequences for wellbeing and social cohesion

Elands, B.H.M.; Ambrose-Oji, Bianca; Haase, A.; Peters, K.B.M.

Samenvatting

Within the last decades, cities have become more diverse in terms of people with different migration backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles, all living together. As it is considered that urban green spaces have important social benefits, this chapter examines how citizen engagement with urban nature acknowledges the needs and wishes of an increasingly diverse urban society. We focus on three forms of active citizen engagement in European cities, i.e., recreation, community gardening and community-led nature management. It is evident that health and wellbeing effects are abundant to all citizens. Besides, urban green spaces also provide many opportunities for residents to meet and interact with other people. These social interactions contribute to residents feeling that they belong in the community or neighbourhood they are living in. Both urban gardening and community-led nature management lead more often to the strengthening of existing friendships and development of new ones than recreation in urban parks does, also between culturally diverse groups. However, addressing cultural diversity might also lead to spaces of exclusion as the use of space by one group might exclude others. Consequently, it is essential to ensure that benefits are equitably shared and distributed. In order to do so, it is and will remain important to engage citizens from various cultural backgrounds and living environments with the planning and management of urban green spaces.

This chapter examines how citizen engagement with urban nature acknowledges the needs and wishes of an increasingly diverse urban society. It focuses on three forms of active citizen engagement in European cities, i.e., recreation, community gardening and community-led nature management. Increased mobility and migration have made cities places where people from many different international and ethnic origins settle. Migration status, national origin and ethnicity are not the only dimensions that are increasing the heterogeneity and diversity of European cities. In Europe, recreation is a major ecosystem service of urban green spaces. The restorative function of nature was identified as a main benefit. Natural environments as settings where bonds with friends and family members can be strengthened is a second major social benefit that was identified. Despite a varied history, urban agriculture continues to be an integral part of European urban landscapes. Community gardening is more established in some European countries than in others.