Skip navigation
Other publication

Towards multifunctionality: adaptation beyond the nature–society dichotomy

The framing of nature as separate from culture impacts our notion of landscapes and the functions, infrastructures and activities deemed appropriate within these, where natural landscapes are associated with nature conservation, and the built environment with human activity. In this paper, we propose bridging this naturesociety dichotomy through a multifunctional perspective as a way to adopt a more systemic view of space in relation to landscape traits as well as material artefacts

Karina Barquet, Jonathan Green / Published on 18 May 2022
Download  Read the background paper / PDF / 1 MB
Citation

Barquet, K. and Green, J. (2022). Towards multifunctionality: adaptation beyond the nature–society dichotomy. Stockholm+50 background paper series. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.

In 1972, at the first world conference to primarily focus on the environment, there was a realization that nature and society are inextricably intertwined, yet too often considered separate, or even opposing, targets. Fifty years later, nature continues to be considered alongside the economy, rather than fully recognizing its role in underpinning our economic systems and well-being. 

The framing of nature as separate from culture impacts our notion of landscapes and the functions, infrastructures and activities deemed appropriate within these, where natural landscapes are associated with nature conservation, and the built environment with human activity. It has also impacted our monitoring systems which are largely framed around indicators and decisions that focus predominantly on either ecosystems or humans, and that overlook their interdependence. Meanwhile, we remain a long way from achieving our global targets for biodiversity conservation and human well-being. Bridging the naturesociety dichotomy becomes increasingly urgent as it becomes progressively less likely that societies will be able to otherwise mitigate and adapt to changes brought about by biodiversity loss and climate change, and costlier to do so.

Barquet and Green argue that multifunctionality is not only fundamental for adaptation, but a way to reconcile questions of social equity with biodiversity and environmental goals. They build on global experiences with nature-based solutions to identify three major roadblocks hindering current adaptation approaches and outline five leverage realms for moving towards multifunctionality.

This paper is part of a series that supports the Stockholm+50: Unlocking a better future report.

Download

Read the background paper / PDF / 1 MB

SEI authors

Karina Barquet
Karina Barquet

Team Leader: Water, Coasts and Ocean; Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Jonathan Green profile picture
Jonathan Green

Senior Researcher

SEI York

Design and development by Soapbox.