Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Meaning more than value is key for our relation with nature

"The public justification for nature conservation currently rests on two pillars: hedonic (instrumental) values, and moral values. Yet, these representations appear to do little motivational work in practice; biodiversity continues to decline, and biodiversity policies face a wide implementation gap. In seven EU countries, we studied why people act for nature beyond professional obligations. We explore the motivations of 105 committed actors for nature in detail using life-history interviews, and trace these back to their childhood. Results show that the key concept for understanding committed action for nature is meaningfulness. People act for nature because nature is meaningful to them, connected to a life that makes sense and a difference in the world." 
I assume this is also key for understanding how indigenous people and people living in more traditional ways relate to nature. I believe this is the reason for why it is so important to bring children out in nature. The research also provides an additional perspective to why it is essential that people experience how to farm, cook and make food.

This is also the reason for why the eco-modernist way of relating to nature, by separating us from the rest of nature is harmful, also for nature itself, something I wrote about recently in How cleanliness and efficiency obscure our relation to nature

The researchers also concludes that the public discourse is completely dominated by rational, economic language and that "we need a public discourse that does not crowd out personal commitments but fosters them, makes them part of public life, and in doing so multiplies them. This will not be easy, and research into the languages used by committed actors in green citizen initiatives will be helpful to get a better insight into the words and languages that foster connectedness and commitment and unlock eudemonic values.
Hear, hear!

Riyan J.G. van den Born, B. Arts, J. Admiraal, A. Beringer, P. Knights, E. Molinario, K. Polajnar Horvat, C. Porras-Gomez, A. Smrekar, N. Soethe, J.L. Vivero-Pol, W. Ganzevoort, M. Bonaiuto, L. Knippenberg & W.T. De Groot (2018) The missing pillar: Eudemonic values in the justification of nature conservation, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 61:5-6, 841-856, DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2017.1342612


  1. I would also point out that people living close to nature (including even rural farm country) are also usually living in a sparsely populated area. This means that their connection to other local residents is repeated, more intimate and far less anonymous than for those who live in cities. Country life offers connection to nature and natural processes and it offers superior connection to community.

    I pity the people who live in cities, either by choice or necessity. They get the urban 'benefit' of a wider variety of hedonic experience, but miss out on the satisfying and long-term connection to nature and other people found in the country.

  2. An interesting article on the subject of 'local' grains to produce local flour (that is to bypass the usual routines of the few big corporations):