By Rogelio Luque-Lora, Aidan Keane, Janet Fisher, George Holmes, and Chris Sandbrook.
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Conservationists worldwide hold a wide range of values regarding why, where, how and which natures ought to be conserved. In our study, we investigate the extent to which differences in these values are associated with conservationists’ personal and professional characteristics.
We gathered these data using The Future of Conservation Survey, the largest survey of its kind (our findings are based on more than 9,000 responses from 149 countries). Most of the variation in these responses had to do with what conservationists think are the proper places of people, science, species and capitalism in conservation.
We found that differences in the values of conservationists were linked to their professional experiences (for instance, whether they had used market-based tools in conservation), their geographies (where they were from and where they had worked) and broader factors including their childhood experiences and their religious beliefs.
For example, the more respondents thought of themselves as researchers rather than practitioners, the less favourable they were of capitalist approaches to conservation. Another striking result was that conservationists who reported having worked in African or Central and South American countries were more in favour of people-centred conceptions of conservation.
Our results highlight the importance of diversity in the conservation movement. If conservationists with different personal and professional characteristics tend to hold different values, then any skews or blind spots in the composition of groups of conservationists (for example, NGO committees and teams of policymakers) are likely to lead to the under- and overrepresentation of different values.
Our study also adds to the broader understanding of environmental values and people-nature relations, for instance by demonstrating the link between certain values and lived experiences such as visiting wild places, farming and encountering wildlife.