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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Exploring desired urban futures: the transformative potential of a nature-based approach*

Bina, O.; Baptista, M. D.; Pereira, M. M.; Inch, A.; Falanga, R.; Alegria, V.; Caquimbo-Salazar, S.; Duarte, D. H. S.; Mercado, G.; Valenta, A. T.; Vasquez, A.; Verellen, T.


Amidst multiple crises and calls for transformative change, the demand to reassess human-nature relationships has increased. Rethinking the future of cities is vital in this process, yet positive urban visions prioritizing nature beyond human-centred perspectives are lacking. To address this gap, we propose a "nature-based desired futures" approach for envisaging and building collective discussion around transformative change. We explore four concepts underpinning (i) why such alternative urban futures are needed (human-nature disconnect and changing urban imaginaries) and (ii) how they might be approached (transformative change and leverage, and the 'education of desire'). This provides the basis for a participatory approach that adapts the Three Horizon method to explore desired urban futures for nature in 2050. Six workshops involving 111 participants linked to 'Conexus', a project on nature-based solutions in European and Latin American cities, explored emerging desired futures, evolving ideas of nature, human-nature relationships, and agency. The approach offers space for reflection creative exploration, and weaving together of new, hopeful, caring, emancipatory stories. Its effectiveness hinges on the mutually reinforcing power of deep leverage, and of structural, systemic, and enabling approaches, to give purpose and direction to the exploration of desired futures.


Nature -based futures; Desired futures; Human -nature relationship; Leverage points; Transformative approaches

Published in

2024, Volume: 159, article number: 103362