Rethinking individual relationships with entities of nature.

Published online
08 Aug 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Lehnen, L. & Arbieu, U. & Böhning-Gaese, K. & Díaz, S. & Glikman, J. A. & Mueller, T.
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Recognizing variation in human-nature relationships across different contexts, entities of nature and individual people is central to an equitable management of nature and its contributions to people, and to design effective strategies for encouraging and guiding more sustainable human behaviour. We complement the broader Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) conceptual framework by zooming in from relationships between people and nature to individual relationships with entities of nature (IREN), and introduce a new typology that categorizes those relationships based on individual attitude, behavioural preference and behaviour towards an entity. These three dimensions illustrate if an individual perceives the entity to provide mainly positive, negative or no contributions; prefers to have a mainly positive, negative or no impact on the entity; and performs mainly actions with positive, negative or no impacts on the entity. The IREN typology defines 17 overarching relationship types, including not only types where attitude, behavioural preference and behaviour are all negative (intolerance), all neutral (indifference) or all positive (stewardship), but also types where the valence of some dimensions diverges. Among those, we integrate and redefine established types like tolerance, and introduce new ones like ambivalent opposition, which is highly relevant for the management of overabundant or invasive species. Combining attitude, behavioural preference and behaviour to categorize different IREN types can help detect inequalities in the benefits and detriments individual people receive from different entities, and signal societal conflict potential or misalignment of behaviour with conservation goals. Combining those three dimensions also indicates the relative importance of goal-oriented motives like the desire to optimize an entity's perceived contributions, moral motives like the desire to act righteously and implementation barriers preventing individuals from acting according to their preference. By adding an individual- and entity-specific perspective, the IREN framework and typology can encourage more equitable approaches to managing the benefits and detriments people derive from nature, and assist the development of more effective strategies for aligning human behaviour with conservation and sustainability goals.

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