An international team of researchers has found an undervaluation of nature needs to be addressed to help create a sustainable future.
Associate Professor Ram Pandit, from The University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment, was a lead author of the 2022 Values Assessment report.
The Values Assessment report used more than 50,000 scientific publications, policy documents and Indigenous and local knowledge sources to evaluate the way nature is valued in political and economic decisions.
Results of this report were used in a new study published in Nature that examined the diverse ways in which people value nature.
“The study found there are multiple methods to value nature emerging from different world views and disciplines using economic, ecological and socio-cultural value indicators,” Associate Professor Pandit said.
Currently, market-based values of nature, such as those associated with intensively produced food and other commodities, are often favoured at the expense of values not market-driven including adapting to climate change or supporting cultural identities.
Biodiversity conservation policies, such as the expansion of protected areas, often prioritised narrow sets of values regarding nature, which had marginalised the values held by Indigenous peoples and local communities, who in many cases had been shown to protect biodiversity in these areas.
“To achieve long-term conservation goals set out by international agreements the study found consideration for diverse values of nature and their incorporation in decision-making by businesses and governments are fundamental,” Associate Professor Pandit said.
The report recommended that diverse values needed to be taken into consideration in decision-making, reforming policies and shifting society-level norms and goals to support sustainability-aligned values.
“To attain more just and sustainable futures, it is imperative to depart from the predominant focus on short-term profits and economic growth, which has come at the expense of considering the multiple values of nature in economic and political decisions,” Associate Professor Pandit said.