Empirical results of social perceptions and notions of nature in an urban context

In the group discussions with selected groups, ideas and perceptions of ur­ban nature and links with questions of nature conservation in the city and the use of urban nature were considered (for details see Rink 2003; for a more general discussion of the idea of nature among social groups see Rink 2002; Brand et al. 2003). Questions such as the following were asked: What comes to mind when you hear the term “urban nature”? What does it cover? How important is urban nature for you compared to other types of nature (ranking)? How do you experience urban nature? How do you use urban nature in your everyday life? Is it important to protect urban nature?

The groups were each presented with forms of urban nature which they then had to rank in terms of attractiveness and how deserving the areas were of protection (see Fig. 1). The vertical axis indicates the level of at­tractiveness (hierarchically ranked), the horizontal axis the degree of natu­ralness. Brownfield nature was assessed on the basis of photos: the groups were each shown two photos of brownfield nature (a derelict industrial site and an overgrown railway shed). The same concepts were used for a sec­ond task, in which the interviewees were requested to rank different forms of urban nature by the degree to which they are worth preserving (see Fig. 2). Both figures are taken from group interview G1.

Group discussions were held with 5 groups: university students (7 mem­bers of a flat-sharing community), mothers of young children (6), school children (15 members of an 8th grade class), dog owners (5) and garden- allotment holders (9) between November 2002 and May 2003. The groups were selected such that the members knew and were in regular contact with each other. The groups selected were also expected to make greater use of urban nature than other groups.

These discussions were recorded in full on tape and then evaluated on a topic-related basis. The essential comments on questions relating to the main thread of the argument were interpreted, collated and condensed in several stages.