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North Central CASC Research Ecologist Brian Miller joined an international working group to develop a new framework for describing different visions of a “sustainable” future.  

“Living in harmony with nature: By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” – Convention of Biological Diversity 

What does a sustainable future look like, one with healthy environments, rich biodiversity, and thriving societies? Different people will imagine different ideals – ones that value preserving untouched wilderness above all else, ones that build green cities, ones where natural and human communities intertwine. 

In a recent paper, members of a task force on scenarios and models for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) developed a technique to use the Nature Futures Framework to describe different types of people-nature relationships. By thinking about different ways to build a society “in harmony with nature,” they hope to help communities articulate what they want their future to look like and what steps they could take to make it a reality. Research Ecologist Brian Miller represented the CASC network in this effort.  

The bedrock of the Nature Futures Framework is the three main value perspectives people hold on nature:  

  1. Nature for nature, or the intrinsic value nature has irrespective of humans,  

  1. Nature for society, or the instrumental value of nature, including the ecosystem services nature provides for human societies, and  

  1. Nature as culture, or the relational value of nature such as nature’s role in human culture, religion, and lifestyles.  

These value perspectives serve as three endpoints that bound a continuum of potential people-nature relationships. The authors developed six scenario narratives for different points along the triangular value space, imagining “What would a society with these values look like?” They hope these narratives help people develop their own visions of a just and desirable world and understand the transformative changes needed to get there.  

The task force is now focused on building a community of practice around further developing the Nature Futures Framework and applying it to real-world planning and decisions. This has included publishing guidelines for how the framework can be applied in modeling to support decision-making.  

Through negotiations at the most recent IPBES plenary, the international organization has formally recognized the Nature Futures Framework and has invited the scientific and management communities to test it. IPBES published the Foundation of the Nature Futures Framework on its website in all 6 United Nations languages (Decision IPBES-9/1, Annex VI).  

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