Using the three horizons approach to explore pathways towards positive futures for agricultural landscapes with rich biodiversity

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


In light of the global challenges of the Anthropocene, including biodiversity loss, there are increasing calls for positive, inspirational futures to motivate action and help steer away from current, largely unsustainable trajectories. The three horizons framework is an approach in future studies that engages with normative futures and helps develop pathways towards them. However, this approach has not been applied to explore opportunities for biodiversity conservation with farming communities. We developed a template to apply the three horizons framework in combination with storytelling to explore positive futures for agricultural landscapes with rich biodiversity. We then applied this method over two workshops with a rural community in a farming landscape of south-eastern Australia facing typical contemporary challenges of an ageing population, climate change, biodiversity loss and global market uncertainty. In the workshops, six pathways for change were developed. We unpack these narratives of change to contrast problem framings, future aspirations and mechanisms of change and discuss implications for conservation. We discuss our approach to integrating diverse perspectives and values, creating actionable knowledge and highlight the role of governance and policy to support individual and collective agency. We conclude that the three horizons approach has the potential to create actionable knowledge through locally meaningful narratives of change, and thus influence priorities and empower local action. For lasting on-ground change, leadership and effective cross-scale governance is required.

ZeitschriftSustainability Science
Seiten (von - bis)1271-1289
Anzahl der Seiten19
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 05.2023

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We would like to express our gratitude to all workshop participants for actively participating in either one or both of the workshops and thank the Muttama Creek Landcare Group for co-organising both workshops. We also thank the key informants and the Landcare Group for ongoing conversations and discussions which played an important role in shaping our research approach and which eventually led to the decision to use the three horizons approach. We specifically thank Annie Jacobs for her work in planning and organising the workshops. Julia Roche ( ) showed us a different way of interpreting the workshop discussions and we thank her for putting her creative energy into the three horizons artworks. We thank Michelle Young for her valuable advice, feedback and support during the research project. The research was funded by the German Research Foundation grant number 7557/2-1 to Jan Hanspach. Ben Scheele was supported by the Sustainable Farms initiative at The Australian National University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).