Work Package Report 6: Shared, Plural and Cultural Values of Ecosystems – Summary
reportposted on 2023-07-26, 16:53 authored by Jasper O. Kenter, Mark S. Reed, Katherine N. Irvine, Liz O'Brien, Emily Brady, Rosalind Bryce, Michael Christie, Andrew Church, Nigel Cooper, Althea Davies, Neal Hockley, Ioan Fazey, Niels Jobstvogt, Claire Molloy, Johanne Orchard-Webb, Neil Ravenscroft, Mandy Ryan, Verity Watson
Key findings: Finding 1: Shared values resulting from deliberative, group-based valuation are different from individual values. Case study evidence suggests that they are more informed, considered, confident and reflective of participants’ deeper-held, transcendental values. Deliberated, group-based monetary values may be a better reflection of real welfare impacts than non-deliberated individual values, if derived through a carefully designed and managed process. Although more research is needed to expand the currently small evidence base on deliberative monetary methods, group deliberation has the potential to significantly enhance elicitation of values. Finding 2: The ethical, moral and justice dimensions of many environmental issues necessitate approaches that allow for the elicitation of shared and plural values. Key ethical concerns include: 1) providing a space and opportunity for people to identify values that they may find difficult to articulate (e.g. spiritual, identity); 2) recognising that some values cannot be traded without discussion and negotiation (e.g. the legal or felt rights of local people, intrinsic values of other species); and 3) understanding that it is often difficult to isolate valuation from decision-making processes because people feel there are strong ethical or moral issues at stake that need to be debated (e.g. the justice of the process, fairness in the distribution of benefits or disbenefits, responsibility, and issues of sustainability and future generations). Finding 3: Catalyst and/or conflict points can play a key role in the emergence and articulation of values at a societal or community level that have not previously been outwardly or explicitly articulated. Catalyst and conflict points can be symbolic and are often linked to wider contested issues and meanings about who is involved in decision-making, whose voice counts and who receives the benefits or disbenefits of environmental change. These catalyst points can potentially be connected to feelings of powerlessness that give rise to concern and protest. By recognising transcendental societal and communal values (the deeper-held and overarching values held by society and communities), it becomes possible to make these values explicit and incorporate them in decision-making to better anticipate and manage conflicts. Finding 4: There is a diversity of ways in which shared, plural, cultural and social values are used, but they are rarely conceptualised. The UK NEAFO provides a clear theoretical framework that distinguishes and categorises different dimensions and types of shared values. The proposed range of value types was both identifiable and distinguishable within case study results. This suggests that the framework provides a useful basis for operationalizing shared values for decision-making. Finding 5: Shared and social values in the sense of value to society is conceptualised very differently by conventional economics and other disciplines. Neoclassical economists have generally undertaken valuation by equating social value with the aggregate of individual values. They consider values as fundamentally commensurable. In contrast, literature from other disciplines consistently considers values as plural, not just in the sense that multiple things have value, but also that there are multiple dimensions to value that cannot necessarily be captured in a single metric. Within mainstream economics, the difficulties associated with commensurability and aggregating values have long been recognised, but have also been neglected. An interesting area for future debate between economic and non-economic views on values may be the normative nature of value-aggregation. Finding 6: A mixed method approach is required to elicit the multiple dimensions of shared values and to translate deeper-held, transcendental values into contextual values and preferences. Monetary valuation is limited to quantifying values. Other methods are needed to understand their meaning or content, and the communal, societal and transcendental values that underpin them. Psychometric, non-analytical and interpretive methods (e.g. storytelling) can reveal those shared values. They can be combined with deliberative-analytical methods (e.g. deliberative monetary valuation and multi-criteria analysis) to provide a comprehensive valuation that can quantify values, understand their individual and shared meanings and significance, and better include ethical dimensions. Finding 7: Deliberative and social learning processes help people to understand the values held by others; they can lead to increased sharing of values and/or to greater acceptance of the decisions emerging from such processes. Deliberation clearly affects what values participants express compared to non-deliberated processes. There is also a growing body of theoretical and empirical research suggesting that deliberation has the potential to affect how people understand and shape the values of others. Although rarely considered in the economic literature, the concept of social learning helps to explain some of the processes involved in deliberation. The extent to which deliberation or social learning helps participants express and shape values will depend upon the frequency and depth of interactions and the timescale over which interactions occur. Only a shift in cultural values (e.g. less emphasis on material wealth), reflected in other societal institutions (e.g. changes in the indicators used to measure national progress) is likely to achieve sustainable outcomes in the long-term. Finding 8: Media analysis is a promising avenue for characterising different types of shared values at a large scale, as well as assessing the conflicts between the communal values of different sectors of society. There has been a marked increase in public interest in environmental issues over the last decade, which is reflected in their increased media coverage. Media content and discourse analysis is able to distinguish and characterise the plurality of cultural, societal and transcendental values and their interrelationships, and can offer a picture of the self- and other-regarding values that underpin environmental issues and conflicts. Social media can provide a further forum for understanding societal and communal values surrounding environmental issues. Finding 9: Aesthetic and spiritual values of ecosystems have a strong non-instrumental component. While they benefit human well-being, they should not simply be classified as just ‘services’ or ‘benefits’. Many spiritual discourses about nature resist talk of consequentialist benefits and economic analysis. These discourses counter assertions of the disenchantment of the world, which is associated with an instrumental environmental ethic and the commodification of nature. Allowing the possibility of enchantment can be a richer way of understanding our experience of nature and alerts us to the limitations of using economic models for valuation and informing decisions about these profound cultural ecosystem ‘services’. Faith communities have experience of using these non-utilitarian values in their own decision-making and provide models that could be adapted for use in environmental decision-making. Finding 10: Subjective well-being measures provide a useful means of assessing ‘intangible’ cultural ecosystem services and their benefits. Different user groups associate common elements of subjective well-being with environmental settings, providing opportunities for development of standardised measures. In the UK NEAFO, key facets of well-being associated with places in nature across different user groups included: engagement with nature (incorporating elements of connectedness, getting to know nature and the beauty of nature, and taking care of a place); therapeutic benefits (including physical and mental aspects of health); place identity (including a sense of place and belonging); spiritual value (in the sense of feeling connected or responsible to something larger than oneself); social bonding with others; and transformative and memorable experiences. Further empirical work with different user groups and environmental settings would allow for the continued development of a standardised tool for large-scale non-monetary assessment of cultural ecosystem services.
PublisherUK National Ecosystem Assessment / UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Place of publicationOnline
- Published version
- Technical Report