In the Human Nature project, OTO is conducting design research into nature development in the Netherlands. The existing planning and development of nature is still closely related to the ideas of the ‘Ecologische Hoofdstructuur’ (EHS) from 1990, a network of existing and to be realised natural areas in the Netherlands.
The development of nature is stagnating. Currently, provinces have purchased around 60% of the area of EHS which are planned to be realized, of which 40% on average has been realized. The spatial separation of nature and other land uses, as seemed smart twenty years ago, is experiencing social resistance. Experience and accessibility of nature has disappeared to the background and public opinion considers the ‘roll-out’ of new nature over the landscape as technocratic. According to OTO, a new spatial perspective is needed on nature development in the Netherlands, in which people are central: Human Nature.
Human Nature gives answers to the necessary change of course in the development of nature in the Netherlands and advocates a better interweaving of people and nature. The period in which we live is referred to as the Anthropocene, as 83% of the earth’s surface is influenced by human activities. These human interventions must be used in such a way that nature does not disappear, but is actually produced. Human activities with potential for nature development and biodiversity are not excluded, but are rather sought:
- Combination with other tasks – Nature development must be explicitly approached in combination with other current tasks, such as: climate change, the energy transition or the increasing recreational importance of the landscape.
- New structures – Human Nature advocates the use of existing and new structures in the landscape that nature can graft onto. Linear structures such as dikes, canals, defense lines or infrastructure are suitable for creating new networks and can connect areas.
- Local initiatives – By approaching nature development more bottom-up, citizens are actively involved and a broader target group is being addressed.
- Short and long term – consideration will need to be given to short-term interventions, which are part of a long-term vision, in which interventions can act as a catalyst for the development of new nature.
- Human experience – In the design of nature areas, good accessibility and a layered experience of nature plays an important role, as a result of which it can play an important role in the daily life of many types of users on different scale levels from garden, street to national park. The positive interaction between people and nature is searched for and used in an appropriate manner.
Pilot projects were carried out in the provinces of Utrecht, Zuid Holland and Drenthe, as concrete test cases for the Human Nature vision. Because the context, the landscapes and the issues in the provinces differ, the pilot projects are also different in character. In each pilot project, explicit attention was paid to existing landscape structures that could form a basis for nature development and combinations with other urgent tasks.