Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment

Research output: Journal contributionsComments / Debate / ReportsResearch


  • Kai M A Chan
  • Patricia Balvanera
  • Karina Benessaiah
  • Mollie Chapman
  • Sandra Díaz
  • Erik Gómez-Baggethun
  • Rachelle Gould
  • Neil Hannahs
  • Kurt Jax
  • Sarah Klain
  • Gary W Luck
  • Berta Martín-López
  • Barbara Muraca
  • Bryan Norton
  • Konrad Ott
  • Unai Pascual
  • Terre Satterfield
  • Marc Tadaki
  • Jonathan Taggart
  • Nancy Turner
A cornerstone of environmental policy is the debate over protecting nature for humans’ sake (instrumental values) or for nature’s (intrinsic values) (1). We propose that focusing only on instrumental or intrinsic values may fail to resonate with views on personal and collective well-being, or “what is right,” with regard to nature and the environment. Without complementary attention to other ways that value is expressed and realized by people, such a focus may inadvertently promote worldviews at odds with fair and desirable futures. It is time to engage seriously with a third class of values, one with diverse roots and current expressions: relational values. By doing so, we reframe the discussion about environmental protection, and open the door to new, potentially more productive policy approaches.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1462-1465
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 09.02.2016