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Desthon, Johanna, 2022. Overcoming social barriers to urban green adaptation : a social representations approach to local environmental governance. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



In May 2020, the Stockholm City Council adopted a new environmental program for the period 2020–2023. The sustainability goals within Agenda 2030 have been a guide for the environmental program, and the purpose of the program is to manage and coordinate the city's operations to achieve the vision of a climate-smart and ecologically sustainable Stockholm.

With the environmental program, the city intends to advance its positions regarding climate work, urging city officials to take the lead paving the way in the strive for a more resilient city. In order to succeed with the implementation of the environmental program, it will be necessary for actors within all affected units to comply with these policies and to build consensus and synergy driving the environmental work forward. However, assuming that people will atomically adhere to and change their behavior according to a written policy or documentation, is a simplified version of the communication reality. A broader and more profound view of communication, is to understand communication as multilateral, encompassing all kinds of interactions, verbal and non-verbal. This approach takes into account receptive and non-formal communication, such as norms and practices and reflect on how we as individuals interpret, make sense of and thereby engage in environmental issues.

This study starts from this profound view of communication, paying special attention to the social factors influencing people’s behavior. The study aims to better understand how social representations affect city officials' responses and compliance with the city of Stockholm’s environmental policies, by investigating how these actors are understanding and coping with these policies. As green urban infrastructure and climate adaptation are important parameters to the development of more resilient cities, these two concepts form the focus of this study. Social representations theory (SRT) is used as the main conceptual framework, as it explores group-level common-sense understandings and has proven to be useful in analyzing social processes of climate change. A qualitative case study of city officials at three different units within the city was done to find out how these actors relate to the city’s environmental policies, as well as their motivation, way of thinking and attitudes towards the concepts of green infrastructure and climate adaptation. Empirical data was gathered through participant observations, a qualitative survey and open-ended interviews, exploring the dynamics of the representations and the negotiation going on both on an individual level and on group levels. Three main social representations dimensions were identified relating to the concepts; the anthropocentric, the ecocentric and the technocentric dimension. Using these three dimensions, the implications of social values for green urban adaptation were explored.

The results of this study underline the need for further research on how social factors affects environmental change. By studying individuals 'and groups' interpretations, perceptions, and values of environmental policies, governments can bring more clarity to the complex social processes that form the basis for our decisions.

Main title:Overcoming social barriers to urban green adaptation
Subtitle:a social representations approach to local environmental governance
Authors:Desthon, Johanna
Supervisor:Mutter, Amelia
Examiner:Westin, Martin and Holmgren, Sara
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2022
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM026 Environmental communication and management - Master's programme
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:urban green adaptation, green infrastructure, climate adaptation, nature-based solutions, social representations
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Nature conservation and land resources
Landscape architecture
Deposited On:05 Jul 2022 08:55
Metadata Last Modified:08 Jul 2022 10:59

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