Icon Story highlights

  • Valuation of nature has so far been done from too narrow a perspective
  • This nature valuation community’s mission is to foster recognition of neglected voices and marginalized knowledge systems
  • Practitioners and researchers realise that they are in a position of power to push for change

ACTING IN A POSITION OF POWER: The outcomes of nature valuation and decision-making processes are vastly affected by unequal power relations. This imbalance is at the core of most environmental problems.

“Decisions on the use of nature reflect the values and rights of individuals, communities and society at large. The values of nature are expressed through cultural norms, rules and legislation, and they can be elicited using a wide range of tools, including those of economics,” Vanessa Masterson, a former programme officer and continued collaborator with SwedBio, explains.

It is time that researchers and practitioners address their part in the power structures and work for broader inclusion and a broader valuation of nature especially in policy processes, such as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

This argument is published in a paper in Global Sustainability where Masterson and colleagues outline a vision, mission and strategy for reaching this goal. This paper is one of the outcomes of a SwedBio supported workshop that took place in Oaxaca, Mexico on plural valuation of nature in 2017. The workshop included many long-term collaborators of SwedBio and Stockholm Resilience Centre, including both practitioners and scientists involved with the IPBES Values Assessment.

“There is an expectation on researchers to be objective, and many are struggling to connect their disciplinary expertise with their personal engagement for creating change on the ground,” the lead author, Sander Jacobs, explains.

“We wanted to provide a starting point for discussion and reflection for practitioners and researchers who’s work makes it clear that we as individuals and institutions also need to advocate for transformation.”

Neglected voices and marginalized knowledge

Much of SwedBio’s work focuses on connecting knowledge between local and global levels and between knowledge systems. SwedBio works with partners, largely from economically developing nations, ensuring that marginalised voices are heard in regional and global policy arenas.

SwedBio has engaged in the IPBES work on multiple values of nature and its benefits. For instance, SwedBio has supported a number of dialogues on the application of the IPBES, such as a guide regarding diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, in El Jadida, Morocco; Cali, Colombia; Dehradun, India; and Budapest, Hungary.

Having an inclusive approach is an important part of SwedBio’s work and belief around how to create a fairer and more sustainable world. This paper outlines what this should look like for practitioners and researchers, as well as a call to action in doing so.

In the paper, the authors state that their vision is “a world in which the participation and representation of all people is realized and nature’s contributions to people are distributed equitably within and across generations.”

The mission of this community of researchers and practitioners is to foster recognition of neglected voices and knowledge systems, empowering and nurturing marginalized worldviews. And to call out injustices and be transparent in how values are embedded in collective action, social norms and in research methodologies.

Inspired by the octopus

To achieve this, the authors outline a strategy of “octupation”.

“The octopus has a decentralized nervous system, so that its arms operate in a coordinated but semi-autonomous way. In a similar fashion we suggest that the strategy is to collaboratively and constructively occupy institutions through diverse but connected initiatives,” co-author Masterson explains.

“Through this research-policy-practice community on the values of nature, we need to create spaces for critical reflection, for nurturing diversity, and for forming alliances. We also need to develop new methods and networks to work across disciplines, knowledge systems, and expertise, integrating local communities and communicating with a broader audience.”

The authors conclude that researchers and practitioners now need to realise they are in a position of power to push for equity and better representation of marginalised voices in collective decision-making processes.

Read the open access paper here:
Jacobs, S., Zafra-Calvo, N., Gonzalez-Jimenez, D., Guibrunet, L., Benessaiah, K., Berghöfer, A., Chaves-Chaparro, J., Díaz, S., Gomez-Baggethun, E., Lele, S. and Martín-López, B., 2020. Use your power for good: plural valuation of nature–the Oaxaca statement. Global Sustainability, 3.