Photo from the Urban Wildlife Information Network’s 2019 Summit. Photo by Chris Bijalba, Lincoln Park Zoo.

By Lisa Lehnen, Ugo Arbieu, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Sandra Díaz, Jenny A. Glikman and Thomas Mueller

Read the article here.

Nature’s benefits and detriments are distributed unequally across individual people and different entities of nature (“Entity of nature” means any part of nature, e.g., organisms, places, species, nature spirits, or Mother Earth). Also, how people respond to an entity’s positive or negative impacts on their life varies with individual background. Recognizing such variation is central to an equitable management of people’s access and exposure to the positive and negative contributions of different entities.

Hence, we incorporate an individual- and entity-specific perspective into an existing, broader conceptual framework connecting nature and people (the IPBES conceptual framework). Based on the resulting new framework, we introduce a typology that categorizes individual relationships with entities of nature using individual attitude, behavioral preference, and behavior.

Together, the three dimensions indicate if individual behavior impacting an entity is voluntary and shaped by the entity’s impacts on individual quality of life or moral motives, or if it is involuntary and shaped by implementation barriers preventing the individual from behaving in the desired way. For example, someone who perceives wolves to negatively impact their life, and therefore has a negative attitude towards them, may refrain from killing wolves because they think all creatures have a right to live. In our typology, we define such voluntary inactivity despite a negative attitude as tolerance. Conversely, someone with a negative attitude towards wolves might be motivated to kill them, but prevented from doing so by implementation barriers (for instance, lack of opportunity). We define this involuntary absence of negative behavior as latent intolerance.

Assessing the proportion of people displaying a positive, neutral, or negative attitude, behavioral preference, and behavior can reveal inequities in the distribution of an entity’s beneficial and detrimental impacts on different people, and signal if the observed behavior is compatible with conservation and sustainability goals. By indicating if individual behavior is shaped mostly by the entity’s impacts on the individual’s life, moral motives, or implementation barriers, our typology can help develop tailored and thus effective strategies for fostering sustainable behavior.