From moral ecology to diverse ontologies: relational values in human ecological research, past and present

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  • Alder Keleman Saxena, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
  • ,
  • Deepti Chatti, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
  • ,
  • Katy Overstreet
  • Michael R. Dove, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

While ‘relational values’ constitute an emerging theory in environmental ethics, they hold important continuities with the broader human-ecological social sciences. Human ecology, particularly as developed by qualitative research, has long considered the environment in relational terms. Core findings of this field underscore that ‘humans’ and ‘nature’ must not be held conceptually distinct from each other; that human communities’ use of and interaction with environmental resources are mediated by social values, which sometimes outweigh economic concerns; and that value systems concerning the environment are neither static, nor isolated from larger cultural value frameworks. More recent theoretical developments in materialism, ontology, and multispecies ethnography expand the scope of socio-environmental inquiry, offering avenues for moving beyond anthropocentric approaches to human-environment relations. Three elements of social science-based human-ecological research are indispensable to the relational values conversation: qualitative, immersive fieldwork; an emphasis on language; and acknowledging the possibility of incommensurability among knowledge and value systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Pages (from-to)54-60
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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