Cultural landscape of Transylvania by Ágnes Balázsi

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Have you ever wondered about what made you feel at home in a certain landscape, while elsewhere you may feel alienated?

What animates landscapes are the hidden interactions between the human and non-human world. These interactions carry values that we consciously or unconsciously attribute to landscapes when we encounter them.

The concept of relational values recently emerged to better understand and communicate such values, both within science and beyond. Understanding relational values means addressing the diversity of human-nature relationships reflected in a landscape, and understanding the individual and collective perceptions and values humans attribute to the natural world or other human and non-human beings.
In our study we conducted a large (N=819) cross-country comparison of quantitative statements on relational, intrinsic and instrumental values across six agricultural landscapes in Transylvania (Romania) and Lower Saxony (Germany).

Our results suggest a bundling of relational values into four groups: those concerned with individual cognition (including intrinsic values), those that focus on nature as a place for social interaction and relaxation, those that capture cultural identity and spiritual values and one bundle that only includes instrumental values. These different values, in turn, were strongly related to (i) respondents’ attitudes towards environmental conservation and the (ii) frequency with which respondents used nature as a resource. Instrumental values have the tendency to be inversely related with relational values and were found to increase with the land use intensity of the focal landscapes.

Our results support the hypothesis that relational values are linked to attitudes to environmental conservation and could potentially help to foster pro-environmental behaviours or sustainability transformation.