Nature-based Solutions: narratives, frames, and future horizons

Recent years have seen the rise of nature-based solutions (NbS) as a set of practices aimed at addressing nature-society challenges. Nature-based solutions are portrayed as natural ‘solutions’ to modern problems in all landscapes. For example, restoring mangrove forests, adding green walls to urban buildings, or creating protective infrastructure for coral reefs. As this concept gains ground and projects are already being implemented across sectors, NbS is being met with both supporting and critical narratives.

A new report exploring these perspectives and offering a unique collection of diverse viewpoints and voices has been published by Unearthodox in collaboration with the Nature-Based Solutions Initiative.

Through an analysis of the history, narratives, divisions, limitations, and potentials of NbS, the report provides a new take on the topic, helping to contextualize NbS through an underexplored lens. Drawing from a series of interviews with a broad range of stakeholders from the climate and biodiversity spheres, the report outlines the viewpoints of both proponents and critics of NbS. Proponents see NbS as a viable solution helping to address climate change and resilience, while critics emphasize the need to tackle the structural drivers behind climate and biodiversity breakdown. This analysis provides insights into potential barriers and pathways of transformation that NbS could offer.

In the context of this work, Unearthodox has explored several adjacent questions:

  • Could NbS be a viable stepping stone towards systemic change?
  • Are NbS addressing the underlying root causes of nature-society challenges or simply treating the symptoms?
  • Are NbS reinforcing barriers, past worldviews, and those of only a few groups?
  • How and where could NbS be applied to social and technological innovation so that it leads to a radical step-change for nature, including people?

Building on these insights and bringing our exploration one step further, earlier this year Unearthodox launched a new programme of work focused on Regenerative Futures. This new three-year programme is aimed at exploring the concept of ‘regeneration’, which is wider and more encompassing than NbS. As part of this programme, we will collaborate with a vast range of people to explore the potential and limitations of the concept of regeneration and make space for innovations that might lead to deep, transformative change. By listening to and amplifying many diverse voices during this process, we hope to further our contribution towards co-creating societies that value and actively regenerate nature.


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