What and where are environmental values? Assessing the impacts of current diversity of use of ‘environmental’ and ‘World Heritage’ values
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A serious and escalating problem exists with respect to the status and meaning of 'environmental values'. The paper considers the current diversity of meanings, understandings, and uses involving environmental value and values, and why current extensions of meaning and use in natural resource and protected area management contexts are not only conceptually and operationally problematic, but are impacting, in a very consequential way, on effective communication, collaboration, and management. The argument is framed and addressed with reference to the simple question of where environmental values reside, and in the form of an 'impact assessment' of a changed use and set of referents for environmental values in the natural resource management arena. In making this argument a number of conventional social science and environmental psychological perspectives on value(s) are reviewed, and contrasted with the ubiquitous equating of 'environmental values' with actual biophysical attributes, species, and processes which characterizes natural science and natural resource management discourse. This specific 'environmental value(s)' language and construct issue is situated with respect to the emergent environmental discourse literature, and language and 'value' considerations generally. Specific consideration is given to the intrinsic value debate in environmental ethics, and impacts of this debate and related controversies on representations, understandings and usage of 'values' in environmental protection and management. The case of World Heritage legislation and management in Australia is examined and profiled, given the international and cross disciplinary saliency, currency, and public accountability character of 'value(s)' considerations in conservation, environmental protection, and protected area management contexts. Research findings exploring the meanings, uses, and understandings of 'world heritage values' within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of North Queensland are reported and discussed, confirming a serious problem and threat to effective protection, impact assessment, and management. The paper concludes that current practice and reference to 'environmental values' in the environmental research and management arena is in a chaotic and unsustainable state, that this constitutes a particular challenge for environmental psychology, and that there is a pressing need to better manage this discourse, and research and practice domain.
Journal of Environmental Psychology