In 2011, P. Wesley Schultz wrote an essay in Conservation Biology stating that conservation can only be achieved by changing human behaviour. He also noted the difficulties of changing conservation behaviour through education owing to our bias to short-term thinking, the social norms that guide us and our disconnect from nature. A recent research paper, ‘There is an I in Nature’, considers connection to nature and conservation in a study with farmers.
Lokhorst and colleagues found that the intention to conserve nature was influenced by three things: the farmers’ perceptions of their ability to conserve, conservation being part of their self-identity and connectedness to nature. The connection to nature questions used in the study centred on feeling close to, or part of nature, with a shared welfare. The responses to these questions predicted the farmers’ intention to undertake conservation activity, with the farmers’ self-identity as a conservationist being part of this relationship.
It’s not too surprising that feeling that conservation is part of one’s identity leads to nature conservation – if you see yourself as a conservationist you’re likely to do conservation! More interesting is the author’s conclusion that being connected to nature can bring about being a conservationist. The measures used were brief and the work was a cross-sectional pilot study. However, once again, being connected to nature and feeling part of the natural world seems to be a goal to aim for. Yet currently few are tackling this issue head-on, which means the routes to nature connectedness aren’t well understood and we lack interventions that lead to sustained increases in nature connection and its associated benefits.
Lokhorst, A. M., Hoon, C., le Rutte, R., & de Snoo, G. (2014). There is an I in nature: The crucial role of the self in nature conservation. Land Use Policy, 39, 121-126.
Schultz, P. (2011). Conservation means behavior. Conservation Biology, 25(6), 1080-1083.