PhD defence: Oriol García Antúnez

Oriol García Antúnez defends his thesis:

Unpacking and fostering socially acceptable and just urban green space transformations

Associate Professor Anton Stahl Olafsson, KU, IGN (DK)
Associate Professor Natalie Marie Gulsrud, KU, IGN (DK)
Postdoctoral researcher Jussi Lampinen, Helsinki University (FI)

Assessment Committee
Associate Professor, Sara Borgström,
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (SE)
Professor Leonie Fischer, University of Stuttgart (DE)
Professor Henrik Vejre, KU, IGN (DK) (chair)

Urban green spaces (UGS) in cities offer great potential to mitigate some of the environmental challenges our society is currently facing. For example, UGS contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and storage, while also cooling down the city and providing resources and refugia for urban wildlife. To capitalize on these ecological processes and structures, the planning, design, and management of UGS need to be transformed toward ecologically sensitive alternatives. Importantly, ensuring that these transformations are socially acceptable and leave no one behind is fundamental in an era of rapid global socio-ecological change. To better encapsulate individuals' different roles as agents of urban transformative change, this thesis conceptualizes social acceptance as both behaviors and attitudes toward UGS transformations. Through qualitative and quantitative methods, the thesis explores more just and socially acceptable pathways through which these ecologically motivated UGS transformations can be realized. The main contributions of this thesis can be summarized into four main findings. First, it demonstrates that gardening behaviors in private domestic gardens are relational practices dependent on the biophysical reality of the gardens in question, intimately associated with both gardeners' internal and external behavioral determinants. Second, it proposes and argues for the necessity of integrating indicators of environmental justice into social acceptability assessments to elicit potential maldistribution of the goods and bads associated with transformations in public UGS. Furthermore, to guide the design of informational strategies for enhancing social acceptance, it unpacks the importance and potential effectiveness of environmental knowledge in fostering the social acceptance of UGS transformations. Lastly, through public participatory geographic information system tools, it demonstrates the benefits of adopting place-based approaches to investigate local social acceptance and argues for the need to de-universalize acceptance by spatially contextualizing this phenomenon. In summary, this thesis highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research, bridging environmental and social psychology, human geography, ecology, and other natural sciences to address complex sustainability challenges.

A digital version of the PhD thesis can be obtained from the PhD secretary at