'I owe it to the animals': the bidirectionality of Swiss alpine farmers' relational values.

Published online
09 Mar 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Chapman, M. & Deplazes-Zemp, A.
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Relational values have recently been proposed as a concept to expand our understanding of environmental values from the categories previously dominating the discourse: instrumental (nature for people's sake) and intrinsic values (nature for its own sake). Empirical and conceptual research on relational values has so far focused on the content of relational values or their relationship to other kinds of values. In this paper, we fill a key gap in understanding exactly what relational values are and how they work; we call this the 'syntax' of relational values. We do so by applying the Syntax of Environmental Values Framework, which describes relational values as bidirectional, expressed by genuine respect and care on the one hand and an eudaimonic contribution to wellbeing on the other. We developed a novel interview protocol which we applied in semistructured interviews with Swiss alpine farmers. We examine how both of these directions are manifested in farmers' relational values. Our results showed how the bidirectionality manifests in relational values of alpine farmers. Specifically, we identified three components of each directionality. The intrinsic element of relational values was constituted by: an attitude of respect, attention to the relationship and practices of care. The instrumental element of relational values was constituted by: emotional and experiential contributions for the valuer, satisfaction and joy in the relationship, and practical contributions to the activities associated with the relationship (e.g. farm management). We further elaborate on the conditions required to sustain relational values, including physical, emotional and sociopolitical conditions. These results informed an elaborated conceptual framework of relational values, and environmental valuing more generally. While specifically derived from our dataset, we believe our conclusions could directly or in a modified form, apply to diverse cases of relational valuing. In sum, this paper offers a concrete step towards better characterizing, distinguishing and applying the relational values concept.

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