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Relational Values

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Kai Ming Adam Chan
added 4 research items
The ideas of relational values and social values are gaining prominence in sustainability science. Here, we ask: how well do these value conceptions resonate with one Indigenous worldview? The relational values concept broadens conceptions of values beyond instrumental and intrinsic values to encompass preferences and principles about human relationships that involve more-than-humans. The social values concept, an umbrella idea, captures a plurality of values related to society and the common good. After a general description of these two concepts as expressed in the Western peer-reviewed literature, we adopt the lens of relational values to engage with decades of scholarly work and millennia of wisdom based on Indigenous Hawaiian worldviews. We describe five long-standing Hawaiian values that embody notions of appropriate relationships, including human–ecosystem relationships: pono (~ righteousness, balance); hoʻomana (~ creating spirituality); mālama (~ care); kuleana (~ right, responsibility); aloha (~ love, connection). We find that all five resonate deeply with, and help to enrich, relational value concepts. We then draw on these Hawaiian values to discuss differences between relational values and social values frameworks; though both concepts add useful elements to the discourse about values, the relational values concept may be particularly well positioned to represent elements often important to indigenous worldviews—elements such as reciprocity, balance, and extension of “society” beyond human beings. As global processes (e.g., IPBES) commit to better reflecting Indigenous and local knowledge and embrace diverse value concepts as (purported) avenues toward representing values held by diverse communities, our findings suggest that relational values offer special promise and a crucial contribution.
Low carbon energy infrastructure has been controversial for economic, social and environmental reasons: relatively high capital costs compared to fossil fuels; dissatisfaction with who owns the infrastructure; visual impacts; and habitat harm. Our research takes an initial step to assess the relative salience of these challenges with a choice experiment targeting residents of coastal New England – a US region where utility-scale offshore wind farms are under consideration. The choice experiment asks how much are residents willing to pay above their current utility rates for offshore wind farms that increase marine species abundance and diversity with artificial reefs? We assess residents' willingness to pay (WTP) for different wind farm ownership models, and aesthetic impacts based on variation in distance from shore. Results of this exploratory study show strong preferences for wind farms that provide high quality artificial reef habitat, particularly among those who score high on the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), a measure of environmental orientation. Results indicate WTP ranging from $17/month for people who score low on NEP to $31/month for people who score high on NEP for wind farms that generate a 60% increase in reef species diversity and abundance. We found significant preferences for cooperative, state or municipal ownership rather than private ownership. People are willing to pay ~$9/month for wind farms ≥10 miles from shore, rather than a wind farm 1 mile from shore. Our study suggests integrating biodiversity benefits into the design of renewable energy infrastructure could increase public support for such developments.
To achieve a sustainable future, it is imperative to transform human action and underlying social structures. Decades of research in social sciences have variously offered insights into understanding how such bold transformations might occur. However, these insights remain disjunct and of limited scope, providing only partial explanations on the processes of change required for solving global environmental challenges. Reductionist approaches tend to focus on micro-level changes within the individual, largely assuming that social structures and norms would shift incrementally as a result of individual behavior change. On the other hand, holistic, social structural approaches tend to describe how macro-level changes occur, while generally glossing over individual differences in terms of values, motivations and personal characteristics. There is an urgent need to integrate these two approaches in order to understand how individual actions influence and are in turn influenced by social structures and norms. In this paper, we synthesize a range of insights across these two different schools of thought and integrate them in a novel framework for transformative social change. One key distinction we make to bridge individual and collective perspectives lies between individual actions that comprise the practice itself and those that push for a broader societal change in practice. Our conceptual framework explains the interconnected relationships among individual behaviors, collective actions, and social-structural arrangements and suggests how these interdependent processes can together instigate both behavioral and societal change. We apply this general framework in the context of global wildlife trade and identify a variety of pathways towards transformative change.
