Eco-cultural production in a Changing World

We live in an increasingly urbanized world, and one where the evidence indicates that disconnection from 'nature' affects us negatively. The response to overcoming this disconnection has taken two distinct approaches:

  • - attempts to provide nature for people, and to involve people in planning and consultation approaches to ensure their requirements are met;
  • - a gradual (and now accelerating) move to community control and/or ownership of land and natural spaces - instigated from the bottom-up by communities themselves. 

These twin approaches of 'providing nature' and 'managing nature' are paralleled by the twin assessments of how people are 'enjoying/experiencing/consuming nature' and 'producing nature/ecosystem services'. Much of the work to date has focused on one or other part of this duality. Our vision is to connect these forms of participation in both the consumption and production of nature. To do so, it is essential to take as the starting point the experiences, narratives and creative activities of those participating.

These creative activities include participatory art (e.g. woodland sculpture making, music or edible artwork), community festivals (e.g. harvest festivals) and events (e.g. learning heritage skills). Our research focus, then, is on the question 'How do cultural and creative activities help to shape the connections between people, places and production' - we have termed this 'eco-cultural production'.

The aim of this project is to build a network that that brings together a partnership of academia and community stakeholders form a range of disciplines and backgrounds to co-produce outputs (including a large grant proposal) that will specify how arts and humanities research and creative activities can be developed to assess and enhance the role of these eco-cultural production activities in providing benefits from nature that bring improvements in wellbeing to people and communities.

The outputs from this network will be a review of the latest literature, including information from the communities themselves.

Project Impact

The direct benefits of the proposed research will be achieved through two activities. Firstly, the various workshops will allow interaction and knowledge exchange between community groups and academics from a range of art and humanities disciplines. This two way dialogue will potentially benefit both parties by communicating the interests and needs of communities to academics - and similarly providing communities with current academic information relevant and useful for them.

The second direct benefit for the grant will be achieved through the project website and social media. This will dissmeminate the information on project activities and key findings to a wider audience - including community organisations, academics, landowners, policy and decision makers. The issues of eco-cultural production are pertinent to policy development and landuse planning across Europe and North America.

The project's findings could inform moves for increased localism in planning and decision making making them relevant to local planners, national policy makers and communities lobbying for particular schemes or initiatives.

The project ties into the wider policy focus on ecosystem services and the determination of benefits and trade-offs of different landuses. It will provide new insights on the cultural benefits provided by different landscapes and the role of nature in delivering these benefits. Ecosystem services are currently the focus of both national and international interest by academics and decision makers.

Duration: Feb 13 - May 13

Funder: AHRC