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    Evaluating the influence of nature connection and values on conservation attitudes at a tropical deforestation frontier

    Mikołajczak, Katarzyna M, Barlow, Jos, Lees, Alexander C ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7603-9081, Ives, Christopher D, Strack, Micha, de Almeida, Oriana Trindade, Souza, Agnis C, Sinclair, Frazer and Parry, Luke (2023) Evaluating the influence of nature connection and values on conservation attitudes at a tropical deforestation frontier. Conservation Biology, 37 (4). e14067. ISSN 0888-8892

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    Abstract

    The inner-outer perspective emerging in sustainability science reasons that there are important relationships between features of the external world and inner qualities of individuals, such as values, emotions, and worldviews. Thus, personal motivations for pursuing sustainability may be critical levers for improving conservation outcomes. Most conservation research and policies, however, focus on external phenomena (e.g., ecological change, economic processes, or social structures). There is also a pervasive assumption that biospheric conservation motivations are rare in the Global South, but empirical data remain scarce. We conducted 241 quantitative surveys, complemented with qualitative insights, to assess the relative importance of external factors (socio-economic, socio-demographic, and environmental) and inner motivations in shaping 9 conservation attitudes towards forest and wildlife protection among colonist farmers around an Amazonian deforestation frontier. To account for the full spectrum of possible inner motivations, we employed measures of nature connection (indicating biospheric motivation), and personal values organized around the Traditionalism (traditionalist through to high openness-to-change) and Universalism dimensions (egoistic through to altruistic motivations). We found that the most consistent predictors of conservation attitudes were emotional nature connection and personal values, rather than external phenomena. Nonetheless, poorer farmers tended to prioritize development over nature protection. Inner motivations and attitudes were generally aligned with nature conservation goals, but qualitative data suggest that external phenomena, especially low income, can hinder forest conservation on farms. Our Amazonian findings reveal that pro-conservation attitudes are fostered by biospheric, traditionalistic, and altruistic motivations. Nonetheless, nurturing rural people's latent pro-conservation motivations is unlikely to improve conservation outcomes if material poverty remains unaddressed. These results have significant implications for understanding human-environmental relationships in other low-income contexts in the Global South. We conclude that integrating the inner-outer perspective into conservation thinking and practical interventions has the potential to foster environmental stewardship and increase human wellbeing. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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