Kai Ming Adam Chan
added 7 research items
Value orientations used to explain or justify conservation have been rooted in arguments about how much and in what context to emphasize the intrinsic versus instrumental value of nature. Equally prominent are characterizations of beliefs known as the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), often used to help explain pro-environmental behaviour. A recent alternative to these positions has been identified as ‘relational value’—broadly, values linking people and ecosystems via tangible and intangible relationships to nature as well as the principles, virtues and notions of a good life that may accompany these. This paper examines whether relational values are distinct from other value orientation and have potential to alleviate the intrinsic-instrumental debate. To test this possibility, we sought to operationalize the construct—relational values—by developing six relational statements. We ask: 1) Do the individual statements used to characterize relational values demonstrate internal coherence as either a single or multi-dimensional construct? 2) Do relational value statements (including those strongly stated) resonate with diverse populations? 3) Do people respond to relational value statements in a consistently different way than NEP scale statements? Data for this work is drawn from an online panel of residents of northeastern US (n = 400), as well as a sample of Costa Rican farmers (n = 253) and tourists in Costa Rica (n = 260). Results indicate relational values are distinct as a construct when compared to the NEP.
Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs are one prominent strategy to address economic externalities of resource extraction and commodity production, improving both social and ecological outcomes. But do PES and related incentive programs achieve that lofty goal? Along with considerable enthusiasm, PES has faced a wide range of substantial critiques. In this paper, we characterize seven major classes of concerns associated with common PES designs, and use these as inspiration to consider potential avenues for improvements in PES outcomes and uptake. The problems include (1) new externalities, (2) misplacement of rights and responsibilities, (3) crowding out existing motivations, (4) efficiency-equity tradeoffs, (5) monitoring costs, (6) limited applicability, and (7) top-down prescription/alienating agency. As currently practiced, many PES programs are thus of limited benefit and even potentially detrimental to sustainability. From this dire conclusion, we highlight several innovations that might be combined and extended in a novel approach to PES that may address all seven problems. Recognizing that PES necessarily articulate and even normalize values, our proposed approach entails designing these institutions intentionally to articulate rights and responsibilities conducive to sustainability—those we might collectively seek to entrench. Problems remain, and new ones may arise, but the proposed approach may offer a way to reimagine PES as a major social and economic tool for enabling sustainable relationships with nature, conserving and restoring ecosystems and their benefits for people now and in the future.
Without widespread and immediate changes in human values and activities, massive tracts of natural habitat will be degraded to the detriment of those ecosystems, ecosystem services, and many threatened taxa—in the oceans and elsewhere. Despite this, the conservation movement has yet to devote much attention to the intentional project of widespread norm change. By one logic, the ecosystem services concept offers a means of integrating meaningful conservation into decision making by diverse government and corporate actors, potentially normalizing conservation. But normalizing conservation would require not only the uptake of ecosystem-services concepts but also widespread changes in conservation practice and stewardship values—on a scale that far exceeds what we have witnessed to date. The concept of ecosystem services has potential for assisting such a societal transformation because it effectively puts a human face on environmental change, thereby enabling the extension of responsibility and morality into environmental arenas at all scales. Furthermore, cultural ecosystem services merit particular attention because of their contribution to the formation of attachments to particular places and to identities rooted in nature and conservation, which presents an opportunity to consolidate and shape deep motivations for lasting conservation. Realizing these two opportunities in a way that is both appropriate and effective, however, will require several important innovations and new institutions, which we propose here. One key step is to enlist a broad base of consumers and corporations in the funding of actions to mitigate the environmental impacts associated with their participation in global supply chains, via funding vehicles that are conspicuous, easy, enjoyable, and not too expensive. We describe a new initiative called CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes, Ecologically Regenerating Economies) that strives to create such structures. With consolidated effort and explicit attention, conservation can become normalized to the benefit of current people, future generations, and life on Earth.
