UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Big ideas with big potential impacts : narratives and perceptions of nature-based solutions across scales of governance Melanidis, Marina Stavroula


Despite their intrinsic interlinkages, climate change and biodiversity loss are often treated in siloes. The result is ineffective solutions at best, and adverse impacts for nature, climate, and people at worst. To bridge these gaps and deliver holistic, interdisciplinary solutions, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) have emerged as one approach, rapidly growing in popularity across research, policy, and practice. In this thesis, I examine the narratives and perceptions about NbS, and their implications for diverse actors, at various scales of governance. First, I present a narrative analysis using a discourse coalition approach, based on a document analysis and semi-structured interviews, to characterize the dominant narratives associated with NbS within international climate governance settings. Four key findings emerged: i) there are two core NbS narratives in international climate governance: Leveraging the power of nature (the dominant narrative, by NbS proponents) and Dangerous distraction (the alternative narrative, by NbS critics); ii) both narratives leverage the ambiguity of NbS to further their own arguments; ii) the discourse coalitions behind each respective narrative demonstrate that the NbS concept is reflecting and reproducing power asymmetries present in global climate governance; and iv) Dangerous distraction is rapidly changing the way NbS proponents understand and communicate the concept. Second, I present a case study approach to examine how conservation practitioners within the United States view the NbS concept and how social considerations are incorporated within applied conservation adaptation projects. Based on semi-structured interviews with conservation practitioners, I find that: i) conservation practitioners are increasingly recognizing the value of social considerations in conservation and identify a “tipping point” where the field is ready to embrace a movement towards decolonization; ii) despite this, longstanding structural barriers continue to inhibit the incorporation of social considerations; and iii) NbS is often understood as inherently interdisciplinary, but could only help foster holistic conservation approaches if its use is accompanied by structural changes. This research highlights the persistent impacts of the dominant, Western worldview on the conservation field of practice and environmental governance. Ultimately, I conclude that a single idea, like NbS, cannot bring about transformative change without paying attention to power, access, and justice.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International