Title

Opinion: Why Protect Nature? Rethinking Values and the Environment

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Publisher

PNAS

Publication Date

2-9-2016

Volume

113

Issue

6

First Page

1462

Last Page

1465

Abstract

A cornerstone of environmental policy is the debate over protecting nature for humans’ sake (instrumental values) or for nature’s (intrinsic values) (1). 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.

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