Kai Ming Adam Chan
added a research item
Despite the great cultural and economic benefits associated with birdwatching and other bird-related cultural ecosystem services (CES), little is known about the bird-related CES perceived by people, and how they differ across stakeholder groups and species. The goal of this study was to explore CES across three stakeholder groups in northwestern Costa Rica. We conducted surveys (n=404 total) in which we presented farmers (n=140), urbanites (n=149), and birdwatchers (n=115) with pictures and songs of bird species and collected participants ratings on items designed to measure multiple CES. We found bird-related CES were perceived as six different constructs: identity, bequest, education, birdwatching, acoustic aesthetic, and disservices. The three stakeholder groups varied across these constructs and across species. Specifically, birdwatchers ranked species higher in terms of their education scores and lower in disservices scores compared to the other two groups. Positive correlations across CES, and negative correlations with disservices, suggest that the affect heuristic (by which generalized positive or negative feelings sway judgements of risks and benefits) might be informing bird-related CES. Our approach represents a novel method for assessing CES that can be adapted and modified for different taxa and multiple geographical contexts.
Kai Ming Adam Chan
added a research item
Relational values—as preferences, principles and virtues about human-nature relationships—have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. The term has been used to include concepts and knowledge from a wide range of social sciences and humanities, e.g., importantly making space for qualitative approaches often neglected within environmental management and science. Meanwhile, crucial questions have emerged. What counts as a relational value, and what does not? How do relational values (RVs) compare with other value categories and terms, including held, assigned, instrumental, moral, shared, social, and non-material values (e.g., associated with cultural ecosystem services)? In this article, we address these issues, partly by providing context about how the RV term originated and how it has evolved to date. Most importantly, because of their somewhat unique combination of groundedness and moral relevance, positive relational values may offer important opportunities for the evolution of values that may be necessary for transformative change towards sustainability. The special issue includes contributions that contemplate particular concepts (e.g., care, stewardship, eudaimonia—human flourishing), applications (e.g., environmental assessment, environmental policy design), and the history of relevant scholarship in various intellectual traditions (e.g., ecological economics, human ecology, environmental education). Together with this suite of thought-provoking papers, we hope that the clarification we provide here facilitates a broad and productive interdisciplinary exchange to create and refine a reflective but powerful tool for sustainability and justice.
Kai Ming Adam Chan
added a research item
The management of ‘cultural ecosystem services’ (CES) is an essential consideration for sustainability, both because CES are crucial contributors to human well-being and because they may be key to sustainable human-ecological relationships. This chapter reviews the history of research and thinking on CES and considers what such research might imply for the management of ecosystems and of the human-ecological relationships that are key to CES and to future trajectories for humanity on Earth. In light of competing notions of weak and strong sustainability, the chapter advances several propositions regarding appropriate management for CES and so all ES. The chapter argues overall that CES can be seen as a newly recognized kind of human-natural capital, and as capital-producing: not only do positive experiences and attachment with nature yield both well-being and key capacities, they also yield the stewardship attitudes and identities that may be fundamental to local and global sustainability.
Mollie Chapman
added a research item
The debate over protecting nature for humans' sake (instrumental values) or for nature's (intrinsic values) is a cornerstone of environmental policy. We propose that focusing only on instrumental or intrinsic values may fail to resonate with views on personal and collective well-being or " what is right " , with regard to nature and the environment. Without complementary attention to other ways that value is expressed and realized by people, such a focus may inadvertently promote worldviews at odds with fair and desirable futures. It is time to engage seriously with a third class of values, one with diverse roots and current expressions: relational values. By doing so, we reframe the discussion about environmental protection, and open the door to new, potentially more productive policy approaches. For more information consult the paper in PNAS (forthcoming) This supplement consists of three parts: (1) Existing Relational-Values Approaches in Conservation, (2) Figure A1, (3) Additional References, from a wide range of literatures, pertaining to points raised in the main text (in the order in which the points appear).