Planning with Nature: What if nature takes a seat at the table?

Cor Busier’s Stakeholder Meeting

Planners are used to procedures where human stakeholders can voice their opinions and concerns, but non-human stakeholders are seldom considered. For the course ‘Critical Approaches to Global Sustainability Challenges’ (University of Groningen), we made a video that aims to draw attention to the non-human stakeholders that are affected by a planner’s actions.

In the video, city planner Cor Busier is hosting a stakeholder session with a sheep, a plant and the soil to discuss the implications of building a new neighbourhood in a nature area (the Balloërveld in Drenthe, the Netherlands). Through humor and exaggeration, the aim of the video is to rethink how we treat non-human subjects affected by the plans we draw up. Obviously, it is not possible to communicate with non-humans in the same manner as we communicate with fellow humans but we may view it as an exercise in empathy to think about what our actions as planners mean for animals, plants and the earth. Even when adopting an anthropocentric perspective, it makes sense to consider the effects of our plans on the non-human since we, intentionally or not, modify the ecosystems that we ourselves are a part of.

We hope the video provides food for thought and can serve as a reminder that we as humans are not the sole inhabitants of our planet, and that just because we are able to communicate with each other effectively and have the capacity to create elaborate constructions, this does not make us all that special or different from the non-human. After all, we share this planet with all beings and have a collective responsibility to take care of it and everything on it.

Click here for the video

BACKGROUND: This video has been crafted by Irina Krottje, Hanne Punt, Jos Spijkerman and Ingmar Vlogman as part of the course ‘Critical Approaches to Global Sustainability Challenges’ at the University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences. The course was taught by Ethemcan Turhan and Christian Lamker (Department of Spatial Planning and Environment) between February and April 2022 as an elective course for Master students in the programme Society, Sustainability and Planning (SSP) and other Master programmes of the Faculty and the University.

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