How scholars prioritize the competing values of conservation and sustainability
College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Aspirations for human-nature relationships involve values that are widely embraced, yet often compete with one another. As such, there is need to understand how individuals prioritize competing values pertaining to human-nature relationships. To quantify individuals' affinity for those conservation priorities, we developed a survey instrument asking individuals to respond to forced trade-offs between pairs of competing values. Forced trade-offs are relevant to the extent one perceives that limited resources preclude satisfying all the values and interests at stake in human-nature relationships. We administered this survey to 459 scholars of conservation and sustainability. Factor analysis supports the acknowledgement of five conservation priorities. Two prioritizations lean toward non-anthropocentrism and are aptly labelled, orthodox conservation and organism-oriented conservation. Three prioritizations lean toward anthropocentrism and are aptly labelled, future generations, present-day fairness, and neoliberalism. In spite of the forced trade-offs, most individuals expressed strong affinity for multiple priorities. That result suggests that polarizing discourse about controversies in conservation is likely representative of a small portion of people. Also, specific cases in conservation involving competing values are often adjudicated by case-specific context, as opposed to the one priority most appreciated by an individual. The results are consistent with psychological evidence indicating that moral judgments (about human-nature relationships) are typically intuitive and subsequently affirmed by moral reasoning. Results also indicate that the five conservation priorities are not readily reducible to other basic values (utilitarianism, social justice).
Vucetich, J. A.,
van Eeden, L.,
How scholars prioritize the competing values of conservation and sustainability.
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