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Implications of human value shift and persistence for biodiversity conservation

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Large‐scale change in human values and associated behavior change is believed by some to be the ultimate solution to achieve global biodiversity conservation. Yet little is known about the dynamics of values. We contribute to this area of inquiry by examining the trajectory of values affecting views of wildlife in North America. Using data from a 19‐state study in the United States and global data from the Schwartz Value Survey, we explored questions of value persistence and change and the nature of attitudinal responses regarding wildlife conservation issues. We found support, based on subjects’ ancestry, for the supposition that domination is a prevalent American value orientation toward wildlife that has origins in European Judeo‐Christian traditions. Independent of that effect, we also found indications of change. Modernization is contributing to a shift from domination to mutualism value orientations, which is fostering attitudes less centered on human interests and seemingly more consistent with a biocentric philosophy. Our findings suggest that if value shift could be achieved in a purposeful way, then significant and widespread behavior change believed necessary for long‐term conservation success may indeed be possible. In particular, greater emphasis on mutualism values may help provide the context for more collaborative approaches to support future conservation efforts. However, given the societal forces at play, it is not at all clear that human‐engineered value shift is tenable. Instead of developing strategies aimed at altering values, it may be more productive to create strategies that recognize and work within the boundaries of existing values. Whereas values appear to be in a period of flux, it will be difficult to predict future trends without a better understanding of value formation and shift, particularly under conditions of rapid social‐ecological change.
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Keywords: actitudes; adaptación; adaptation; attitudes; ciencias sociales; human–wildlife relationships; orientaciones del valor de la vida silvestre; relaciones humano‐vida silvestre; social science; valores; values; wildlife value orientations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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