Nature-based solutions (hereafter NBS) play an essential role in tackling societal challenges posed by the climate and biodiversity crisis together with social and economic issues. In this Insights article, we introduce the concept of NBS and explain the linkages between NBS and education. These reflections are based on PPMI’s experiences from being a part of the Nature-Based Solutions Education Network (EduWORLD). NBS EduWORLD is a Horizon Europe project at the interface between nature-based solutions and education. This insight is based on our experiences in this network and our specific research and deliverable State of the Art Report.
In times of climate and biodiversity crisis, NBS can play a crucial role in the protection, restoration and sustainable management of natural and modified ecosystems that benefit people and nature. It is estimated that Nature-based solutions can contribute 37% of the mitigation needed by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
So, what are Nature-based solutions (NBS)?
As defined by the EU, NBS are: “innovations inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. They bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions. Nature-based solutions must benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.”
Practical examples of NBS include a range of activities such as restoring wetlands to buffer local communities from flooding and provide habitat for rare species; restoring river branches to create a green space and bring people closer to nature, while providing spawning and nursery areas for fish species. Other examples of NBS in urban areas include green roofs that cool cities in summer while providing urban food gardens for citizens, or parks that combat pollution and that simultaneously create leisure spaces, improving physical and mental health and impacting the quality of life. Nature-based rainwater solutions make cities more resilient to droughts and floods, reduce heat and create small local wetlands from which water can be recycled for other purposes.
NBS has been formally recognised by the United Nations Environment Assembly as well. They furthermore add to the definition that NBS concern actions related to “natural or modified terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems,” … “providing human well-being, ecosystem services and resilience and biodiversity benefits.” Overall, the NBS represents a cross-cutting approach to climate change adaptation, considering social, environmental and economic aspects. In other words, the benefits of healthy ecosystems underpin NBS that address pressing societal challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, human health, soil and air pollution or flood protection while benefiting people, nature, and the climate. They are designed and implemented in a way that respects local communities and indigenous peoples. Thus sometimes, NBS are broken down into different dimensions and focus areas (See the picture).
Source: European Union, 2022. DOI: 10.2848/42098
What’s the deal with NBS and education?
Education plays an essential role in promoting environmental sustainability by raising awareness and instilling the key competences needed for changing personal behaviours and empowering people to act for positive change. In addressing global societal challenges, NBS education provides a common ground for learners and educators. NBS education crosses disciplinary boundaries, knowledge silos and skill sets to deliver integrated solutions to address the causes and consequences of climate change through education. The aim of mainstreaming NBS in education is to shape environmental values and attitudes from an early age and to develop competences for global sustainability, active citizenship, resilient societies or critical thinking, and to change educational institutions and practices to make them more sustainable through NBS. Through NBS, learners can acquire the skills and knowledge needed to promote sustainable development, which is one of the targets under SDG 4 (Target 4.7) and aligns with the EU’s policy vision on education and sustainability.
Thus, NBS is a great practical tool and opportunity for teaching Learning for Sustainability (LfS) and sustainability competences. LfS is a holistic learning experience that, among other skills, enable learners to embody sustainability values and actively participate in restoring and maintaining ecosystems. Learning about and creating NBS can help students to develop the 12 sustainability competences as defined by the European sustainability competence framework GreenComp (clustered into four competence areas: embracing complexity in sustainability, embodying sustainability values, envisioning sustainable features, acting for sustainability). In order to achieve a successful implementation of LfS, changes in education systems and institutions need to occur across key pillars and dimensions of influence, such as strategic frameworks and action plans, embedding LfS in the curricula and pedagogical strategies, and redesigning learning environments to reinforce LfS messages, and NBS can be a great opportunity for implementing LfS in practice (See the visual below).
NBS in education can include learning scenarios of participatory approach of vegetable school garden that will reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and provide food and plants that improve the health and well-being of the students, a project-based learning (PBL) approach where students build a prototype of a constructed wetland, or a problem-solving learning scenario where students analyse risks and proposed NBS based on scientific research. More importantly, there is a great potential for integrating interaction with nature and green infrastructure into curricula or extracurricular activities in formal and non-formal education settings, and this is needed in order for more learners to benefit from NBS in their day-to-day learning experiences.
The project aims to spread awareness of the importance of education and training on NBS, nurture an NBS literate, inclusive and sustainable society by building synergies between NBS professionals and education providers across sectors and formal and non-formal and ensuring free and easy access to high-quality NBS knowledge resources. Through this work, communities should become more prepared, cohesive, and participatory in engaging with nature and using the benefits of nature to solve local and global challenges and improve public health and wellbeing.
This insight has been prepared as part of the work on NBS EduWORLD funded by Horizon Europe. PPMI prepared the detailed analysis of nature-based solutions (NBS) education across the European region and at different education levels.
Check out the State-of-the-Art Report on Nature-Based Solutions Education Network by following the link below.
If you wish to get in touch with the team or wish to join our mailing list, you can reach us at: email@example.com.