Matching Urban Nature to Community Values

Researcher Chris Ives suggests that rather than relying solely on economic gains to justify urban nature and biodiversity, community values may be more effective in gaining public support.
May 11, 2014, 11am PDT | Helen Brown
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Chris Ives shares his insight on matching community's values to urban nature. Citing examples from Australia, he argues, "Beginning with an understanding of what people value and why, urban nature can be embedded more closely into the life of a city, rather than being presented as an alternative issue that only resonates with the environmentally conscious few."

The "current paradigms of decision-making [is] (often based on economic values and balancing fiscal budgets)." But, a "values based" approach challenges this convention by asking: "What if we started from the place of what people value, and then looked at how the environment contributes to this?" In this manner, a "values based" approach emphasizes the "interactions between people and their environment and landscape" rather than starting with "properties of a[n] [eco]system (which may exist whether or not people are present!)."

Ives encourages connecting with the psyche of communities versus relying solely on economic gains to justify urban nature policy: "The relationship between underlying human values and assigned values (those specific to a place or landscape) is very important when considering how to promote nature in the city. Although sustainability and biodiversity conservation are important issues for many people, the matters that are of greatest value to people are generally not environmental…Knowing the priorities of the general population is a useful way of connecting the composition and function of natural areas in cities to the matters that concern people the most."

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Published on Monday, May 5, 2014 in Sustainable Cities Collective
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