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Expanding the Horizons of Human-Nature Connectedness: Beyond western-centric perspectives

Format: Papers, RSD12, RSD12 Papers Pre-release

Pauline Smith
The current climate and biodiversity crises will necessitate deep changes in behavior in order to be resolved. The experience of nature connectedness has been the focus of much exploration as a tool that could help shift individual behaviors: indeed, nature connectedness is linked to both well-being and pro-conservation, environmentally friendly behaviors (Barragan-Jason et al., 2023). Nature connectedness can be encouraged through positive experiences of contact with nature, with education about the natural worlds and encouraging people to consider the importance of nature in their life (Sheffield, Butler and Richardson, 2022).
Nevertheless, nature connectedness remains a fluid and insufficiently understood phenomenon: it can refer to several constructs, of either attachment to specific places, subjective experiences, or psychological trait of individuals (Ives et al., 2017).
Little is known about the mechanisms underlying nature connectedness as a psychological trait, and it may have been studied in populations that are too homogeneous to allow for sufficient generalization. Indeed, most studies on this phenomenon have focused on people in Western countries who approach nature as a place of leisure. The research done outside of this setting has yielded contrasting results, calling into question the idea of nature connectedness as a human universal. For example, the only study of nature connectedness in a nomad pastoral population shows that they report a lower connectedness with nature than people from neighboring villages (Marczak and Sorokowski, 2017), contrasting with reports that farmers show higher connectedness than other rural residents (Kohler, Thierry and Marchand, 2014).
This paper aims at summarizing what is currently known about the underpinnings of nature connectedness as a psychological trait, and at outlining the edges at which this concept may meet its limits. Indeed, a better understanding of what this connectedness can mean in different context, for people who have different relationships with nature, is an important step towards understanding human-nature relationships in a non Western-centric context, and change these relationships for the better.
Keywords: nature connectedness
environmental psychology
experiences of nature
well-being
sustainable behavior

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Citation Data

Author(s): Pauline Smith
Year: 2023
Title: Expanding the Horizons of Human-Nature Connectedness: Beyond western-centric perspectives
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/human-nature-connectedness
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD12

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